The rise of PPVC and Precast Construction

The construction industry witnessed the rise in concern to change existing designs, construction processes and enhance construction productivity. In an attempt to reach efficient solutions, the industry embraced the concept of Design for Manufacturing Assembly.

DFMA is a new approach that has made its way in the industry. This concept allows for planning work to be done off-site, due to which there is reduced wastage of time and labour to complete construction projects. It ensures a safe work environment and reduces the negative impact on the living environment. Prefabrication methods are now intensively used to improve construction production in the labour-intensive industry.

Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction is a new technology that supports the approach of DFMA. It focuses on speeding the construction process and productivity.  PPVC is a construction method where volumetric modules are manufactured and assembled in a fabricated facility according to the ascribed fabrication methods, and then the modules, including ceiling, floor, finishes for walls, are installed in a building under building works.

The rise in importance of PPVC is due to the benefits it provides as follows:

  • Improved Productivity: PPVC allows for a reduction in on-site construction activities. It speeds up the construction process as the fabrication process can be performed off-site at the same time, while other construction activities are taking place on-site. It has a significant role in improving productivity effectively. It can increase 40% productivity in terms of the labour available on-site and saves time up to 20%.
  • Reduce Labour Force On-Site: Improving worksite safety, PPVC is a game-changing technology. It allows for better working conditions for labour as most of the construction is performed off-site due to which less workforce is required on-site, which can save a lot of time in on-site installation. It significantly reduces construction, workforce, and installation activities on the site. Most operations are performed outside- in a controlled manufacturing environment- due to which there are fewer chances for any accidents occurring on work sites. It significantly reduces the chances of on-site injuries which the workers could face otherwise.
  • Better On-site Environment: PPVC affects our environmental footprint as well. With most operations performed off-site, the method allows for a significant reduction in noise and environment pollution. Project site construction causes severe disturbances for the surrounding neighbourhood; PPVC plays a remarkable role in reducing that. Off-site activities also mean less water spreading which leads to cleaner environments.
  • Quality Control: The quality and reliability of the final product are far more enhanced with operations taking place off-site. Planning of tasks and logistics cooperations can efficiently take place. PPVC can also be used for many multi-room constructions, including hotels, nursing homes, hostels, institutions, dormitories, and residences with a certain amount of ease.

PPVC has become prevalent due to its proprietary system of manufacturing PPVC modules. Incorporating PPVC in the design stage can be very useful in providing technical solutions and enhancing productivity.

Precast Concrete Construction is another construction product where the concrete cast is moulded into a reusable product in a controlled environment. The method takes place at another location; it can either be a factory or a building site. It is then transported to the construction site where it is fixed properly. Precast concrete buildings are made by combining different component pieces.

Precast Construction is ideal for the construction of identical components. It is perfect for constructing low cost, identical apartments. There has been a rapid increase in Precast Concrete Construction because of its following advantages:

  • Versatile: Precast Concrete can be moulded into any shape, colour, or size and allows for a broader range for the designs that can be produced. It, therefore, allows for versatile designs to be made.
  • Climate Control Structure: Any factor that could result in the delay of projects, such as rain, cold, storm, dust, heat, is eliminated since the tasks are performed in climate-controlled structures.
  • Environmental Resistant: The structure of precast concrete is resistant to disasters, insects, fires, and moulds. It also provides low maintenance cost as it is resistant to rain, earthquake, damage, termites, and wind. Its material is far better than other building materials.
  • Low Cost: Precast concrete components are manufactured off-site and transported when they are required. This allows for saving time, ensuring safety for people on-site, reduce on-site disruption, which will reduce the overall cost of the project as there will be fewer trades and people on the site. Along with this, they can make as many identical components as they want by making specialised reusable moulds, which can further help them in cost reduction as they can save material cost while producing parts in large quantities.
  • Easy Construction: The process of Precast Concrete Construction makes operations easier as it is done on the floor rather than on height. Moreover, as the components are manufactured beforehand, construction projects can be completed swiftly.

Precast Concrete Construction is highly in demand because of its strength, durability, and affordability. It is a highly effective and practical method of concrete construction. Both PPVC and Precast Construction have made their way in the construction industry of the UAE due to their efficiency in improving construction productivity. The significance of these methods has drastically increased over the past few years. They are both now being used actively in construction processes.

Statistics reveal that depending on the complexity of the project PPVC can potentially achieve productivity improvements of up to 50%. The terms depend on the capability of man and time-saving. Pollution from dust and noise are also significantly reduced with this method. The brunt of construction work and the personnel required to do it are often shifted offsite to a regulated area, which may theoretically improve health.

After careful considerations, Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) has emerged as the smart go-to construction strategy. With improvements in productivity to up to 40%, efficiency in time reserves, and better construction environments, experts say it could be the future of the construction industry. However, there are specific design considerations to be made while wanting to utilise PPVC in projects. Here are a few:

  • Involvement of contractors: Developers need to acquire contributions from the PPVC provider or producer just as the Main Contractor at the design stage. This helps in creating robust specialised solutions for the undertaking. For instance, the decision of material will direct the size and number of modules in the design as weight is a significant thought for the lifting of the modules.
  • Site/venture the executives: The state of the streets encompassing the task must have the option to oblige the weight and size of the PPVC module transportation. Access to and inside the site must have the option to accommodate stacked trailers. It may not be reasonable to store numerous enormous PPVC modules on location, and a Just in Time (JIT) establishment would prevent unimportant double stacking of material. The crane sent nearby should have the option to deal with the heaviness of the PPVC modules and its area ought to be appropriately arranged so it can arrive at blocks for the establishment of modules.
  • Support, substitution and redesign: It is a reasonable practice for designers/manufacturers to give a user manual to the homeowner for the design of PPVC projects. For any remodel works, it is prescribed for homeowners to hire a redesign contractual worker, who might utilise the suitable apparatuses and adhere to the directions given in the user manual of the property.

Regulations to be Followed

  •  Prerequisites by respective agencies: The design, construction and establishment of the proposed PPVC framework for building construction will conform to the necessities by respective agencies, for example, BCA, Land Transport Authority (LTA), Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Environment Agency (NEA), PUB, The National Water Agency, Singapore Civil Defense Force (SCDF), Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), Housing and Development Board (HDB) and JTC Corporation.
  • PPVC Acceptance Framework: To guarantee that the distinctive PPVC frameworks being utilised are durable and sturdy, BCA has set up a PPVC Acceptance Framework comprising of building administrative offices just as industry specialists to assess the design and materials utilised. PPVC providers and producers need to get approval from these authorities.
  • Sites with PPVC need: The utilisation of PPVC is required for chosen private non-landed Government Land Sale (GLS) destinations from 1 November 2014 onwards. Details of these destinations and the compulsory PPVC prerequisites are listed in the Building Control (Buildability and Productivity) Regulations and the Code of Practice on Buildability 2017.

Case Study: The Lincoln Showroom built by Fujeirah National Construction where NFT had erected two Potain MD 1100.

The Potain MD 1100 and MD 900 are ideal for projects in PPCV and PPC thanks to their high lighting capacity at tip load and their maximum lifting capacity. Most car park projects and mall structures are using these tower cranes:

Case study:  the Clement Canopy in Singapore.  It is a residential condominium located along Clementi Avenue 1 and in the vicinity of three schools and other residential blocks. The project combines both traditional construction methods and the PPVC. Conventional construction methods took place on the basement floor, multi-storey car park and first floor of the blocks, whereas, the 2nd to 40th floors adopted PPVC. The Clement Canopy is currently the tallest PPVC concrete building in the world.

Reasons to Apply PPVC in these case studies:

  • Heightened productivity: Depending on the scope of projects, PPCV increases efficiency by 40%.
  • Improved and healthier environment: Projects that apply PPVC in installation activities will see reduced pollution that is produced by dust and noise while decreasing the efforts of man.

To conclude, while considering to work with PPVC Projects, one must take care of four basic things. Design of the PPVC module, manufacturing the module, logistics of the module and lastly the legal regulations.Ultimately the use of PPCV helps all project stakeholders achieve shorter building times, better quality workmanship, cleaner construction sites and less damage to surrounding buildings.


Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 by OSHA & the CDC

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It has spread from China to many other countries around the world. To reduce the impact of COVID-19 outbreak conditions on businesses, workers, customers, and the public, it is important for all employers to plan now for COVID-19.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed this COVID-19 planning guidance based on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices. It focuses on the need for employers to implement engineering, administrative, and work practice controls and personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as considerations for doing so.

How COVID-19 Spreads

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person- to-person, including:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has SARS-CoV-2 on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (i.e., experiencing fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath). Some spread might be possible before people  show symptoms; there have been reports of this type of asymptomatic transmission with this new coronavirus, but this is also not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Classifying Worker Exposure to SARS-CoV-2

Worker risk of occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the  virus that causes COVID-19, during an outbreak may vary from very high to high, medium, or lower (caution) risk. The level of risk depends in part on the industry type, need for contact within 6 feet of people known to be, or suspected of being, infected with SARS-CoV-2, or requirement for repeated or extended contact with persons known to be, or suspected of being, infected with SARS-CoV-2. To help employers determine appropriate precautions, OSHA has divided job tasks into four risk exposure levels: very high, high, medium, and lower risk. The Occupational Risk Pyramid shows the four exposure risk levels in the shape of a pyramid to represent probable distribution of risk:

Considering the nature of work and taking a conservative approach, we took the liberty in considering the construction industry as a Medium Exposure Risk level.  Medium exposure risk jobs include those that require frequent and/or close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) people who may be infected with SARS-CoV-2, but who are not known or suspected COVID-19 patients. In areas without ongoing community transmission, workers in this risk group may have frequent contact with travelers who may return from international locations with widespread COVID-19 transmission. In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, workers in this category may have contact with the general public (e.g., schools, high-population-density work environments, some high-volume retail settings).

What to Do to Protect Workers – Pre-requisite

The CDC has developed a Resuming Business Toolkit to assist employers in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and lowering the impact in their workplace when reintegrating employees into non-healthcare business settings. One of the resources in this toolkit is the Restart Readiness Checklist

1) Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan

If one does not already exist, develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan that can help guide protective actions against COVID-19.

Stay abreast of guidance from federal, state, local, tribal, and/or territorial health agencies, and consider how to incorporate those recommendations and resources into workplace-specific plans.

Plans should consider and address the level(s) of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites. Such considerations may include:

  • Where, how, and to what sources of SARS-CoV-2 might workers be exposed, including: The general public, customers, and coworkers; and  Sick individuals or those at particularly high risk of infection (e.g., international travelers who have visited locations with widespread sustained (ongoing) COVID-19 transmission, healthcare workers who have had unprotected exposures to people known to have, or suspected of having, COVID-19).
  • Non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings.
  • Workers’ individual risk factors (e.g., older age; presence of chronic medical conditions, including immuno-compromising conditions; pregnancy).
  • The need for social distancing, staggered work shifts, downsizing operations, delivering services remotely, and other exposure-reducing
  • Options for conducting essential operations with a reduced workforce, including cross-training workers across different jobs in order to continue operations or deliver surge

2) Prepare to Implement Basic Infection Prevention Measures

For most employers, protecting workers will depend on emphasizing basic infection prevention measures. As appropriate, all employers should implement good hygiene and infection control practices, including:

  • Improving the building ventilation system
  • Promote frequent and thorough hand washing, including by providing workers, customers, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60%
  • Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and
  • Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles.
  • Employers should explore whether they can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if state and local health authorities recommend the use of social distancing
  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when
  • Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment. When choosing cleaning chemicals, employers should consult information on your local Environmental Agency -approved disinfectant labels with claims against emerging viral pathogens. Products with approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 based on data for harder to kill viruses. F

3) Develop Policies and Procedures for Prompt Identification and Isolation of Sick People, if Appropriate

  • Prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a critical step in protecting workers, customers, visitors, and others at a
  • Employers should inform and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they suspect possible exposure.
  • Employers should develop policies and procedures for employees to report when they are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Where appropriate, employers should develop policies and procedures for immediately isolating people who have signs and/or symptoms of COVID-19, and train workers to implement them. Move potentially infectious people to a location away from workers, customers, and other visitors. Although most worksites do not have specific isolation rooms, designated areas with closable doors may serve as isolation rooms until potentially sick people can be removed from the worksite.
  • Take steps to limit spread of the respiratory secretions of a person who may have COVID-19. Provide a face mask, if feasible and available, and ask the person to wear it, if tolerated. Note: A face mask (also called a surgical mask, procedure mask, or other similar terms) on a patient or other sick person should not be confused with PPE for a worker; the mask acts to contain potentially infectious respiratory secretions at the source (i.e., the person’s nose and mouth).
  • If possible, isolate people suspected of having COVID-19 separately from those with confirmed cases of the virus to prevent further transmission—particularly in worksites where medical screening, triage, or healthcare activities occur, using either permanent (e.g., wall/different room) or temporary barrier (e.g., plastic sheeting).
  • Restrict the number of personnel entering isolation
  • Protect workers in close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) a sick person or who have prolonged/repeated contact with such persons by using additional engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE. Workers whose activities involve close or prolonged/ repeated contact with sick people are addressed further in later sections covering workplaces classified at medium and very high or high exposure risk.

4) Develop, Implement, and Communicate about Workplace Flexibilities and Protections

  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay in isolation
  • Ensure that sick leave policies are  consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these
  • Talk with companies that provide your business with contract or temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave
  • Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely
  • Provide adequate, usable, and appropriate training, education, and informational material about business-essential job functions and worker health and safety, including proper hygiene practices and the use of any workplace controls (including PPE).

“Informed workers who feel safe at work are less likely to be unnecessarily absent.”

Implement Workplace Controls 

During a COVID-19 outbreak, when it may not be possible to eliminate the hazard, the most effective protection measures are (listed from most effective to least effective): engineering controls, administrative controls, safe work practices (a type of administrative control), and PPE. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of control measure when considering the ease of implementation, effectiveness, and cost. In most cases, a combination of control measures will be necessary to protect workers from exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

In addition to the types of workplace controls discussed below, CDC guidance for businesses provides employers and workers with recommended SARS-CoV-2 infection prevention strategies to implement in workplaces: ncov/specific-groups/guidance-business-response.html.

1) Engineering Controls

Engineering controls involve isolating employees from work- related hazards. In workplaces where they are appropriate, these types of controls reduce exposure to hazards without relying on worker behavior and can be the most cost-effective solution to implement. Engineering controls for SARS-CoV-2 include:

  • Installing high-efficiency air
  • Increasing ventilation rates in the work
  • Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze
  • Specialized negative pressure ventilation in some settings, such as for aerosol generating procedures (e.g., airborne infection isolation rooms in healthcare settings and specialized autopsy suites in mortuary settings).
  • Alter the workspace to maintain social distancing.  Examples include: arrange partitions as a barrier shield, move electronic payment reader away from cashier, use verbal announcements, signs, and visual cues to promote social distancing. remove/rearrange furniture, provide remote delivery alternatives.

2) Administrative Controls

Administrative controls require action by the worker or employer. Typically,  administrative controls are changes in work policy  or procedures to reduce or minimize exposure to a hazard. Examples of administrative controls for SARS-CoV-2 include:

  • Encouraging sick workers to stay at home
  • Consider conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks  (e.g., symptom and/or temperature screening) before employees enter the facility.
  • Minimizing contact among workers, clients, and customers by replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual communications and implementing telework
  • Establishing alternating days or extra shifts that reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time, allowing them to maintain distance from one another while maintaining a full onsite work week.
  • Restrict access to reduce the number of workers in enclosed and confined areas at one time. Confined and enclosed areas (e.g., trailers, small rooms in buildings under construction) should be identified and access should be restricted to essential personnel only. Enclosed spaces (e.g., toilets, break areas) are potential transmission areas and should be treated accordingly. Time spent in these areas should be minimized.
  • Remove or rearrange chairs and tables or add visual cue marks in break areas to support social distancing practices between workers. Identify alternative areas to accommodate overflow volume.
  • Discontinuing nonessential travel to locations with ongoing COVID-19 Regularly check CDC travel warning levels
  • Replace high-touch communal items, such as coffee pots, water coolers, and bulk snacks, with alternatives such as pre-packaged, single-serving items.
  • Developing emergency communications plans, including a forum for answering workers’ concerns and internet-based communications
  • Providing workers with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19 risk factors and protective behaviors (e.g., cough etiquette and care of PPE).
  • Training workers who need to use protecting clothing and equipment how to put it on, use/wear it, and take it off correctly, including in the context of their current and potential duties. Training material should be easy to understand and available in the appropriate language and literacy level for all workers.
  • Consider offering face masks and event of a shortage of masks, a reusable face shield that can be decontaminated may be an acceptable method of protecting against droplet transmission.
  • Where appropriate, limit customers’ and the public’s access to the worksite, or restrict access to only certain workplace
  • Consider strategies to minimize face-to-face contact (e.g., drive- through windows, phone-based communication, telework).
  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, printer/copiers, drinking fountains, and doorknobs.
  • Provide adequate PPE: Workers with medium exposure risk may need to wear some combination of gloves, a gown, a face mask, and/or a face shield
    or goggles. Read 4) below.

3) Safe Work Practices

Safe work practices are types of administrative controls that include procedures for safe and proper work used to reduce the duration, frequency, or intensity of exposure to a hazard. Examples of safe work practices for SARS-CoV-2 include:

  • Designate a safety and health officer to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns at every jobsite. Workers should know who this person is and how to contact them.
  • Providing resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol, disinfectants, and disposable towels for workers to clean their work
  • Requiring regular hand washing or using of alcohol-based hand rubs. Workers should always wash hands when they are visibly soiled and after removing any
  • Post handwashing signs in bathrooms and pantries, cafeterias.
  • Limit tool sharing if possible.
  • Practice proper hand hygiene. This is an important infection control measure. With appropriate hand hygiene, you do not need gloves to protect you from COVID-19. When possible, wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. Key times to clean hands include:
    • Before and after work shifts and breaks
    • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
    • After using the restroom
    • Before eating and before and after preparing food
    • After touching objects which have been handled by coworkers, such as tools and equipment
    • Before putting on and after taking off work gloves
    • After putting on, touching, or removing cloth face coverings
    • Before donning or doffing eye or face protection (safety glasses, goggles, etc.)
    • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
    • Use tissues when you cough, sneeze, or touch your face. Throw used tissues in the trash and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer containing 60% alcohol if a sink to wash your hands is not available.
    • Provide a large (5+ gallon) bucket with a lid and tap that can be used to provide water for handwashing. If this method is used, the water tap should be regularly cleaned and disinfected, and the contaminated wastewater must be collected and treated in accordance with local laws and environmental regulations. Provide fresh clean water daily.
    • Depending on the size or configuration of the job site, there may need to be multiple handwashing stations available to accommodate the workforce while maintaining social distancing, and stations may need to be restocked during the course of the day to maintain adequate handwashing supplies.

4) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

While engineering and administrative controls are considered more effective in minimizing exposure to SARS-CoV-2, employers are obligated to provide their workers with PPE. While correctly using PPE can help prevent some exposures, it should not take the place of other prevention strategies.

Examples of PPE include: gloves, goggles, face shields, face masks, and respiratory protection, when appropriate. During an outbreak of an infectious disease, such as COVID-19, recommendations for PPE specific to occupations or job tasks may change depending on geographic location, updated risk assessments for workers, and information on PPE effectiveness in preventing the spread of COVID-19.  All types of PPE must be:

  • Selected based upon the hazard to the worker.
  • Properly fitted and periodically refitted, as applicable (e.g., respirators).
  • Consistently and properly worn when required.
  • Regularly inspected, maintained, and replaced, as necessary.
  • Properly removed, cleaned, and stored or disposed of, as applicable, to avoid contamination of self, others, or the environment.

How to Contact OSHA

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit 




How do we move forward from here?

The global construction industry has been under intense stress in recent months amid the COVID-19 crisis and associated containments measures to prevent the continued spread of the virus. Even in countries where the construction industry has been permitted to continue, being exempt from restrictions on general business activity, there has still been widespread disruption and temporary shutdowns of construction sites. Reflecting the severe impact on the industry, provisional data for some major markets in Europe reveal that construction output plummeted in April during the peak of the pandemic in the region, with Italy recording a 68% year-on-year drop, and France a 60% decline. Such unprecedented declines are expected in other markets that have seen construction work grind to a halt.

General Global Business Sentiment according to GlobalData

The Plight of Construction and Real Estate Industries 

The construction and real estate industries are certainly not exempted from the global and regional economic disruptions. Due to existing inventory levels, short term impacts on ongoing construction activities have been minimal. With threats to employment and economic growth, there is deteriorating confidence in investments which can leave adverse effects in the long term.

Experts point out how China and Italy largely contribute to the hospitality, residential, and commercial projects in terms of supplying luxury interior materials. However, as businesses rethink their procurement strategies due to changing consumer trends, there will be an inevitable slowdown in factory operations and a larger focus to source locally. To add to that, countries such as India have closed a large number of steel plants. There will be a global surge in demand when these factories open for normal functioning. This will most likely add pressure to these industries and therefore, leading to long term impacts.

The question at hand remains, are all long-term ramifications on the regional construction and real estate industry at a disadvantage?

Concerning the real estate demand in the UAE, it is safe to say it is a valued and robust industry. It offers excellent value across select developments. Investors will be able to take advantage of projects by offering discounted prices, leaseback options, and other incentives during this time. The Abu Dhabi government has also waived off real estate registration fee of 2%. This might increase transaction activity as residents currently renting will find it more affordable and lucrative to purchase their property.

Post COVID-19 Strategies for Real Estate Projects 

 As the world adjusts the new normal, some strategies will shape the real estate industry post-COVID-19. New methods such as integrating improved artificial intelligence and carefully analyzing infrastructure qualities will help this industry grow.

Although industries have taken a massive hit from the monetary downfalls due to economic standstills, certain government’s efforts are starting to pay off as several

Post COVID-19 Strategies for Real Estate Projects 

 As the world adjusts the new normal, some strategies will shape the real estate industry post-COVID-19. New methods such as integrating improved artificial intelligence and carefully analyzing infrastructure qualities will help this industry grow.   Although industries have taken a massive hit from the monetary downfalls due to economic standstills, certain government’s efforts are starting to pay off as several  industries are now on a path to fast-track recovery. The real estate industry, in particular, is heading towards a new direction in terms of market demand.

  • Post COVID-19 periods will also see a rise in demand for lower-density properties and locations. Rethinking design to maintain social distancing standards will become top priorities for developers.
  • Building layouts will see major revamping by the allocation of extra spaces and designs that adhere to safety aspects to add value.
  • In addition to new design standards, builders also need to focus on the quality of infrastructure. Industry leaders need to commit to high-grade materials and carefully assess conditions that will stand out to their stakeholders.
  • An aspect that was becoming prominent much before the dawn of COVID-19 was the concept of artificial intelligence. With time it has gained traction and has enabled buyers to experience properties without physical visits. An example of this is Smart Investment Map (SIM) which the Real Estate Investment Management and Promotion Center, the investment arm of Dubai Land Department has launched to attract major investors for off-plan available projects. SIM is an online portal serving Dubai Real Estate Market; specially designed for real estate professionals to list their properties for sale and rent in Dubai. SIM provides public with a number of e-services allowing them to search for properties listed for sale or rent, communicate with property owners, brokers and management companies and complete sale transactions online without the need for multiple visits to Dubai Land Department. Another example is the DubaiNow application which offers access to over 85 city services that include bill payments, NOL, fuel top-ups, property finding and much more. This app has a rating of 3.7 on Apple iStore.

If companies and developers focus on following these strategies, both them and the industry will recover from the hit it has taken because of the COVID-19 crises within no time. As the new normal are here to stay, all industries need to start opting to the new normal planning strategies as well.

Zooming in on the Construction Industry

With economies crashing and projects coming to a halt amidst the COVID-19 lockdowns, let us take a closer look at the impact on the construction sector.

The outbreak and subsequent spread of COVID-19 has drastically changed the course of construction projects all around the world, including the Middle East. Different projects will experience delays, disruptions, and cost escalation.

Construction Industry and in particular projects schedules have seen dramatic changes in last couple of months. From the beginning of March, the construction industry began to experience much higher levels of project delays and cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with widespread restrictions on the movement of people and enforcement of complete or partial lockdowns from mid-March. The impact during the month of April and beginning of May was at its peak with approximately 15-20% of projects were either cancelled or delayed; however, since mid-May the overall situation has improved. The share of delayed projects out of all projects updated fell to around 2% by mid-June. In the USA for example, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)’s latest survey found that nearly one fourth of contractors reported a project that was scheduled to start in June or later had been canceled.

Keeping in mind the brutal blow economies all across the globe are facing, measures had to be in place to ensure project delays did not inflict widespread damages. In the light of the dramatic fall in oil prices in the UAE, it is yet to be seen what economic effects we will be facing due to the novel coronavirus. The fall in the market may have repercussions on liquidity and cash flow throughout the construction sector. It is particularly prevalent in this region where ‘pay when paid’ clauses are permitted and often seen in subcontractors.

The smooth flow of funds in the construction sector is going to be taken up by banks, which will allow contractors and companies to dodge the constant problems of delayed payments. With banks being open to extending repayment terms, liquidity is less of an issue to contractors.

As a response to the current situations owing to the COVID-19 virus, banks in the UAE will ease construction sectors’ payment issues. UAE banks’ exposure to the construction industry is estimated at 15% plus.  The UAE Central Bank is also required to be more lenient on payments due from clients. Banks have received orders to give more flexibility on loan paybacks, and any transactions clients have with the banks and easing pay for contractors become a top priority by banks.

With many industries being vulnerable to the impacts of the virus outbreaks, construction projects are some of the most vulnerable sectors. The UAE has about $710 billion of building and civil engineering projects currently planned or underway. There would be revisions once the full impact of the COVID-19 impact is understood.  All the issues of the construction industry have been brought forward with the pandemic. We need to be thoughtful about the problems every sector is facing. The mobility of labour is not the only hindrance. Delays in exporting or importing goods, materials, plants, and equipment owing to travel bans and lockdown may consequently impact the progress of construction projects everywhere. Delay in projects is bound to happen. There are no two ways to it. We need contracts that allow the smooth functioning of the industry without anyone getting into disputes. This is why banks need to step up and further ease their procedures as their plan of action during these trying times will be reflected deeply in future provisions.

Investment and Adaptability to Digital Transformation

The construction industry has evolved over the years in the way they design, plan, and build structures. Technology makes construction projects more efficient and safer. It also makes room for more innovation. Adopting artificial intelligence can help optimize work schedules, improve workplace safety, and keep a watch on facilities.  From small scale projects to multi-year and large scale projects, machine learning is excelling at finding patterns in data. With the help of pattern recognition and historical data, artificial intelligence has time and again proven to help better manage schedules. It can help prevent costly delays amongst suppliers, vendors, and everyone involved in the process.

The same pattern detection deployed to schedule time can be used to look for common trends in projects. Many sites use artificial intelligence to run through contingency plans. The technology can assess what might happen if a permit is delayed or an accident occurs, forecast outcomes of multiple scenarios and even anticipate breakdown. This exercise can help develop contingency plans to tackle unexpected situations.

The use of autonomous devices, drones, and robotic construction workers is also on the rise. Drones help in surveying and taking overhead images of construction projects. Robots help with various mundane tasks such as bricklaying, concrete pouring, or installing drywall. Such devices help cut labour costs and keep the project on track with regards to time.

Advanced data intelligence also increases safety. Construction is not without hazards. Potential on-site risks such as dangerous structures and moving equipment that poses a danger to humans exist in every construction project. Artificial intelligence helps contain or completely eradicate the possibility of these hazards to occur. Sites are also equipped by cameras and sensors that monitor several aspects of construction operations. Advanced systems are capable of detecting unsafe behaviour and alerting teams of potential hazards. They not only reduce liability but can also help save lives and increase efficiency.

Surveillance systems are not new to workplace environments. Keeping an eye over the projects and sites is an added level of security. Investing in expensive equipment can help companies monitor footage and spot suspicious activities.

Enabling and adopting artificial intelligence has delivered incredible results and is being deployed by more and more construction companies with each passing day. Assessment of the results shows artificial intelligence can help in cost savings, time savings, and overall improvements in construction projects.

An example of a country that is putting digital transformation at the forefront of the construction industry is Australia where a collaboration between 30 partners including universities and the CRC (Australian government’s Cooperative Research Centres Program). The scheme, called Building 4.0 CRC, is focused on cutting delays, emissions and waste from building projects has received a grant of 28 million Australian dollars ($16.40 million) from the country’s government. The objectives include harnessing digital technology and off-site manufacturing to cut project costs by 30%; reducing construction waste by 80%; and lowering carbon dioxide emissions by 50%. “Our vision is to create a world where people can visualize and realize buildings in real time. The purpose is to transform the way that consumers and builders design and buy buildings by providing easy-to-use browsing-based software that allows them to custom-design, visualize and price buildings in an engineering compliant way,” said  Gavin Tonn who is Australian CEO of the Donovan Group, said in a statement.

The Dubai Development Authority (DDA) has also taken a number of steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the construction sector. These have included:

  • The announcement of a Planning and Development Stimulus Initiative.3Under this initiative: (i) the payment of Final Building Permit Fees are split into four instalments4; (ii) the payment dates of fines issued by the Planning and Development Department are postponed for three months; (iii) zoning exception fees are now payable within 12 months rather than six months; (iv) additional or modified built up area fees are now due within three months instead of one month; (v) the issuance of Conditional Completion Certificates (undertaking letter) will be free of charge for three months from the date of the initiative; and (v) the validity period for any Building Permit, Fit-out Permit, Temporary Construction Permit, or Permit to Work within a “right of way” will be extended by an additional three months without charge.
  • The introduction of virtual inspections of construction sites.5 Sites can now be inspected at various stages of a project by way of either a Zoom or Microsoft Teams video call, without inspectors having to be physically present on site.

Investment needed for Health & Safety

In most cases, lockdowns may have caused a delay in project completion, not complete shutdowns. Projects that continue their work at sites now have to take extra precautionary measures to ensure the safety of the workers.

Employers may need to review their health and safety policies and protocols and adhere to Government regulations in the context of COVID-19. Safety measures such as maintaining social distancing, sanitation, and providing protective equipment such as masks need to be kept in check by employers for those at the construction sites. Other measures, such as providing remote working facilities to office staff and improving the delivery of information about disease prevention on-site, have also been implemented.

Employers need to focus on medical screening to satisfy care and combating the spread of the virus at these stages. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration Department has updated its guidance to supplement the general terms to accommodate the interim guidance for all workers and employers of workers with potential occupational exposures to SARS-CoV-2. For complete review of the guidance for preparing workplaces for COVID-19, please read our blog: OSHAD & COVID-19.


Guidelines around Construction Workers

The demonstrations of precautionary actions such as restrictions imposed on travel bans in most regions are now posing a significant problem to the construction industry. On the one hand, companies are unable to get their migrant workers back due to these restrictions, therefore causing severe delays. On the other hand, we have the strict rules of self-isolation and quarantine that need to be followed to flatten the curve.  Also, labor shortages are resulting in contractors having to pay workers on leave.

 Specific guidelines have been issued by the municipality to ensure the health and safety of construction workers at projects sites amidst the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

The construction sector is one of those industries that has been identified as a vital industry and is exempted from strict movement restrictions in the UAE.

While ensuring normal operations, practicing on-site precautionary measures is crucial for all companies. It is for this reason that the Dubai Municipality’s Health and Safety Department has issued specific guidelines highlighting all the precautions to be adhered to by construction workers across the emirate which we anticipate will continue even post COVID-19 to avoid the spread and risk of infection:

In the UAE, the government announced that construction companies are now permitted to set up or construct labour accommodation on site. This will result in workers not being required to be transported to and from site and will assist in ensuring that social distancing precautions are maintained in existing labour accommodation. It is a requirement that on-site accommodations have enough space to ensure social distancing guidelines are adhered to.

Within Labor Accommodations: The precautionary measures to be followed by construction workers within labur accommodations include frequent disinfection and cleaning, limited gatherings, and social and physical distancing of 2 metres within specific areas. Body temperatures of workers must also be checked before entering and after exiting the premises. If a worker is found to have a high temperature, it is imperative that the worker is placed in isolation and checked for symptoms regularly. In Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health has undertaken a complete sanitation of industrial areas such as Musaffah and Al Ain Industrial area by testing all residents and isolating infected labors.

All construction workers must practice safe physical distancing within buses. Sanitation must be of top priority, and large on-site gatherings must be avoided. Buses must also undergo frequent, and deep cleaning with government approved products.

The Impact of Changing Consumer Trends on other Industries 

The impacts of the current lockdowns and restrictions have caused a significant effect on the functioning of majority industries. Disruptions in one sector have a ripple effect on other areas as well.  As restrictions are easing in several places, businesses are planning a comeback into the physical working environment. However, there has been a fundamental shift in the way consumers are living, buying, and thinking amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with restrictions lifting entirely or partially, going back to old behaviors and choices will take place over a long period.

Where the Consumer Preferences Lie 

As consumers strive to adapt to new normals, they are also trying to contemplate what these changes will mean for themselves, their families, and society altogether. These concerns are both economic and health-related. Where priorities for hygienic and cleaning staples are increasing, non-essential goods are taking a slump.

These times call in for basic necessities of life taking precedence. There is no surprise that personal health is the top priority for the majority of consumers right now. Other industries like food, financial security and personal safety follow.

A study, based on Google Trends data, showed that searches in the online grocery shopping category reached a peak between March and May 2020 in the UAE. There was a 316% growth in online card payments for this sector in April. Distance learning was another sector that dominated the online search industry. The same study uncovered the surge in online searches for courses online as residents looked to improve their skills and knowledge, making the most of the lockdowns.

Lockdowns and remote working protocols also resulted in a sudden interest in telecommuting. The number of searches for “work from home in Dubai” surged before gradually declining once users became more familiar with remote working processes and tools. The shift to flexible working is one of the main factors driving a higher frequency of online searches for furniture as a need for home office workspaces emerged among residents.

Commuting and travelling

The Abu Dhabi Airport is one infrastructure which has demonstrated how technology can help transform safety measures. Be it touchless sensors, voice-activated technologies, or hands-free switches; every business needs to invest in digital transformation to gain the trust of its stakeholders.

Looking at Abu Dhabi International Airport as an example where many additional safety measures have been put in place to ensure the health and safety of passengers and staff:

  • Introduction of strict social distancing rules between passengers and staff and the mandatory use of face masks and gloves
  • Airport internal staff have been trained to monitor and ensure all additional health and safety rules are being followed by passengers
  • With swab tests, rapid blood testing and temperature checks carried out on site, the airport has also employed external personnel to help man the testing stations each day, including 13 administration staff and nine nurses.
  • 53 elevators located within the terminals have been upgraded with contact-less technology, meaning passengers do not have to touch any buttons when calling for a lift.
  • Three vending machines containing medical protection kits, including face masks and gloves, have also been placed throughout the airport as well as more than 400 hand sanitizer stations.
  • In total, 143 shield partitions have been placed on 71 check-in and immigration counters and several self-sanitizing hand rails have been positioned on escalators in the arrivals and departures terminals.

To conclude the situation of the construction and real estate industry, experts say that the proactive efforts of governments for these industries will ensure business continuity. These measures have also helped contain the damage of the pandemic on investors and agents. Companies and developers can combat losses as long as they start risk planning and implementing improved strategies and technologies. Even though governments are working relentlessly to flatten the curve and contain the spread of the virus, the effects of the pandemic will follow us in the coming months and some changes are here to stay. This is a time for contractors to proactively make decisions that would help in the smooth running of construction projects.