Illustrations by Marco Goran Romano

Introduction


As the world becomes more urban and our cities more crowded, building skyscrapers that are smarter, safer, and energy-efficient is becoming increasingly critical.

Achieving that goal would be virtually impossible without the cloud, which operates at every stage of a skyscraper’s existence: by allowing real-time, collaborative design from remote teams, by keeping construction crews connected and in-the-know, and by allowing the final building to track its own maintenance needs and energy usage. Massively capable networks of remote servers make “everything as a service” a reality in building infrastructure, letting seemingly rigid structures become responsive and adaptive to unique needs and situations.

Technological marvels like skyscrapers demand huge amounts of resources, time, energy, and data. The cloud is meeting each of those demands.

97 Buildings

Number of buildings 200 meters or taller that were completed in 2014, breaking every previous record for skyscraper construction1

5 Percent

Percentage of construction projects that are currently delivered on time and on budget, demonstrating the need for cloud-enabled collaboration and efficiency2

$25 Billion

Amount that could be saved in energy costs each year through smart building technology in the United States alone3

CHAPTER 1

Visual Models and Designing in the Cloud


The diorama of the future won’t be on a studio desk: It will be rendered in stunning 3D detail in the cloud, where remote designers, engineers, or clients can view and alter it in real time. That process, known as building information modeling (BIM), is enhanced by cloud-enabled virtual design meetings, which allow every involved party to collaborate wirelessly and brainstorm on shared schematics. With added innovations such as Microsoft’s Hololens, building models can become the designers’ on-site workspace.

When every stakeholder can access the information they need to make decisions related to design and engineering, projects can move along faster without sacrificing accuracy or quality. In fact, one report found that 79 percent of firms experienced with using BIM enjoyed improved project outcomes and communication.

In addition, cloud-based analytics allow data from the building’s environment—whether related to weather, natural disasters, or traffic—to be factored into design decisions, which ensures that the finished building will be as safe and sturdy as possible. If designers know just how much wind will hit a skyscraper from one direction, for example, they might alter structural support to match. And when construction companies can be involved from the start of the process, they will already have experience with the building objectives when they get to work.

Microsoft Hololens will allow global collaboration on interactions normally conducted on paper or in person, saving time and eliminating errors

13 Times

It is 13 times more expensive to remedy an architectural error during construction than in the design phase.4

71 Percent

Percentage of North American architecture, construction, and engineering companies using Building Information Modeling in 20125

79 Buildings

Number of buildings over 1,000 feet in the world in 2015, compared to 19 in 20096

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CHAPTER 2

Connected Construction


Connecting construction sites to the cloud won’t just make the building process faster; it will also make it significantly safer. The cloud can bring the vast volume of paperwork associated with large-scale construction projects—whether it’s related to payrolls, inventory, or summaries and reports—online, making logistical administration easier and more efficient. And as more and more construction workers use mobile phones and tablets on site, schedules, reports, and instructions saved in the cloud become increasingly useful and accessible.

More important, the cloud helps to ensure that construction projects are safe, with smart sensors on site constantly monitoring temperatures, contaminant levels, and even construction workers’ vital signs. The multinational construction company Laing O’Rourke, for example, fits its workers’ helmets with smart sensors that constantly track body temperature, heart rate, and other biometric data that is then analyzed in the cloud. As a result, a worker exhibiting signs of heat stroke can be alerted to that condition up to half an hour before feeling its impact. With OSHA reporting that more than 30 workers a year suffer fatal heat stroke in the U.S. alone, it’s a simple safety measure that is sure to save lives.

Construction companies working in sensitive environments such as hospitals and schools are using the cloud to make sure their work causes as little disruption as possible. The Skanska group, for example, uses the cloud to record and analyze the vibrations, noise, and even dust particles generated by a job site, granting their crews the foresight to balance and reduce their disturbance levels. It’s an added layer of transparency for all the stakeholders of a new construction projec—and a competitive edge for construction firms in a competitive industry.

Cloud technology allows Skanska to track noise and vibration at a construction site in real time, reducing disturbance to the community.

19 Days

Number of days for developers in China to construct an energy-efficient 57-story skyscraper7

190 Buildings

Since 2000, Dubai has constructed nearly 190 skyscrapers of 350 feet or higher8

93 Percent

Percent of construction contractors who use mobile devices on site9

70 Thousand

Number of projects to receive cloud-based construction management programs from Hands HQ in the U.K.10

Smart helmets, powered by the cloud, allow Laing O'Rourke to monitor vital signs, keeping workers safe and healthy on the job.

CHAPTER 3

The Self-Maintaining Smart Building


Even after work on the skyscraper is finished, the cloud can play a fundamental role in every part of the building’s operation. Cloud connectivity turns a skyscraper into an efficient, connected ecosystem that can monitor itself for maintenance and operational problems, sending out appropriate alerts before those problems interfere with business.

ThyssenKrupp, which operates more than 1.1 million elevators in skyscrapers around the world, uses the cloud to monitor everything from cab speed to motor temperature in its units, building straightforward visual models that technicians can look at to identify what needs maintenance, and when. The approach essentially allows these smart elevators to teach their technicians how to fix them.

Other sensors installed throughout skyscrapers—in hallways, conference rooms, cubicles—can monitor lighting, temperature control, and employees’ movements, and store that data to the cloud for analysis. Feeding that data back to the building allows its systems to know when to shut off lights and adjust temperature, saving both money and energy.

In our futuristic skyscrapers, everything from elevators to air-maintenance systems can be connected to the cloud, with continuous data analytics driving efficiencies in energy and resource usage. With fewer maintenance problems and lower costs, both tenants and operators will be able to rest easier knowing that the cloud is making their buildings smart enough to take care of themselves.

Takenaka Corp.’s cloud integration throughout buildings, and even whole communities, can improve comfort and sustainability

$16.5 Billion

Total value of the worldwide smart elevator market by 201811

$85 Billion

The global market for the Internet of Things in buildings is projected to reach $85 billion by 202012

15 Months

Useful life added to certain maintenance units equipped with smart sensors that supervise their own technical issues13

Cloud-enabled predictive and preventative maintenance increases up-time for more than one million ThyssenKrupp elevators

Looking Ahead


As we integrate the digital grid into our built environments, the cloud is proving to be a key enabler in designing, constructing, and operating our tallest structures. Use of the cloud, whether for collaboration and communication, data storage and tracking, or ongoing maintenance and energy control, has the power to save all building stakeholders both time and money. The end result? A powerful, self-maintaining ecosystem that elevates, optimizes, and updates the spaces we occupy day in and day out.