Africa’s built environment professionals have advocated the increased deployment of digital technologies for infrastructural development to boost resilience in the real estate sector.

They argued that more players are needed in the digital space to augment the efforts of traditional players and make the environment safer and more conducive to living, working and playing.

According to them, there was a need for online tools, digital sourcing of building materials/tender platforms, smart logistics, identity registration systems, sensors to check the sea level, and groundwater level, technologies to make roads last longer, increase community network interaction through digital platforms in housing estates, wildlife and aqua life tracking innovations.

The experts spoke at a virtual seminar organised by the Digital Built Environment Cluster of the University of Lagos Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, an African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence on Urbanisation and Habitable Cities.

The participants were drawn from the industry, public sector and academia in Nigeria, some African countries, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

They also agreed that there are immense potentials and possibilities in digitalisation to promote resilience in the built environment in Africa.

Leading the call, a lecturer at the Department Of Computer Science And Technology at American International University, West Africa, The Gambia, Olawale Fabiyi, observed that as countries enter the era of smart cities and 4th industrial revolution, it will continue to be exposed to various crises, ranging from dramatic shocks such as floods and earthquakes to long-term stresses caused by climate change and social dynamics, hence, the need for urban resilience.

Fabiyi said the digitalisation of the built environment would lead to new forms of the process through which roads, bridges and buildings are designed, constructed and operated to new forms of organisation through which professionals work and interact.

He said resilience could only be achieved through sustainable practices, change and innovation, adding that “new technology makes us more resilient and able to adapt to new challenges that affect the world around us.”

Although, some players in the building sector have already undertaken digital transformation, he said, there is still little awareness of the new forms of processes and organisations associated with digitalisation.

According to him, there was a need to research how digital technologies and Artificial Intelligence could solve security and safety challenges in the construction industry, as well as supply chain issues.

On his part, Dr. Rabiu Asante, of the Department of Sociology, Centre for Urban Studies, University of Ghana, lamented the slow pace of infrastructural development across Africa, adding that research must be carried out to unearth how digitalisation can improve resilience in the building industry.

For Dr. Ikenna Ajiero, a builder, digital and sensor technologies, Building Information Modelling, (BIM), the Internet of Things, data aggregation and advanced simulation are largely unexploited in the built environment.

The lead of, the Digital Built Environment Cluster of the UNILAG Centre, Prof. Martin Dada, explained that the cluster intends to explore and promote the potential, possibilities and societal benefits of digitalisation in the built environment through education, practices, processes, procurement and project delivery.

He called for partnerships and collaboration to improve the continent’s built sector.

Earlier, the Co-Director, Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development, Prof. Taibat Lawanson, and Director of the University of Lagos Research Management Office, who is also the founding Director of the Centre for Housing and Sustainable Development of the university, Prof. Timothy Nubi, highlighted the role of the centre to participants and applauded the success of the inaugural virtual seminar.

Also a Distinguished Professor from North Carolina State University, Edward Jaselskis, appreciated the work of the cluster and efforts being made for collaboration.