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The GCC's construction technology sector is ready for more

Despite its relative nascence, technology uptake is effecting measurable change in the GCC’s construction sector, but the road to integrated tech adoption is a long one

COMMENT, SPECIAL REPORTS, Business, Saudi PMV Show

It is irrefutable that construction technology services are on a high in the GCC. Driven by public sector initiatives – such as Saudi Vision 2030 and Dubai 3D Printing Strategy – advanced construction techniques are rapidly gaining a foothold in the regional building market.

The benefits – tangible and otherwise – of these programmes are already visible. Building information modelling (BIM) is enhancing offshore construction practices in Saudi’s oil and gas sector, according to Anwar Al Qwasmi, general manager for Trimble Solutions’ operations in the kingdom.

“BIM is the biggest game-changer for constructing complex offshore projects on time and on budget,” Al Qwasimi said this March, according to Zawya.

More recently, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) completed a workshop on 3D printing and additive manufacturing in the city. The workshop was organised in partnership with GE, and is part of an agreement to collaborate on 3D printing, additive manufacturing, and industrial internet technologies.

These developments, quotidian as they may appear, point towards an attitudinal shift in the region’s construction sector. Perspectives have changed, so much aos that even relatively simple technologies, such as global positioning system (GPS), are being leveraged to achieve both quick and long-term gains.

For instance, this May, Abu Dhabi General Services Company (Musanada) revealed that fitting its construction equipment with GPS devices has raised productivity by 30% and reduced material loss by 15%.

Moreover, the technology achieved savings worth $0.25 (AED0.93) per square metre, after the device’s total cost of supply and installation was factored in. The agency has deployed an engineering system based on machine guidance – which uses GPS devices – to carry out grading works.

Eng Suwaidan Rashed Al Dhaheri, acting CEO of Musanada, said the technology improves tasks such as excavation, levelling, and grading of roads’ foundation layers, adding: “Upgrading machines [for those activities] by deploying GPS control has helped increase productivity by 30%, which will help complete and deliver projects as per the defined schedule.”

The reduction of construction material loss is achieved by deviating from the traditional method of implementing the activities, which “relied on repeating the work in order to reach the required quality”.

A database can be built off the GPS system’s self-memory, which “allows fast transfer of all positioning data to [computers, in order] to be analysed by relevant applications”, WAM reported.

No human intervention is required, except for an equipment operator that has been adequately trained to use the system effectively and efficiently.

Musanada’s is only one of the numerous initiatives and investments made towards increasing the remit of construction technology to boost cost- and time-savings.

As the Middle East, driven by the UAE, works to position itself as the global hub of technological advancement, research, and development, it is altogether likely that the regional construction sector will partake in the pursuit of greater efficiencies through digital platforms. Technology is here to stay, and may well hold the key to longevity in the decade to come – are regional construction leaders paying heed?

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Construction Week - Issue 729
Feb 14, 2019