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Construction Intel Summit – KSA shines a light on construction progress and issues in the Kingdom

Inaugural live event of the summit was held at the Al Faisaliah Hotel and saw more than 100 attendees be a part of a day of discussion and knowledge sharing

The first Construction Intel Summit – KSA to be held live in Riyadh (third overall in the event’s history) concluded yesterday, on 23 November 2022, at the Al Faisaliah Hotel. Focusing on three key themes: Visionary Designs: Design Considerations and Procurement Strategies to achieve Vision 2030; Project Interfaces: Integrating Multiple Contract Packages and Sequencing Workflows on the Kingdom’s Megaprojects; and Enabling Saudisation: Providing Pathways of Growth and Development to Saudi Arabia’s talent pool of young construction professionals, the summit saw a strong turnout on a public holiday, with well over a hundred delegates attending to connect with the panellists and presenters.

Following a welcome address by Gavin Davids, Head of Editorial and Content at Big Project ME, the day-long event was kicked off by Joe Tabet, the Managing Director of JT+Partners. He set the theme for the following sessions by outlining the scope of the Kingdom’s ambitions, highlighting the opportunities and possibilities that Vision 2030 would bring, and what the construction sector needs to do to be better prepared for the technological and societal changes that are around the corner.

Rachel Willacy, Regional Head of Procurement at Compass Project Consulting then led a panel consisting of Daniel Orti, Middle East Director of ACCIONA Cultura; Clive De Villiers, Managing Director of C-Quest International; Sean Doherty, Head of Project and Program Management MEA at JLL; and Min Lee, Architecture Director at Red Sea Global, in a conversation about how people and companies can help bring Vision 2030 to life.

The panel outlined the many challenges facing the Kingdom’s supply chain as it looks to deliver Vision 2030 and the many projects fuelling the transformation of Saudi Arabia’s economy and society. Amongst the topics discussed were capability constraints, resolution of legacy issues around capital and cashflow, and coping with increasing price pressures and more.

Hervé Hamelin, General Manager International for Kairnial, and Dhawal Armarkar, Regional Manager – Middle East, for Techture, then followed up with presentations on their respective companies and technology offerings. Hamelin focused on the importance of on-site quality and compliance for 2D and BIM projects, while Armarkar shared insights into how Techture is helping to fuel the digitalisation of the construction space in the Middle East.

The second session of the day kicked off with David Clifton, Regional Director – Middle East and Africa for Faithful + Gould, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, moderating a discussion focused on the integration of multiple contract packages and sequencing workflows. He was joined by Adrian Dobbe-Holman, Regional Director – Middle East and Asia for Capital Consulting International; Fernando Freitas, director at Omnium International; Haitham Altebani, Principal Consultant at Asite Saudi Arabia; and David Watkins, Chief Delivery Officer at Diriyah Gate Development Authority.

Over the course of a wide-ranging discussion, the panellists covered a number of issues and topics concerning the volume of work in the Kingdom, and how to best achieve targeted schedules and deadlines. With more and more construction companies looking to enter Saudi Arabia due to the number of opportunities available, Fernando Freitas pointed out that international contractors would need to be brought in to handle the amount of work available but warned that they would need to be afforded a learning curve, so as to get them up to speed in a challenging market.

In mid-November 2022, Partanna and Red Sea Global signed a MoU to explore carbon-negative concrete developments in the Kingdom and, later in the month, Saudi’s PIF and BlackRock signed a MoU to jointly explore Middle East infrastructure projects.

However, both David Watkins and Haitham Altebani argued that the construction sector needed to embrace technology and evolve with the times, as companies didn’t have the luxury of time, given the accelerated delivery schedules. “We need to look at what we can offsite – not only to help with the labour situation, but to also help with the quality levels,” Watkins said, while Altebani pointed out that there needed to be a shift in mindset from within the construction sector as the new generation of Saudis understand the value of technology and want their projects to be state-of-the-art.

Once the panel discussion was over, Altebani returned to the stage to elaborate on his comments and discussed the importance of effective data leverage in a keynote presentation for Asite. He was then followed by Fady Kobersy, Head of Sales and Customer Success – MENA for RIB CCS, who provided the final presentation of the day, where he laid out how to build and enable a digital strategy roadmap for the construction industry.

The final panel of the day was an all Saudi-affair, with Khalid Saleem Abdallah, Director, Strategy and Development, Saudi Arabia for Faithful + Gould, a member of SNC-Lavalin Group taking charge of a discussion featuring Mouse Mashraqi, Vice President, Human Resources and Shared Services at AECOM Arabia; Fahad AlBalawi, Head of Construction at AMAALA; and Mona Althagafi, KSA Countyr Director for SERCO.

Later in November 2022, Lazzarini unveiled its $8bn floating city concept for ultra-high-net-worth individuals and said it could be launched out of Saudi Arabia.

This fascinating and open chat was a highlight of the Construction Intel Summit – KSA as it featured a slightly different format, with ongoing engagement with the audience throughout the discussion. The panel focused on a number of key topics around enabling Saudisation, with a number of development and graduate training programmes mentioned. However, they also frankly and openly discussed the challenges facing Saudi graduates, mentioning the difficulties of overcoming stereotypes and cultural perceptions, along with the importance of showing that there was a pathway to leadership and growth within organisations – both private and public.

The Construction Intel Summit – KSA was sponsored by: Asite, Construction Computer Software (RIB CCS), AECOM, CCi – A Rimkus Company Company, Hill International, JT+Partners, KEO International Consultants, RSP, ACCIONA, Kairnial, Techture, JLL and National Engineering Bureau.

“I’m very pleased with how our first-ever live version of the Construction Intel Summit – KSA went,” said Gavin Davids, Head of Editorial and Content at Big Project ME. “This was a challenging event to put together as it was our first foray into the Kingdom, and we had to overcome many unexpected obstacles, but I am delighted we took the chance to come here. I have been delighted by the passion, commitment and knowledge present in the Kingdom, and I can assure you that we will be back again soon!”

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