Data, technology help make construction industry more environmentally friendly

Data, technology help make construction industry more environmentally friendly
Dubai’s Museum of the Future is an example of the Gulf construction industry’s greater effort to ensure a sustainable approach on projects. (AFP)
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Updated 07 October 2022

Data, technology help make construction industry more environmentally friendly

Data, technology help make construction industry more environmentally friendly

The building and construction industry is one of the largest in the world’s economy with approximately $10 trillion spent on construction-related goods and services every year.

But it is also disproportionately destructive as one of the world’s most energy-intensive polluting industries on the planet.

According to figures published on the website in July this year, the world’s construction industry is still responsible for 38 percent of CO2 emissions, 23 percent of air pollution, 40 percent of water pollution, 50 percent of landfill waste, 21 percent of the depletion of natural resources and 40 percent of energy usage.

These are not new figures. It’s not as if the construction industry has suddenly tumbled down a path of self-destruction.

In Las Vegas in 2019, a conference held by the software company Autodesk was told that the construction and manufacturing industries were hugely wasteful and among the world’s biggest polluters.

And in 2021, the general picture for the world’s future was dealt another blow when delegates at COP 26 admitted they were nowhere near to reaching the targets set previously to slow global warming.

“Our theory for how we transform the AEC industry (Architectural Engineering and Construction) is unchanged. We very much want to bring (new) industrial methods and processes to it,” said Andrew Anagnost, CEO of Autodesk on the sidelines of the 2022 Autodesk University conference in New Orleans.

Anagnost said the data and technology was available to help make the industry more environmentally efficient and less wasteful.

There are companies already in existence that provide digital information that can predict potential flaws in plans before they become a reality, and even how much material is needed – and yet Anagnost said there were still companies that were not using the information.

“The biggest waste that you see in the AEC ecosystem, is people making it up along the way.”

In contrast, he said the manufacturing industry generally stuck to its plans so that the end product was what was intended from the outset.

“That kind of precision needs to evolve into the AEC industry. And that's why you see us building these things that are coming together from both sides. And when that when that work is done, we believe we will have made an impact on how these industries work. Until then, they still redo and undo at a pace that's, you know, unparalleled in other industries,” he added.

But it’s not all bad news, there are efforts to reduce the amount of waste using cloud-based technology, and it is the Middle East that seems to be embracing this technology.


The good news is that the Middle East has largely cleaned up its act, according to Naji Atallah, head of construction and manufacturing at Autodesk Middle East.

Speaking to Arab News, he said the reason for the improvement was a factor that had always been present.

He said construction in the region was usually based on undeveloped land, thus removing the need to take into consideration existing structures, that might introduce additional costs.

“There’s no major legacy of buildings and bridges and roads that need to be maintained,” he explained, adding that the construction industry in the region was effectively working on a “blank canvas,” which enabled developers to place sustainability at the forefront of their projects.

“If I look at probably all of the mega projects in the region, sustainability has been one of the big goals that they see.”

“We have seen a shift (in the Gulf region) from we want everything delivered tomorrow, to we want things delivered in a better way.”

Pointing to Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea project and Dubai’s Museum of the future, he said there was now greater effort to ensure a sustainable approach to these projects.

And by using software technology developers have been able to create structures that use less energy and materials in their construction by using information gathered from predictive modeling that shows designers how a structure will behave before it is even built.

The digitization of the building industry – if embraced – could potentially revolutionize the way it works – from lowering waste, reducing pollution and to cutting costs.

“Sensors are so cheap now,” Atallah said, “that they could be placed into every new structure – we don’t even need to know what – or if they-re going to be used – and collect all sorts of information.”

That data, he said, could then be used to predict any structural issues, how to improve fuel economies – to name two – but not just for that structure, but also for future projects.

This data, he said could become a commodity that could be sold to help improve future projects.


Imagine a building – in fact any structure – that from the moment it is complete, starts to collect data that can be used to address problems before they are noticed by the human eye and aid in future new builds.

Sounds futuristic – but the truth is the technology is already here – it’s just a question of people in the industry using it.

The Dubai-headquartered company Dar Al-Handasah, which heralds from Lebanon, and is the 10th leading design firm in the world – third in the Middle East has created a cantilever bridge that was built using recycled plastic – mixed with fiberglass to create a poxy – and a 3D printer.

Using algorithms, the designers were able to come up with a design that created a bridge using minimal materials that, when fixed with the sensors, was able to teach them how to better improve the product in later designs.

The bridge is made up in a modular system from 70 percent recycled materials.

It is a step away from traditional construction methods, with the bridge being built as one piece in a factory environment before being transported to its place of use once complete.

Cloud-based technology provided by Autodesk was used to create virtual modules of the bridge to calculate the best design in terms of material use, look and its structural durability.

Ghassan Zein, the Lebanese digital practice manager at Dar Al-Handasah said the bridge was a first of its kind, he said as such they needed to see how it behaved when put into use was essential for future developments, so it was fitted with sensors.

“We have the monitoring of the intelligence of the bridge that would monitor how it’s doing because it’s new,” Zein told Arab News on the sidelines of the Autodesk University 2022 conference in New Orleans.

The bridge is a new shape, a new design, Zein explained, “So we have to know if it's doing well.”

The company has a team whose role is to monitor the data gathered from the bridge.

“They analyze the data and keep changing the design of future projects,” he said.

Zein said the structural engineers addressed the design, what was safe, what was not, what performed well, what did not, using live data gathered from sensors in the structure of the bridge.


The modular approach to building the bridge is not a new concept. In Britain in the 1950s low-cost social housing was created.

These usually low-leveled, single-storied buildings were made up of walls and roofs that were created off-site and then put together once ready.

But they were usually of a low standard with materials that were not long lasting, leaving properties structurally unsound and some of the materials even being harmful to people’s health – including asbestos cladding.

Move forward 70 – 80 years and the concept of building parts, or entire structures such as the 3D printed bridge off-site and then moving them to their final location is now proving to be a leading method of construction – both economically and also environmentally.

Beach villas on the Red Sea project off the coast of Saudi Arabia and Dubai’s Museum of the Future were all built in a factory environment, before they were shipped to their final destination.

The methods being offered at functions such as Autodesk University are an eye opener for the industry.

Invest in the technology and the construction industry could change from being one of the environment’s biggest enemies, to a major green player.

It just needs those in the industry to embrace the future.

The key take away being, collect the data, learn what the potholes are before the building work starts and then embark on the real deal – ultimately the outcome is more efficient.

TASI slips 74 points to close at 10,840 amid investor ambiguity: Closing bell

TASI slips 74 points to close at 10,840 amid investor ambiguity: Closing bell
Updated 10 sec ago

TASI slips 74 points to close at 10,840 amid investor ambiguity: Closing bell

TASI slips 74 points to close at 10,840 amid investor ambiguity: Closing bell

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index on Thursday fell 74.26 points to close at 10,840.74 after touching a peak of 10,957.64 at 10:20 SAST, reflecting a sense of ambiguity among investors. 

The parallel market Nomu also finished its trail 497.85 points lower at 18,903.74 after snowballing to 18,778.82 at 11:53 SAST. 

The advance-decline ratio, however, bucked the trend, with 126 stocks of the listed 219 heading north and 75 turning south. The total trading turnover was SR4.86 billion ($1.29 billion). 

Sahara International Petrochemical Co., in a regulatory filing on Thursday, announced a 15 percent cash dividend or SR1.50 per share, resulting in a dole out of SR1.087 billion for the second half of 2022. The company’s share price picked the drift and closed 5.72 percent higher to SR37.90. 

Taiba Investments Co. on Thursday also announced that it awarded a construction contract worth SR283 million to Orient Construction Company Weavers Ltd. to build a four-star Novotel hotel project in Madinah. The stock closed lower at SR26.90 after peaking at SR27.10. 

Meanwhile, Arabian Internet and Communications Services Co. (Solutions) informed Tadawul just before closing about its agreement with Saudi Telecom Company worth SR372.92 million to provide technical, administrative and logistical services. The share closed slightly lower at SR246. 

The Capital Market Authority on Thursday also Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co.’s request to increase its capital through a rights issue worth SAR 346.5 million. 

There was a blip of a bullish wave in the Software & Services index, which closed up 401 points at 36,540.33. The Healthcare Equipment & Services index also increased 103.04 points to close at 9,380.2.  

However, some of Thursday’s biggest losers were the Saudi British Bank, the National Company for Learning and Education, Arab National Bank, The Company for Cooperative Insurance and Bank Albilad. 

The Diversified Financial index was under the weather in November as it recorded the steepest decline of 15.9 percent in the Gulf Cooperation Council in November. 

A Kamco Invest research report highlighted that the Saudi Stock Exchange witnessed the after all the constituents of the index reported declines. 

Barring the Consumer Service index, the monthly sectoral performance chart declined across the board.  

The Utilities and Capital Goods indices were next with a decline of 15.2 percent and 11.7 percent, followed by Consumer Durables & Apparel and Materials indices with declines of 10.8 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively. 

Egypt to build 21 desalination plants in phase 1 of scheme -sovereign fund

Updated 1 min 40 sec ago

Egypt to build 21 desalination plants in phase 1 of scheme -sovereign fund

Egypt to build 21 desalination plants in phase 1 of scheme -sovereign fund
CAIRO: Egypt plans to award deals next year to build 21 water desalination plants in the first $3 billion phase of a program that will draw on cheap renewable energy, the CEO of the country’s sovereign fund said on Thursday.
Egypt, which recently hosted the COP27 UN climate talks and is trying to boost lagging investment in renewables, also aims to start production at a series of proposed green hydrogen projects in 2025-2026, Ayman Soliman told the Reuters NEXT conference.
Egypt depends almost entirely on the Nile for fresh water, and faces rising water scarcity for its population of 104 million. The desalination program aims to generate 3.3 million cubic meters of water daily in the first phase, and eventually reach 8.8 million cubic meters daily at a cost of $8 billion.
There had been expressions of interest from more than 200 developers from at least 35 countries for the first phase, Soliman said.
The Sovereign Fund was set up in 2018 with a goal of attracting private investment in state-owned assets through partnerships and co-investments.
It is currently focused on getting private consortia to develop brownfield infrastructure, and private equity to develop state-owned enterprises ahead of public listings.
Privatization plans in Egypt have been repeatedly pushed back, with the government blaming delays on economic shocks including the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine as well as on legal obstacles. The plans have also met resistance from advocates of continued state control, analysts say.
Soliman said a state ownership policy that is meant to map out which parts of the economy are open to private investment would serve as the government’s “economic constitution” going forward, and as a platform to crowd in private investment despite the rising cost of capital.
“We as a fund are very sharply focused on trying to find those champions to scale up, be it in agriculture be it in tourism, be it in infrastructure, or be it in banking financial services,” he said.
At the climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, the government converted into framework agreements nine of 15 memoranda of understanding (MoU) for green hydrogen projects concentrated in the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZONE) that would produce millions of tons of hydrogen and ammonia.
At least another three or four MoUs were close to being converted, and more MoUs were planned, with cheap renewable costs and the scale of the potential fuel export market toward Europe making Egypt competitive, Soliman said.
Framework agreements give developers access to specific locations to allow them to plan production.
“This is not a competition. We are creating a pipeline or a blueprint for that process, aiming to start production in 2025-26 and all the developers are working backwards from there,” Soliman said.
So-called green or clean hydrogen is produced using electrolyzers powered by renewable energy to split water from oxygen. It is seen as a potential future power source that could reduce emissions, though to date it is largely limited to experimental projects. Analysts say challenges facing its growth include high costs and energy inputs, as well as safety concerns.
Egypt’s projects would have desalinated water built in, and quantities required would be negligible compared to those produced under the national desalination scheme, according to the Sovereign Fund.

Saudi Arabia to lead the world in sustainable metal production: Vice Minister  

Saudi Arabia to lead the world in sustainable metal production: Vice Minister  
Updated 01 December 2022

Saudi Arabia to lead the world in sustainable metal production: Vice Minister  

Saudi Arabia to lead the world in sustainable metal production: Vice Minister  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will become the world leader in sustainable metal production, as the Kingdom explores its mining potential, as a part of its economic diversification in line with the goals outlined in Vision 2030, according to Khalid Al-Mudaifer, vice-minister for Mining Affairs, Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources.   

Speaking at the Mines and Money conference in London, Al-Mudaifer said that minerals are indispensable to the energy transition from hydrocarbons to renewables.   

“Decarbonization – the net-zero transition – cannot happen without minerals and metals: a lot of minerals and metals. We need to scale up discoveries and we need to scale up production,” said Al-Mudaifer.   

He added: “The World Bank says that by 2050 the production of minerals such as graphite, lithium, cobalt and copper needs to increase by nearly 500 percent to meet the future demand for clean energy technologies. To achieve a ‘below 2°C increase’ future, the Bank estimated that more than 3 billion tons of minerals and metals are required.”   

The vice-minister added that mineral and metal supply chains need to become more resilient to meet rising demands, and noted that the ongoing geopolitical tensions have exposed the vulnerabilities in the sector, which may result in “cost spikes of some minerals by 350 percent.”   

The minister further pointed out that the potential of Saudi Arabia in the mining sector largely lies in precious and base metals including gold, zinc, copper, and silver, in addition to a few speciality metals like niobium and tantalum.  

He went on and said that Saudi Arabia is already the world leader in phosphate fertilizer production.   

Al-Mudairef also added that Saudi Arabia is ramping up the green hydrogen production need as a part of its renewable energy push, and the Kingdom will have the largest green hydrogen plant operational by 2026, with a production capacity of 250,000 tons annually.  

Earlier in October, during the Future Investment Initiative, Al-Mudairef said that Saudi Arabia’s ambition is to become a global hub for green minerals and related technologies.

“Minerals now are the medicine to heal our planet,” he said.   

He added that the mining sector should embrace advanced technologies to reduce carbon footprints.

“We need technologies in discovery and survey, and we need technologies in processing and producing green hydrogen and green minerals and to reduce the footprint for smaller mines for the future,” said Al-Mudairef. 

Travel sector emissions nearly 3% lower than reported: WTTC research

Travel sector emissions nearly 3% lower than reported: WTTC research
Updated 01 December 2022

Travel sector emissions nearly 3% lower than reported: WTTC research

Travel sector emissions nearly 3% lower than reported: WTTC research

Riyadh: Greenhouse gas emissions from the tourism sector were lower than previously thought in the run up to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new data published by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

The research shows that in 2019 the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions totaled 8.1 percent globally — below an earlier estimate of 11 percent.

The findings mean that while between 2010 and 2019 the sector’s gross domestic product grew on average 4.3 percent annually, its environmental footprint only increased by 2.4 percent.

The WTTC’s research, the first of its kind, covers 185 countries and will be updated annually.

Julia Simpson, president and CEO of the WTTC, said: “8.1 percent is the stake in the ground. The key is to become more efficient and decoupling the rate at which we grow from the amount of energy we consume. From today, every decision, every change, will lead to a better and brighter future for all.”

The broader Environmental and Social Research will include measures of the sector’s impact against a range of indicators, including pollutants, energy sources, water use, as well as social data, including age, wage and gender profiles of travel and tourism related employment, the statement said.

WTTC will continue to release data on how the sector fares against these indicators throughout 2023.

The data comes in the same week as the World Travel and Tourism Global Summit in Riyadh.

Simpson used her speech at the event to allude to the research, stating that it was the largest such project ever undertaken by the Council.

“Until now we did not have a sector-wide way to accurately measure our climate footprint. This data will give governments the detailed information they need to make progress against the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals," she said.

“Travel and tourism is making huge strides to decarbonize, but governments must set the framework. We need a steely focus on increasing the production of sustainable aviation fuels with government incentives,” Simpson went on, adding: “The technology exists. We also need greater use of renewable energy in our national grids – so when we turn on a light in a hotel room, it is using a sustainable energy source.”

Saudi Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb welcomed the research, and said: “We are proud to be a partner to the WTTC in this important research that will monitor impact for the future. Saudi Arabia recognizes that travelers and investors want policies that promote sustainability in the industry and we have embarked on a journey that will make the Kingdom a pioneer in sustainable tourism."

“Under the Saudi Green Initiative, we launched more than 60 initiatives in the past year to do just that. The first wave of initiatives represent more than $186 billion of investment in the green economy.”

Saudi-based STGC launches awards to recognize sustainable tourism efforts  

Saudi-based STGC launches awards to recognize sustainable tourism efforts  
Updated 01 December 2022

Saudi-based STGC launches awards to recognize sustainable tourism efforts  

Saudi-based STGC launches awards to recognize sustainable tourism efforts  

RIYADH: A new award system recognizing achievements in sustainable tourism was launched during the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit. The Riyadh-based Sustainable Tourism Global Center used the summit as an opportunity to announce its latest stride in the battle for a more sustainable future. 

The “Sustainable Travel Awards” will recognize individuals and organizations that address climate change, protect nature and support communities. There will be 10 awards in total geared towards recognizing high-impact solutions that are already implemented and that are able to demonstrate a measurable positive impact on the environment. They will be divided into three categories — climate, nature and communities — with three accolades awarded under each category. One leading figure will be identified as a true champion of sustainability and receive an individual award.  

Gloria Guevara, chief special advisor to the Minister of Tourism and a global panel of sustainability experts has been be appointed to judge the awards. 

Guevara said: “We are enormously proud to be launching these awards to recognize the outstanding work being done all over the world in different areas of sustainability work from climate change actions to preserving nature and supporting opportunities for communities. 

“Sustainability has been a core area of debate at the WTTC Global Summit and we are confident that our awards will identify and recognize the outstanding work in this field and incentivize others to innovate and contribute to change.” 

Special guests, supermodels Elle Macpherson, Adriana Lima and Valeria Mazza were there to present the awards in the Saudi capital.  

Announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Saudi Green Initiative and the UN Climate Change conference, or COP26, in Glasgow last year, the STGC brings together governments, international organizations, academic bodies, financing institutions and industry associations. 

The STGC aims to reduce the tourism sector’s estimated 8 percent contribution to total global greenhouse gases and move toward net-zero emissions.