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What does Dubai's new economic agenda mean for the construction industry?

Built Environment By Richard Stratton, Partner & Managing Director, EMENA – 08 February 2023

View of the Dubai skyline on a sunrise setting


Richard Stratton smiling in-front of the camera with his navy blue suit at our Cundall Dubai WELL office

Richard Stratton

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Following the launch of Dubai’s economic agenda, Richard Stratton, Partner and Managing Director EMENA shared his thoughts with Construction Week Middle East on the possibilities of accelerating the city’s real estate and construction industry to reach the $8.7 trillion target.

Consider the new Dubai Economic Agenda which aims to double the city’s economy in the next 10 years. What role will the construction industry play in helping the city achieve its goals?

The agenda is focusing on significant growth in sectors such as manufacturing, logistics, tourism, education and finance. This will inevitably require new and enhanced infrastructure and facilities and the construction sector will need to be in a position to respond to these demands. The more exciting opportunities for the construction sector lie in participating in the drive towards sustainable development, digitisation, educational excellence and Emiratisation. There is a significant opportunity for the sector to lead the way in sustainable innovation and digital transformation. This can be combined with employment programmes that create partnerships with government and educational institutions to develop home grown talent and diversity.

How important is investing in new buildings and infrastructure to elevate Dubai’s overall economy?

The world is in the midst of rapid transformation towards agile working environments supported by highly sustainable facilities and infrastructure. This will place significant demand for facilities that are flexible and adaptable as businesses needs fluctuate. With a global focus on the preservation of our planet the demand for Net Zero (or Net Positive) Carbon performance will be inevitable, and the finance sector will shift towards only investing in assets that meet minimum environmental and ecological standards. I don’t believe that investment has to be in “new” assets alone. There should be a thorough assessment of first adapting and improving existing assets and then considering new assets. However, it is essential that these assets meet the changing demands for agility, sustainability and technology.

How will digital transformation and innovation in the construction sector support Dubai’s economic growth in the next 10 years? What will be some potential challenges?

Digital transformation, from design to product development to construction delivery, improves efficiency, productivity and reliability throughout the development of any construction project, but at present it is not being adopted to anything like its full potential. Access and interrogation of a much wider data platform, through interfaces with facility operators and digital performance databases, will help optimise and standardise the design of buildings and their component parts. This offers opportunities in areas such as off-site fabrication, 3D printing of component parts and the development of AI driven facilities operations. Ultimately, this will demand different skills and create an opportunity for the development of educational programmes that focus on the digital transformation. It also creates opportunity for more sustainable local manufacturing to serve the construction sector.

Read the full analysis in Construction Week's February issue.