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 USCAD.com 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.

TURNING BUILDINGS INTO DATA FARMS

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.

BRIDGING THE GAP

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.

FROM PREFAB TO MODULAR

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.


Pentagon awards $9bn cloud contracts each to Google, Amazon, Oracle and Microsoft

Pentagon awards $9bn cloud contracts each to Google, Amazon, Oracle and Microsoft
Updated 08 December 2022

Pentagon awards $9bn cloud contracts each to Google, Amazon, Oracle and Microsoft

Pentagon awards $9bn cloud contracts each to Google, Amazon, Oracle and Microsoft

The Pentagon on Wednesday awarded cloud computing contracts worth $9 billion each to Alphabet Inc's Google, Amazon Web Services Inc, Microsoft Corp and Oracle Corp.
The contracts which run until 2028, will provide the Department of Defense with enterprise-wide, globally available cloud services across all security domains and classification levels.
The move comes months after the Pentagon had delayed its decision to award an enterprise-wide Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) contract earlier this year.
The deal puts the military more in line with private-sector companies, many of whom split up their cloud computing work among multiple vendors to avoid being locked in to any specific one.


Electric vehicles emerge as key driver of Saudi-China climate-change fight

Electric vehicles emerge as key driver of Saudi-China climate-change fight
Updated 08 December 2022

Electric vehicles emerge as key driver of Saudi-China climate-change fight

Electric vehicles emerge as key driver of Saudi-China climate-change fight
  • China is the world’s largest market for EVs, accounting for 53 percent of the global share 
  • Saudi Arabia has launched its own EV brand, Ceer, and owns a stake in US maker Lucid

RIYADH: China and Saudi Arabia are two of the energy powerhouses of the world and, as such, the world’s gaze turns to them in discussions around climate change.

While much of the focus is on the Kingdom’s oil production, or Beijing’s coal-mining activities, the two nations are only just starting to get recognition for their shared vision for decarbonization via electric vehicles.

This is an area of shared enthusiasm, and one where Saudi Arabia and China can further work together to lead innovation and implementation.

For its part, Saudi Arabia has handed the EV industry a prominent role in its economic diversification plan known as Vision 2030.

Tesla cars at a charging station in Beijing, main, and, below, a Lucid luxury electric vehicle on display. (AFP)

The world’s largest oil exporter has identified the sector as one on the cusp of a boom as the globe moves away from fossil fuels, and is investing not just in overseas firms, but also in homegrown products.

The overseas backing takes the form of the US-firm Lucid. In 2018, the Public Investment Fund poured $1billion into the company and now has a 60 percent stake. The investment prompted Lucid to announce in February 2022, that it would build its first international vehicle assembly plant in King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah. 
To further underline its commitment to the sector, the Saudi government struck a deal with Lucid to buy up to 100,000 EVs over a 10-year period.

It is not just Lucid that will be producing EVs in the Kingdom. In October, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled Saudi Arabia’s own EV brand: Ceer.

Lithium batteries for electric vehicles on the inspection line at a factory in Nanjing in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. (AFP)

Like Lucid, this company will produce vehicles from a plant in KAEC, with construction on the $69 million facility due to begin in early 2023.

Ceer is a joint venture with FoxConn — the Taiwan-based firm that is the largest private sector employer in China — and will further cement the ties between Saudi Arabia and the economies of the Far East.

Ceer will license component technology from BMW to design and build vehicles, including sedans and sport utility vehicles, in the Kingdom while Foxconn will develop the electrical architecture of the vehicles, resulting in a portfolio of products that will lead in infotainment, connectivity and autonomous driving technologies.

Of course, the Kingdom is not turning itself into one of the leading EV producers in the world just to appease its domestic market. Exporting these vehicles is a key part of not just Saudi Arabia’s economic diversification strategy but in reducing global emissions.

Penetrating the Chinese market could prove a challenge. Beijing has been encouraging its citizens to switch to EVs by offering subsidies for purchases. This has helped China become the largest market for EVs, accounting for 53 percent of the global share.

US-based Lucid is planning to build its first overseas vehicle assembly plant north of Jeddah. (AFP)

The Chinese government forecasts that EVs will account for 50 percent of all new car sales in the country by 2035, suggesting the appetite for such vehicles will continue to be high.

Yet while firms such as Tesla are doing well in the market — selling 83,135 cars in September in what was its best month for sales in the country — China has a thriving production sector, meaning the reliance on imports is low.

However, as is the case in many countries, one of the main barriers for mass take-up of EVs is higher purchase price than for petrol vehicles.

Saudi Arabia could find itself in a position to use its growing EV production hub being built just north of Jeddah to make affordable vehicles for what is the largest market in the world.

Should it crack that nut, the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goal of raising non-oil exports to 50 percent of GDP looks eminently reachable.


DP World Logistics opens 6,000 sq. m warehouse in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone

DP World Logistics opens 6,000 sq. m warehouse in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone
Updated 08 December 2022

DP World Logistics opens 6,000 sq. m warehouse in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone

DP World Logistics opens 6,000 sq. m warehouse in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone
  • The company said the storage facility has a monthly capacity of 6,000 twenty-foot equivalent units

DUBAI: DP World Logistics in Dubai has opened a 6,000-square-meter high-end warehouse offering new storage solutions at Jebel Ali Free Zone, the Emirates News Agency reported.

The facility has 12,500 pallet positions and can accommodate cargo up to 18 meters high using Very Narrow Aisle racking systems, the company said, and a monthly capacity of 6,000 twenty-foot equivalent units.

DP World Logistics highlighted its advantageous location in what it described as one of the world’s fastest-developing regions and said that it is able to leverage the capabilities and cutting-edge IT platforms of its parent company, DP World, to ensure goods are stored, distributed and delivered efficiently through a multimodal transportation model that combines port, shipping line, sea freight, air freight and trucking solutions.

The company said it offers container freight station operations, warehousing and supply chain solutions, and freight-forwarding operations from six facilities in Jebel Ali and its assets include extensive yard operations, cross-dock warehousing, and cold storage and cool storage solutions.

“As part of DP World, a global smart-trade enabler, DP World Logistics is continually on a journey of business transformation, with new product innovations and developments,” said Abdulla bin Damithan, the CEO of DP World UAE and Jafza.

“Our shared commitment to improve end-to-end logistics performance in moving cargo around the world, underpinned by innovations in logistics-led solutions, has maximized opportunities for our customers over the years.

“The new CFS 2 warehouse is yet another step in supporting our customers better, helping them explore varied business opportunities and move forward with tremendous growth potential in the region. As a reliable, trustworthy and time-bound logistics partner, we will continue creating a complete end-to-end logistics trade journey from and to high-growth markets for our clients.”


Saudi-Chinese cooperation scales new heights with each passing year

Saudi-Chinese cooperation scales new heights with each passing year
Updated 08 December 2022

Saudi-Chinese cooperation scales new heights with each passing year

Saudi-Chinese cooperation scales new heights with each passing year
  • 2022 turned out to be the year when Sino-Saudi collaborative projects in various fields truly prospered
  • China seeking to bolster its energy ties with the Gulf countries to secure adequate oil supply

RIYADH: Saudi-Chinese ties have prospered in 2022 amid the high cooperation efforts between the countries across various fields, including aviation, energy, tourism, artificial intelligence, technology and more.

On Nov.27, Saudi Arabia’s deputy foreign minister met with the Chinese ambassador to the Kingdom in Riyadh, Saudi Press Agency reported.

During the meeting, Waleed Al-Khuraiji and Chen Weiqing reviewed bilateral relations and ways of enhancing them to serve common interests. They also discussed issues of common interest.

Aviation

Earlier this year, in October, Saudi Arabia and China signed a memorandum of understanding to boost the number of flights and stations between the two countries. 

The MoU also aims to promote air traffic growth further and bolster cooperation in the air transport sector field between both countries, Zawya reported.

Energy

In September, the regional organization Arab League announced the first of its kind Arab-China summit to be hosted by Saudi Arabia in December, reflecting a milestone in the strategic collaboration between Arab countries and the Asian giant.

According to Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post, Beijing is seeking to bolster its energy ties with the Gulf countries to secure sufficient supply.

Tourism

In September, the Saudi Tourism Authority and Shanghai-based financial firm UnionPay signed an MoU to boost the number of Chinese visitors to Saudi Arabia.

Under the agreement, the Chinese state-owned financial services company will facilitate payment operations within the Kingdom for UnionPay card holders, the Saudi Press Agency reported.  

Culture

As part of Saudi-Chinese cultural cooperation, King Abdulaziz Public Library signed an MoU and collaboration with the Bayt El-Hekma Chinese Group in April.

The agreement aims to enhance cooperation between Saudi Arabia and China in different cultural, knowledge, and language fields of interest to both sides.

It also includes exchanging publication services and cultural visits between the two countries, besides holding scientific meetings and specialized exhibitions and activating cultural commonalities through forums.  

Artificial Intelligence

In March, Riyadh-based aerospace company TAQNIA and solution provider TAQNIA ETS signed an MoU with Chinese aerospace firm Star Vision to elevate the space sector’s supply chain and work hand in hand on artificial intelligence applications and technologies.

Under the MoU, all parties will participate in collaborative research and work together to facilitate the development of top-notch space technologies, satellites, and geospatial products, trade publication Times Aerospace reported.

The MoU aims to introduce localized services and products that align with the Kingdom and the region’s strategic space and geospatial industry.

 Technology

In March, Saudi Advanced Communications and Electronics Systems Co., ACES, partnered with China Electronics Technology Group to manufacture unmanned aerial vehicle payload systems in the Kingdom.

Under the partnership, China Electronics Technology Group, the state-owned defense conglomerate specializing in dual-use electronics, aims to aid ACES in establishing a research and development center and manufacturing team for various types of unmanned aerial vehicle payload systems.  

Oil

In March, a Saudi Arabian Oil Co. unit signed an initial agreement with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., known as Sinopec, for potential downstream collaboration in China.  

The subsidiary, Saudi Aramco Asia Company Ltd., and Sinopec aim to support Fujian Refining and Petrochemical Co. in conducting a feasibility study into the optimization and expansion of capacity, according to a statement.  

Building & Construction

In January, Saudi Aramco and the China Building Materials Academy announced plans to launch a new Nonmetallic Excellence and Innovation Center collaboratively.

Also referred to as NEXCEL, the new center will be based in Beijing and advance the use of nonmetallic materials in the building and construction sector.


Saudi-Chinese relations witness ‘qualitative leap,’ says energy minister

Saudi-Chinese relations witness ‘qualitative leap,’ says energy minister
Updated 07 December 2022

Saudi-Chinese relations witness ‘qualitative leap,’ says energy minister

Saudi-Chinese relations witness ‘qualitative leap,’ says energy minister
  • China has become the top destination for Saudi oil exports
  • President Xi Jinping arrived in Saudi Arabia earlier on Wednesday as part of a three-day visit

RIYADH: Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman on Wednesday said that relations between the Kingdom and China are witnessing a qualitative leap, reflecting the keenness of both countries’ leaderships to develop them at all levels.

In remarks to the Saudi Press Agency during the Saudi-Chinese Summit in Riyadh, Prince Abdulaziz said that the Kingdom has strong and close strategic relations with China in many fields, the most important of which is energy.

China has become the top destination for Saudi oil exports as part of the high volume of trade exchange between the two countries, with continued annual growth over the past five years, he said, adding that Saudi-Chinese energy ties include multiple joint investments.

China’s President Xi Jinping arrived in Saudi Arabia earlier on Wednesday as part of a three-day visit to the Kingdom following an invitation by King Salman to attend the summit, which will run until Dec. 9.

Prince Abdulaziz highlighted the importance of cooperation between the two countries in maintaining stability of the global oil market, and said that the Kingdom will remain China’s credible and reliable partner in facing future energy challenges.

The minister also reviewed areas of cooperation between the Kingdom and China, mainly through projects to convert crude oil into petrochemicals, renewable energy, clean hydrogen, electricity projects and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, as well as investment in integrated refining and petrochemical complexes in both countries.

He highlighted the two nations’ efforts to boost cooperation in energy supply chains by establishing a regional center in the Kingdom for Chinese factories.