ALEC & Cundall team up is “the beginning of something truly spectacular”

ALEC & Cundall's next-generation engineers on creating a delivery model that will “transform the industry for the better”

BRAINS takes the next generation of technology and applying it for the built environment and the construction industry
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BRAINS takes the next generation of technology and applying it for the built environment and the construction industry

While society is beginning to normalise from the pressures brought upon us from COVID-19, top construction leaders from the Middle East are describing the current state of the market as a “mess” and urgent action is needed to ensure a sustainable outlook.

As sectors begin to adapt to the new world that we live in, with remote working and adhering to social distancing guidelines set out by the government, the dependence on safeguarding the future of our industry has fallen on the shoulders of next-generation engineers.

Through a collaborative event, leading UAE contractor, ALEC, and global consultancy firm, Cundall, came together last month to launch ‘The Project of the Future’ initiative involving younger professionals within both companies to brainstorm and come up with groundbreaking ideas that could be shared and embraced by the wider industry.

As part of the initiative, the participants were required to look at challenges facing all stakeholders in project delivery within the industry and explore how reoccurring and past mistakes can be eliminated.

Three teams presented their ideas to senior figures of ALEC and Cundall, including the contractor’s CEO Kez Taylor and managing director Hercu Viljoen, the consultancy’s managing director and partner Richard Stratton, as well as Construction Week’s editor Ashley Williams.

The brains model

The winning group came up with an innovative solution called BRAINS - the Built Environment Ranking Artificial Intelligence Network System, which takes the next generation of technology, ubiquitous computing, which automates our entire external world, and applying it for the built environment and the construction industry.

Speaking exclusively to Construction Week, Cundall’s structural engineer Calum Perey, who was part of the winning team, said that by collating data together, BRAINS is creating correlation between things that we, as humans, do not have the “cognitive ability to comprehend”.

“BRAINS tells us, as a society, what do we actually need? Then using that data to assist the entire life cycle to most importantly produce zero waste. And that’s not just material waste, its time, optimisation and efficiencies,” Perey tells CW.

“The system monitors the actions of stakeholders and records the positive and negative actions people make during a project, which either rewards or punishes users based on their performance, and simultaneously updates all stakeholders on how the actions have changed the path of the project, and if alterations are required to get back on track.”

Among the other group members was ALEC’s contract quantity surveyor, Shaun Unathi Mahlangu, who believed that the BRAINS delivery model facilitates an honest and genuine level of collaboration between stakeholders and is the first step to achieving “industry utopia”.

“This is the beginning of something truly spectacular,” said Mahlangu. “Whilst the BRAINS concept was specifically developed for complex projects in the built environment, we believe that once realised, it will be a giant leap forward in transforming a multitude of industries as we know them today.”

What the judges said?

Commenting on the purpose of the collaboration, Cundall’s partner and managing director, Richard Stratton told Construction Week that there is far too much waste and inefficiency in our industry, but with youthful enthusiasm and the digital revolution, we have the opportunity to combine talent and technology to solve the problem of waste and inefficiencies.

“[The] Cundall & ALEC collaboration initiative is not an academic exercise, it is intended to be the catalyst to drive change and inspire us all to make a positive contribution," says Stratton.

"As business leaders, it is our responsibility to create opportunities for the next generation to become agents of change.”

Moreover, ALEC’s Kez Taylor said the initiative is an opportunity to raise awareness of the current inefficiencies and to revamp the construction industry towards a sustainable future.

"Waste is suffocating the construction industry and we need to collectively take urgent action to reverse the current downward spiral of inefficiency taking place in our sector," says Taylor.

"This collaborative initiative is giving us the opportunity to raise awareness of the current inefficiencies and pave the way forward to transform the construction industry to an efficient and sustainable future for all to succeed."

He adds: "The youth and our next generation of leaders have been tasked to find ways of improving process, driving efficiency, creating collaborative environments and using digital technologies to improve delivery of construction projects.

“We are committed to this quest of creating a better future for everyone.”

Following the event, the BRAINS concept will be fine-tuned and another event will be held later in the year to share the concept with the wider industry.

The final event will also initiate a roadshow with multiple project teams to start implementing the solution.

More details will also be revealed about the BRAINS concept through Construction Week Viewpoint's weekly podcast series in the coming months.

When asked about the future of the industry and their perspective on how the construction sector can prosper for the Middle East, the ALEC and Cundall engineers agreed that combining "outstanding collaboration" and "thinking outside of the box” will lead to a positive change in implementing new practices.

“As a young generation of the construction industry who care about the future, we want to make sure we eliminate waste and find the perfect way to deliver our future developments,” explains Perey.

“We want to design and build the built environment that contributes to the environment, not damages it. He adds: “We believe that it can be achieved only by thinking outside the box, using the most advanced technology and combining it with outstanding collaboration.”

While, Mahlangu said at the moment the greatest prize would be seeing the “industry heal and be transformed for the better” and, pledged that the next generation of engineers across the sector "intend on making that happen".

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