Balfour Beatty, in collaboration with Sunbelt and Invisible Systems, has developed IoT (Internet of Things) technology to manage the power supply of job sites and reduce carbon emissions across its construction sites by up to 80%.
The system, known as EcoNet, works by controlling and reducing the energy output from key appliances in kitchens, drying rooms, office spaces and more.
EcoNet is configured to autonomously manage power demand by automatically turning appliances and equipment off when not in active use. This helps to regulate power consumption during times when demand is highest, such as when sites are fully occupied, equipment is being operated and appliances, such as drying rooms and heaters, are in use.
Traditionally, construction sites are powered through connections to the National Grid or with the use of diesel generators. With the use of EcoNet, power demand on the grid or the use of diesel generators is greatly reduced by limiting unnecessary usage, ultimately reducing overall carbon emissions.
The system was first launched in May 2020 on Balfour Beatty’s East Leeds Orbital Route project in England, the large-scale highways contract to build 7 km (4.34 miles) of outer ring roads around Leeds city center, easing congestion in residential areas and supporting increased traffic flow from surrounding towns.
Within the first six months of use, EcoNet resulted in an 83% reduction in carbon emissions across the site by running on a grid supply, actively managing electric vehicle charging and optimizing the heating, hot water and external lighting running schedules.
So far, 21 Balfour Beatty sites are using EcoNet, including HS2’s Long Itchington site in Warwickshire, Highways England’s A63 scheme in Hull and Motherwell station redevelopment in North Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Balfour Beatty plans to roll the system out across 50 live sites by summer 2021 and has committed to installing EcoNet on any new site in the UK with more than six facility cabins. Once fully embedded, it is expected that Balfour Beatty will save a minimum of 2,200 ton of carbon dioxide emissions per year, with individual sites reducing their carbon emissions between 30% to 80% of their normal levels.
“The construction and infrastructure industry traditionally use a significant amount of energy to deliver large-scale projects shaping the communities in which we live," says Kari Sprostranova, Balfour Beatty’s sustainability director. "To counteract this, it is our responsibility to modernize the approach to energy consumption and help to reduce carbon emissions from our operations. With solutions such as EcoNet, we can improve our sustainability practices and the impact construction sites have on the environment.”
Jamie Fountain, Sunbelt Rental account director for Balfour Beatty says the partnership is an important part of Sunbelt's Sustainability 2025 strategy.
“We are delighted to partner with Balfour Beatty and Invisible Systems to work on this innovative way of reducing carbon emissions on construction sites," Fountain says. "Sunbelt Rentals is totally committed to continue working alongside Balfour Beatty, acting responsibly and sustainably.”
Pete Thompson, Invisible Systems' CEO, says the collaboration will serve as a benchmark throughout the industry.
“Invisible Systems are proud to have developed and delivered the solution which enables the construction industry to work towards carbon-neutrality, by leveraging the power of the Internet of Things," he says.