How digitalisation in construction can foster collaboration
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How digitalisation in construction can foster collaboration

How digitalisation in construction can foster collaboration

Technology such as building information modelling is improving efficiency in construction by ensuring time savings and cost reductions

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The global building and construction industry is predicted to reach $14.41tn by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 7.3 per cent from 2022-2030. In the UAE, it is anticipated that the sector could expand by 4.2 per cent in 2022 due to Expo 2020 and resulting investments in tourism, hospitality and public infrastructure projects.

The UAE is now moving forward after a tremendously successful event, with an expected economic boost of $33bn in the next 10 years. Digitalisation has emerged as a key pillar to leverage future growth opportunities. In the construction sector especially, technology is playing a transformational role in planning, monitoring, staffing, and ensuring on-time delivery of projects.

We have seen how drones in construction have helped to boost construction efficiencies tremendously by reducing time, risks and manpower on-site. It is also allowing accurate maps and 3D models to be produced and is improving worker safety and security at construction sites. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The success of the construction sector now hinges on deploying connected construction technologies across the value chain.

This means integrating assets, people and processes into a single intelligent and secure platform. The construction industry is still quite fragmented. It is made up of multiple stakeholders, from architects and engineers to subcontractors, many of whom operate in silos, using conventional building and construction techniques.

This can sometimes impact project integration, but on the other hand, it offers an opportunity for wider adoption of digitalisation in the industry.

Responding to digital disruption
Stakeholders must explore smarter ways to take advantage of the digital opportunity. In some instances, financial constraints and lack of proper training also affect digital adoption. But project managers must leverage software to make their construction business more interconnected and agile, both internally and externally. If they do, they will discover how the internet of things, or IoT, can simplify procurement, distribution and tracking of goods and services.

Technology such as building information modelling (BIM) is improving efficiency in construction by ensuring time savings and cost reductions. It enables collaboration through cloud-based and network servers and enhances project coordination between teams and clients. This technology has been used to design and integrate our key projects in Saudi Arabia.

Modular construction too has emerged as a major disruptor to conventional construction. It reduces material waste by up to 30 per cent and improves worker safety by up to 70 per cent, as compared to traditional construction. Since it reduces the need for manpower by up to 30 per cent, it is an ideal solution to overcome labour shortages. Centralising procurement in a manufacturing facility controls material cost overruns, deliveries are optimised and logistics costs are reduced.

For connected construction to achieve its maximum potential, the above technologies must be leveraged to ensure that data flows back and forth to both internal and external teams. To improve operational efficiencies and transparency, reduce errors, and help move projects successfully to completion, the industry will need to adopt technologies that foster greater collaboration among various departments.

Accelerating green goals 
The industry will also need to look beyond the obvious cost and efficiency benefits. Connectedness in construction is also driving many environmental benefits. Electric vehicle charging stations, proptech and smart home solutions, renewable energy sources, integrated utility control
services, IoT and service-as-a-software-based platforms are improving energy efficiency in existing facilities.

Modular construction, in particular, ensures minimal disruption to the ambient environment when compared with traditional construction practices. For example, we’ve shifted 80 per cent of traditional labour activity at one of our companies to a controlled manufacturing facility. This has reduced the need for manpower on-site, and is an ideal solution in a post Covid-19 era.

Furthermore, the repetitive, simplified and standardised factory operating process promotes safer, healthier and cleaner working conditions, with far lower wastage rates than an open construction site. Such solutions are being perceived as a game-changer in sustainable building construction and environmental conservation, as they significantly reduce the carbon footprint.

As the GCC is accelerating towards a decarbonised future, the construction industry, responsible for one-third of global carbon emissions, will play a key role in fulfilling green agendas for a circular economy. The best part is that industrialised construction can help countries meet their carbon neutral targets.

As the UAE looks ahead to the future, the construction industry is poised for tremendous growth in the future. Innovation, adoption of new technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics, and a shift towards sustainable practices will put the construction industry on the fast-track to growth. This will fulfill the GCC region’s ambitions to become a trillion dollar economy by 2025 through sustainable urban development.

Riad Bsaibes is the president and CEO at Amana Investments

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