Holcim MAQER invites the open innovation ecosystem to solve construction ‘chaos’ at HackZurich

Sep 30, 2021

The open innovation community finds novel solutions to sustainable construction by democratizing data and technology, and applying successful solutions from other industries.

On September 24-26, the world’s most talented tech minds were invited to participate in our sustainability challenge, ‘Combating Chaos at Construction Sites’, at HackZurich — Europe’s largest hackathon — for the second consecutive year. With 48 hours and free access to our data lake containing operational insights from over 100,000 construction sites collected through our smartphone customer apps, ConcreteDirect and Struxhub, the Hackathon participants worked in teams to develop prototypes that could help alleviate construction ‘chaos’ – noise, pollution, waste – supporting Holcim’s mission to build progress for people and the planet.

Inspired by circular economy principles, the winning team built a prototype that automatically resells leftover construction materials via a digital marketplace. The platform not only enables individuals and construction companies to pick up building materials from larger construction sites, the dynamic pricing policy incentivizes buying from smaller, nearby sites, too, and thus minimizes carbon emissions caused by transportation.

Winning team “Concrete”:

We selected Holcim MAQER’s challenge as we are passionate about making an impact in our local communities . Thanks to the engaging discussions with MAQER and their full support around the clock, we quickly grasped the challenges that the construction industry is facing on a daily basis and created a prototype boosting circular economy that we hope to pursue together.

Combining data and technology from Holcim’s internal systems and complementary assets of other players, such as enhanced tracking and communication services from the telecommunication company Sunrise UPC, new devices, software- platforms and developer kits from the technology company Huawei, and local data from the Swiss Federation on building permits and construction activity, the winners fully embraced the spirit of open innovation. Their prototype illustrated how collaborating with various stakeholders will accelerate solving complex sustainability challenges.

Magali Anderson, Chief Sustainability and Innovation Officer, Holcim:

The energy and enthusiasm of these hackers has been truly inspiring. Even after many sleepless hours, their passion for sustainability and innovation was clear to see. These prototypes are examples of solutions that could transform operations of the entire construction industry. The energy of this community will serve as a great inspiration to all of us to continue building smarter to build greener.

hz21 magali quote

Alexander Lehrmann, Senior Director Innovation and Development at Sunrise UPC:

Sustainability is an important topic for many of our enterprise customers. Combining our excellent network, Holcim’s extensive knowledge and the Swiss Federation’s local data, this winning prototype could result in a solution that is implementable and directly addresses sustainability.

Linda di Geronimo, who is responsible for partnerships and collaborations at Huawei’s Zurich Research Center, was thrilled as the winners also took home Huawei’s challenge:

The winning team used our new Huawei Mobile Services in a very convincing way. We strongly believe that technology can be used for the benefit of society, nature and every individual, and our winner today has proven that with good tools, originality and passion, this can create very real benefits.

Taking the whole industry’s needs into account, we also welcomed our partner Implenia — Switzerland’s leading construction company — to the evaluation committee. Other prototypes that sparked the evaluators’ interests were concrete dashboards to accurately forecast volume and quality to build more with less, and a scheduling optimization app powered by Artificial Intelligence to minimize trucks and days of construction needed.

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Going forward, we aim to leverage data from operations on the ground through ConcreteDirect, combine it with other data sources and pioneer smart solutions to build greener. Democratizing data across industries as demonstrated at HackZurich will be a game-changer for all players to help the world reach net zero.

Author: Felicia Noreskar