This post originally appeared on http://www.thenational.ae/business/property/drones-and-data-point-the-way-forward-for-better-returns-in-uae-construction.
[Editor’s Note: Drones are seen as a way to improve the speed and accuracy of survey results.]
A couple of the giants of the management consulting industry produced weighty documents over the past few weeks that made for slightly depressing reading for the region’s construction industry.
The one that grabbed attention locally, for understandable reasons, was from AT Kearney. It predicted “a perfect storm” for the Arabian Gulf’s property development market, largely as a result of overbuilding by local developers.
If all of this were to be brought forward, the amount of new homes flooding on to the market would equate to seven to 12 times the amount per year that was being delivered at the height of the last regional property boom between 2007 and 2009.
Ralf Steinhauer at RSP Architects described the 2006-08 boom period as the “Google car environment for real estate in the region”, where innovation and a boundless sense of optimism for what could be achieved ruled.
“The aftermath of the crisis stripped away some of the trust among parties. Now we are less ready for open self-criticism, and that makes improvement much more difficult,” he says.
It argued that technology use in construction is among the lowest of any sector (only agriculture is less technologically orientated).
Both reports call for major changes not only in terms of technology use, but also working practices. McKinsey says engineering and construction contractors should appoint a chief technology officer or innovation officer to “think boldly about the digital agenda”.
Both extol the virtues of building information modelling, or BIM software, which is already mandatory for larger projects in Dubai. It serves as a collaboration tool between architects, contractors and project owners, providing a 3D, data-rich model of a building which evolves as design changes are made. McKinsey encourages the use of “Next Generation 5D BIM”, which not only provides the 3D designs but also integrates scheduling and budgets.
The firm also calls for the use of more high-definition surveying and geolocation equipment, some of which can be mounted on drones that can dramatically improve the speed and accuracy of survey results. Onsite communication tools that can call up blueprints, design drawings, equipment logs and daily progress reports should be used on site. These can be used to track schedules, equipment, materials and even crew members, it says, but must have simple interfaces if they are to be widely adopted.
“One reason for the industry’s poor productivity record is that it still relies mainly on paper to manage its processes,” McKinsey’s report says.
“Mismanaged paper trails also routinely spur disagreements between owners and contractors on such matters as construction progress, change orders, and claims management.”
As well as endorsing BIM and collaborative software, AT Kearney argues that the way in which projects in the Gulf are procured should be shaken up.
“There is no experience we could find in the real estate industry across the GCC of large-scale, collaborative networks that operate over time across a sequence of several projects. Consequently, there is no widespread teaming culture to seek and secure bigger benefits for all parties involved. No self-criticism is sought, nor improvements incentivised,” it says.