A New Civil Engineer‘s article by Fred SHERRATT tries to answer How will the technology revolution of Construction 4.0 impact people?’ Preceding these excerpts and highlights through our bolds with all due respect for all involved are our thoughts.
The debate about the digital transformation of the construction industry in its different markets across, for instance, the MENA region, has been well surveyed on projects through the role of technology in shaping the next phase of development.
The impact of digitalisation in the region’s construction will encompass a radical change in all sectors. Such sectors as electricity and transport, particularly road construction, are naturally, as it were, prone to be digitally handled through automation with a certain ease. According to many observers, the building industry though being, as it were, more vernacular in its diversity and composition, would require still lots of digital innovation and eventually be a crucial driver of future growth in the construction industry. Collected data on what digitisation means for the construction industry to be spent on in the MENA region illustrates well over the recent past. Most concerns are for those countries of the Gulf whether the future’s Construction sites will be people-free’ for obvious reasons and the opposite for the rest of the MENA region.
How will the technology revolution of Construction 4.0 impact people?
Welcome to the Fourth Industrial Revolution! Under Construction 4.0 robots lay bricks and drones carry out surveys. Improved connectivity and data management means AI and machine learning can plan projects better than humans ever could. Building information modelling (BIM) has blossomed, projects completed in the virtual world before ground is even broken. Computer controlled craftsmanship optimises design, whilst the Internet of Things enables the use of real-time data processing and digital twins to optimise delivery on site.
Fred Sherratt is the interim deputy dean for research and innovation in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Anglia Ruskin University
And for an industry told to Modernise or Die this could not have come at a better time.
Construction 4.0 promises increased efficiencies, enhanced and optimised productivity. Not to mention savings of time and money through reductions of labour, material and processing costs. This is trumpeted across the industry through voices heavy with technological optimism, industrial progress, all the benefits and rewards this revolution will bring, as well as scare stories for those not getting on board now – you’ll be left behind if you miss the boat!
But maybe we should think a little more critically about this. Because we have been here before. Three times to be precise.
And, it hasn’t always gone well. Not least because technology is not neutral, as Jacque Ellul argued in 1954. The underlying rational and objective methods that drive its implementation also instil within it an autonomy and amorality that is potentially dangerous. People and industries are compelled to adapt to technological change – as who but a Luddite would challenge all the promises it brings? – but such change is not always positive. History shows that technology can fundamentally disrupt the ways industries are structured and operate: workers are not just replaced by robots, things change so much neither robots or people are needed at all. So just because we can, doesn’t mean we should, and certainly not without careful deliberation.
Our industry contributes significantly to UK employment, including many site workers who’ve struggled with formal education whilst their myriad practical skills have long been devalued. For them, Construction 4.0 presents a positive narrative of “reskilling” or “multi-skilled” workers, but history suggests a downgrading of both job roles and earning potential is actually much more likely. Technological advancements tend to reduce labour requirements overall and also split skilled roles into two: new tasks only requiring one degree-qualified manager and some unskilled labour, with reduced quality of work and thus less remuneration. Estimates suggest 50% of traditional construction work could be automated over the next 20 years, making this a significant concern. But Construction 4.0 doesn’t care, the amorality technology brings to progress creates a convenient myopia for social consequences such as this. Any reduction in the numbers of people employed or their potential earnings is beneficial – a reduction in wage costs, hurrah! It’s just a shame about the jobs, and the satisfaction people used to be able to realise from skilled manual work.
And it is not just site workers who are vulnerable to such “progress”. Engineers have already seen their work shift into the virtual, where they now sit in front of screens to design and provide information to control and guide subcontractors. Their work is now shaped and structured by new technologies which require specialist skills for operation, and which also created new roles that potentially undermine professional autonomy. Whilst professionals were upskilling themselves, “BIM managers” took charge of the design process as a whole, because they were best able to navigate and negotiate the software, not because they were best skilled to lead design development or coordination. Although things have rebalanced as training caught up, professionals across our industry are now forced into ways of working as the technology dictates, choice is no longer an option.
Indeed, the “technology owner” may even become the dominant industry professional in the future, through the autonomy unquestionably conferred on them. Indeed, Cui bono [who will benefit] is never a bad question to ask, particularly in a US$10bn global construction software marketplace. Software vendors promise solutions to all manner of construction process inefficiencies, but in doing so they are also redesigning industry structures to fit their technologies. But the confidence (arrogance), that technology developers can capture (and inevitably improve) what we do is never challenged: they are now gurus to the industry, with little sense of history, craft or profession. The consequences of this dominance could be considerable: a built environment constructed to meet the dictates of technology, rather than the manifestation of the imagination, fun, creativity and humanity of a real person. Are we happy about that?
We should therefore consider carefully whose agendas Construction 4.0 is serving. Our industry does more than simply create our built environment, it also employs vast numbers of people who gain both income and self-validation from this process. Construction 4.0 is challenging how we do things, disrupting us, bringing progress at last to our dinosaur of an industry. But who is challenging Construction 4.0? Luckily it’s all still relatively piecemeal, smoke and mirrors are plentiful, and we are not (yet) at the point of no return. But it’s up to professionals to point out that Construction 4.0 has the potential to do harm as well as good. We should all think a little more critically before we add our voices to the current tsunami of technological optimism. It’s a common trope of our industry that people are our biggest asset. Why don’t we try to keep it that way?
Fred Sherratt is the interim deputy dean for research and innovation in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Anglia Ruskin University
Leading scholar says region must place more importance on liberal arts, not just science and engineering, to build better societies by Anna McKie could be an unprecedented way of covering the recurring issue of underdevelopment not through traditional knowledge but by using the art and humanities knowledge. Let us see what is proposed as per the very words of a Professor: ‘certification’ mania hobbles Middle East development.
Professor: ‘certification’ mania hobbles Middle East development
April 8, 2021
Students in the Middle East and North Africa are too often more interested in “acquiring” a degree than developing the understanding that should come with it, a leading scholar has warned.
Safwan Masri, Columbia University’s executive vice-president for global centres and global development, said too many young people were steered into courses focused on science and engineering when critical thinking and intercultural understanding were desperately needed across the region.
Speaking at Times Higher Education’s MENA Universities Summit, Professor Masri said future leaders being trained in institutions across the region were “not fully prepared to lead”, the product of “technocratic societies led by a global technocratic class”.
“Students – and the parents who bankroll them – are often more interested in acquiring professional certification than truly understanding the world and the role of an educated citizen within it,” said Professor Masri.
“Here in MENA, young people fortunate enough to attend university are almost unilaterally steered into STEM training.
“But STEM competency is only half of the equation. We need people who also know how to organise societies, articulate and secure alignment on political ideals, and build robust civil societies that expand rights and freedoms to historically marginalised groups.”
Professor Masri, an expert on the contemporary Arab world and the head of Columbia’s study centre in Amman, Jordan, said the solution had to be a greater embrace of liberal arts education across the region.
He acknowledged that this “won’t be easy” because generations of Arabs “have been indoctrinated with hyper-nationalist propaganda, exclusionary rhetoric and dogmatic religious discourse at the expense of critical thinking and questioning skills”.
“Progress cannot be achieved without deprogramming and reprogramming this mindset, to learn to coexist with different points of view and ways of life,” Professor Masri said.
“Unless liberal arts training is more highly valued in this region, the region’s ambitions will be thwarted. We must achieve balance. We must help students – and the parents who fund many of them – understand the crucial interplay between content [of academic training] and context [understanding of society].”
At the summit, held online in partnership with NYU Abu Dhabi, Professor Masri also argued that at a time of geopolitical turmoil and “historic levels of misunderstanding” between countries and the people within them, knowledge diplomacy led by universities “may be our last and best tool if we are to rebuild a broken world”. He highlighted Columbia’s decision to maintain its global centre in Istanbul even in the face of increasing persecution of academics.
“The solution wasn’t to give in, we contended, but to dig in – to support academics and students, to continue to share knowledge,” Professor Masri said.
But Professor Masri expressed concern about the “weaponisation” of knowledge, highlighting that while Gulf states’ attempts to exercise soft power by funding Middle East studies centres in Western universities ostensibly had “no strings attached”, there were “uncomfortable stories” of researchers at these centres coming under pressure after writing about issues such as human rights and democracy.
A better model of knowledge diplomacy, he argued, was that of the Covid vaccines, which were the result of thousands of researchers crossing the globe over decades, generating the knowledge that informed the vaccines’ designs.
“The Covid vaccine represents decades’ worth, perhaps even centuries’ worth, of university-generated knowledge – distilled down to little more than an ounce of liquid, all concentrated in a single shot,” Professor Masri said.
“This medical and scientific breakthrough will reconnect the people of the world.”
AMEInfo‘ Hadi Khatib, business editor, in an exclusive article about how the GCC consulting market faces 6 key post-pandemic challenges elaborated on the consulting sector in the Gulf area of the MENA.
The consultancy business is directly or rather proportionately related to the construction sector that is predicted by GlobalData to recover in 2021 slowly but after contracting by 4.5% in 2020. The region ramping up vaccination programmes is optimistically forecast to recover with 1.9% in 2021 and 4.1% in 2022, by the same leading data and analytics company. So, let us hear Hadi’s thoughts.
The GCC consulting market faces 6 key post-pandemic challenges
After a 12% contraction last year, the GCC consultancy sector faces six challenges to continue leveraging the region’s aspirations for sustainable and profitable business and economic development
The standout performer in 2020 was healthcare, seeing exceptional growth of more than 19%
GCC’s largest consulting market, financial services, took a big hit in 2020, with revenues falling by $160 mn
A strong consulting market growth of approximately 17% across the GCC region forecasted in 2021
The GCC consulting market contracted for the first time in its history—down by just over 12% in 2020, with COVID-19 wiping out nearly $400 million in revenues. The market is now worth around $2.7 billion, a new report by Source Global Research revealed.
2020 saw nervous clients put consulting projects on hold, particularly in hard-hit industries, such as retail, hospitality, and aviation, but also mega projects such as NEOM, World Cup 2022, Qiddiya, and more.
AMEinfo interviewed Edward Haigh, Joint Managing Director at Source Global Research, to inquire about last year’s results and next year’s forecasts.
The discussion revealed six key areas consultants need to keep in mind to gradually recoup their losses and continue leveraging the region’s aspirations for sustainable and profitable business and economic development.
“Consultants will continue to play an important role helping clients in all sectors create greater efficiencies in their organizations, but the key for consultants today will be to re-engage and re-align with their clients in this new normal,” Haigh told AMEinfo.
Areas where COVID-19 boosted consultancies
The standout performer in 2020 was healthcare, seeing exceptional growth of more than 19%.
“So much of that initial surge and response to the pandemic has already happened, and as such consulting to the healthcare sector will slow down in 2021, but pick up again in 2022,” Haigh said. “Consultants will bring new solutions and world-class innovation and expertise to bear on the issues healthcare professionals are facing, particularly around engaging with patients, embedding technology in everything organizations do, and providing remote diagnosis and access to healthcare.”
The GCC consulting market also saw growth in the technology market segment in 2020, as the need to rapidly facilitate the shift to remote working drove strong demand of 5.2%.
Cybersecurity services performed particularly well as companies sought to secure remote work, driving growth of 11.4% last year. Source Global Research expects the cybersecurity consulting market to grow a further 30% in 2021, taking total revenues to $236 mn.
While the GCC’s largest consulting market, financial services, took a big hit in 2020, with revenues falling by $160 mn, Source Global Research expects consultants working in this sector to regain their losses in 2021, as banks push forward with ambitious digital transformation projects, spurred on by both customers embracing digital banking and the competitive threat from fintechs.
Consulting bounce back: Forecasts for 2021
Source Global Research is forecasting strong consulting market growth of approximately 17% across the GCC region in 2021.
Some 63% of organizations in the GCC say their use of consulting support will increase over the next 18 months, with an especially strong interest in the energy & resources, technology, media & telecoms, and manufacturing sectors. Healthcare will prove to be an important sector for consultancies as well.
“The current underpinning the GCC healthcare market today is the creation of a state of the art, forward-looking, citizen-centric, healthcare system fit for its time. There is far less legacy that’s being carried forward if we are to compare the GCC with markets such as the US or UK,” Haigh explained. “This presents a far greater opportunity to create a future healthcare system from scratch, and a greater opportunity for consultants to provide support, too.”
6 challenges facing GCC consultancies
1- Consultancy fee rates
Around 44% of clients expect consultants to cut their fees this year, with 13% expecting the cuts to be steep, in contrast to pre-pandemic expectations that 84% of GCC clients expected rates to rise.
The reason provided was that 55% of clients said they believe many firms are qualified to perform the work that needs to be done, driving down rates.
Haigh said: “Given the ongoing pandemic and its deleterious effect on the consulting market last year, one might well expect consulting fees to suffer over the next 18 months.”
2- Freedom of movement
“The GCC’s consulting market arguably relies on two things more than anything else: freedom of movement for consultants and reliably high oil prices.”
While oil prices suffered during the pandemic with average closing prices of $40, 20% less than 2019, oil has rebounded in 2021 and is currently flirting with $65 going to $70, spelling relief for consultancies.
“Access to Qatar has, historically, not been easy and only those who had previously established presence in the country were able to operate there, but enough work exists in other parts of the region— Saudi and the UAE for example—and so attention shifted elsewhere,” Haigh said.
“But to some extent, the events over the past 12 months have helped find a solution to that. For many, instead of having to be on-site, remote consulting proved it matters less whether someone is based in Riyadh or Dubai,” Haigh revealed. “The really exciting opportunity for leaders in Saudi, UAE, and other GCC countries is that this provides access to consultants wherever they are in the world, not just in the region.”
3- Geopolitics and reputational risks
Geopolitics and reputational risk weigh very significantly on the minds of consultancies, according to Haigh.
“The risks are prevalent in the GCC more than anywhere else. They have the potential to cause dramatic changes in consultants’ businesses, whether that’s a market shutting down suddenly, the taps being turned off, or a leader insisting on changing consultancies midstream,” explained Haigh.
“Consultants have helped clients identify some of the problems that they themselves are creating, but honestly, consultants are used to working in these fairly extreme conditions.”
Relative to other parts of the world, those with relationships tend to benefit more significantly in the GCC. In the early days, consultants had to invest a lot of time building those relationships with clients. Spending a year on building a personal and professional relationship before seeing anything in return is quite normal here.
5- Client ambitions
Haigh said consultants don’t mind their clients’ desire to get things done very quickly, but “Consulting firms tend to find themselves cast in the role of naysayers a bit.”
“They are often put in a position where they affirm their ability to perform the project at hand, but have to caution the client that it will take more time than originally allocated,” Haigh said.
“Based on their experience with other projects, consultants are always trying to insert more realistic time frames and find a way to harness and manage their clients’ ambitions and expectations.”
6- Talent allocation
UAE and Saudi have recently been involved in a tug of war to attract business, each easing regulatory frameworks and offering business incentives to pull SMEs, entrepreneurs, and large corporates over to their side.
“This is a healthy competition for supremacy on projects, and it has been a major driver of growth for consultancies for a number of years,” Haigh explained.
“But, I think what is less clear, is how this will impact the market in terms of supply. Saudi is the largest consulting market, but UAE is where most of the consultants are based. And moving consultants between those two countries has been an enormously challenging thing,” Haigh indicated.
Haigh added that there is a real supply issue for consultants across the region, not just in terms of keeping up with demand, but also figuring out who to put where.
“Making sure that the expertise is available on both sides was made all the more challenging with physical restrictions on talent getting into the country, or talent themselves preferring to work in and from the UAE, instead of more restrictive areas,” said Haigh. “Localization efforts in many GCC countries has exacerbated supply challenges.”
WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM (WEF)’s Charlotte Edmond, Senior Writer, Formative Content, wondering whether these 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future, came up with this snapshot picture of today’s urban context in which much of human life takes place.
The Image above of Keit Trysh is for illustration and is of Dubai.
These 5 global cities are leading the charge to a renewable future
A billion people live in a city with renewable energy targets or policies.
Cities contribute three-quarters of CO2 emissions from final energy use.
New report highlights some ways cities around the world are getting greener.
As urbanization continues apace, cities have an important role to play in helping curb greenhouse gas emissions and achieve Paris climate agreement objectives to limit global warming.
In a new report, REN21, a global body of scientists, governments, NGOs and industry, has highlighted some of the cities leading the way. Here are five of the most effective and innovative projects from around the world.
What is the World Economic Forum doing to ensure smart cities?
Cities represent humanity’s greatest achievements – and greatest challenges. From inequality to air pollution, poorly designed cities are feeling the strain as 68% of humanity is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050.
The World Economic Forum supports a number of projects designed to make cities cleaner, greener and more inclusive.
The World Economic Forum announced on June 28, 2019 that it was been selected to act as the secretariat for the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance.
Led by the World Economic Forum, the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance on Technology Governance is the largest global initiative of its kind, with its 16 founding partners representing more than 200,000 cities and local governments, companies, start-ups, research institutions and non-profit organizations.
Together, the Alliance is testing and implementing global norms and policy standards to help ensure that data collected in public places is used safely and ethically.
Adelaide’s municipal operations have been powered entirely by renewable energy since July 2020. The city gets energy from wind and solar farms as part of a long-term commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2025.
Among the steps being taken to achieve this are energy-efficient buildings, initiatives to promote cycling and walking, and schemes to support the uptake of hybrid and electric vehicles.
The city has also invested in energy storage technologies, including the Hornsdale Power Reserve. It is one of the world’s largest lithium-ion batteries, and allows for greater use of a variety of renewable energy sources.
Adelaide is also investigating the opportunity to harness biogas from wastewater treatment plants as an additional energy source.
Seoul, Republic of Korea
Seoul has a strategy to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 built around five key areas – buildings, mobility, forestry, clean energy, and waste management. On the path to 2050 it has two interim goals – achieving 40% emission reduction by 2030 and 70% reduction by 2040 (compared with 2005 levels).
The city also has measures in place to cut back its reliance on nuclear energy by adding solar capacity. One of the key challenges is finding sufficient space to install photovoltaic (PV) panels. To tackle this, it is identifying new installation sites on urban infrastructure, and providing subsidies for PV panels integrated into buildings.
Cocody, Ivory Coast
In 2017, Cocody released a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030. The city faces a particular struggle to achieve this because of rising energy demand driven by rapid urban development and economic growth.
The city has put in place a reforestation and carbon sequestration programme, under which more green spaces will be created and 2 million mangrove trees will be planted or restored.
Other initiatives include using solar energy to power large public buildings, installing solar lamp posts and traffic lights, and supplying households with PV power kits.
Older cars are gradually being removed from the roads and others are being fitted with catalytic exhaust systems to reduce pollution.
Malmö has made a name for itself as a sustainable city. The Western Harbour District has operated on 100% renewable energy since 2012, while the industrial area of Augustenborg has solar thermal panels connected to a central heating system.
The city plans to run entirely on renewables by 2030, up from around 43% in 2020.
Construction is under way on a geothermal deep-heat plant, which is expected to be operational in 2022. By 2028 it is hoping to have five of these geothermal plants.
Cape Town, South Africa
Coal is the dominant energy source in South Africa by some margin. The government wants to increase the share of renewable energy from around 8% in 2016 to 40% by 2030.
Emissions from transport are also a major problem for the city. It is exploring the use of biofuels in transport, and has run a pilot programme with locally made electric buses.
A surge of PV panel installations in the past decade means Cape Town had the highest concentration of registered rooftop solar PV systems nationwide in 2019. The city is also targeting greater use of solar-powered water heating systems in low-income areas.
Renewable energy provision at scale is also an option being seriously considered.
Zaha Hadid: even more than her buildings, it’s her mind that left its mark by Lakshmi Priya Rajendran, Anglia Ruskin University is more than an eye-opener on the person behind all those unconventionally looking buildings.
Zaha Hadid: even more than her buildings, it’s her mind that left its mark
In the five years since Zaha Hadid’s passing, much has been written about the glorious and towering legacy the fabled British-Iraqi architect left behind. Thinking about what she started, though, is more instructive.
Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, Hadid – aka the Queen of Curve – fundamentally altered the contours of modern architecture and design. She shattered gender stereotypes too by, in 2004, becoming the first woman to receive the Pritzker prize – the highest award in her field.
As the world grapples with how to respond to the climate crisis, architecture is in the spotlight. The built environment is responsible for almost 36% of global energy consumption. Cement alone causes 8% of global emissions.
In this context, Hadid’s most valuable contribution is the inspiration she represented and the innovation she embodied. She conceived of modernity as an incomplete project, to be tackled. And she demonstrated to students not just how to imagine revolutionary forms but, crucially, how to bring them to life.
The seductive nature of Hadid’s buildings means that the approach she took to sustainability is often overshadowed. It also wasn’t an explicit aspect of her early works, but rather became so later on in her career, in projects including the Bee’ah Headquarters in Sharjah, and Eco-park stadium in London. In 2015 she memorably highlighted sustainability as a defining challenge of her generation and stated that “architects had solutions”.
Hadid was a problem solver. From the outset she was unique in harnessing both technology and talent, through her groundbreaking interdisciplinary research group. She was one of the early adopters of a fully digitised 3D design process. When virtual reality became a thing, her practice was one of the first to adopt that too.
This ability to make things happen was hard won. As a student at the Architectural Association in London in the mid-1970s, Hadid turned heads from the start with her otherworldly ideas. But it took her over a decade to get her designs realised. It was with her first big commission – the 1993 Vitra Fire Station in Germany – that the world finally got to see up close the power of her architectural imagination.
The Danish architect Bjarke Ingels (founder of Bjarke Ingels Group, one of the most dynamic contemporary architectural practices) described visiting Vitra Fire Station as an “eyeopening experience” that brought to life the kind of visual impossibilities people usually only dream of. For all its ambition, though, the Vitra building was criticised as unsuitable by the firemen who occupied it.
Although her career had begun with that infamous tag of her buildings being unbuildable, Hadid rapidly established herself as a radical architect by creating a strong and unique design statement globally. Hadid expanded her global brand and her reach to product design, fashion and jewellery.
In Canadian architectural historian Despina Stratigakos’s book, Where Are the Women Architects?, Hadid explained how she survived and fought sexism in her profession. Her inspiring attitude and professional demeanour was gender-neutral. She was able to switch between femininity and masculinity as required to survive and excel in what is a ruthless and ultra-competitive business.
In this way, even though her projects saw her labelled a starchitect, Hadid’s ideas set her apart from the old school. They opened a radically new path for later generations, like this year’s Pritzker laureates, Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal.
Her presence continues to be felt across the contemporary design and architecture worlds. With around 1.2 million Instagram followers, Zaha Hadid Architects is now the most followed architectural practice in the world. Her sinuous lines and captivating shapes have been referenced by set designers on trendsetting movies including Black Panther.
In every way, Hadid remains a muse. She was rebellious and defiant. She embraced the unimaginable. Known for provoking controversies, even her critics agreed to the fact that without Hadid, architecture would be less interesting.
When she won the Pritzker prize in 2004, the jury noted how consistently she defied convention. Even if she’d never built anything, they said, Zaha Hadid would have radically expanded the possibilities of architecture. She was lauded as an iconoclast, a beautiful mind. As the critic Joseph Giovannini put it at the time, “Rarely has an architect so radically changed and inspired the field”.
Originally posted on RobinAndrew: An initially-slight tale, which grows and grows right up to its end, as slight lives desperately try to grow themselves into something important without completely relinquishing the comforts to which they have accustomed themselves. Emerson writes with an almost nineteenth-century reserve which aptly suits her characters and relates as well to…
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