UAE companies are at the forefront of advanced construction tech

Jason English, CEO, Al Laith, believes in leveraging disruptive technologies to help drive the UAE’s construction industry

Published: Thu 7 Apr 2022, 1:07 PM

The 2020s are proving to be a key decade for change, driven by technology and digital innovations across the board for both individuals and businesses. Adapting to these changes requires forward-thinking leaders as well as leaders willing to embrace transformation and perhaps, more importantly, disruption.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai is one such example. Thanks to his innovative vision and progressive leadership, the UAE ranked first in the GCC on the Global Innovation Index 2021 and 33rd globally.

As outlined by the Dubai Future Foundation, a number of initiatives have been launched to help empower Dubai’s goal of becoming a leading city in the future. From Area 2071 to Dubai 10X and the recent opening of the Museum of the Future, the UAE government is banking on technology being key to sustainability and productivity in the future.

In April 2016, Sheikh Mohammed announced the Dubai 3D Printing Strategy. The initiative outlined the UAE’s goal of implementing 3D printing technology — a global market expected to be worth $37.2 billion by 2026 in 25 per cent of new builds by the year 2030.

Sheikh Mohammed said: “The future will depend on 3D printing technologies in all aspects of our life, starting from the houses we live in, the streets we use, the cars we drive, the clothes we wear and the food we eat. This technology will create added economic value and benefits worth billions of dollars during the coming period. We should have a share in this growing global market.”

With a concentration on three key sectors (construction, medical products and consumer products), the UAE is hoping to leverage technology for the service of humanity and promote the status of the UAE and Dubai as a leading hub of 3D printing technology by the year 2030.

“Through the 3D Printing Strategy, we aim to make Dubai a global hub for the development of this technology and a base for research and development in this area. We aim to provide the best opportunities for innovation and optimal application of this technology worldwide. Our goal is to raise the level of services provided to the people and harness 3D printing for the benefit of the entire community,” added Sheikh Mohammed.

An ambitious vision will require ambitious companies to help drive the UAE’s position moving forward. Al Laith is one of a handful in the region that shares the UAE’s technology-driven approach. A subsidiary of the CG Tech Group, Al Laith has over 25 years of experience in the construction and industrial services industry within the Middle East.

In recent years, the company has become known for leveraging the latest digital innovations across its operations. Under the guidance of Jason English, CEO, Al Laith has been able to take on significant and time-sensitive projects including the building of field hospitals alongside other players during the Covid-19 pandemic, two prime mega-stages for Expo 2020 Dubai and erecting all the temporary structures for the UAE’s 50th National Day celebration.

“We strongly believe in leveraging disruptive technologies to further power our capabilities. We’ve used virtual reality and IoT to improve our rapid construction processes and to upskill our own teams,” said English. “Now we’re looking at 3D printing and examining the best ways to incorporate elements of it in all our future design projects.”

The demountable structures Al Laith builds are proving to have their own advantages. With demountable structures taking advantage of expedited planning permissions, these structures are fast becoming a solution for many industries, like film and television. It’s an area another CG Tech company, Serious International, is involved in, building sound stages that have been quickly adopted by the likes of Mission Impossible, Disney and Warner Bros in the UK.

While they are technically demountable, these structures are sturdy and robust. Meaning they can stay up as well past their expected lives, for as long as they are needed.

Beyond his role at Al Laith, English is also the chief ecosystem officer at CG Tech. CG Tech employs a unique ecosystem approach to investing, where collaboration between subsidiaries is encouraged and used to drive future success for the entire group.

Al Laith works closely with the group’s digital arm, The Virtulab, to help incorporate the latest digital transformations into their projects. Whether it’s 3D modelling, IOT or using Metaverse showrooms to showcase their products, the digital transformation is proving key to the company’s success.

“We’re assembling whole structures in 3D rendering and then using animation to go inside and survey the build before it even begins. This is helping us to better understand the challenges of projects and also helping us in the planning of future ones,” explains English. Much like the ‘measure twice, cut once’ adage, these technologies could be key to ensuring not only safety but also sustainability in the future.

“When you think about 3D printing, there’s definitely less waste. Yes, you’re still using power, energy and plastics but there is a lot more waste with injection moulding. In 3D printing, you’re using different types of products – some organic or recycled. So, you end up with lower energy consumption, less surplus of materials and so on,” English added.

As digital technologies begin to infiltrate even the most traditional of industries, those willing to adapt to disruption are poised to reap the rewards. The UAE is confident of its role in this future, putting initiatives in place that will help drive its ambition to be at the forefront of global technology and science.

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