Why are the Gulf's top developers and projects using prefabrication?
From Dubai's Emaar to Saudi's The Red Sea Development Co, the region's foremost clients are driving modular construction
Indicative of the regional industry’s eagerness to embrace new building technologies, the use of prefabrication building techniques brings the promise of faster, more standardised, high-quality buildings, while requiring less labour than structures traditionally built on site.
With this in mind, clients and contractors are edging towards modular construction methods. While the concept is not a completely new one for the Middle East – prefabricated concrete has been widely used in industries such as oil and gas, and the sector is largely aware of its benefits – last year saw a slew of announcements related to prefabricated construction.
News broke in December that a precast house in Riyadh was built in just two days, as Saudi Arabia’s government stepped up efforts to accelerate innovation and increase home ownership.
Modular concrete was used by a local company to build the one-storey property in the kingdom’s capital city. Construction of the villa started on 23 December, 2018, and the entire building was completed just two days later.
The construction milestone was part of the government’s Building Technology Motivation Initiative, which aims to accelerate the adoption of modern construction techniques and technologies, while simultaneously strengthening the private sector.
Prefabrication has also caught the attention of developers of Saudi Arabia’s The Red Sea Project – a gigaproject backed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF). The project’s Base Camp, which is located on a coastal area near the southern end of the 28,000km2 development, marks the first of “numerous enabling works” that will be implemented in 2019 in order to deliver essential infrastructure for the scheme.
According to a statement in February from The Red Sea Development Company, enabling works will adopt prefabricated and modular construction “where appropriate”, to minimise the environmental and social impact of the development on the natural site.
Buildings and structures will be manufactured both in Saudi Arabia and abroad, and later shipped in to be placed as “large prefabricated elements, thereby reducing the demand for on-site labour and temporary utilities”.
Elsewhere in the Gulf, Dubai-based BKG Modular System – a division of BK Gulf – is another firm keen to highlight the benefits of modular construction. The group has been producing bespoke mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) service modules and modular wiring solutions for the UAE market, for clients such as Abu Dhabi New York University, Dubai Opera House, and Dubai Mall.
Speaking to Construction Week during a tour of BKG Modular Systems’ factory in the Jebel Ali Industrial Area, modular systems division manager at BK Gulf, Robbie Nelson, said: “During peak times, we have about 350 people, including fabricators, engineers, and administration staff, in the facility.
“Everything you see within our module has been developed from the consultant’s design, through coordination and 3D modelling. We are producing exactly what is there in the detailed model. The whole factory is a controlled environment.”
Dubai’s MEP sector is not alone in its prefabrication efforts. Real estate development giant Emaar announced in January that it has adopted pre-assembled building elements for the construction of five link bridges leading to Dubai Mall.
Part of the Za’abeel expansion project at the world’s largest shopping centre, the bridges have been developed by Emaar in conjunction with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority. The bridges connect The Dubai Mall with Doha Road and Financial Centre Road at a length of 1.78km.