High costs are the leading challenge to adopting technologies such as BIM and 3D printing for many construction firms in the region, experts said.
During a panel discussion at the 8th annual Construction Week: Leaders in Construction UAE Summit 2017, industry leaders from WSP, Bentley Systems, ECC and Faithful+Gould shared their insight on the growing need to integrate the latest technologies when constructing projects in the Middle East.
Though the construction industry has been slower than most to adopt technological innovations, the sector is now becoming less wary of modernising processes and structures than in the past.
These new tools, including BIM and 3D printing are already affecting subsectors and the stages of a built asset’s life cycle, the biggest challenge for firms, especially smaller ones with under 100 employees, are the high costs that comes with implementation.
“It was interesting to see that some contractors in the audience saw investment in BIM as an expense; as an industry, we need to work together to educate the market about the value that BIM brings to the table, especially in an outcome based consumption model,” said Vivek Kale, solutions director, Bentley Systems.
Though costs are high and continue to rise, adopting the latest technologies is seen as a long-term investment by many experts, who believe firms should be less short-sighted and consider the benefits.
“As it becomes more commonly used it should become more cost efficient,” said Kareem Farah, CEO of UAE-based ECC.
Farah also added that some forms of technology have been more successful than others in the market in terms of integration.
“3D design is definitely a way forward for construction – the more you use it, the more detailed the design,” he said.
“What we found in the market is that it has not received as much traction as it should. In terms of robotics, I don’t think [the industry] is quite there yet. 3D printing however is advancing.”
But though many firms and experts agree that digitisation will improve the quality of work, the cost of these tools are a reason for concern for many local firms in the region.
Nic Jacobs, regional director, business systems lead, Faithful+Gould, agrees that technology and digitisation in the industry is required and that he has seen a high level of progress with many companies in the region starting to use more tools in various projects.
“Several organisations have made investments in these technologies recently, and there is a recognition of that, especially in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Ian Hauptfleisch, general manager, Construction Computer Software Gulf concluded that with any new technology there will always be a learning curve.