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Egis
Published on April 16, 2019

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How to square ecological transition with digital progress

There are very many exciting and inspiring examples of how digital tech contributes to the ecology and energy transition (EET). But we should not allow ourselves to be led into the temptation of irresponsible progress which might exacerbate the problem and leave us in a worse state than the initial evil…

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- Crédits : ©Tomasz Wyszo┼émirski Thinkstock

We strongly believe that these two major transformations in our society are irreversibly bound together and that, rather than seeking to disrupt the ecology transition with digital, it is our duty to implement a responsible digital transition.

The idea, then, is not to pit the digital transition and the ecology transition against one another, but instead, on the one hand to mobilise all the potential of digital tech in favour of the ecology transition, and on the other hand to adopt responsible behaviour to curb the environmental impact of our digital solutions both in our Group and aimed at our stakeholders.

Digital transition as an accelerator of EET

The countless opportunities afforded by digital tech are the cornerstones to creating smart cities, implementing the mobility of the future, converting bioresources into energy and designing and operating structures, buildings and infrastructure differently and sustainably.

The huge quantities of data collected from connected devices or through open data, together with the contribution of artificial intelligence help us to gain better knowledge of the behaviour and uses of the structures and buildings that we design and operate. methods such as virtual reality, augmented reality and community platforms allow us to design and execute our projects in full alignment with our stakeholders by including them in an immersive design process, as we are doing for instance with the Grand Paris Express metro, the Doha metro and the A10 motorway widening project near Orleans, France.

Digital solutions also act as a catalyst in the development of alternative design modes. In association with Autodesk, we have started up two generative design experiments, one applied to acoustic walls and the other to biomimetic design of ecological reefs.

Digital tools facilitate structural and building monitoring and enable predictive maintenance of the assets of road, railway, airport, hydraulic and any other type of infrastructure, to manage and it more responsibly. Among other applications, we have worked with Poste Immo and Caisse des Dépôts to develop SOBRE-IT, a platform designed to support real estate professionals in how they control their energy use. And thanks to “DHARMA” (Dam Health And Rehabilitation Monitoring Application), we are today coordinating the assets of 5,500 dams in India.

Digital technology in mode 4.0 contributes to the growth of the circular economy. This is the case with the Cycle Up platform, founded in 2018 by Egis with the company Icade, which offers a range of services and access to a community of partners for the reuse of construction materials, generating savings in both costs and carbon emissions.

And in our everyday lives, digital tools contribute to reducing travel-related carbon emissions by allowing people to work from home.

The challenge: introduce a viable development model

But are we capable of assessing the effectiveness of building energy efficiency monitoring if this involves the unchecked development of high-emission data centres in cities and all over the country?

As pointed out by the recent report “We Green IT” published by WWF in association with the GreenIT consultancy, on a world scale, our connected habits already represent twice the environmental footprint of France: 1,037 TWh of primary energy (the equivalent of the consumption of 140 million French people), 608 million tons of greenhouse gases (86 million French people) and nearly 9 billion cubic metres of water (160 million French people).1

To truly contribute to the development of a post-carbon society, it is simply imperative to control the environmental footprint of digital tech.

For a responsible digital transition

In our belief that a successful digital transition is also a responsible digital transition, we at Egis are developing solutions aiming to reduce the carbon footprint of digital tech in our designs and deliverables.

In practice, our data’s carbon footprint is one of the key performance indicators (KPI) of the BIM deployment plan in our business units, and one of the key indicators in our Quality Safety Environment (QSE) performance management system, with the aim of reducing the amount of data stored by 20% between 2018 and 2020.

We are developing an innovative tool to help users manage their data and files responsibly. This innovation, christened Hoodia (the name of a plant reputed to cause weight loss) was a winner in the 2018 edition of our in-house innovation competition, the Ideathon.

We contribute to the establishment of low-energy consumption data centres, such as in Saumur. We think that the word “smart” - as in “smart cities” and “smart mobility” - should not just refer to digital, but also to acting responsibly – therefore with more intelligence and more durability over time.

This requirement also feeds into our own organisation. The themes of “Technical, Innovation, Sustainable Development and Innovation” are all grouped together under a single supervisory unit, reflecting a concerted strategy to serve a sustainable future.

But ultimately, when considering how to address the unprecedented challenges to society that we face today, doesn’t the solution really lie in a combination of collective intelligence, artificial intelligence and intelligence from nature?

 

1 1 Quelle est l’empreinte du web?, (What is the environmental footprint of the Web?) Frédéric Bordage, GreenIT.fr, 2015.

 

 

The Authors


Martine Jauroyon,

Chief Transformation and Sustainability Officer

 


Béatrice Gasser,

Technical and Sustainable Development Director

 


Christophe Castaing,

Digital Engineering Director

 

 

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