Heriot-Watt University is hosting a 48-hour Construction Sustainability Hackathon event at the Expo 2020 UK pavilion for students from across the globe. The hackathon, running from February 25-27, will bring together students and experts to tackle construction sustainability challenges and will include keynote speeches, workshops and panel sessions featuring distinguished experts from across the sector. The event will be attended by senior government and industry representatives and the winning team of five members will receive scholarships worth Dh15,000 each.


The Construction Sustainability Hackathon invites young people aged 16-24 from around the globe and focuses on four main themes: sustainable materials, clean energy use, smart technologies and urban developments. It is part of Heriot-Watt University’s research efforts in accelerating the agenda to decarbonise the construction industry. Currently, the Centre of Excellence in Smart Construction (CESC) at Heriot-Watt University Dubai is working with the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment on the UAE cement industry decarbonisation programme. The research will initially identify the challenges preventing the decarbonisation of the sector before focusing in four key areas: materials and waste management; building permits and regulations; new technologies and education.

Dr Anas Bataw, director, CESC at Heriot-Watt University Dubai, said: “Construction and the wider built environment accounts for around 40 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, the global construction market is expected to grow by US$4.5 trillion up to 2030 to reach US$15.2 trillion, with the UAE’s construction sector set to grow 3.9 per cent from 2022 to 2025 on average. During the global transition to net zero, the construction sector needs to dramatically reduce the amount of carbon embedded in new infrastructure and buildings, ultimately reducing its wider impact on the environment. During this hackathon, we hope to witness the unique and revolutionary ideas led by young minds to tackle the industry's most pressing environmental concerns. We are very excited to see what the results will look like and encourage young people globally to be part of it.”

“While there is a long journey ahead, there is appetite for meaningful change, but it’s essential we ensure that the construction sector remains competitive and doesn’t increase costs elsewhere as it decarbonises. As we develop advanced material, technological solutions and educational initiatives that will support the decarbonisation journey for the UAE, we’ll be sharing these insights on a global scale to support worldwide decarbonisation efforts. As a university with a global footprint, collaborating with global industry partners, we are perfectly placed to share this research,” Bataw added.

Through its continued efforts, CESC brings government, industry and academic collaboration and has unveiled a series of ambitious targets for the sector, leading to net zero emissions across the UAE’s cement industry by 2040. Partners include the UAE ministry of Climate Change and Environment, UK Department of International Trade, HSBC, Institute of Civil Engineers, American Concrete Institute and the New York University of Abu Dhabi alongside leading developers and construction experts.

Dr Gillian Murray, deputy principal of business and enterprise at Heriot-Watt University, said: “The Sustainability Hackathon is a fantastic opportunity for young people to kick-start their careers, build their entrepreneurial skills and work with experts as they explore new ideas to address urgent climate challenges. As a global university which is focused on solving global challenges, Heriot-Watt University is uniquely placed to provide students with the skills necessary to contribute to a prosperous and sustainable future.

“Heriot-Watt’s research in sustainable construction is already changing the landscape. Our spin-out company Kenoteq has launched a revolutionary brick made of 90 per cent recycled construction and demolition waste. By re-using valuable recycled materials from construction and demolition waste, Kenoteq has achieved a circular-economy exemplar and we are confident it will lead to a circular economy revolution for the construction sector. Our two-pronged approach to nurturing talent combines education with industry collaboration to ensure our graduates are equipped to make a meaningful contribution to the workplace and are highly attractive to industry. Participants in this Hackathon will be the workers and leaders of the future and we look forward to hearing their ideas and showcasing their innovations on the world stage at Expo 2020 Dubai,” Murray added.

In the UAE, CESC will continue to bring together the government, industry, academics and other stakeholders from the construction sector value chain to explore technologies, systems and processes to achieve the national sustainable construction sector by 2040.


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