Sustainability and modular construction on the agenda in the Middle East

Global uncertainties aside, the construction industry continues to build and this year’s Big 5 Dubai – its 40th – is focusing on the future of the sector, not least modular construction and the rising acceptance that sustainability must now be at the heart of the sector...

With tariffs and international trading among the big topics of the last few years, businesses operating internationally have had to keep their fingers ever more tightly pressed upon the international pulse to stay up to date (or rely more heavily on their association of choice for the latest implications of fresh tariffs).

But regardless of those trade tariff to-ing and fro-ings, buildings continue to be constructed and the United Arab Emirates, for one, continues to be a significant construction hotbed. The UAE has more than $500 billion worth of planned and as-yet-unawarded construction projects in the pipeline (including projects like Etihad Rail spanning from Saudi Arabia to Oman, over 1,200 km). That’s according to statistics from the organisers behind the Big 5 Dubai which has just celebrated its 40th year.

The Big 5 Dubai took place at the end of November with exhibitors and visitors planning on taking a slice of that $500 billion. Echoing a topic we’ve been covering at length in Torque Magazine, the latest edition of Big 5 Dubai has launched a new Offsite & Modular Construction sector at the show. The fast-growing building solution – designed to optimise resource, increase construction efficiency and speed – will be supported at the show with educational agendas and talks to shed light on advances in offsite and modular construction, analysing new challenges and opportunities.

The addition of a modular construction element to the show is no shot in the dark – research conducted by the show organisers has proven that the topic is foremost in the minds of its visitors (see below).

Those statistics also illustrate the fact that sustainability and the environment are getting ever higher on the agenda for the worldwide construction industry. In part, that taps directly into its sister show, The Big 5 Solar, which had its third edition in 2019. Middle East countries have committed a combined value of over $30 billion to solar power projects in the next five years, say the organisers, but environmental concerns promise not to just impact on the nature of finished buildings and construction projects, but also the method of construction, with increasing pressure for an environmentally-friendly supply chain.

The show is not pitched as a gate-way to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region without good reason. In 2018, 70% of the exhibiting companies and 41% of the visitors came from outside the United Arab Emirates. In total, 2,250 exhibitors took part in that show, which welcomed more than 68,000 construction professionals from 132 countries.

Next November's Big 5 Dubai will be a particularly interesting one, coming during 2020 World Expo, being held in Dubai from October.