ME BIM Summit Recap: ‘People, culture and upskilling is fundamental’

Big Project ME’s reporter on the ground, Mark Dowdall, recaps the events at the ME BIM Summit, which returned as a live event on 1 November, 2021

Held at the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi and organised by CPI Trade Media and Big Project ME, the sixth edition of the ME BIM Summit saw a return to live events, on November 1st, as 180 of the GCC’s top professionals came together to discuss the future of BIM technology in the region.

The event began with opening statements by Gavin Davids, editor of Big Project ME, and event host, Paul Godfrey, before Session One kickstarted the day’s conversation with a joint keynote presentation from Wissam Hijazi, director of virtual design and construction at EllisDon, Middle East and Senthil Arjunan, Vice-president of Digital Transformation at Aldar. The key theme of the presentation was the value in using digital tools to ensure projects are delivered on time, budget and quality.

“There are a lot of things we can do around BIM and VDC, which is probably the emphasis of this presentation,” Arjunan pointed out afterwards. “Things like big data has picked up in the last couple of years. We have a closer eye on blockchain, for example, in terms of that becoming a widely adopted technology and I think that’s more relevant when all the stakeholders get involved.”

He added: “I think every technology impact comes with change management, and also the culture around it. Obviously, the technology gets mature based on where the industry is moving and then gradually this becomes more baseline and standard within organisations. Having that effective change management and managing that culture of change within those organisations; that is the key to success. The tech part comes later. It’s people, culture and more upskilling that is fundamental to the larger transformation.”

Following the keynote, the first panel discussion titled ‘Digital Twins and the Disruption of the Real Estate and Construction Industry’ began. The session was moderated by Prakash Senghani, director and head of digital delivery at JLL. He was joined by Juan Tena Flores, regional digital design manager at KEO International Design Consultants, Muhammad Jabakhanji, director of operations at Concerted Solutions, Nizar Jegham, director of digital advisory services ME at WSP, Kaarin Kalavus-Collins, associate director at Turner and Townsend, and Wajdi Mereb, BIM digital engineering expert.

During this 45-minute discussion, the panellists explored how digital twins have been impacted by global forces, particularly the pandemic, and focused on how the industry is moving towards a more sustainable living.

“The biggest trends at the moment are all around sustainability and how we are going to be able to build more sustainably, operate more sustainably and look at extending the life of our existing assets” commented Senghani, following the session.

“This is going to be a couple of things. Some of it is behavioural, so changing the way that we use buildings; trying to use them for multiple uses rather than just having single use buildings and then the other things are going to be more technological driven so putting more sensors in and introducing more technology to help run and optimize our buildings more efficiently and effectively.”

He added: “As we become more and more data rich, we are going to become a target for cybersecurity bad actors and so we need to get an understanding of how we can secure that data but still make it available to people and allow them to make decisions.”


Following the first panel, James Frampton, regional leader at SoftwareONE |MTWO Construction Cloud, took to the stage and further highlighted the sustainability theme, focusing on how stakeholders in the supply chain can start reducing their carbon emissions and footprint, with the construction industry currently one of the highest contributors worldwide.

“One of the biggest things to consider is reducing the amount of rework that a project has to do,” he said.

“When we do rework, yes, we waste time, and it costs more but we also waste material when we are getting rid of old stuff and doing stuff again. If we can reduce the level of rework in a project, then that’s one of the biggest ways that we can also make that project more sustainable.

“A lot of companies are coming to us as part of their digital transformation journey; and in line with that, the trend that we are seeing now, is how can we leverage digital transformation to more sustainable outcomes.”

Session Two was opened by Mohammed Abdelrahman, associate BIM director at The Red Sea Development Company. His keynote presentation on ‘BIM and Data Management in Digital Construction’ shared the digital aspects of the design and construction process, and its impact on the creation of a digital twin.

“To control a giga-scale project, it’s really important to build the infrastructure properly from the beginning. We have to have a proper standardisation of how the delivery [of data] should come to you because this is the base that will innovate anything that comes later on.

“The Saudi vision is for 2030 and technology is changing every day, but the basics of how data should be standardised and how quality should be received will remain fundamental all the time.”

He added: “If you can just translate the technology into something physical, understood by construction managers, that will make a huge change. You will get the support; you will get the innovation and you will get what you need to do things quicker and in higher quality.

“The world is moving towards drones, 360 images, photogrammetry, all this kind of stuff that will lead later on to more artificial intelligence, more robotics. All of this is coming in the future we just need to have the basics properly established now.”

The second panel discussion of the day, titled “Expanding the scope of BIM through Digitalization of Construction” was moderated by Dr. Anas Bataw, director of Centre of Excellence in Smart Construction at Heriot-Watt University Dubai.

Joining him on stage were Nayer Girgis, digital team leader at ASGC, David Glennon, digital project delivery director at The Red Sea Development Company, Sthavya Kannamparambil, technical manager at The Red Sea Development Company, Nicky Dobreanu, CIOB and Paul Wallett, regional director at Trimble Solutions.

The key points in this session centred on the next stages after BIM and the lessons that have been learned from the BIM journey so far. The panel agreed that BIM has helped enormously when it comes to digitalisation and understanding how to approach it; but to move forward there needs to be better collaboration with other initiatives that are out there.

“This is important; not only within a team or between different teams and different departments,” said Dr. Bataw after the session. “But also, collaboration with the different organisations involved in a project or in the industry. And most importantly, there needs to be more collaboration between our industry and other industries so we can learn from them or even bring them in to be a part of our journey.

“My BIM journey started more than 15 years in the UK. When I came to this region first BIM was looked at in a different way. Now, however we are seeing BIM being approached in the right way but more importantly we are already looking at the future. We are looking at how we can move on from BIM but also look how we can integrate different solutions initiatives and that’s exactly what interested me in today’s session.”

After the coffee break, Session Three began with a keynote presentation by Noora Nabil Bin Haider, GIS Engineer at Dubai Municipality, which showcased how BIM’s E-Submission Platform works and streamlines the approvals process for Dubai Municipality. Dayesh Jaiswal, director of Techture, was next up on stage as he explored how to increase the value of BIM for the client.

“There is still a lot of hidden value which can be explored if we integrate BIM with other technologies like virtual reality and also if we do a bit of customization. We need to increase the value of conventional deliverables like 4d simulations and quantity estimations, make them more visible and more practical for the user,” he said.

“The challenge is to focus on bringing value to the client and not just on satisfying consultant requirements. When we work with someone, we first try to understand however the design processes better through virtual reality, how can we do quantity estimations through quantity automated quantity take-offs and how can we make project management more inclusive through the use of dashboards.”

This led to the final panel discussion, titled ‘The Democratisation of Data and its Impact on the Future of Construction’, which was moderated by Elena Salun, head of CAD and BIM at Cracknell. She was joined by Suhail Arfath, director of Digital Transformation at Hloov, Louise Collins, head of Engineering and Energy at JLL, Salah Abdulatif Al Dilmi, section manager of Rail Infrastructure Maintenance at Rail Agency, Roads and Transport Authority, Dr Ali Ismail, BIM Expert at Dubai Municipality and Allison Wicks, founder and managing partner at Qualitaz.

The main topics of interest were the behaviour of the industry in relation to the data, the need for an organisation to engage all members of their staff with the data, to be able to share it more easily and to get the most value from it.

“If we have that I think that is what is going to make the exchange of data more transparent,” said Salun. “Internally, within the organisations this needs to happen between the different departments, and we need to have enabling tools for people, who may not be as technical savvy, to extract the data from a BIM model.

She concluded: “We are on the right path and there is no turning away from it, whether we like it or not. This is not even the future; this is the present. What we must do is try make the transition as painless as possible and we can only do that if we all work together towards the same goal.”


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