Pushing the boundaries

For centuries, technological innovation has been the facilitator behind transcending the boundaries laid down by nature.

COMMENT, Business

For centuries, technology has been the facilitator behind transcending the boundaries laid down by nature.

The wheel has sped up how fast we move; electricity creates artificial light and the internet allows instant communication between people living thousands of miles apart.

But probably the biggest evolution brought about by the explosion of technology is globalisation.

Technological innovation has increased competition, removed barriers and introduced a whole set of new activities. It has also allowed countries lacking the natural resources on which to build a strong economy to flourish.

A good example of this is Dubai. An expert in technology recently described the emirate as 'a new model of economic growth that is based on a new set of factors'. In a short space of time, a low-tech, desert community with little in the way to market abroad has been transformed into the fastest growing economy in the world.

While much of this has been down to vision and strategy, these factors combined wouldn't have stood the test of time without changes in technology.

And the region's determination to make its mark has seen property developers push the boundaries of technology to their very limit to surmount what was previously thought to be impossible.

On first seeing the designs for Palm Jebel Ali, the project's director dismissed them as ‘science fiction', simply because the technological capability didn't exist at the time to turn the idea into reality.

Seven years on, and the Palm trilogy can be seen from space.

Other projects whose ideas are racing ahead of technology include the Arabian Canal and the Dubai Creek Extension.

Yet, what these projects depend on is the very thing that is slowing them down: contractors with the technological capability to build them.

Technology is an inevitable part of the ‘green building' code, and while certain landmarks might make a place famous, the thing that's going to maintain the longevity of that place is the environment.

For all the good that new technology brings, it will be the way in which it's used that will determine whether or not an economy remains strong.

One can only hope that exceeding its limits doesn't destroy exactly what sustainability hopes to achieve.

Angela Giuffrida is the editor of Construction Week.

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