Construction technology finds takers in GCC's largest firms

Construction companies in the Gulf are turning to technologies such as robotics and 3D printing to cut costs and build better

Oscar Rousseau is the deputy editor of Construction Week.
© ITP Media Group / Efraim Evidor
Oscar Rousseau is the deputy editor of Construction Week.

Innovation is gaining ground in the regional construction sector as contractors turn to technological disruption to get an edge over their rivals in an increasingly competitive environment.

While academics have claimed that technological disruption is one of humanity's greatest challenges, most construction firms see clear benefits in systems and technologies that promise significant profitability and efficiency gains. Based on observations of the market during the past 12 months, local and international contractors such as ALEC, ASGC, and Acciona are among the bellwethers of construction technology adoption in the Middle East.

For example, the builder behind Expo 2020 Dubai's Sustainability Pavilion, ASGC, has been using drones to conduct site studies and monitor progress on construction sites for years. In fact, more than eight out of every 10 ASGC projects use drones. The Dubai-based outfit has also developed its own drone technology in-house; its most advanced drones use radio frequency identification to track the location of pipes, plates, and other metal items on site.

Spain's Acciona, which is delivering technical development for the expo's Sustainability Pavilion, has built the world's first 3D-printed concrete bridge in Madrid. The company hopes to bring its expertise in 3D-printed concrete to the GCC this year.

Meanwhile, Construction Week Awards 2018's Contractor of the Year, ALEC, is also using robotics on the impressive $1bn (AED4bn) Marina Gate development in Dubai, for tasks including plastering, panel installation, and chasing.

National Aluminium Ginco, a subsidiary of Ginco Group of Companies, provided the aluminium façades for the third tower of Select Group's Marina Gate megaproject. Operations manager and head of business development at National Aluminium Ginco, Feras Farah, tells Construction Week that robot-assisted façade installation can be of major benefit on large-scale and complex construction projects in the Middle East.

"[The use of robotics] is a truly novel way to approach façade installation, having recently been developed and used by National Aluminium. Robotics can perform the installation from inside the building, with millimetre precision," he says.

Check out Construction Week #737 to learn more about the tech-uptake efforts implemented by organisations in the GCC. For instance, after value-added tax (VAT) came into force on 1 January, 2018, Construction Computer Software (CCS) is educating the market about how software can help determine tax liabilities from initial estimation to handover. Meanwhile, senior associate at law firm Pinsent Masons, Nesreen Osman, says tech can mitigate payment delays, as well as help to protect critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.

Read the latest issue of Construction Week here.

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Construction Week - Issue 765
Jun 29, 2020