Realty goes high tech

If you’re at Cityscape Global, experience one of Dubai’s new skyscrapers like never before. Mada Residences, a 36-storey high rise residential tower developed by Artar Real Estate Development in  Downtown Dubai, will be brought to life by a new, state-ofthe-art technology where investors can step into an immersion cube where they will walk around the larger than average one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom luxury apartments in order to appreciate the layouts, textures, lights and materials used. The cube is fitted with motion sensors so that the visitor can easily move around the apartment and understand how it embodies the spirit of “liveability”. According to Artar’s Chief Executive, Sulaiman Abdulrahman Al Rashid, “Technology is becoming more and more important when we speak to our investors. We have invested in creating this virtual reality world for visitors at Cityscape Global so that they can experience what it will be like to walk into a Mada Residences home.”

Complementing the five square metre cube, there will also be a number of virtual reality headsets which will provide a similar  experience but will use technology from a newly designed mobile app called Mada Residences. The app, available to download on both iOS and Android devices, allows investors and anyone interested in the development to take the property home in their pocket and experience it at the touch of a button. It allows the client to feel the space and understand the intelligent design of each apartment.

At Cityscape, Dubai Properties is also using Virtual Reality for the first time to showcase their destinations and provide customers with interactive digital experiences. For the master developer, digital innovation has been a crucial element of their real estate strategy  and “Virtual Reality is a fantastic way to enable our customers to experience our destinations,” said Marwan Al Kindi, Executive Director, Sales and Sales Operations. DP’s use of 3D technologies and virtual floor plans will bring off-plan properties, such as Bellevue Towers in the Burj Khalifa district, to life so that tenants and buyers are able to get a glimpse of the exterior design, the textures and finishing used in the developments, as well as the urban planning, landscaping and extensive amenities on offer.

Virtual tours allow people to see and purchase what has yet to be created, including entire areas and spaces surrounding a building, while sitting thousands of miles away from the construction site. The home buying process now starts from the comfort and confines of one’s home, through the internet. Portals, websites of real estate brokers and developers provide buyers with a realistic look and feel of what they are about to purchase using videos, walkthroughs, 3D floor plans and 360-degree tours to make buying decisions easier.

PW spoke to a few industry experts and stakeholders to get their take on how technology is revolutionising the construction business.

The journey so far

Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future Publishing, says the construction sector’s slow adoption has been born of a need to see innovations tested in other industries on a small scale before risking using them in buildings and infrastructure. “In many cases, a relatively low-skilled and poorly educated workforce has been employed. The desire is to ensure simple, repeatable solutions that can be implemented with  small amounts of training. Sector margins have often been tight, and with fixed-price contracts there is a major focus on risk reduction. So the sector has traditionally under- invested in innovation”.

Dominiq Wright, Business Development Director and Partner at Generation 3D, a boutique 3D printing and design consultancy, feels the tech’s adoption has been a bit slow in the GCC, but is growing. “3D Printing can be used for so many parts of the construction process. In terms of prototyping and model making, 3D printing is a great tool to use in planning and design stages. Globally, this has been adopted. However, in the UAE and GCC, we still have a lot of scope in this area.

“The next wave of 3D printing is obviously in constructing buildings and structures themselves using the technology. The UAE in this case have been real early adopters and the uptake here has been greater than anywhere in the world.”

A need for tech adoption

There are various drivers for increased technology adoption across industries, including the real estate sector. “With market globalisation creating an increasingly competitive environment, organisations generally strive hard to gain competitive edge in the market, and cost cutting is becoming a key focus for many of them,” says Said Haider, Regional Director, Middle East at Yardi, a real estate investment and property management software company. “In any company, information technology has a powerful effect on competitive advantage in either cost or differentiation. Technology gives companies new ways to out perform their rivals, and brings businesses closer to customers.”

Experts are also quick to point out that the massive scale of technological advancements in big data and AI are also having a cascading effect on the real estate sector. As benefits become more obvious and substantive, they drive increased adoption. “Radical and disruptive technologies, such as big data, the internet of things, AI, robotics, 3D printing, and new materials, are entering every walk of life,” says Talwar. “They are enabling new possibilities, disrupting ways of working and allowing construction firms to respond to the ever-more challenging requirements of customers.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Frigyes Toth, General Manager at 360 Emirates Virtual Tours, explains how these new technologies have become necessary marketing and sales tools. “The new technologies are helping the online marketing channels. They have become absolutely necessary” he adds.

So what’s new?

Talwar, who is speaking at Cityscape on the core forces of technological, economic and social change reshaping the property sector, feels prefab and BIM getting further entrenched on the construction side, alongside robotic, drones and 3D printing. “Prefabrication is enabling rapid construction, delivering 30-storey structures in just 15 days. Big data and AI allow the development of sophisticated building information management systems that can enable dynamic changes. Robotics and drones are changing how construction is done, while 3D printing offers the potential for on-site, low-cost fabrication of building- sized structures.”

Yardi, which has been at the forefront of introducing cutting-edge property management and real estate software in the region, points to a future with more enhanced, sophisticated technologies and software that offer a high degree of responsiveness, intelligence and mobility. Focused technology solutions that solve inherent problems faced by the real estate industry and offer real-time value are the  need of the hour. “Our new product, Voyager 7S, moves the bar forward on property management software with its integrated ecosystem of frontand back-office business solutions with full mobility and cross-browser compatibility,” says Said. “Once you standardise operations on Voyager, you can utilise the entire single solution stack and gain end-to-end efficiencies, cost savings, and a competitive advantage.”

For service providers, demand is growing for 360-degree virtual tours. “The demand is growing from the real estate sector, for drones, 3D modelling and now also for virtual tours as the benefits have been recognised, says Toth. “Our 3D models and virtual tours are impressive engineering, marketing and exhibiting tools.

“Virtual walkthroughs, and addition of materials such as tiles help enhance the look and feel of building models and pictures.”

Source: Neha Kaul, Special to PW


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