Sustainability, digitalisation key factors for future of UAE construction industry

Over 1,200 exhibitors representing 50 countries, including 20 country pavilions are at the Big 5 exhibition this year. Photo by Juidin Bernarrd
Over 1,200 exhibitors representing 50 countries, including 20 country pavilions are at the Big 5 exhibition this year. Photo by Juidin Bernarrd

Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Sun 12 Sep 2021, 5:05 PM

Sustainability, digitalisation, and innovation will be key factors that will contribute to the growth of the UAE’s construction sector as it moves on from the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, experts said on the opening day of The Big 5 exhibition.

Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum opened the 42nd edition of the exhibition at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), which features more than 1,200 exhibitors from 50 countries and 20 country pavilions. The event has welcomed exhibitors across nine specialised events this year, offering visiting professionals the chance to source the latest industry innovations for any stage of the construction cycle. As part of the event, several UAE companies are also showcasing their advanced capabilities in the field of construction equipment and technologies.

The event also offers over 70 free-to-attend CPD certified talks delivered by 150 global speakers and covering critical topics such as Digital Twins, AI, Sustainability and Project management, presenting a unique opportunity for visitors to stay up to date on trends in the sector.

Speaking to Khaleej Times after the opening of the show, Amedeo Scarpa, director of the Dubai Office for the Italian Trade Agency (ITA), said that it is important for industry players to “look beyond Covid-19.”

“We have to learn to work with the uncertainty,” he said. “There is no sense in comparing the world before and after Covid-19; we have to work with the ‘here and now’.”

He also described the UAE construction market not as “recovering” but as “rebuilding”. He noted that in 2021, the volume of awarded contracts in the construction sector is expected to grow by 3.1 per cent compared to 2020. Asked about the ITA’s participation at the event, he noted that the Italian companies in attendance were ready to showcase the latest products and Italian technology that will help the local market to reach their goals in a very efficient way and sustainable way.

Sustainable and agile

Italy, he said, is among one of the greenest economies in Europe that is hailed as a leader in the number of LEED certifications that have been awarded across various projects. This distinction has been possible due to the role that SMEs have played in the industry.

“Creativity and flexibility go hand in hand with sustainability, especially when it comes to Italian SMEs,” he said. “SMEs are more flexible and ready to adapt technical solutions to the finer requests of the client. We have seen that the green standards for construction in the UAE and the GCC region are becoming higher and higher, and we feel that Italian companies can play a significant role in sharing knowledge and industry best practices with our GCC partners.”

“Looking forward to the Principles of the 50, that were recently announced by the UAE leadership, we feel that there are lots of areas where we can play a role in helping the UAE achieve the goals that they have set for the next 50 years,” he added.

Digitalisation more important than ever

When it comes to trends that have dominated the construction industry, Frederic Szabo, managing director of Business France Middle East, said that digitalisation of processes has been steadily accelerating across the UAE and GCC region. The Covid-19 pandemic, he added, has also been a key factor in getting developers to accelerate their digitalisation plans.

In a recent poll of 50 GCC construction professionals conducted by MEED in the first quarter of 2021, 100 per cent of respondents said that digital technology improves project delivery. About 58 per cent of respondents said that digital transformation would have the biggest impact on overall project management and performance, while 29 per cent felt that the most benefits would be seen in speed of delivery, accuracy and collaboration.

“There is a growing movement towards going digital in the UAE, that French companies are very excited to be a part of,” Szabo said. “We have had many discussions with developers such as Emaar, Damac, and Azizi about how digitalisation can help with their needs and the demands of the market. This push towards digitalisation has been on the top of the agenda for many companies in line with the initiatives of the UAE government to create smarter and more sustainable cities. Smart cities need smart buildings so this trend is only going to accelerate in the coming months.”

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