Podcast: A peek into ALEC & Cundall's collaborative BRAINS model

The BRAINS model is a collaborative solution by ALEC & Cundall as part of the Project of the Future initiative

ALEC & Cundall team up for the Project of the Future
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ALEC & Cundall team up for the Project of the Future

UAE contractor ALEC and global consultancy firm Cundall recently launched the Project of the Future initiative designed to engage young professionals at both companies to come up with innovative ideas to contribute towards a better future for the construction industry and overall built environment.

As part of the initiative, participants were required to explore and evaluate challenges specific to the construction industry and built environment, and develop solutions to improve any past mistakes.

Three teams presented their ideas to senior members of ALEC and Cundall, including the chief executive officer at ALEC, Kez Taylor and managing director Hercu Viljoen, the Cundall's managing director and partner Richard Stratton, as well as Construction Week’s editor Ashley Williams.

The winning group, which included Calum Perey, structural engineer for Cundall and Shaun Mahlungu, contract quantity surveyor for ALEC, developed an innovative model called BRAINS - the Built Environment Ranking Artificial Intelligence Network System, which leverages ubiquitous computing and "artificial intelligence fed by global information", applying it for the built environment and the construction industry.

Construction Week's editor, Ashley Williams sat down with Perey and Mahlungu to get details on the collaborative project as part of the Construction Week Viewpoint weekly series.

"Going beyond emerging technologies"

Speaking with Construction Week about the project, Perey, said: "While thinking of what could be the 'project of the future', we decided to go beyond the emerging technologies in the built environment such as artificial intelligence and 3D printing and combine it together to better serve the society."

Perey aptly compared the BRAINS model, born out of the Cundall and ALEC partnership, to an "artificial brain", which is structured to help designers, developers and contractors to create what the built environment needs.

"The model evaluates everything from the cradle of procurement to the design as well as compares other designs and passes on information about delivering improved designs to the society."

"When we speak about technological solutions in any context, people tend to be a little sceptical. The whole purpose is not to eradicate the human contribution; the idea is to push people to think bigger," Mahlungu added.

Developing a "win-win" culture
Despite Cundall and ALEC being prominent names in the region's construction industry, "the senior management officials were encouraging and acknowledging of the up-and-coming engineers within their companies," Perey said. 

"We identified a culture of win-lose, not win-win. This means that people make decisions for the benefit of oneself or the company, and hardly ever to benefit the project. In the case of the BRAINS model, it aims to benefit not just the project but the entire built environment."

Catering to a community, sustainably

Shunning the concept of individualistic goals and objectives, the BRAINS model, as developed by the winning team from both companies, focuses on serving the community.

In addition, the initiative aims to be sustainable in nature. And this means, Perey explained, it is "aimed at reducing waste, but in terms of time, resources, and efforts."

Way forward

Stating that the BRAINS solution is the need of the hour at the moment for the overall built environment, Mahlungu, said: "The [ALEC and Cundall] collaboration will continue. We plan to bring all three contending groups to work together, to take the best ideas from each group and apply that to an existing project. Collaborating on a bigger level now will be more challenging."

"We are not software developers; we are construction professionals. So, we as an industry, need to understand and identify how we can get software to help solve problems," Perey concluded.

Construction Week Viewpoint is a weekly podcast series produced by the Construction Week editorial team and published on SoundCloud and iTunes at noon (GST) every Monday.

Industry experts are regular guests on the show; the weekly bulletin covers a range of pertinent topics specific to construction and real estate sectors across the GCC.

To volunteer yourself or a colleague as a guest speaker on Construction Week Viewpoint, please contact Ashley Williams or Disha Dadlani.

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