Digital building blocks are the future for construction

Construction and mining are vital components of a thriving economy – but they’re also top polluters. Paul Duddy, founder and CEO of Scottish cleantech Hypervine, tells Green Business Journal how his tiny team is helping big industry clean up its act, with support from the European Space Agency.

It’s no secret that construction companies and projects face a mammoth struggle to meet emissions targets.

The World Green Building Council calculates that 11% of global energy-related carbon emissions are from materials and construction, while cement production accounts for 8% of global carbon emissions.

Cleantech startup Hypervine is helping turn the tide towards sustainability in construction and mining, using artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology to provide real time insights – including for previously unattainable site operations – reduce environmental impact and lower CO2 emissions.

Its technology combines data captured from satellites – a product of its partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and its own mobile app – to create a digital twin of site operations and identify savings in time, money and carbon emissions.

The Glasgow firm may be small – with only five full-time employees – but punches well above its weight technology-wise. It works in partnership with the European Space Agency, finished highly in the CEMEX Ventures PropTech startup competition, and is a founding member of Al Gore’s Climate Trace organisation.

Most recently, it became digital partner in Morrison Construction’s £360m contract win for Scottish Water. DV2, one of Scotland’s largest ever capital investment infrastructure projects, is seen as a chance to showcase the role of technology in sustainable processes and operations.

Paul explains how ‘green’ is no longer an afterthought, but part of the plan from day one.

How did a fallen wall lead to the Hypervine of today?

The fallen wall at Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh was tragic and simply shouldn’t have happened. (Nine tonnes of masonry fell from the school during a storm, leading to the closure of 17 schools across the city. MSPs branded it ‘an embarrassment for the construction industry’).

We don’t expect our built environment to collapse, and we especially don’t expect it on a new building. The aftermath led to investigations, disputes, regulatory and legal investigations, etc, and it was then I realised that construction firms simply do not have access to centralised, complete and accurate data about their activities. If they did, they would be able to simply pull up the data and view the information about that particular building or asset, and instantly understand the construction process.

Tell us more about your work?

At the core of what we do and what makes us unique is that we break down individual construction activities and improve operations by just 1% across activities. This percentage improvement leads to performance gains across all operations as well as creating a compounding performance-over-time, eventually leading to double-digit performance increases. This is a concept made famous by the British Cycling Team and Sir David John Brailsford CBE.

“The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together” – Sir David John Brailsford CBE

Hypervine’s product has evolved considerably since we first developed it. In the early days we were organising construction data and using blockchain to improve transparency between stakeholders on-site and in the office.

However, we soon realised that we needed to help construction capture site data as well as organise it. We have developed various automation tools to replace manual workflows such as automatically capturing carbon data, calculating carbon data and carbon offsets, bringing visible actionable insights into emissions reductions. We have an impressive technology stack of blockchain, AI and satellite technology.

How did your partnership with Al Gore and Climate Trace come about?

In 2019 we won a competitive bid with the European Space Agency (ESA) to explore how our technology could be layered with satellite data to bring insights to the mining industry. Through this exploratory phase, we connected with many similar-minded organisations about how we could help improve the environment through technology. Through these conversations, we first met Gavin McCormick of WattTime, who wanted to put together a team of companies to monitor global emissions and it was Gavin who first spoke with former US Vice President Al Gore and brought this exciting project to his attention, a collective that became the Climate Trace initiative.

How did you get involved with the European Space Agency?

The European Space Agency (ESA) holds highly competitive bids through its Business Applications programme, we submitted a bid and won. ESA was very interested and excited by our use of blockchain and satellite technology to create game-changing technologies for the mining industry.

What’s your role in Scottish Water’s mega project?

We are the primary digital partner on the Scottish Waters DV2 project, a £700m 12-year initiative split into two phases. We are in a unique position to help asset owners such as Scottish Water and critical infrastructure companies such as Morrison Construction improve their operations and lower their emissions. The great part of this project is that the benefits we are introducing now will have compounding results over time and lead to further increased performance in operations and in achieving net zero.

Your team is small but hugely talented. What sets you apart from competitors?

We are an extremely user and product-centric team, driven by our beliefs to improve the environment by helping companies operate better, reduce waste and lower emissions. I have never met anyone who wants to damage the environment, but I have met people who need help to understand how they can operate better and in a more environmentally friendly way. That’s our mission: to help make the world a cleaner place by helping construction firms build cleaner and greener. With every project we learn a little more and can squeeze an extra decimal percentage of improvement for construction companies at the very beginning of projects, making even more compounding improvements for the future.

Paul Ingham, Operations Director Scotland for Morrison Construction states, “After trialling Hypervine on some of our sites and being impressed with the initial outcomes, we saw an opportunity to invite Hypervine in as a partner on our DV2 bid to Scottish Water, leveraging the economic and environmental savings created by its technology that are essential in achieving Morrison’s ambition to differentiate as the Greenest Construction Partner as we maximise carbon reduction across our operations. Working with Hypervine has been both informative and a pleasure; the team’s dedication and attention to detail has helped shape the framework, adding alternative options to our capabilities in achieving Operational Excellence and building a sustainable future for our customers and communities.”

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