The Big 5 2017: The biggest news stories from the Dubai show

Innovation is driving product and business strategies in the Middle East’s construction sector, as evidenced by the announcements that emerged during The Big 5 2017

HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum inaugurated The Big 5 2017, which was held between 26 and 29 November, 2017, at Dubai World Trade Centre.
HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum inaugurated The Big 5 2017, which was held between 26 and 29 November, 2017, at Dubai World Trade Centre.

Solar the new shining star as GSHK records $26m deals in three days

More than 2,500 exhibitors from 60 countries made their mark at The Big 5 2017, held in Dubai last week. HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the president of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, and chief executive officer and chairman of the Emirates Group, inaugurated The Big 5 2017 – and the co-located Big 5 Solar show – on 26 November. HH Sheikh Ahmed also took a tour of the exhibition space, which occupied all of Dubai World Trade Centre.

As of 28 November, 2017 – the exhibition’s third day – deals with a combined value of $26m had been confirmed at the GSHK stall, which was present at The Big 5 Solar 2017 show.

In terms of educational offerings, The Big 5 2017 featured the Excellence in Construction Summit (26 November); The Big 5 Innovation in Precast Summit (26-27 November); and The Big 5 Talks, a series of 72 Continuing Professional Development-certified seminars that took place during the event.

Commenting on the exhibition on the day of its launch, Josine Heijmans, portfolio event director of The Big 5, said: “The [latest] edition of the event will mark a turning point in the construction industry, settling the way to build better, more efficiently, and develop smart, sustainable cities.”

Inaugural summit points to precast weaknesses

The construction industry needs to do a better job of diagnosing weaknesses in designs that use precast concrete in order to avoid oversizing, according to Halûk Sucuoğlu (right). The director of the structural and earthquake engineering laboratory at Turkey’s Middle East Technical University told Construction Week that precast systems were typically considered weaker compared to site-cast concrete, an assumption with which he said he disagreed: “That [perceived] weakness is compensated through overdesign, which is not rational. You don’t try to overcome a weakness by overdesigning. You address it by diagnosing the weakness properly.”

One of the speakers at the Big 5 2017’s inaugural Innovation in Precast Summit, Sucuoğlu highlighted the need for performance-based seismic designs to boost the earthquake resilience of structures made of precast concrete: “In the Middle East, cast-in-place concrete still probably dominates the market, but precast systems have the advantage of quality because they are produced in factories. Precast emulates reinforced concrete, and adheres to the same codes and [standards].”

However, Sucuoğlu added that a precast system’s vulnerability to earthquakes tended to involve the connections made on site: “The connection, which is made at the site, should be done properly – not only in the execution, but also in the design.”

Contractor pre-qualification key to success

The success of construction projects depends on the right pre-qualification process being implemented, which requires sound contractor selection.

These were the views of Dr Shetha Alzubaidi, chief exective officer of Brookson Project Management, who delivered a speech on Day 2 of The Big 5 2017. A pre-qualification process, she continued, should include “an elimination stage, wherein contractors are screened [to] shortlist qualifiers who would then move on to tendering stage”.

She told Construction Week: “The main responsibility should [belong to] the main contractor. If there is any delay from the [sub-]contractor, it is the their responsibility to overcome this problem. Currently, it is the client’s responsibility, and all the main contractor [does] is send letters reserving rights for claims. The main contractor keeps passing the ball to the client who appointed the [sub-]contractor.”

UAE’s MEP sector to grow by 20%

The UAE’s mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) sector is set to record 20% growth in the months to come, Fabio Sbacches, MEP manager and project manager at LC and Partners Engineering Consultants, said. Sbacches was speaking at one of The Big 5 2017’s MEP Talks sessions.

In conversation with Construction Week, Sbacches said that while value-added tax remained “a foggy area” for the market, its overall impact would not be negative, adding: “Only the client will be affected by VAT, because all the companies will take the 5% and pass it on to the sub-contractor.

“In Europe and the US, VAT has been implemented [for a while] without causing any problems to companies.”

Sbacches said that the mismanagement of funds was causing cash flow problems in the market, adding: “I have seen so many projects that are stuck. Not a single project was stuck because of technical issues.

“Clients have started to engage with professionals for project control and scheduling,” Sbacches added.

Hyperloop to boost profitability of transport

Hyperloop technology, unlike traditional transportation systems, has the potential to generate profit, according to Bibop Gresta (right). The chairman and co-founder of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) was among the speakers at the Excellence in Construction Summit, which was held on the opening day of The Big 5 2017.

Profitability is “not a familiar concept because very [few] transportation systems can make money”, said Gresta, pointing out that the “entire industry” runs on government subsidies. He added: “The real question is not how much [Hyperloop] will cost, but how much time it will take to recoup the investment.

“The entire industry is subsidised by state government help. We are building a system that can be profitable within seven to 10 years, depending on where you are building.”

Gresta explained that there were several factors that would drive the system’s future profitability, including the use of renewable energy. He told Construction Week: “We decided the entire design of the Hyperloop has to be sustainable, must be profitable, and must put together the best technologies to create an excess of energy.

“We’re talking about abundance instead of scarcity. That was the aim of our scientists from the very beginning, and what we have now is the first version. This system, which only uses solar panels, can produce 30% more energy than the technology will consume. But when you look at the graphs, it demonstrates that solar panel efficiency will go up and the cost will go down. So there’s a breaking point where the production of energy could actually subsidise the entire development. It’s amazing to think of a future where the infrastructure doesn’t cost anything.”

Gresta also revealed that HTT’s Hyperloop system would feature window-less capsules. He said that instead of windows, the capsules would be installed with high-definition screens: “You will have a high-definition screen that will allow you to see outside.”

Danube Group seeks franchise partners for expansion in Africa

Danube Group announced that it was looking for franchise partners in African countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Nigeria.

The Dubai-headquartered building materials company said that while it was already selling in those markets, it saw franchising as a viable option to strengthen its presence in Africa.

Anis Sajan, managing director of Danube, told Construction Week: “We are targeting the African market. We already have a franchise partner in Tanzania, so now we are looking for similar partners in the other African countries.”

Danube was among the exhibitors at The Big 5 2017, where it highlighted products like water purifiers and water heaters from its Milano brand.

“We have five divisions under Milano: sanitary ware, tiles, electrical products, hardware – construction hardware, as well as furniture fittings – and the water purifier,” explained Sajan.

He also noted that the brand’s year-to-date performance had recorded a 30% increase compared to 2016, adding: “Last year, it was a 20% increase [compared to 2015]. Next year, we are aiming to maintain our growth rate at 30%.”

Commenting on the company’s participation at the event, Sajan added: “We have been part of The Big 5 for years now, and it has been an extremely good experience for us. The Big 5 is an annual meeting place for the international building and construction community to convene in the UAE.

“It’s a platform for like-minded people from all over the world.”

Milano water heaters feature enamel-coated inner tanks and heating elements. The glass-line technique and dry-block technology used for the products have served to extend the life span of the thermostat systems.

Khansaheb unveils Spiralite at The Big 5

Abdulrahman A Khansaheb, the managing director of Khansaheb Industries and director of Khansaheb Investment, said that more clarity was needed regarding the implementation of value-added tax (VAT).

Khansaheb was speaking to Construction Week at The Big 5 2017, where the company also launched a range of products by Spiralite, an energy-efficient ductwork manufacturer. Spiralite products are said to reduce the carbon footprint of domestic, commercial, and industrial buildings.

“We are confident that this modern innovation will reduce the country’s carbon footprint and help lower utility expenses for residents and companies,” Khansaheb said ahead of Spiralite’s launch.

Commenting on the impending implementation of VAT, Khansaheb said: “Not everything is crystal clear when it comes to the implementation of VAT. There are still some questions. But I think it will need a few months for the authorities to clarify everything.

“We are updating our systems and procedures in order to incorporate the requirements of VAT. We also have our team attending VAT-relevant workshops.”

When asked about his views on how VAT would impact the construction sector, Khansaheb said: “I think VAT will be good for the market as it will introduce transparency. Everything will be formalised and properly documented. It will be good in the long term.”

Commenting on current market trends and conditions, he added: “This year has been soft for the construction market in terms of projects awarded. But, I think it is a cycle, [and] I am optimistic that we will start seeing things move in a much better way in 2018.”

Khansaheb said that while “plenty” of tenders were live in the market, the number of projects being awarded was currently low. However, this situation would likely improve next year, Khansaheb told Construction Week.

This year marked Khansaheb’s first appearance at The Big 5 exhibition.

Hisense unveils G+ series VRF

Global electronics company, Hisense, announced the launch of its new generation G+ high-ambient series of variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems at The Big 5 2017. The new systems have been designed to provide top performance and efficiency, even in the high temperatures and harsh conditions of the region.

Commenting on the launch, Moan Abraham, vice president and general manager for air-conditioning at Hisense Middle East (pictured), said: “[The use of] VRF in the residential market is growing exponentially. Earlier, apartments used three or four split air-conditioners, but now they instead feature mini VRF systems.”

ESMA notes new consumer trends

The UAE’s consumers are shifting towards the adoption of energy-saving building items, Abdullah Al-Maeeni, the director-general of Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA), said  at The Big 5 2017.

According to WAM, he added: “ESMA focusses on creating a legislative structure that serves the government’s orientations [to] reduce energy consumption [and] promote sustainability by creating environment-friendly solutions.”

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