In any given year, the construction, operation and decommissioning of physical infrastructure is responsible for a significant proportion of total global greenhouse gas emissions. This is expected to be exacerbated by the world’s growing population as global infrastructure and building stock is expected to increase at an accelerated rate in response. On top of this, construction of infrastructure consumes a substantial number of resources and generates a huge amount of waste in the process. A significant quantity of the overall waste generated globally is construction and demolition waste. In Europe, this and the associated mining and quarrying activities amounted to 62.5% of the overall waste generated in 2018. This highlights the substantial responsibility of construction and related stakeholders in helping humanity remediate the damage caused by historic carbon and waste-intensive practices and implementing more eco-friendly solutions into the future.
The European Space Agency’s “Space for Green Construction” opportunity offers support and funding to companies looking to develop services supporting sustainability in the construction lifecycle using space-based technology and/or data. This opportunity enables companies to carry out in-depth analyses on the technical feasibility and economic viability of applications across a range of themes.
KEY FOCUS AREAS
The construction process involves several lifecycle stages each comprised of various activities from which greenhouse gas emissions and waste are thought to arise. These are applicable to various infrastructure projects, for this initiative we consider the construction lifecycle of “hard infrastructure”, including buildings, roads, runways, motorways, railways, bridges, tunnels, waste-water treatment works, water treatment works, pipelines, wells and boreholes, power-generating plants, chemical plants, refineries, dams and reservoirs, mines and quarries, offshore structures, near-shore works, ports, waterway works, shipyards, land formation and reclamation, among others. The services proposed should attempt to support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and/or waste in the construction lifecycle of hard infrastructure, this could relate to one or more of the below stages:
Design, Produce and Construction
This stage refers to emissions and waste produced prior to the use-stage of the infrastructure and is generally comprised of the design, product, and construction stages of the infrastructure lifecycle. Achieving a circular economy in the construction sector begins at the design stage; this is when decisions are made regarding site selection, material requirements, construction methodologies, and plans for eventual obsolescence of the structure. Cleaner means of extracting, processing, and transporting materials commonly utilised in construction are required (such as concrete, steel, and asphalt), this means considering the least sustainable aspects of the industry practices associated with the most commonly used construction materials and devising means to negate their environmental impact. Finally, the construction stage itself can last several years depending on the structure and can be highly resource and emissions intensive, increased efficiency during the build of a new structure itself will contribute to improved sustainability in the sector.
The operational use stage covers the operational life of the structure prior to becoming obsolete. This refers to the use, maintenance, repair, refurbishment, and replacement of assets pertaining to the infrastructure. This use-case excludes those pertaining to the services supported by the infrastructure (e.g., train services atop railway infrastructure), it instead focuses on the sustainability, upkeep and revitalisation of the physical infrastructure in question. Effective maintenance, repair and refurbishment can serve to extend the lifetime of a structure such that the production of waste and emissions associated with its decommissioning can be avoided for a longer period. As such, services that enable or optimise better upkeep of infrastructure, supported by novel technologies, can effectively support this lifecycle stage.
End-of-life refers to the stage at which the infrastructure reaches the end of its useful life and faces a form of decommissioning or re-purposing. This could be via deconstruction, demolition, retrofitting, waste management, and/or the disposal phases of the infrastructure’s lifecycle, each with different consequences. Regardless of the approach emissions and waste will manifest, solutions that can limit the environmental damage are needed. Likewise, a significant proportion of landfill waste arises from construction and demolition. Reduction of this is imperative however equally important is reducing the environmental impact of landfills themselves. Services that can support or facilitate improved sustainability at the end-of-life of infrastructure may address this lifecycle stage.
Beyond-the-lifecycle focuses on circularity – how infrastructure assets can be salvaged and reutilised beyond the end-of-life phase and for as long as possible such that maximum value is derived from it. Ingraining concepts of circularity in the construction sector requires stakeholders across the full lifecycle to be on-board for an ecosystem of reuse, recycling, and recovery of infrastructure assets to become practicable and economically viable. The potential for reductions in emissions and waste through establishing a circular construction economy is vast. To become a reality, innovation is required. This could help to facilitate transparency over infrastructure across regions (e.g. components, materials, ownership), across supply chains and logistics pertinent to construction projects, to establish new marketplaces for applicable products and services, and assist in providing insights and oversight of the construction economy.
VALUE OF SPACE
Satellite Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT):
- Satellite positioning applications could include navigation and tracking of machinery, vehicles, people, equipment and robotics across construction sites.
- Geo- and time-stamping of data from drones and IoT (Internet-of-Things) sensors that are pertinent to the construction site and allow to create a digital twin of activities.
- Satellite positioning may also have more a more advanced and critical role in machine control and robotics to automate and improve the efficiency of construction operations.
- Precise positioning and structural integrity monitoring of infrastructure.
Satellite Earth Observation (SatEO):
- Provision of mapping information, feature characterisation, boundary delineation and change detection.
- Measurements of air quality, soil quality, land characterisation, heat signatures and fire detection, digital elevation/surface models and topography, weather and meteorological data, flood and land subsidence risk.
Satellite Communications (SatCom):
- Satellite communications may play a role in providing connectivity for remote construction sites (e.g. offshore, rural and remote areas)
- Back-up connectivity to terrestrial communications.
- Spaceflight technologies designed for use in space may have applications in the construction industry, this could be in relation to advanced materials, additive manufacturing/3D printing, robotics, clean energy technologies, repair and recycling technologies.
WHAT WE LOOK FOR
We look for teams that have identified an attractive market opportunity with real potential to engage customers. Motivation, business experience and domain expertise are all important features. We want to hear about your ideas that involve utilisation of either space technology or space data.
Feasibility Studies explore the business opportunity and the technical viability of new applications and services that exploit one or more space assets (e.g. satellite communications, satellite navigation, Earth observation, spaceflight technology). Feasibility Studies should explore the technical and economic viability of the service but have the objective of eventual development, demonstration and commercialisation of the service investigated thereafter (if proven viable).
ESA TENDER INFORMATION
Responding to an open competitive Invitation to Tender (ITT) requires the submission of a Proposal. The Proposal will be evaluated according to ESA regulations and procedures.
The consequential evaluation of proposals results in a recommendation for a winning bid. In the case that several proposals of good quality targeting different and/or complementary aspects are submitted, the Agency reserves the right to place parallel contracts for each of the open competitive ITTs in coordination with the relevant national delegations.
For the fully detailed Proposal Guide on competitive ITTs click: Open Competition.
HOW TO APPLY
- Register by completing the online questionnaire on esa-star registration (this provides for the minimum ‘light registration’)
- Visit esa-star publications and search for this opportunity to download the official tender documentation. Official documents will include proposal templates, a draft contract, and additional information about this opportunity.
- Use the official documents to prepare your proposal.
- Write your proposal and obtain a Letter of Support from your National Delegation, if needed (see Authorisation of Funding section below).
- Submit your proposal via esa-star tendering by the deadline.
AUTHORISATION OF FUNDING
Teams from companies or organisations registered in the following Member States are eligible to apply for this opportunity. To date, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom have subscribed to ESA Business Applications and Space Solutions (BASS).
Applicants must inform the National Delegation of the country they are residing in to obtain a letter of authorisation allowing the funding of the proposed activity. Contact details of each national delegate can be found here.
Activities arising from this Feasibility Study ITT will be co-funded at 80% by the European Space Agency for a maximum of €200K provided by ESA.
Webinars are scheduled for the following dates:
- 15:00 CEST, 21 September 2022
- Christopher Frost-Tesfaye - Business Applications Officer, European Space Agency (ESA)
- Anil Sawhney - Director of the Infrastructure Sector, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- Dirk Paelinck - Chairman European PropTech Association, PropTech House