Can Dubai be the next Silicon Valley technology hub?

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The Arabian Business tells us a story about the ongoing trends in high-tech businesses, technological innovation and the use of social media in the Emirate, wondered if Dubai can be the next Silicon Valley technology hub?

The emirate provides those in the Web 3 space with the ‘perfect balance of work and fun,’ making it attractive for talent, said the 26-year-old co-founder of interactive short video platform Vurse

Originally intending to stay in Dubai for only 12 days, Shadman Sakib ended up “falling in love” with the city and choosing it to launch his interactive short video platform Vurse from, set for the second half of 2022.

Vurse will be one of the first deep tech companies to come out of the Middle East and 26-year-old Sakib said Dubai “has so much potential and can become the next Silicon Valley.”

“We just have to fine-tune people’s mentality on a deep tech perspective and once that happens, the sky is the limit. For us people in the Web 3.0 space, we really want a nice balance between fun and work and Dubai really has the capability to provide both,” said Sakib.

“We are in the process of hiring our team members from across the world and it is actually much easier for us to attract them being based here in Dubai versus other cities because of the fine balance between work and life, plus the entertainment aspect. This is why we chose Dubai and we feel like it is going to be our long-term home,” he continued.

Shadman Sakib, Tech Entrepreneur

Sakib believes Vurse’s growth will translate into the growth of Dubai in the deep tech and Web 3.0 space, giving the example of how the presence of the big tech companies in San Francisco led to the development of the American state’s tech reputation.

“Dubai is one of the smartest cities in the world. You go to the airport and immigration is done in minutes, not many cities in the world can compete with that kind of technology,” explained Sakib.

“It is therefore high time we have a homegrown company that goes beyond the traditional businesses we have in this city. Traditional companies can only grow so far versus the companies in deep tech or Web 3 space – especially the ones with proper resources – where the sky is the limit; you have the whole world to play with,” he continued.

How Sakib got into tech and conceived of Vurse

Sakib grew up in Bangladesh and says he was “pretty much of an underdog,” for most of his life, recounting how he dropped out of his undergraduate studies in the US before moving to the UK where he again pursued his studies while working as a waiter on the side.

Lying on his couch one day and playing with his phone Sakib wondered why he was using someone else’s product instead of developing a product that people could use.

“I was 20 years old at the time and while my peers were focused on enjoying life, I was consumed with finding a purpose for mine,” he recalled.

“My philosophy was all about being determined that I would have a strong footfall by the time my friends finish university so that they would come to me and ask for a job,” added Sakib.

Sakib believes Vurse’s growth will translate into the growth of Dubai in the deep tech and Web 3.0 space

Having no background in technology, Sakib talked to a few of his friends and contacts in the app design space but was frustrated with the ideas they came up with as they were a copy of what already existed.

“I wanted to look at how I can wow the customer or my user not recreate the same thing – I wanted to build something different,” explained Sakib. As such, he taught himself coding before meeting the co-founder of Vurse who is a “coding genius.”

It is within this context that the idea of Vurse came about to take the social media experience into the Web 3 space and give content creators ownership over their content rather than having a platform control that.

“Our target is to make the content creators bigger because once they are a big brand themselves, a similar effect will happen to the company itself,” explained Sakib.

“My co-founder and I have been wanting to work on a consumer-facing product for some time now because that is where we think the main fun is. We want to understand the newer generations that are coming up and their culture. We also want to understand the music industry very well,” he continued.

As such, Sakib has delegated his other businesses to fully focus on Vurse, a business he self-funded. And while he declined disclosing much information about Vurse itself, he said it is built on three verticals: a content creator marketplace where people will be able to trade NFTs, a short video platform and the AI verse, a self-created metaverse within the platform.

“The metaverse will stay but the way we see and think of it will change. Currently, you have to have a specialised device to access the metaverse which restricts access somehow,” said Sakib.

“Once the technology catches up to the extent that it is easily accessible to anyone anywhere, then the real game begins,” he continued.

Space Architects Will Help Us Live and Work Among the Stars

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How Stuff work produced this illuminating article on how Space Architects Will Help Us Live and Work Among the Stars cannot go noticed. Hence it is republishing here.

Above is this rendering showing another view of Team SEArch+/Apis Cor’s Mars habitat. The unique shape allows for continuous reinforcement of the structure and allows light to enter through trough-shaped ports on the sides and top. TEAM SEARCH+/APIS COR/NASA

Space Architects Will Help Us Live and Work Among the Stars

By: John Donovan  |  Oct 11, 2021

This 2020 concept of a moon village created by XTENDdesign is located on the rim of Shackleton crater on the lunar south pole. The Moon Village Association (MVA) is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) whose goal is to create a permanent global forum for stakeholders interested in the development of the Moon Village. NASA

If you’re of the Elon Musk mindset and think that humans, to survive, will have to become a multiplanetary species, we’re going to need a place to live and work. Out there. In space. On other planets.

We’re going to need somebody — a lot of somebodies, really — to build us houses and apartment buildings and offices and space Walmarts and modes of transportation to haul us between all those places. Heck, we’re going to have to build a lot of places to do everything we do here on our rapidly decaying home planet.00:17/01:43

We’ll need architects. A lot of them. We’ll need a different type of architect, to be sure, for our ventures into space. We’ll need … space architects.

Luckily, that’s already a thing.

The Idea Behind Space Architecture

Olga Bannova doesn’t carry a business card that reads “Space Architect,” though she admits that would be pretty awesome. Instead, Bannova’s title (or one of them) is director of the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) — it’s been a thing since the late 1980s — in the University of Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering. SICSA is home to the world’s only space architecture graduate program. A diploma nets you a Master of Science in Space Architecture.

It’s not a huge program yet, churning out only a few graduates every year. It is, like much of the whole idea of multiplanetary expansion, an emerging field.

But for those who believe that our very existence relies on someday moving to a different galactic neighborhood, space architecture has us covered. It is, in a very real way, simply the latest exploratory mission away from Mother Earth.

“You can’t stay in your house forever and think that somehow everything else will be the same … everything is changing, including our Earth, including us, including the solar system, including the galaxy. It’s all changing and moving,” Bannova says. “That’s why it’s important. It’s mostly about understanding more about ourselves.”

Team SEArch+/Apis Cor won first place in the Phase 3: Level 4 software modeling stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge for deep space exploration.TEAM SEARCH+/APIS COR/NASA

What Is Space Architecture, Really?

Space architecture, really, is just what it sounds like. Bannova heads an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) committee, the Space Architecture Technical Committee (SATC) that concentrates specifically on the field. The SATC, on the site spacearchitect.org — if it has an internet site, you know it’s a thing — describes it like this:Space Architecture is the theory and practice of designing and building inhabited environments in outer space (it encompasses architectural design of living and working environments in space related facilities, habitats, and vehicles). These environments include, but are not limited to: space vehicles, stations, habitats and lunar, planetary bases and infrastructures; and earth based control, experiment, launch, logistics, payload, simulation and test facilities.

Space architects, then, are charged with designing buildings and houses and offices and a whole bunch of other stuff that humans need to survive — those interstellar Walmarts, perhaps — both here and in space plus devising ways to get between them. All this, not for nothing, while dealing with problems that Earthbound architects don’t even dream about. Don’t need to dream about. Maybe can’t dream about.

Say, for example, a lack of oxygen or atmosphere. Weather patterns that make our current climate-change problems look like a calm day at a sunny beach. A lack of sunlight. Too much sunlight. Microgravity.

A lack of material to build what you need. Or no way to ship material that you need to where you need it. Or no way to get it there in a timely way, considering the vast distances between points in space.

It’s not hard to imagine the problems that space architects will face, now and in the future. It’s not hard to imagine, either that we can’t even begin to imagine some of the challenges they’ll be up against.

Carving out a space in space for our species to continue is a huge undertaking, perhaps the most audacious ever for mankind. It must be what the possibility of flying to the moon — of human flight at all — must have felt like to Galileo.

But, yeah, we knocked those out, didn’t we?

Team AI. SpaceFactory of New York also participated in NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, and won second place for its space factory habitat on Mars.AI SPACEFACTORY/NASA

The Challenges Ahead

Identifying the multitude of challenges in our move into space, thinking them through, and realizing that so many have yet to be recognized is a sizable part of what space architects now, and space architects in the future, must do. The field cries out for critical thinkers who have an understanding (if not necessarily a doctorate-level degree) in a multitude of specialties; not only architecture and its different branches, but the different areas in engineering (industrial, aerospace, systems and aeronautical, to name a few), physics, geometry, mathematics, logistics, computer science, human biology and many more.

In meta terms, architecture embraces both art and science. It addresses how we build, how we live, in the space we inhabit. You don’t build a library without figuring out how we move about it, where the books go, where the light comes in.

If our living space is to become outer space — a habitable space that humans have been learning about, up close, for at least 20 years — well, we better start cracking the books.

What’s a habitat on Mars to look like? How do winds there affect what you build? What about gravity? How do you construct a farm, if one can be built, with the radiation of another planetary body beaming down? How do we build living quarters on a ship that may take decades to get where it’s going? How can we make sure that a flying habitat flies?

What can we learn by building these habitats on some of the less-hospitable areas of Earth? How can what we learn help us while we’re still here?

You want to be a space architect? Get yourself a planet-sized toolbox.

“Space architecture is not for the technically timid. To play this game, one needs to educate oneself about the harsh realities of life beyond Earth, and the science and technology for fashioning habitable bubbles in deadly environments,” Theodore Hall, a former chairperson of the SATC and an extended reality software developer at the University of Michigan, said back in 2014. “Only then is one prepared to stand toe-to-toe with the engineers and strive for architectural aesthetics that treat the human as more than a deterministic biochemical subsystem of a soulless machine.”

Those still interested in space architecture — and, again, we’re going to need a lot of forward-thinkers to sign up — shouldn’t be intimidated, though. Plenty of problems are there to be faced, certainly, and it will take all kinds to determine how our species can best live away from home.

But we have cellphones now that are more powerful than the computers that sent men to the moon. We’ve been on the International Space Station for 20 years and counting. We’re exploring Mars and other deep-space outposts at this very moment.

Problems in finding a new home among the stars? Space architects are on the job.

“It’s impossible to predict everything, in space especially. It’s hard to design some close-to-perfect habitat even on Earth,” says Bannova, who carries an undergraduate degree from the Moscow Architectural Institute, dual masters degrees (in architecture and space architecture, both from UH) and a doctorate from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology. “We have more questions than answers. It’s the nature of the profession. But it gives you an opportunity to see and decide for yourself where your passion is.”

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How will artificial intelligence power the cities of tomorrow?

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Published on 20 September 2021, in E&T, AJ Abdallah’s question of How will artificial intelligence power the cities of tomorrow?

How will artificial intelligence power the cities of tomorrow?

By AJ Abdallat, Beyond Limits

Achieving a decarbonised future will require efficiency-boosting measures that AI can help to identify and implement.

Artificial intelligence is taking the stage as smart cities become not just an idea for the future, but a present reality. Advanced technologies are at the forefront of this change, driving valuable strategies and optimising the industry across all operations. These technologies are quickly becoming the solution for fulfilling smart city and clean city initiatives, as well as net-zero commitments.

AI is becoming well integrated with the development of smart cities. A 2018 Gartner report forecast that AI would become a critical feature of 30 per cent of smart city applications by 2020, up from just 5 per cent a few years previously. Implementation of AI is rapidly being recognised as the not-so-secret ingredient helping major energy providers accomplish their lowest-carbon footprints yet, along with unparalleled sustainability and attractive profit margins.

What makes a city ‘smart’ is the collection and analysis of vast amounts of data across numerous sectors, from metropolitan development and utility allocation all the way down to manual functions like city services. Smart cities require the construction and maintenance of arrangements of sensors, equipment and other systems designed to create sustainability and efficiency.

Altering the strategy behind a city’s utilities operations is one of the major keys to making it smarter and more sustainable. AI solutions are already making significant strides where this is concerned. As the CEO of an AI company creating software for the utilities sector, the impact that advanced solutions are already having on the industry is something I’m very excited about.

One real-world example of AI powering smart city utilities is the Nvidia Metropolis platform, which uses intelligent video analytics to improve public services, logistics, and more. Nvidia describes it as being designed to: “create more sustainable cities, maintain infrastructure, and improve public services for residents and communities.” The company collects data from sensors and other IoT devices, city-wide, to provide insights that can lead to improvements in areas like disaster response, asset protection, supply forecasting and traffic management.

Another solution at the forefront of building smarter cities is a project led by Xcell Security House and Finance SA that aims to build the world’s first power plant guided by cognitive AI, driving utility development in West Africa. As the earliest implementation of an AI-powered plant from the ground up, it will employ advanced sensor-placement technology and techniques that embed knowledge and expertise into every part of the facility’s processes. Stakeholders will have streamlined access to facility-scale insights, creating a plant environment with greater risk mitigation as well as maximised efficiency and productivity.

These are just two of many emerging applications of AI in smart city development. When applying AI, the sector also stands to achieve greater cost and operational efficiencies in several key areas such as predictive maintenance, load forecasting/optimisation, grid reliability, energy theft prevention and renewable resource optimisation.

When discussing energy efficiency, many factors enter the picture, including the impact of environmental factors as commonplace as temperature and humidity levels. Historically, experienced human operators were best equipped to identify efficiency-boosting adjustments. Today, cognitive AI is making moves to encode that human knowledge and expertise across providers’ entire operations, delivering recommendations at a moment’s notice. Explainable AI creates the trust necessary for operators, engineers and stakeholders to solve acute issues quickly. The system’s shrewd situational awareness helps detect, foresee and solve problems, even when circumstances are in constant flux – scenarios as critical as an entire city’s water and power supply.

AI is already playing a principal role in supporting the move towards smarter cities by helping entire sectors get closer to efficiency and net-zero objectives. Achieving a decarbonised future will require more resourceful processes that boost efficiency and reduce waste. AI for utilities can elevate productivity, yielding more attention around resource consumption, and hastening the adoption of renewable, carbon-friendly strategies on a global scale.

According to a report from IDC, smart city technology spending across the globe reached $80 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow to $135 billion by 2021. It is imperative that companies, industries, and other entities looking to participate in this important stage of digital transformation seek out industrial-grade AI companies with software that provides holistic, organisation/sector/city-wide insights through sensor placement technology and data collection techniques.

Governments at every level, as well as public and private organisations, are facilitating technological implementation and digital transformation. Private and public partnerships have become a major mechanism by which cities can adopt technology that makes them smarter. The best course of action is to embrace AI that blends knowledge-based reasoning with advanced digitalisation techniques, helping stakeholders distinguish unanticipated scenarios and make tough choices.

Choosing the most dynamic form of AI to transform the utilities sector will contribute remarkably to the development of smart cities. Enhanced communication, strengthened collaboration, increased fuel savings and decreased waste will help companies – particularly in high-value industries – to increase their profits. Indelible process improvements, like streamlined operational capacities where all facilities function more efficiently in harmony, are the future of smart city technology.

AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond Limits.

Shaping the future of Human Resources

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Zawya’s TECHNOLOGY gives Shaping the future of Human Resources by Dr Ahmad Khamis, all the importance that is due to it in the GCC region.

The above image is for illustration and is of Entrepreneur.

The presence of rich data resources has enabled businesses to segment and personalise their products and services, which has provided an opportunity for these companies to rapidly expand into new spaces of innovation. All these adjustments have had a profound impact on the structure and functioning of the workplace. As a result, this has created a need for organisations to rethink how they hire, engage, develop, reward, and lead their workforce  

OPINION

Technology is changing the way we live and work, stirring businesses into adapting effortlessly. Every business, regardless of industry, now has the need and potential to evolve digitally and consequently, globally.

The presence of rich data resources has enabled businesses to segment and personalise their products and services, which has provided an opportunity for these companies to rapidly expand into new spaces of innovation. All these adjustments have had a profound impact on the structure and functioning of the workplace. As a result, this has created a need for organisations to rethink how they hire, engage, develop, reward, and lead their workforce.

From “for whom” to “with whom”

High performing organisations have begun to operate as empowered networks, coordinated through culture, information systems and talent mobility. This requires companies to redesign the organisation itself with new operational models to be implemented at different levels. The fast-paced business activities demand that firms are not encumbered by legacy practices, traditional systems, and behaviors that consume resources such as time and money but do not deliver the desired results in return. This has led to the popular question; “for whom do you work?” to be replaced by “with whom do you work?”

HR Management was primarily designed as a compliance function in an organisation, with a focus on managing talent, processes, and transactions. However, constantly changing business and organisational structures require a flexible, data-driven, and highly skilled human resource system that can attract, retain, and develop talents. HR is transforming into an innovative consultancy with a broader scope and responsibility to design, formulate strategies, and enhance the entire employee and employer experience.

Transforming a business environment requires a new HR system that is more tactical and strategic as opposed to administrative. A strategic HR team has the potential to build a team of employees most suited to the company’s requirements. Moreover, digitising functions will enable senior management to focus on functions such as increasing the market share of their business, growing their customer base, driving product innovation, increasing sales, and helping the company be more responsive to the market, among other operations.

Shifting to a company-wide interrelated function

An organisation’s HR has evolved from a silo away from core business plans and activities to a department that cofunctions with management, to further understand business needs, and most importantly, to enable and empower their key resource: employees. With the rise of disruptive technologies such as block chain, AI, machine learning VR/AR, and people analytics, the suitability of HR practices has greatly expanded. Every HR department owns a variety of data, including payroll, social media, employee engagement surveys, leadership assessments and developments, performance reviews, recruiting, and exit interviews, which if conducted correctly, can guarantee key insights for future business decisions.

The two shifts taking place that play a significant role in shaping this industry’s future are the options on how companies support traditional HR practices, and talent retention in an environment where employees are capable and eager to transfer to new workplaces. The GCC region has a stable regulatory framework, excellent infrastructure, and a diverse range of talents and capabilities among its residents and expats. Furthermore, the region’s present interest in harnessing technology and innovation is projected to assist GCC enterprises’ human resources departments. It is estimated by the World Economic Forum that 41% of all work activities in Kuwait are susceptible to automation, 46% in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, 47% in the UAE, and 52%in Qatar. As compared to 2015, 21% of core skills required across all occupations was different in 2020 in the GCC.

Professionals that can combine extensive industry expertise with cutting-edge analytical tools to quickly modify corporate strategies will be in high demand. Crowdfunding sites, remote and virtual work, and other online platforms are gaining popularity. This necessitates HR departments in GCC organisations managing a distributed and virtual workforce, integrating freelancers, and mitigating the constraints of online work. Furthermore, it necessitates businesses to foster a culture of continuous learning and knowledge of the changing infrastructure among their staff.

Organisations can utilise people analytics and predictive talent modelling to identify pain points and prioritise future analytics investments. Data analytics can also help businesses correctly identify employees who are on the verge of leaving and persuade them to stay with more informed efforts. This not only increases customer satisfaction but also lowers costs.

Rebranding human resources

Several significant innovations are having an impact on today’s HR functions. Companies choose solutions that allow for ongoing performance monitoring, obviating the need for formal quarterly or half-yearly staff reviews. The process will become increasingly automated and streamlined as firms adopt a single data model to enable real-time KPIs to measure and analyse performance. Firms demand real-time management, and HR must respond by leveraging analytics and data in creative ways to improve staff management.

The majority of today’s workforce are incredibly tech-savvy and want a consistent and distinctive experience on a daily basis. The workforce will increasingly include millennials who expect cutting-edge technology to support them in their employment, necessitating the organisation’s ongoing invention of new ways to engage the workforce.

As the power of technology grows, technology needs to become a trusted partner at work, augmenting an individual’s role in smart ways so that the employees can focus on those aspects of the job that require human touch and skills. Artificial intelligence enables large-scale efficiencies and serves as a foundation for many of the new technologies that businesses are adopting.

In many firms, HR functions have been rebranded, with phrases such as “employee experience”, “people management”, and “human capital” to signal a shift in the brand. Organisations are still grappling with how digitisation will fundamentally alter human work and in what ways humans and the emerging machine co-workers will work together. This is likely to create new value for customers and the firm. It is high time to reimagine work across the enterprise and HR with digitisation and automation.

Dr Ahmad Khamis is the co-founder & CEO at BLOOVO, a technology company founded in 2014 specializing in the provision of AI-powered recruitment solutions. Ahmad is a seasoned private equity and venture capital professional boasting over 17 years of multi-national experience. His career has seen him in senior roles at several blue-chip companies in the MENA region and premier consultancies. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from University College London (UCL), Diploma in Accounting and Finance from the London School of Economics (LSE), Masters in Finance from the University of Leicester and a Doctorate in Financial Economics from Manchester.

Printing our way out of the Netherlands housing crisis

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Printing our way out of the Netherlands housing crisis by Ivo Jongsma, Eindhoven University of Technology could not only resolve the Netherlands’ housing crisis but an intelligent way of sorting out the MENA region’s shortage of endemic lack of proper accommodation, particularly in those heavily populated areas. It is worth noting that the end product bears similarities with the vernacular architecture of many of the MENA housing typologies.

The picture above is of Eindhoven University of Technology

Printing our way out of the Netherlands housing crisis: ‘It is desperately needed’

Eindhoven leads the way: for the first time, Dutch residents are moving into a 3D-printed concrete home. Professor Theo Salet of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is the driving force behind Project Milestone, which is more relevant than ever before due to the housing crisis. An interview with an impassioned man: “We are facing an unprecedented challenge.”

It sometimes seems as if freshly printed concrete has a will of its own. The mixture constantly reacts to changes in temperature during curing and tends to collapse like a plum pudding when there is insufficient stiffness. To complicate matters further, the printing process needs to account for inclined walls and the changing weight of the structure.

With a little imagination, you can compare concrete printing to walking on a very thin tightrope: you must not print too quickly (the structure then becomes unstable) but also not too slowly (the printed layers will no longer adhere). It’s no small feat.

Customization on a large scale

Under these difficult conditions, Theo Salet and his team have spent years looking for ways to develop safe, rigid structures through which unique homes with a distinctive character can roll out of the concrete printer. Customization on a large scale instead of standardization.

The project caused him some headaches. Salet is a professor and dean of the Department of the Built Environment at TU/e and the driving force behind the Project Milestone, a collaboration between TU/e, Eindhoven municipality, construction company Van Wijnen, building materials manufacturer Saint Gobain Weber Beamix, engineering firm Witteveen + Bos and housing investor Vesteda.

For years, Salet worked with Ph.D. students Rob Wolfs and Zeeshan Ahmend and various master’s students and third parties on the construction of the first completely 3D-printed house that meets all building requirements. He regularly had to swallow disappointments, such as during the search for the right combination of concrete and insulation material for the sandwich walls, but these were just as often followed by the realization that his team was making progress.

“The fact that we’ve already come this far makes me a proud man,” Salet says as he strolls the grounds near the 3D-printed home in Eindhoven’s Meerhoven district this morning. He is also proud of how the knowledge developed has found its way to industry so quickly. Printing a wall is one thing, but producing a complete house is a different kettle of fish. This can only be done with the right industrial partners, emphasizes the professor.

“What’s nice is that there’s still so much to be gained just by learning from this experience,” he explains as his eye travels across the structure. The shape of the house is inspired by that of a boulder, a polished version of the housing that used to be featured in the Flintstones cartoon, with a sleek and modern interior.

First occupant of 3D concrete printed house in Eindhoven receives the key

The first tenant of the first Dutch home made of 3D-printed concrete will receive the key today, April 30. The house in Eindhoven, the first of five from Project Milestone, fully complies with all strict Dutch building requirements.

The house is a detached single-story home with 94 square meters of net floor area, a generous living room and two bedrooms. It is located in the Eindhoven neighborhood of Bosrijk. The home consists of 24 printed concrete elements, which were printed layer by layer at the print factory in Eindhoven. The elements were transported by trucks to the building site where they were placed on a foundation.

https://www.youtube.com/embed//suDusQKvzu8?color=whiteThe shape of the house is inspired by that of a boulder. The video shows the outside of the house in more detail. Credit: Bart van Overbeeke

Real necessity

There’s a reason Salet is putting his heart and soul into this project. The urgency is profound, he stresses several times this morning. “This is not about the ambition of some scientist, it’s about the rock-hard necessity of making major changes to the way we build,” Salet says, referring to the ever-expanding housing shortage and the pressing climate issue, among other things. “Understand that we need to build in the Netherlands alone a million homes in 10 years and make 7.5 million homes drastically more sustainable in 30 years. In addition, infrastructure from the 1960s and 1970s is heading towards the end of its design life. We are facing an unprecedented challenge.”

Unprecedented challenges call for rigorous measures. In fact, the professor argues, you need to turn the entire chain upside down. The construction sector must be more focused on the demands of society and, at the same time, more productive and sustainable. People, profit, planet, to put it briefly. According to Salet, this is the path along which we must pursue the transition. Close collaboration between academia, industry and the government is of great importance—the triple helix model. Salet: “Make that the quadruple helix model. You have to involve the public as well. Isn’t it crazy that residents barely have a say in their own built environment?”

In order to break the chain, the need must first be felt by all parties involved. Salet: “Take the government, which must realize that the housing shortage is an issue for which it does not have an answer, simply because no one has the answer. The academic world can stimulate innovation, but there has to be a concrete question on the table. Industry must also be given the opportunity to make the transition to high-quality manufacturing. The municipality of Eindhoven understood this in the Milestone project and dared to take on this unique challenge.”

Indeed, the government can create the conditions that foster partnerships which accelerate innovation. “Create pilot projects to experiment with and then scale them up. In tenders, look not only at price but also whether the construction project scores highly in areas such as circularity or innovation in the construction and manufacturing industries. If the urgency is felt, parties will seek each other out.” The professor points to Eindhoven-based VDL, for example, which will be working with Van Wijnen in Heerenveen.

Industrial customization

In the media, Salet regularly reads that standardization should become the new norm. Modular construction is gathering more and more attention, but he dismisses this idea. “We’ll then start delivering mass production and, in a while, the same houses will line every street. That would be extremely monotonous; no one is waiting for that and it isn’t necessary either. You have to digitize the entire process from design to construction. A robot doesn’t care what shape it has to print, so you then get industrial customization with variation. Let’s make that step in one go, as challenging as it may be.”

If the construction industry can make a dramatic shift, as Salet says it can, the benefits of industrial customization will be huge. Productivity will skyrocket. Additionally, you will need less high-quality craftsmanship in a market with a desperate shortage of skilled workers. The heavy work will disappear. This will make more room for women in the sector while the health of employees will also improve; a bad back or worn knees will be a thing of the past.

The biggest gains, however, will be in the areas of sustainability and circularity. “The amount of material we currently use in construction is unprecedented. We need to cut down.” Concrete, for example, is one of the largest emitters of CO2 worldwide. By both adjusting the composition and reducing the user quantity, giant leaps can be made. The reuse of materials and elements of a 3D-printed house should also become possible in the future. “We’re currently working hard on that.” Salet is hopeful and sets his sights high: “It’s absolutely possible to use 50% fewer raw materials and increase construction speed by 35%.”

Second floor

For this reason, the professor would prefer to continue developing the printing method as quickly as possible. The momentum is there. In addition to the first home, he wants to realize a second house in the near future which will be a step further along than its predecessor: a second floor. In total, Project Milestone covers five concrete-printed homes. Salet: “I now want to work from industrial product to design instead of the other way around. For the first house we first created a design without an estimate of whether the printer can produce certain shapes, so we tried to force the printer. The question should be: which products can the printer handle? From there, we can create a variety of designs. Artificial intelligence is going to help with this and will become necessary in order to keep the quality of the printed work consistent, especially if we’re going to print a home on site.”

Meanwhile, research into 3D concrete printing is gaining popularity around the world. “We’ve set the tone,” says Salet. “In terms of technological development, we’re at the forefront. Printing layers and building a wall can be done by others. But producing an entire house that meets the strict requirements of a building permit and is also inhabited, that’s truly unique. We can be very proud of that. We’re increasingly understanding the will of printed concrete.”


Explore furtherTU Eindhoven starts using kingsize 3-D concrete printer


Provided by Eindhoven University of Technology