Should Gulf builders be swapping bricks for clicks?

Construction work at the site of the Expo 2020 in Dubai. Some 200 countries will take part in the fair, which runs from Oct. 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 14 December 2019

Should Gulf builders be swapping bricks for clicks?

  • The construction industry needs to digitize if it is to expand in the region

LAS VEGAS: The future of construction is digital — anything else is doomed for the scrap yard. From planning, selecting the right contractors to the process of purchasing, the industry is fast becoming mastered by computer operators.

Reporting an accident is more efficient when it is done on software that enables patterns to be discovered.

And it does not stop there — the construction industry is a massive drain on natural resources and produces a third of the world’s waste.

Andrew Anagnost, CEO of the US-based multinational tech company, Autodesk, which focuses on the construction industry, told Arab News that the industry  had a long way to go.

“The industry has to digitize … Construction generally, its productivity is terrible — we can’t afford this as a society anymore — it is like flushing money down the toilet,” he explained on the sidelines of a recent construction industry conference in Las Vegas.

Like all industries, data is a valuable commodity to the construction industry which can be shared — at a cost — with other projects, to reduce costs, waste and accidents.

“We can help people to build projects through the use of AI before they actually do it; this will give them a greater insight into the effectiveness of a project,” Anagnost said.

In doing this, he said, there could eventually also be a significant decline in unfinished building projects due to poor financial planning and erratic funding, where developers raise pockets of funds, build until that is spent and stop until more is raised.

The introduction of technology at a building site also allows joined- up thinking between the various aspects of the project, allowing any slight changes to a plan to be communicated to all departments.

All too often project managers complain about a breakdown in communications in the construction industry — an electrician drilling through a water pipe because the plan was not updated when the layout was changed is just one small example of the kind of things that go wrong on building sites worldwide.

By equipping project managers with tablets, they are able to be kept informed of any alterations to the plans.

Dubai this year completed the world's largest 3D printed building in Warzan, standing at 9.5 meters tall with an area of 640 square meters. (Picture: Apis Cor)

The collection of data that is made possible through the digitization of the industry has the potential to revolutionize the construction industry, not least with safety.

Pat Keaney heads up the team at Autodesk that helps to solve workplace problems through the collection of data, which is being used to enable construction site firms to work more efficiently and safely with the hundreds of sub-contractors and trade companies that can be found on any given day. The more data there is, the better it gets.

“We have been able to look at things that go wrong on building sites — assess accidents and see what the recurring themes are,” Keaney added.

The technology being offered to the construction industry is so informative that designers are now able to feed vast amounts of information into a computer and then leave the software to map the most effective workflows.

This is especially useful in manufacturing and assembly plants where there is a lot of movement of people and objects.

By analyzing the mapping both the architect and the client are then able to establish which is the best layout for their operation. And if a company or developer does not even have a site, there’s technology to help with that too.

The US-based firm NearMap flies planes over cities, taking a vast amount of highly detailed images which are then used to establish the ongoing land use.

The imagery is available to clients who are able to identify where there is green space, or buildings that are being demolished.

“With the use of a selection of images taken from a number of angles, we are able to give people an insight into how their plans will look if they are put into practice,” said Nearmap CEO Rob Newman.

He said that the information gathered can tell tech firms whether a phone network will function, or if reception is blocked by towers — information especially important with the expansion of 5G networks.

While it is not currently being used in the Gulf region, the data that a company such as Nearmap is able to provide would be invaluable to developers in cities such as Dubai and further afield in Jeddah and Riyadh.

The question remains just how fast the construction industry will take up the technology being made available to them.

In the US there are signs of an ever-increasing ripple effect — but it will require companies such as Autodesk to chase the region’s business if it is going to expand into the Gulf.

Emirates launches airbridge between Dubai, Lebanon emergency relief 

Updated 14 August 2020

Emirates launches airbridge between Dubai, Lebanon emergency relief 

  • Customers of Emirates will be able to donate cash or pledge their Skywards Miles to the airline for the aid
  • Emirates SkyCargo will also provide 20 percent reduction on air freight transportation charges for approved shipments

DUBAI: UAE national carrier Emirates SkyCargo plans to ramp up its freighter operations to Lebanon with 50 flights to deliver emergency relief in the wake of the Beirut port blast that killed nearly 200 people.
Customers of Emirates will be able to donate cash or pledge their Skywards Miles to the airline for the aid, state news agency WAM reported.
The Emirates Airline Foundation will coordinate shipments of urgent food, medical supplies with NGO partners to ensure donations directly help those affected on the ground.
Emirates SkyCargo will also provide 20 percent reduction on air freight transportation charges for approved shipments, underscoring its commitment to expedite emergency relief efforts to Beirut.
“Today, the world is banding together to stand in solidarity with Lebanon, providing urgent relief and immediate recovery support to those affected by this tragic disaster,” Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline & Group, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, said. 
“Emirates supports the UAE’s ongoing humanitarian efforts to support Lebanon and is committed to bolster its global emergency response to ensure that it can support organizations which provide urgent care, shelter, food and medical support to the Lebanese people,” he added. 
Emirates said that it had dispatched several charter flights carrying food, clothing and medical supplies donated by various grassroots organizations in the UAE to Lebanon.