The acceleration of technology in construction in the GCC

The acceleration of technology in construction in the GCC

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.

The acceleration of technology in construction in the GCC
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Jihad Bsaibes, president and CEO of Amana Contracting and Steel Buildings

Egypt’s new capital – a smart city in the making

Egypt’s new capital – a smart city in the making

GLOBALFLEET‘s article authored by Alison Pittaway argues that Egypt’s new capital is a smart city in the making. So it will but some people are not happy. Let us see what’s it all about.

The image above is for illustration and is of Reuters.

Egypt’s new capital – a smart city in the making

18 May 21

Aside from the recent troubles in Gaza threatening war in the Middle East, decades of population growth and unplanned urban sprawl have taken their tole on Egypt’s economy.

The Government is building several cities, including a new capital, one million low-cost homes, plus an infrastructure of highways and bridges.

Egypt’s new capital - a smart city in the making
*Image courtesy of Shutterstock

This bustling regeneration has helped Egypt remain in growth in 2020, despite the economic shock of the Coronavirus pandemic.

However, some people are not happy. Citizens have been displaced and lost their homes to the building work. Others have seen their neighbourhoods transform too quickly. Analysts wonder how much of a difference the infrastructure boom will make while economic problems persist.

A new capital city

Under construction in the desert, east of Cairo (due to open later this year) is a a futuristic-looking city that many are calling “the new capital city”. Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi recently referred to it as “Hope city”. It’s officially referred to simply as the “New Administrative Capital”. It will be Egypt’s first smart city and is expected to house 6.5 million people. Covering 700 square kilometres of desert, it’s the size of Singapore.

Some people worry that the pace of change in Egypt is too fast and that the “old ways”, such as selling tomatoes from a donkey cart or driving a rickshaw, are being bulldozed and the people who rely on them forgotten.

Investing in the future

On the positive side, in Eastern Cairo and beyond, 1.1 trillion Egyptian pounds ($70 billion) (€53.7 billion) will be spent on transport between now and 2024. A third of that is for the new road network, which will connect many more citizens to transport networks, basic services and create the foundations for a raft of mobility services.

While being interviewed on television recently, Sisi was emphatic about the new developments: “We need to do this so we can make people’s lives easier, so we can reduce the amount of lost time, reduce people’s stress and stop the fuel being used causing more pollution.”

A 2014 World Bank Study put the cost of congestion in greater Cairo at 3.6% of gross domestic product. But while new roads are being built, old ones are poorly maintained.

Middle East’s first mobile natural gas fuel station opens in Egypt

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources has launched the first mobile facility to supply cars with compressed natural gas as part of the sector’s efforts to increase the supply of the fuel across the country.

The new station can transport and store up to 5,000 cubic meters of gas and supply up to 1,000 cars every 24 hours to public, industrial and commercial facilities.

The Ministry has plans for 10 new mobile stations across the country, especially in areas of seasonal consumption, such as tourist spots and resorts.

It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. Will Egypt’s smart city be a step too far or will it become a shining example to the rest of the world? Time will tell.

Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City

Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City

EuroAsia review in an Observer Research Foundation analysis of Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City NEOM and its related ‘The Line’ as projects with a larger objective. The picture above is for illustration and is of NEOM Properties and Real Estate.

Analysis: Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City

By Ramanath Jha

Saudi Arabia’s Brand New Futuristic City
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announces “The Line” project at NEOM. (SPA)

In 2017, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, announced the launch of the nation’s futuristic and fully automated business zone, NEOM. This hi-tech business hub, to be located in the Tabuk province in the northwestern part of Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea coast, is to be established at a cost of US $500 billion (INR 37.5 lakh crore). The region has been selected in view of its relatively mild climate. Most of Saudi Arabia has a desert climate with extremely oppressive day temperatures of above 45° Celsius. The project’s total area is slated to be 26,500 square kilometre and will link Jordan and Egypt via Saudi territory. The project is expected to generate 380,000 jobs and contribute US $48 billion (INR 36,000 crore) to the kingdom’s GDP by 2030.

More recently, in Jan 2021, the Crown Prince also announced that, as part of the NEOM project, a zero-carbon city called ‘The Line’ would be set up. The Crown Prince labelled the city project as a “civilisational plan that puts humans first”. ‘The Line’ is crafted as a linear city for one million people, running 170 kilometre long, with a width that would be walkable in five minutes. It is anticipated that people from all over the world would be drawn by the city’s excellent environment, state-of-the-art infrastructure and superior quality of life.

‘The Line’ is not designed to be a conventional city but a futuristic one. A city’s usual amenities such as schools, hospitals, and gardens will be carefully crafted in view of the residents’ expected proclivity towards the availability of top-quality education, health, and recreation. Additionally, the city would position itself as a top tourist destination. The Saudi administration also seeks to dispel any misgivings about the governance model that ‘The Line’ would follow. The entire NEOM area, including ‘The Line’, will be a free trade zone with its own tax structure and an autonomous legal system.

The technological and environmental plans of the “zero cars, zero streets, and zero carbon emissions” city have drawn the most attention. Drawings of ‘The Line’ show the city infrastructure and services arranged in three layers. The top layer, above ground, will be a pedestrian layer. It will be supported by two underground layers. The one immediately below ground will be the service layer of physical infrastructure. And further below the service layer will be the spine layer for transport. Project proponents stated that “High-speed transportation, utilities, digital infrastructure and logistics will be seamlessly integrated in dedicated spaces running in an invisible layer along The Line”. The high-speed transit is being designed to reach people anywhere in the city within 20 minutes. Alternately, people could walk to conveniences within five minutes. Artificial intelligence will have a critical role in the city. ‘The Line’ would be powered by 100 percent clean energy, rendering the city pollution-free, healthy, and sustainable. The city would be run totally on smart city technologies. Robots will play a key role in the areas of security, logistics, home delivery, and provision of care.

It is expected that the city infrastructure would cost between US $100 to 200 billion (INR 7.5 to 15 lakh crore). Investments are planned to be drawn from the US $500 billion allocated for NEOM, the Public Investment Fund (PIF) which is the Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund, and local and global investors over 10 years. Construction on the project’s first phase has already begun. NEOM Bay, some hotel complexes, and luxurious apartments have been completed. In 2019, the NEOM Bay Airport was inaugurated. A huge complex of palaces for the Saudi king, prince, and royal family members has also been started.

NEOM and ‘The Line’ are projects with a larger objective. As the world moves towards a non-oil-based future, Saudi Arabia, as the largest producer of oil, finds its economy threatened unless it finds alternate sources of wealth creation. Global trade and tourism would be the key areas for Saudi’s new economy. NEOM, backed by ‘The Line’ as the first fully automated city, could emerge as the leading global destination. In this, there is commonality between Saudi Arabia and the other gulf countries. Bahrain (Economic Vision 2030), Oman (Vision 2040), Qatar (National Vision 2030), UAE (Vision 2021) and Saudi Arabia (Vision 2030) are all seeking to diversify their economies and reduce dependence on oil.

Information on many areas in regard to ‘The Line’ are scarce. However, based on the material available, a broad assessment is possible. Firstly, the history of megaprojects in Saudi Arabia has not been happy. “The Saudi landscape is already dotted with failed or abandoned megaprojects”. Furthermore, such projects do not always turn out the way they are planned. Adverse turns in the global economy, cost overruns, and reduced financial returns on investment are some of the most common failings. Even if the above cited observations are dismissed as speculation, the fact is that this urban endeavour incorporates certain technologies that do not exist. Robot maids, dinosaur robots, and flying cars are still in the making. Neither are high-speed transits today capable of speeds of 512 kilometre per hour, which the city would require for end-to-end travel in 20 minutes.

Furthermore, irrespective of whatever kind of city one builds, a city’s foundational philosophy ought to remain the same. The quality of a city rests on its economy, its environment, and its equity. A city that overstates one to the detriment of the others imbalances itself and over time becomes unsustainable. The project proponents have talked profusely about the economic, technological, and environmental angles, but nothing is known about how equitable the city would be and who could afford to live there.

NEOM and The Line, as cited earlier, would be governed by a set of laws different from Saudi Arabia. But given the nature of the Saudi polity, where some of the governance practices are among the most regressive, uncomfortable incongruities for residents may surface. Since the city is looking for people to move in from the rest of the world, such concerns may not enthuse populations to move in. Saudi Arabia is not very kind to dissent; hence, very few voices of disagreement from inside the country have emanated. Some have mildly sought to remind the Saudi administration that there is no point spending billions of dollars on a totally new venture when the already existing Saudi cities were in a state of disrepair and needed fixing.

The Saudi administration highlights its environmental concerns and is planning to build a totally eco-friendly city. As the Crown Prince said, “Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development? Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution? Why should we lose one million people every year due to traffic accidents?” However, this does not seem to be practiced on the ground. The city’s construction is cutting “through its surroundings, forcing its way through tough terrain rather than embracing natural features such as the coast line.”

The Saudi administration also faces criticism on account of the attempt to evict the 20,000-strong Howeitat tribe from its centuries-old homeland that falls within the territory of NEOM. The tribe is resisting eviction. When leaders of the tribe protested, several from the leadership found themselves behind bars. The most vocal critic of them all, Alya Abutayah Alhwaiti, lost his life. The negative publicity was sought to be countered through a public relations exercise, crafted by an American PR company. However, much of the disquiet around the project remains.

Bedouins Without Borders Helps the Bedouins

Bedouins Without Borders Helps the Bedouins

BORGEN Magazine World News elaborates on how Bedouins Without Borders Helps the Bedouins.

The picture above is for illustration and is of BEDOINS WITOUT BORDERS.

Bedouins Without Borders Helps the Bedouins
Photo: Flickr

Bedouins Without Borders Helps the Bedouins

SAN FRANCISCO, California — Historically, the indigenous, tribal peoples of the Middle East, called the Bedouins or the Bedawi, have often been excluded or overlooked compared to the settled populations within the Levant region. Although a majority of the Bedouin community reside in the Negev desert, which is located in southern Israel by the border of Egypt, Bedouin individuals also live across the Levant, sometimes traveling into Palestine, Syria, Egypt and Iraq, among other countries. Bedouins come from a diverse range of ancestors, with a portion of the Bedouin community in Palestine originating from Sudan and other African nations.

The Modern Plight of the Desert Dwellers

Unfortunately, poverty and food insecurity are prevalent in Bedouin communities. The families within these groups are largely unable to access government programs and resources to aid them financially due to their nomadic lifestyles. Although research materials on the Bedouin community are difficult to find, some studies have been executed to investigate the population’s economic situation. As part of a study performed in 2008, Suleiman Abu-Bader and Daniel Gottlieb found that less than 9% of Bedouin females were part of the workforce in 2004 and more than three-quarters of the population experienced poverty in unregistered villages.

The nonprofit organization Bedouins Without Borders, created in 2015, aims to create awareness of the Bedouin community and advocate for the rights of Bedouins. As with other indigenous populations, the Bedouin people’s records are difficult to find, and thus, it is more difficult for them to access the resources they need. Therefore, part of the Bedouins Without Borders’ mission is to survey the Bedouin population and analyze the challenges they face in daily life.

Creating Bedouin Records

To aid in better serving the community and keeping track of the resources that families need, Bedouins Without Borders has established the Bedouin Data Bank for collecting basic information and the Bedouin Map to maintain a better understanding of the Bedouin movement over time. In working with mobile communities such as the Bedouin community that are always passing from place to place, it is necessary to log the activity of each tribal group and assess how their current circumstances shape factors such as food security.

The Bedouin youth themselves run these documentation programs, receiving training under the ALFURSAN initiative that Bedouins Without Borders developed to empower and motivate young people in the community. Organizational efforts such as these are crucial in providing the future skills that the Bedouin youth may need for their careers and bridging the cultural gap between the Bedouin community and other communities, making it beneficial on two fronts.

How Bedouins Without Borders Helps

One example of a program that Bedouins Without Borders offers to encourage development is Guardians of the Desert. Like the ALFURSAN program, Guardians of the Desert centers on self-empowerment and community strengthening efforts simultaneously through the youth’s direct engagement. Each of these programs offers valuable leadership positions to Bedouin teenagers and gives young Bedouin individuals the chance to spread awareness about their community and advocate for expanding economic opportunities.

As the Bedawi way of life shifts due to climate change, water shortages and the commercialization of desert areas, community leaders must rise to meet the challenge and tackle the economic issues faced with new methods. In response to increased financial insecurity, young adults in the Bedouin community have opted to become tour guides and implement their knowledge of the environment to educate others and produce revenue in the process.

In this pivot toward sustainable development and practices, ecotourism has become integral to creating a balanced way of life for the Bedouin people. To describe this economic sector succinctly, ecotourism is a method of promoting increased tourism to more remote areas of the world such as the Sahara Desert while also protecting the local ecosystem and informing visitors of how to support conservation efforts. In this manner, Bedouin nomads can produce the income needed for their daily lives without endangering the spaces they inhabit.

Thanks to the Bedouins Without Borders organization, Bedouin leaders and volunteers have designated specific regions as environmentally protected. The goals of establishing a protected area such as the Oasis include preserving land for animals to feed and ensuring that the Bedawi food sources remain abundant and plentiful despite climate change.

The Road Ahead

As a relatively new organization, Bedouins Without Borders has already established a dedicated group of volunteers and launched some promising projects to support its cause. As settlement conflicts continue in Palestine and Israel, Bedouins Without Borders remains diligent in protecting Bedouin interests and ensuring community safety. Currently, Bedouins Without Borders proceeds in its mission to inform people about the community and raise awareness by spotlighting young voices in the Bedouin Monitor section of its website. In 2021, it is hopeful that Bedouins Without Borders will further develop its environmental conservation and poverty reduction efforts for a better tomorrow.

– Luna Khalil

The Red Sea is no longer a baby ocean

The Red Sea is no longer a baby ocean

The Red Sea is no longer a baby ocean by Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres comes as quite a surprising assertion if one is not familiar with the subject. It gives a fairly good picture of this most historical strip of sea water.

The feature picture above is of the Red Sea as showing on its Facebook page.

The Red Sea is no longer a baby ocean
Bathymetric chart of a part of the Red Sea. Credit: GEOMAR

It is 2,250 kilometers long, but only 355 kilometers wide at its widest point—on a world map, the Red Sea hardly resembles an ocean. But this is deceptive. A new, albeit still narrow, ocean basin is actually forming between Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Exactly how young it is and whether it can really be compared with other young oceans in Earth’s history has been a matter of dispute in the geosciences for decades. The problem is that the newly formed oceanic crust along the narrow, north-south aligned rift is widely buried under a thick blanket of salt and sediments. This complicates direct investigations.https://d1b7959727b37f996fc1656abcaeb098.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

In the international journal Nature Communications, scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, King Abdullah University for Science and Technology in Thuwal (Saudi Arabia) and the University of Iceland have now published a study that makes a good case for the Red Sea being quite mature and having an almost classical oceanic evolution. “Using a combination of different methods, we can show for the first time that the structures in the Red Sea are typical for a young but already fully developed ocean basin.” says Dr. Nico Augustin from GEOMAR, lead author of the study.

In addition to information from high-resolution seafloor maps and chemical investigations of rock samples, the team primarily used gravity and earthquake data to develop a new tectonic model of the Red Sea basin. Gravity anomalies have already helped to detect hidden seafloor structures such as rift axes, transform faults and deep-sea mountains in other regions, for example in the Gulf of Mexico, the Labrador Sea or the Andaman Sea.

The authors of the current study compared gravity patterns of the Red Sea axis with comparable mid-ocean ridges and found more similarities than differences. For example, they identified positive gravity anomalies running perpendicular to the rift axis, which are caused by variations in crustal thickness running along the axis. “These so-called ‘off-axis segmentation trails’ are very typical features of oceanic crust originating from magmatically more active, thicker and thus, heavier areas along the axis. However, this observation is new for the Red Sea,” says Dr. Nico Augustin.

Bathymetric maps, as well as earthquake data, also support the idea of an almost continuous rift valley throughout the Red Sea basin. This is also confirmed by geochemical analyses of rock samples from the few areas that are not overlain by salt masses. “All the samples we have from the Red Sea rift have geochemical fingerprints of normal oceanic crust,” says Dr. Froukje van der Zwan, co-author of the study.

With this new analysis of gravity and earthquake data, the team constrains the onset of ocean expansion in the Red Sea to about 13 million years ago. “That’s more than twice the generally accepted age,” Dr. Augustin says. That means the Red Sea is no longer a baby ocean, but a young adult with a structure similar to the young southern Atlantic some 120 million years ago.

The model now presented is, of course, still being debated in the scientific community, says the lead author, “but it is the most straightforward interpretation of what we observe in the Red Sea. Many details in salt- and sediment-covered areas that were previously difficult to explain suddenly make sense with our model.” While it has thus been able to answer some questions about the Red Sea, the model also raises many new ones that inspire further research in the Red Sea from a whole new scientific perspective.