Outlook for 2019: Stephen Degenhart, associate partner at Drees & Sommer

Leading figures in the UAE construction industry predict the major trends and issues that will disrupt the market in 2019

The regional construction sector will offer greater opportunities for the digitisation and revitalisation of built assets and the use of adaptive modular design as a construction tool. We predict increased momentum in the construction industry, driven by long-term economic diversification plans including Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 and Saudi Vision 2030. These agendas will develop sectors such as hospitality, healthcare and infrastructure.

Tourism and gradually stabilising oil prices will contribute to higher capital spend on construction projects in the region over the coming year. Furthermore, although the real changes will only happen over the next ten years, higher capital spend in 2019 on construction projects throughout the region will likely draw an increased focus on ROI for developers and investors.

Adaptive modular design and digitisation at planning stage and revitalisation at the operation phase are the front runners to enable increased ROI. The Middle East’s construction industry is currently far less digitally developed than those in other parts of the world, presenting a key opportunity for growth.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE will continue to be the largest regional markets and are expected to award contracts valued at over $320bn over the next twelve months.

Greater attention will be given to projects throughout the three stages of the construction process – planning, build and operations – with particular emphasis on early adoption in the planning stage or even phase zero. This will provide greater opportunity for the integration of digitised adaptive modular solutions to ensure longevity, flexibility and ROI.

Key digital trends such as 3D printing, 3D laser scanning, digital prefabrication and continuous advances in BIM will begin to make more of an appearance within the regional construction sector as it continues to develop and shift in focus towards a more digital future.

Markets such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia will have different requirements to markets such as Egypt and Oman, as those countries’ economic diversification agendas focus more on transport and infrastructure. Additionally, greater up-front capital investment will lower the need for cost-cutting as Drees & Sommer expects to see opportunities for longer lifecycles for buildings to become more of a priority, with higher-quality and smart materials being implemented.

These shifts will contribute to more sustainable solutions and align with various governmental initiatives such as Expo 2020 Dubai, Saudi Vision 2030 and Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050.

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