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Innovation is muscling into the Middle East’s construction industry

by Oscar Rousseau on May 25, 2018

Contractors should tap into disruptive tech like 3D printing and artificial intelligence.
Contractors should tap into disruptive tech like 3D printing and artificial intelligence.

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In a line of work arguably more dependant than others on a steady flow of cash, construction projects are more likely to get funding if a technology company owns a stake in the work, says law firm Pinsent Masons.

The engineering and construction sectors are now on the cusp of change, with cutting-edge products increasingly being used in many areas of the project life cycle – from design and cost estimation, to quality control, contract management, health and safety, and to operations, and building management.

Developers and contractors alike have realised the need to work smarter for the future. It is not just about ditching the spreadsheets to manage multibillion-dollar projects or using drones to monitor construction sites. It is about embracing innovation.

Autodesk’s head of architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC), and manufacturing, Naji Atallah, tells Construction Week that Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy “cannot be achieved” without the help of disruptive technologies such as 3D printing and augmented and virtual reality.

Atallah suggests construction companies should explore cloud-based computing, the Internet of Things, and machine learning, in order to gain a competitive advantage in the Middle East’s complex building sector. He adds: “Vision 2030 cannot be achieved with the technology we have now. The construction sector has to collaborate, innovate, and find new ways of working to make Saudi Vision 2030 a success.”

Atallah says that he has seen a “very high adoption of building information modeling (BIM) in the Middle East” in recent years. Indeed, an increase in BIM adoption has been driven by a 2017 updated mandate from the Dubai Municipality encouraging the use of 3D-modelling software on building projects.

Engineering Contracting Company (ECC) has taken this directive to heart. In April 2018, it announced that it would integrate BIM on all future projects in order to cut costs and boost time management during the planning phase.

By rolling out the software, ECC hopes to connect all project stakeholders under a common data environment (CDE) – an online source for collecting, managing, and sharing BIM data. This may help to resolve design clashes and allow stakeholders with access to BIM to visualise the end project before it is physically built, which has the potential to cut down reworks to keep projects on track and within budget.