Identifying digitalisation as a broader framework in construction

It is critical to comprehend what going digital in the construction industry actually entails, what it can achieve, and how it is more than just technology and involves coordination and collaboration writes Paul Wallett, Regional Director of Trimble Solutions, Middle East and India

Digitalisation is a broad term that has evolved into a requirement rather than a choice. Not utilising technology today would mean falling behind in the rapidly evolving world of competition. However, it is critical to comprehend what going digital in the construction industry actually entails, what it can achieve, and how it is more than just technology and involves coordination and collaboration as a whole society.

The construction industry is critical to a country’s growth, particularly in terms of good infrastructure, smart and sustainable construction, and complex structures. The UAE’s construction output is projected to achieve a CAGR of 3.9% during the 2022-2026 forecast period.

Market growth in the UAE is also expected to be supported by increased spending on construction activities, with several initiatives such as the Energy Strategy 2050, the Sheikh Zayed Housing Program, and the Dubai Tourism Strategy. Aside from developing smart cities, the government is also digitising 1,000 government services and installing 2,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the country.

A country can thus ensure smart living through effective smart construction, as we see today in the GCC countries. Dubai for instance, has established itself as a top tourist destination in the UAE, drawing a large number of investors, as well as encouraging trade and new businesses. This expansion has been significantly aided by digitalisation and smart living. As a result, the economy of the nation is growing, further driving the government to increase its emphasis on technology adoption, digitalisation, and smart construction.

Digitalisation in construction, therefore, truly embodies the coordination and cooperation of an entire society. It is the combined efforts of various stakeholders, including the government, society, digital technology providers, construction companies, engineers, contractors, as well as educational bodies. It is also necessary that these stakeholders organise events, raise awareness of emerging technologies, and train the next generation of engineers. Eventually, the growth of the construction industry is largely due to the combined contributions of all the aforementioned components.

The construction industry in general has been slow to adopt digitalisation, but is now integrating itself into the digital age. Construction companies have recognised the advantages of emerging technologies in order to stay ahead of the competition by improving quality, focusing on safety, lowering costs, and increasing profits.

Modern construction technologies and trends such as building information modelling (BIM), digital twins, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics are assisting construction professionals in simplifying complex projects, controlling project schedules and productivity, and linking every single device or equipment that works in the sector, thereby boosting operational efficiency.

Likewise, digital twins has also received a lot of attention lately. The technology makes it possible to replicate the physical world into a completely digital one. Digital twins may appear to be a new technology, as more businesses have become aware of it in recent times, however, NASA used the first digital twin on the Apollo 13 mission in 1970, which helped resolve a critical issue in the expedition.

It is evident that the government has strategies in place for its investments in infrastructure or new buildings, as well as how it will manage the capital investments to make it more sustainable. They can further streamline this process, determine the key variables, maximise productivity, and manage costs, with the aid of advanced technologies like digital twins, BIM and connected construction.

Ultimately, advanced construction solutions can contribute to government goals by ensuring fewer errors and mistakes, precise calculations, decreased risks and injuries, as well as reduced fuel consumption and carbon footprint, all of which contribute to successful outcomes, as demonstrated by several flagship projects in the country and beyond.

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