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The future of the construction sector hinges on how swiftly players adapt to newer technologies says Jihad Bsaibes, president and CEO of Amana Contracting and Steel Buildings in an eye-opening article on the ongoing digitalisation symbolised by the click and mortar analogy. It is about the acceleration of technology in construction in the GCC countries.

the picture above is for illustration and is of AMANA’s Covid-19 detection lab built in 14 days.

Click and mortar: The acceleration of technology in construction in the GCC

May 19, 2021

The opportunities and headwinds created by Covid-19 have forced the construction sector to accelerate its digitisation targets. Digital transformation is imperative for offsetting pandemic-induced delays and cost overruns and achieving future sustainability and profitability in a dynamic market.

The World Economic Forum estimates that within 10 years, full-scale digitisation could unlock savings between $700bn and $1.2 trillion in design, engineering, and construction.ADVERTISING

Due to these disruptions, the convergence of manufacturing, technology and construction has emerged as a key trend. The future of construction will largely depend on how effectively players use technology to build better: safer, quicker and greener.

One example of how technology is disrupting construction are digital twins. A digital twin simulates tangible assets on a virtual platform using data. Working from a single, integrated digital model enables architects, structural engineers and builders to test scenarios and develop optimal solutions.

Similarly, modular construction – that involves manufacturing modules constructed off site and put together on site later – decreases the need for workforce by upto 30 per cent, potentially reduces material waste by 30 per cent and improves the work safety environment by up to 70 per cent compared to traditional construction.

Digitisation assists with strategic decision-making and helps construction companies tide over project disruptions during situations such as a changeover of employees. It massively cuts down underlying paperwork, which means available resources can be utilised more efficiently to analyse project-critical information such as material availability and status. According to a whitepaper from Oracle Construction and Engineering, materials can account for up to 40-50 per cent of project cost, and control up to 80 per cent of the project schedule.

Real-time material information acquaints construction planners with information about what material will be available for installation so that construction crews can continue to operate efficiently and without unnecessary or unplanned work disruptions.

Similarly, collaborative technologies aid workflows by giving access to each stakeholder in the development of a project. Each party can create, review and modify data in real-time both onsite and from remote locations, thus making it possible to track and control processes, from design and construction to signoff and completion.

Enterprise resource planning or ERP systems can automate the different project components and activities. These systems help manage day-to-day activities such as accounting, procurement, project management, risk management and compliance, and supply chain operations.

Two recent projects showcase how new technologies are being deployed in the construction sector. One such project currently underway is the 365m-high Ciel Tower, set to become the world’s tallest hotel when inaugurated in 2023. The other is a management hotel by The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC). BIM and Revit (from Autodesk) were used for the design development and structural design of Ciel Tower to simplify and speed up otherwise complex tasks. The design team also used software for renders and 3D visualisation tasks.

The pandemic may trigger consolidation across the region, resulting in fewer players. Technology adoption will be vital in meeting customer expectations better and faster.

While it is crucial, technology adoption comes with its own set of challenges, key among them liquidity concerns and availability of the right kind of human resources. As industrialised construction and technology adoption increases, there is a growing gap between the supply of talent and the digital skills needed. This requirement will be a significant challenge in Saudi Arabia’s growing construction sector. However, once set in motion, those who embrace digital transformation will reap the rewards.

Jihad Bsaibes, president and CEO of Amana Contracting and Steel Buildings