Warren and Mahoney cuts embodied carbon of construction with Autodesk

Architecture firm Warren and Mahoney (WAM) is on a mission to reduce the embodied carbon emissions of its building designs by a minimum of 40% by 2030 with the help of Autodesk. Autodesk Platform Services enables Warren and Mahoney to access material data from its building design portfolio at scale and at speed. Access to this data means it can make fast and easy material design decisions that will have less effect on the climate.

What does the partnership mean for WAM?

“We have found that when we can achieve a 700 ton reduction on one project, it is the equivalent to operating as net-zero emissions as a company for approximately one year. When we consider the number of active projects it’s clear where our focus as an industry needs to be,” commented Fiona Short, Principal at Warren and Mahoney.

“Autodesk allows us to scale our impact and ability to research and innovate by powering a centralised database that holds 400 of our projects making data accessible at any time. This has inspired new ways of thinking about the impact of every project, and led us to define transformative standards for carbon data management, measurement and what ‘good’ looks like for our projects, specific to their location in the world,” said Fiona Short further added.

“WAM has built an advanced way of working between technology, processes and people to create low-carbon solutions for an industry often criticised for ‘bricks and mortar’ thinking. We initially teamed with Autodesk nine years ago, recognising the opportunity to rebuild Christchurch after the major earthquakes with resilient structure as well as resilient ways of working,” commented Brad Sara, Digital Design Leader at Warren and Mahoney.

Brad Sara, Digital Design Leader at Warren and Mahoney
Brad Sara, Digital Design Leader at Warren and Mahoney

“Since then, the relationship has expanded with the goal of working together to have a larger impact on the built environment for all projects in New Zealand, Australia and beyond.”

What does the partnership mean for Autodesk?

WAM has neutralised its carbon operations every year for 15 years, and its ambition is to continue to maximise its positive environmental impact through low-carbon design of its 300 active projects. In 2020, WAM’s annual business emissions was approximately 700 tons.

To deliver this, WAM deployed Autodesk’s design, modelling and information management solutions, including Autodesk Construction Cloud, to support data-informed design and collaboration between 400 employees and 264 consultants and contractors from anywhere and across the full building process. This includes 3D rendering, remote and mobile project management, and maintaining quality, safety and commissioning processes in the field.

“The World Business Council for Sustainable Development reports 38% of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from the built environment. There is a tremendous opportunity to increase cross-industry collaboration and digital transformation to drastically reduce this impact,” said Andy Cunningham, Senior Regional Director A/NZ at Autodesk.

Andy Cunningham, Senior Regional Director A/NZ at Autodesk
Andy Cunningham, Senior Regional Director A/NZ at Autodesk

“Teaming with Autodesk, WAM can look into rich data sets to mine for carbon attributes, build out typology for buildings, understand carbon footprint and carbon cost per square metre, and apply those insights to achieve its climate commitments,” Andy Cunningham added.

What has Autodesk brought to WAM in the partnership?

The company uses Autodesk Revit to leverage building information modelling (BIM) software for all architectural design, enabling its team to develop data-rich building models with climate impact at the forefront. In one example, WAM saw a 60% improvement on an eight story office tower, 90 Devonport Road, when compared to typical construction. The saving on emissions was 5,000 ton which is the equivalent of taking 1,087 cars off the road for a year.

Game-changing machine learning

Working with Autodesk has helped Warren and Mahoney power advanced technology projects to transform the building industry from the ground up. Using Autodesk, and the accessibility to data and collaboration it enables, along with the Microsoft Azure team, WAM has built a prototype ‘game-changing machine learning engine’, according to Sara, through which it can lean into artificial intelligence (AI), giving its design team ‘superpowers’.

Instead of manually pairing quantitative BIM material data with material carbon intensity data, a project’s data can be automatically mined and calculated, producing a high probability carbon estimate in moments. Using AI in this way will be a game changer and will enable WAM’s designers to simply ‘look’ at a project or whole portfolio through this lens.

Designers can then take this into consideration while balancing other aspects of a complex project brief. WAM sees this as a big breakthrough on the way towards a zero carbon future.

Stepping into the metaverse

Autodesk’s expanded partnership with Epic Games has enabled Warren and Mahoney (WAM) to take architecture and design into a new frontier, and take a step into the metaverse.

Fiona Short, Principal at Warren and Mahoney
Fiona Short, Principal at Warren and Mahoney

“It’s one thing to imagine a project, and it’s another to turn that into 3D form and then take that rendering and make it a photo-realistic experience. But it’s a completely different level to step inside that building in the digital realm, and see it as if you’re there before it’s built. Autodesk and Epic Games offer the digital infrastructure to realise that ambition,” said Sara.

Sara said Warren and Mahoney (WAM) is using these capabilities to better facilitate the design phase of a milestone project, Heke Rua Archives New Zealand. This building is designed to house and protect the nation’s greatest treasures for future generations.

Being able to visualise the design and take people through the building virtually has helped facilitate both the co-design process with the local indigenous community but also coordinate a complex building which is very heavily serviced, designed to withstand a ‘one in 1,000-year event’. Autodesk is powering WAM to design a low-carbon, co-designed and resilient future.

Partnership and Innovation

“Over 80% of NZ architects are in a practice smaller than 10 people. The role of larger practice should be to drive and share innovation made possible through leveraging the large amounts of data they have access to so the whole industry can advance,” said Short.

Warren and Mahoney‘s latest collaborative innovation is all about increasing accessibility to carbon insights. In 2022, Warren and Mahoney partnered with the Autodesk Partner Development Team and One Click LCA to develop Revit integration with Autodesk Platform Services and Once Click LCA carbon foot-printing tools. This integration unlocks the potential for carbon assessment data to be fed back and accessed from Autodesk Platform Services.

“We want as many people as possible to have access to carbon data to maximise impact and this integration means the carbon data can be available to everyone from designers, consultants, contractors, and projects leads to customers,” commented Fiona Short. 

The initiative has led to discussions with industry specialists who are now using Autodesk to build proof of concepts to mine data and use it in real time to create insights about projects.