The World Bank says that almost 56% of the world’s population now lives in cities – and this growing trend is set to continue. As the population continues to multiply, our infrastructure needs to be able to support new growth.
But as areas become more populated, new construction work must meet the demands of the urban working environment – machines with low emissions or limited noise, and methods of working that reduce the impact on surrounding livelihoods.
To meet these demands, urban projects across the globe are getting increasingly ambitious.
The Grand Paris Express in Paris, France is a comprehensive project that is said to be changing the face of architecture as well as transport and energy infrastructure by completely rethinking urban spaces.
The project’s size and ambitious logistical objectives have made it a significant project in Europe.
With 68 new stations and 200km of automated lines, those behind the Grand Paris Express say that it will provide users across the region with a transport network whose reach will equal that of the current Paris metro network.
Work being done to extend Line 14 and create lines 15, 16, 17 and 18 will open up transport options for people across the Greater Paris region, with hopes of enabling them to move around within or between departments without having to go through Paris.
The UK’s Crossrail has finally delivered the much anticipated Elizabeth line in London.
The railway construction project began in 2009 to provide high-frequency hybrid commuter rail from the suburbs into the city.
Despite numerous challenges, both projects are nearing completion. It is certainly true that the pandemic was an unforeseen obstacle, however, the issues associated with construction in an urban environment have also had a significant impact.
It can be more difficult and time-consuming to work in congested and restricted areas.
And, due to this, we are seeing an increasing number of creative ways of working, in particular electric ones, as companies recognize that urban construction has unique challenges beyond those faced by other industries.
Electrification of construction
The electrification of construction machinery has become a key development goal of the construction machinery industry.
Last year saw an incredible amount of low-emission driving and working solutions reach the market with more announced at this year’s international construction trade show, Bauma, in October.
France-based Mecalac launched a new range of zero-emission medium-sized electric machines for urban worksites at the global trade show.
According to the company, the launch of the e-series – which consists of the 11 tonne e12 excavator, the 1,000-litre es1000 swing loader and the six tonne ed6 dumper, represents the first time its electric machines have been designed for use on urban sites.
Designed to conduct earthmoving operations such as digging, loading, and transporting that mini electric machines are unable to do, Mecalac says as much as 64 tonnes of CO2 could be saved on a jobsite each year by using the machines, while also reducing noise pollution.
The e12, an electric version of the 12MTX excavator, can be charged in eight hours, according to Mecalac, and can last the same amount of time when in operation.
Doosan has also launched a new machine designed for urban working environments.
The DX100W-7 10.7-tonne wheeled excavator has been launched in the 10-tonne weight class.
It is said to provide a solution for customers looking for a wheeled excavator designed primarily for urban and road maintenance applications.
The South Korea-based company says that the DX100W-7 offers a compromise between compactness and agility – qualities which make it well suited to operating in very restricted areas.
As well as agility in confined spaces, the DX100W-7 is said to offer the highest safety and specifications on the market.
The integral 1.35 tonne counterweight ensures stability for lifting work in combination with the articulated boom and long arm, which together provide a larger working range than other machines in this class.
Reducing noise on construction sites
Bobcat Company recently unveiled the latest machine in its electric excavator lineup: the E19e compact excavator.
Doosan Bobcat CEO Scott Park, said, “This unit will build on the success of our smaller E10e, the world’s first electric mini excavator launched during Bauma 2019.”
The E19e compact excavator offers a compact footprint, quiet operation and zero emissions.
Like the E10e and the E32e, the E19e offers a run time of four hours of continuous operation on its lithium-ion battery pack.
It charges with a standard 120-volt outlet, requiring eight hours to fully charge.
Producing zero emissions, the battery-electric excavators allow users to operate inside structures where diesel exhaust is restricted.
The company said the equipment offers significantly lower noise levels and vibration, which improves jobsite communication and allows work in sound-sensitive areas.
While battery-electric construction machines are becoming more and more common, the development of hydrogen technology is also providing to be another viable diesel alternative.
Hydrogen construction equipment
Hyundai Construction Equipment (HCE) has been developing a hydrogen fuel cell-powered driveline since 2020.
That year it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hyundai Motors and with specialist division Hyundai Mobis, at its Mabuk Research Centre in Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea.
Unlike a diesel-powered wheeled excavator, Hyundai Construction Equipment says that the hydrogen machine has a fuel cell mounted in the rear of the upper structure.
The fuel cell relies on a chemical reaction between the stored hydrogen and oxygen that is present in the air.
The fuel cell stack generates electrical energy from this reaction, with an inverter converting this energy into usable electrical power.
This is used to drive the hydraulic pump and to power the machine in the normal way.
The only emission from the fuel cell stack is water, a combination of hydrogen and oxygen, therefore, creating an incredibly low-carbon powertrain says Hyundai.
“The development of the first excavator powered by hydrogen is very exciting, as we work towards a carbon-free world,” said Gert Peeters, product manager at Hyundai CE Europe.
“Over the coming months, HCE will continue to develop and further refine this technology and thereby pursue our goal to lead the transition into a zero-carbon future.
“While great progress has already been made in the development of electric vehicle technology, there is a risk that we overlook hydrogen as a practical, immediate solution to reduce emissions and improve air quality.”
Electric vs diesel construction equipment
Whilst electric equipment has become an increasing trend throughout the industry, Steve Nendick – marketing communications director for Global Off-Highway at Cummins – makes the case for ultra-clean diesel power in urban construction and how its offering differs from that of electric machinery.
“I am often asked, ‘what is diesel power’s future role in urban construction?’ says Nendick.
“Worldwide, legislation and operator choice are rightly and progressively reducing emissions in our cities and driving the adoption of new non-diesel power solutions, such as battery electric and hydrogen.
“My answer is, however, that there will continue to be a very strong case for the use of diesel to meet the varying power demands of urban construction in the short and medium term, at least.”
“Firstly, the latest generation of diesel engines is extremely clean,” says Nendick.
“European emissions legislation for off-highway applications has driven a 96% NOx and 97% particulate matter reduction since 1999 when it was first introduced.
“The latest phase, Stage V, mandates ultra-clean diesel technology and introduces a particulate matter number count only achievable by the use of a diesel particulate filter (DPF) for the first time.”
Hitachi adds compact wheeled excavator
This year saw Hitachi Construction Machinery (Europe) launch the Stage-V compliant ZX95W-7 compact wheeled excavator.
The ZX95W-7 is said to be exceptionally manoeuvrable thanks to the four-wheel steering and offers excellent lifting capacity to deliver high levels of productivity. Versatility is also enhanced when used with a tiltrotator and S-type couplers for attachments.
Hitachi said that like all its Zaxis-7 wheeled excavators, the newcomer to the range has been designed to help owners and operators control their profitability, comfort, safety and uptime.
According to Nendick, this evolution of engine design is demonstrated by Cummins’ own range of Stage V diesel engines, the Performance Series.
It is said that they deliver on average 10% more power and 20% more torque than their predecessors, but significantly, with near zero NOx and particulate matter emissions.
Whichever power option is chosen, it’s clear that, as cities continue to grow, the demand for construction work is increasing.
At the same time, solutions must continue to be developed to enable construction in urban environments to become cleaner, greener, and increase the efficiency of the work at hand.
Electric loader update from Wacker
Wacker Neuson has launched an updated version of its fully electric WL20e compact wheeled loader.
The manufacturer, which began producing the original version of the WL20e in 2015, said the third generation of the model features a new operator cab and a new lithium-ion battery.
“In the future, customers will have the option of choosing between three battery variants so that running and charging times can be optimally tailored to work requirements,” said Wacker Neuson.
The updated WL20e will retain the 2.3 tonne operating weight, 15 km/h travel speed and the five-hour operating time of its predecessor model.
Wacker Neuson also recently brought its EW100 wheeled excavator to market, which with a 10 tonne operating weight is the largest model in its equipment range.
The company said, “Thanks to its powerful traction hydraulics and high basic working capacity, the EW100 can also be used to complete tasks that would otherwise require the use of a 14 tonne excavator.”
Reducing noise on construction sites
Hydrodemolition is gaining popularity in concrete removal and surface preparation applications as a method that not only decreases noise pollution but also offers a number of safety, productivity and environmental benefits.
“With pressure mounting from all sides, finding efficient, cost-effective ways to limit sound pollution has become a major priority for contractors,” says Roger Simonsson, managing director at Aquajet.
But sound-proofing an active jobsite is easier said than done. Simonsson adds, “Incorporating sound abatement techniques can reduce decibels, but there is no way to completely eliminate the biggest onsite noise polluters – machines.
“With construction and demolition operations taking centre stage in noise pollution discussions, it’s no surprise significant restrictions are being put on contractors by government agencies to protect workers and the public.”
Hydrodemolition robots typically operate around 10 dB lower, reducing the overall noise pollution, says Simonsson.
“The quieter operation is thanks in part to a heavy rubber hood over the demolition area that helps protect workers from flying debris but also dampens sound.
“And, while it does not decrease the overall decibel level the machine produces, remote operation increases sound safety by keeping workers at a distance.”
Noise restrictions will only continue to increase as job sites move further and further into heavily populated urban environments.
Simonsson believes that investing in quieter methods not only ensures contractors meet current regulations but promises long-term options as the construction and demolition landscape continues to evolve.
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