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Fabernovel and Ardian publish second part of “Augmented Infrastructure” study exploring how digital infrastructure can respond to the climate emergency

Key findings: 

  • Technology drives sustainability – but is also a huge emitter of GHGs
  • Infrastructure is key in ensuring a holistic approach to sustainable societies 
  • Data analysis grows in importance as data complexity increases 
  • Sustainability needs to be integrated into the planning process 

Ardian Infrastructure, one of the world's leading infrastructure investors and Fabernovel, an international transformation consulting and digital product and service creation company, are today releasing the second part of a study exploring infrastructure and climate issues.

In global response to the threat of climate change, the Paris Agreement provides for global warming to be contained "well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels". As permanent equipment, infrastructures have a key role to play in the implementation of this objective since they determine the functioning and economic activity of the transport, energy, telecommunications and health sectors.

Following the publication of part one I, 2018, which looked at infrastructure in the future, proposing a scoring model to guide investments towards infrastructure transformed and enriched by digital technology, Ardian and Fabernovel are focusing this year on the role that this same category of "intelligent" infrastructure can play in the fight against climate change, as well as in the energy transition.

At Ardian, we are certain that we cannot achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement without a more sober approach and further technological innovation. We need to assess value creation must now be equally through both financial performance and an asset’s external impact. Through integrating technological, social and environmental responsibility, infrastructures can be societally beneficial and help drive effort to limit environmental damage.

Mathias Burghardt, Head of Infrastructure and member of Ardian's Executive Committee

Sustainable environmental integration

The environmental impact of an infrastructure is now a criterion of commitment for its users and investors alike.

The climate challenges we face today need to be considered in order to manage tomorrow's infrastructure. An infrastructure must integrate itself sustainably into its environment by either limiting its negative impact or generating a positive impact, all while ensure its long-term resilience. 

Infrastructure intelligence as a pillar

In order to be sustainable, the infrastructure must be "intelligent", with the capacity to update functional knowledge continuously to improve operational efficiency.

While the objective of this "intelligence" is to increase the operational efficiency of the infrastructure itself, it also enables it to improve its environmental and societal impact. With this "intelligence" is based on the collection, analysis and use of data.

With this mind, in 2019, Ardian Infrastructure, in collaboration with three university students, developed Air Carbon. It is an analytics tool for real-time monitoring of CO2 emissions related to airport activity and for building trajectory scenarios to contain emissions. 

Towards augmented cities

By 2050, 66% of the global population will live in urban areas, making the city a meta-platform unable to survive without consideration of impact.

The increasing complexity of the factors needing to be considered will lead cities to rely on digital tools. Only then will cities become more environmentally friendly. 

One of the first examples of this is the Remix platform. It provides public authorities with a 360-degree view that integrates all mobility stakeholders and optimizes traffic flows in the city in real time. It is currently deployed in 300 cities around the world. 

Digital paradox

Paradoxically, digital technology, which is offering solutions to GHG emissions, is also a leading cause for them as it represents 4.0% of global GHG emissions (2.8% for air traffic). Clearly, the use of digital technology has a significant impact on the environment. 

The optimization of digital technology like servers is one of the keys to this challenge through the recycling of the energy emission as well as the use of renewable energies that enable the production. The share of renewable energy in the energy mix will be all the greater as its production is optimized. In the sector of wind turbine, digital data analysis tools optimize production, maintenance and operational performance.

Towards systemic design

Limiting the impact of infrastructure cannot be a sustainable solution. We need to start a fundamental overhaul of the way infrastructure is designed.

With this "systemic design" approach, infrastructures will be able to integrate into their environment in a responsible way, and thus really serve the common good in a sustainable way. Systemic design integrates people, technology and the environment into an interconnected system at the very beginning of the design phase. Therefore, it is possible to identify the synergies and externalities of an infrastructure project and to know its direct and indirect impact. Instead of being thought of as an obstacle to be overcome, the environment becomes a creative constraint, an opportunity for the design of more responsible infrastructure.

This is made possible by the systemic design that integrates people, technology and the environment into an interconnected system. With this design, we are able to identify synergies and externalities and understand direct and indirect impact. Through this approach, infrastructure will be able to sustainably integrate into their environment and serve the common good.

We are now entering a new era where the long-term value must be linked to technological responsibility. That is why, at Fabernovel, we follow a three-pronged approach with projects, focusing on entrepreneurial, digital but always led by responsible. We believe that beyond mitigation and energy recycling, we need to rethink the way we design services and technology at the planning stage. Innovation can lead us to a sustainable future and needs to be considered as a driver of a cleaner ecosystem.

Stéphane Distinguin, CEO and Co-founder at Fabernovel

Read the study

For further infirmation, please contact Joachim Martin

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