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The building and construction industry is one of the largest in the global economy, with approximately $10 trillion spent annually on construction-related goods and services.

But it’s also disproportionately destructive as one of the most energy-intensive polluting industries on the planet.

According to figures published on the website in July this year, the global construction industry is still responsible for 38% of CO2 emissions, 23% of air pollution, 40% of water pollution, 50% of waste from landfills, 21% of depletion of natural resources and 40% of energy consumption.

These are not new numbers. It’s not like the construction industry has suddenly embarked on a path of self-destruction.

In Las Vegas in 2019, a conference organized by software company Autodesk was told that the construction and manufacturing industries were extremely wasteful and were among the biggest polluters in the world.

And in 2021, the overall picture of the world’s future received another blow when COP 26 delegates admitted they were far from meeting previously set targets to slow global warming.

“Our theory of how we are transforming the AEC (architectural engineering and construction) industry is unchanged. We are keen to bring (new) industry methods and processes to it,” said Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost on the sidelines of the Autodesk University 2022 conference in New Orleans.

Anagnost said data and technology are available to help make the industry more environmentally efficient and less wasteful.

There are already companies providing digital information that can predict potential flaws in plans before they become reality, and even the amount of material needed – and yet, Anagnost said there are still companies that don’t. did not use this information.

“The biggest waste you see in the AEC ecosystem is people inventing it along the way.”

In contrast, he said the manufacturing industry generally sticks to its plans so that the end product is what was intended from the start.

“This kind of precision needs to evolve in the AEC industry. And that’s why you see us building these things that come together on both sides. And when that work is done, we think we will have had an impact on how these industries work. Until then, they continue to redo and undo at a rate that is, you know, unprecedented in other industries,” he added.

But it’s not all bad news, efforts are being made to reduce the amount of waste using cloud-based technology, and it’s the Middle East that seems to be embracing this technology.


The good news is that the Middle East has largely cleaned up, according to Naji Atallah, construction and manufacturing manager at Autodesk Middle East.

Speaking to Arab News, he said the reason for the improvement was a factor that had always been there.

He said construction in the area was generally based on undeveloped land, removing the need to consider existing structures, which could introduce additional costs.

“There is no major legacy of buildings, bridges and roads that need to be maintained,” he explained, adding that the region’s construction industry was effectively working on a “blank canvas. “, which allowed developers to put sustainability at the forefront of their project. projects.

“If I look at probably all the megaprojects in the region, sustainability has been one of the big goals they see.”

“We’ve seen a shift (in the Gulf region) from we want everything delivered tomorrow, to we want things delivered in a better way.”

Referring to the Red Sea project in Saudi Arabia and the Dubai Museum of the Future, he said increased efforts were now being made to ensure a sustainable approach to these projects.

And using software technology, developers have been able to create structures that use less energy and materials in their construction using information gathered from predictive modeling that shows designers how a structure will behave even before it it is not built.

Digitization of the building industry – if adopted – could potentially revolutionize the way it works – from reducing waste to reducing pollution to reducing costs.

“Sensors are so cheap now,” Atallah said, “that they could be put in every new structure – we don’t even have to know what – or if they’re going to be used – and collect all kinds of data. information.”

This data, he said, could then be used to predict any structural problems, how to improve fuel economy – to name two – but not just for this structure, but also for future projects.

This data, he said, could become a commodity that could be sold to help improve future projects.


Imagine a building – in fact any structure – which, upon completion, begins to collect data which can be used to troubleshoot problems before they are noticed by the human eye and help to future new constructions.

It sounds futuristic – but the truth is the technology is already here – it’s just a matter of people in the industry using it.

Dubai-headquartered Dar Al-Handasah, which hails from Lebanon and is the world’s 10th design firm – third in the Middle East, has created a cantilever bridge constructed from plastic recycled – mixed with fiberglass to create a poxy – and a 3D printer.

Using algorithms, the designers were able to come up with a design that created a bridge using minimal materials which, once attached with the sensors, could teach them how to better improve the product in subsequent designs.

The bridge is made of a modular system from 70% recycled materials.

This is a step away from traditional construction methods, with the bridge being built in one piece in a factory environment before being transported to its place of use when completed.

Cloud-based technology provided by Autodesk was used to create virtual modules of the bridge to calculate the best design in terms of material usage, appearance and structural durability.

Ghassan Zein, the director of the Lebanese digital practice at Dar Al-Handasah, said the bridge was a first of its kind, he said as such they needed to see how it performed when it was used was essential for future developments, so it was equipped with sensors.

“We have intelligence monitoring of the bridge that would monitor its operation because it’s new,” Zein told Arab News on the sidelines of the Autodesk University 2022 conference in New Orleans.

The bridge is a new shape, a new design, Zein explained, “So we need to know if it’s doing well.”

The company has a team whose role is to monitor the data collected from the bridge.

“They are analyzing the data and continuing to modify the design of future projects,” he said.

Zein said structural engineers approached the design of what was safe, what wasn’t, what worked well, what didn’t, using live data gathered from sensors in the structure of the bridge.


The modular approach to bridge construction is not a new concept. In Britain, in the 1950s, low-cost social housing was created.

These typically low, one-story buildings consisted of walls and roofs created offsite and then assembled when ready.

But they were generally of a low standard with materials that were not durable, leaving structurally unsound properties and some of the materials even being harmful to people’s health – including the asbestos cladding.

Fast forward 70-80 years and the concept of building parts or entire structures such as the 3D printed bridge off-site and then moving them to their final location is now proving to be a leading construction method, both on both economically and environmentally.

The beach villas on the Red Sea project off the coast of Saudi Arabia and the Dubai Museum of the Future were all built in a factory environment, before being shipped to their final destinations.

The methods offered in functions such as Autodesk University are a revelation to the industry.

Investing in technology and the construction industry could transform from one of the biggest enemies of the environment to a major ecological player.

It just needs those in the industry to embrace the future.

The key to remember is to collect the data, learn what the potholes are before construction begins, and then get down to the real business – ultimately the result is more efficient.

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