Digital construction is critical to sustainable development says ALEC’s Andy Boutle

Boutle says the firm will release its first sustainability report later in the year and notes that it will be GRI standard compliant

Digital construction is front of mind for many in the built environment; it is seen as a potential equaliser that can be leveraged to tackle a mounting number of issues including logistics and supply chain challenges, talent shortages, rising fuel costs and others. Andy Boutle, Head of Digital Construction at ALEC also reckons it’s key to reducing the impact construction projects have on the environment.

Speaking exclusively to Middle East Construction News (MECN), Boutle says, “Being able to accurately measure embodied carbon during design development; being able to facilitate properly informed decision and predictability; minimising material waste through better coordination; facilitating modern methods of construction; creating accurate insights for business intelligence from working with data; all these highly desirable objectives are in reach and up for grabs, and in scope for digital construction implementation.”

As one of the Middle East region’s largest contractors, ALEC has long had sustainability in its sights. Discussing the firm’s approach and objectives, he responds, “We have long-term objectives that will contribute towards lessening our overall carbon footprint. However, it is a combination of people, processes, and technologies that come together towards making this possible. In line with our commitment to sustainability, this year, ALEC will also unveil its first ever Sustainability report. This report, which will be made publicly available, conforms to GRI standards and comprehensively details our ESG goals and the measures we have been taking to achieve them.”

In June 2022, Big Project Middle East announced that its Digital Construction Summit will take place on 14 September 2022 – registration is free for construction industry professionals. The magazine also announced that it is organising the first edition of the ME Digital Construction Awards on 25 October. Nominations are now open.

In June, ALEC’s Sustainability Committee told MECN that the built environment has “several great opportunities” to reduce GHG emissions.

Coming back to the impact technology can have on projects apart from enabling firms to step up their focus on sustainable development, Boutle notes, “Even the relatively simple things like ensuring the IT infrastructure can support remote/agile working, and having the culture, training, and support to drive this can help navigate a lot of challenges, as has been proven by measures taken to navigate COVID-19 lockdowns. Of course, digital technologies will not solve all problems but they will certainly be a key component of where we are heading as an industry.”

ALEC recently appointed Craig Garett as its Digital Construction Manager KSA, as part of its focus on digital construction and its push into the growing Saudi construction market. Discussing the market and some of the challenges and what digital construction can bring to the table, Boutle explains, “The Saudi market can be tough to enter and operate in, however, we are mobilised and currently delivering the Qiddiya Water Theme Park as an ‘ESA’ Joint Venture with El Seif. We also have a promising number of opportunities in the pipeline for KSA.”

He adds, “Digital Construction is absolutely key to facilitating the ambitions of KSA’s built environment. This is evidenced by major developers in the region placing demanding information requirements on their supply chains to deliver against, with a vision of connected ‘digital twins’ and smart cities.”

It’s frequently said that the benefits of digital construction and modern technology will only truly have an impact if the solutions are employed through the entire construction supply chain.

Asked about his thoughts on this and how the firm will influence its supply chain, Boutle states, “We have a very good reputation already, but we want to be seen as a leader in the region and beyond for digital construction. Part of the scope of retaining the Kitemark certification is to have demonstrable evidence of working with our supply chain to support/upskill and provide feedback, so we will be held to account this way regardless of our own ambitions.”

He concludes, “I have a workshop earmarked for Q4 of this year where we will be inviting our supply chain partners to identify their ambitions, pain points, and challenges when working with ALEC, as well as setting some clear expectations from our side. It’s important that we have a regular drum beat for these kinds of activities, so we can address any weak links in the chain in a proactive, supportive and constructive manner.”

At the 2021 Big Project Middle East Awards, the contractor picked up a number of wins on the night including the ‘Project of the Year’ and ‘Best Pavilion at EXPO 2020 Dubai’, amongst others.

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