Technology in Construction Webinar: Case Studies from ES Global and Laing O'Rourke

A couple of months ago, I attended an online webinar in which ES Global and Laing O'Rourke, two leading UK construction companies, shared how they were using cutting-edge technologies on their projects. It was part of the “Digital Building Week” event put together by the organization, Building Design. In addition to discussing the technologies, the firms also presented case studies showing how the technologies were being leveraged to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and meet project deadlines.

ES Global

ES Global specializes in designing, managing, and assembling temporary structures and installations and works as a lead contractor for major events and projects around the world (Figure 1). These include stadiums and concert venues for major sporting and cultural events such as the Olympics and World Expos — it is an official supplier to the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, and it is delivering four pavilions for the World Expo 2025 in Japan. The firm is headquartered in London and has a staging hub in the Midlands where it tests out its construction technologies; it also has branches in the US, Japan, France, Australia, and the Middle East.

In its work in creating structures that are temporary, the focus of the firm is on reusability, on how to make sure that the materials, components, and equipment used in a project have multiple lives. The key technology it is using to accomplish this is modularity. It has developed a proprietary Global Modular System (GMS), which comprises a widespan steel structure of size 10m by 10m that can be used to build modular structures for any project type (Figure 2). The modules are designed to be compactly packed and quickly assembled, with minimum labor requirements, as well as quickly disassembled if required. They are also designed to be flexible, so the same modular structure can be (re)used for different building types. The structures are tested in ES Global’s dedicated staging facility, as shown in Figure 2.

Some examples of how the GMS has been used by ES Global in its projects include the Jakarta International Velodrome that was built for the 2018 Asian Games (Figure 3), in which components that formed the water polo venue for the London 2012 Olympics — which also went on to be re-used in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics — formed the bulk of the velodrome structure; the Dragon’s Heart Hospital, which was a temporary hospital quickly built for COVID emergency response in April 2020 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (Figure 4), which ES Global was able to fast-track and deliver in a week at the start of the pandemic; and the ABBA Voyage Arena that ES Global constructed in London in early 2022, in which the use of the modular system allowed the entire structure to be taken down, packed into containers for efficient transportation, and relocated and reassembled for future events (Figure 5).

Laing O'Rourke

Laing O'Rourke is a multinational engineering and construction company delivering large infrastructure and building projects for clients in the UK, Middle East, and Australia.  It is headquartered in Dartford, England, and with over 10,000 employees, it ranks as the largest privately owned construction company in the UK.

The main incentive for Laing O'Rourke to explore technology solutions for construction is the sheer untenability of the current process. A case in point is the Hinckley Point C project—the first nuclear power station to be built in the UK for a generation — which Laing O'Rourke is currently working on (Figure 6). Located in Somerset, this is one of the biggest projects underway in Western Europe, with 585,000 hours of work being done at the construction site every fortnight. Going forward, such enormous volumes of labor are not going to be sustainable, both because of changing demographics (younger generations will likely not want to put in hours of backbreaking manual labor to earn a living) as well as ever-tightening requirements from a sustainability perspective. The construction industry has to change, and similar to other industries that are using technology to improve efficiency and reduce manual labor, it needs to continue finding new ways for technology to help.

One of the main technologies that Laing O'Rourke is adopting is offsite manufacturing, and while the use of prefabricated components in construction is not novel, what makes Laing O'Rourke a pioneer in this area is that it creates these components in-house. It has established a dedicated facility for manufacturing concrete products, the Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction (CEMC), where over 400 people work closely with digital engineers and project teams from the firm to design and precision manufacture a range of components for use in major building and infrastructure projects (Figure 7). These include walls, floor slabs, columns and façade panels, and even modular bridges to span roads and railways. In addition to the components being produced in a safe, warm, and dry environment, they can be transported to project sites for just-in-time construction, dramatically improving efficiency and reducing the need for material storage on site.

The CEMC facility has allowed Laing O'Rourke to take 70 per cent of its construction work offsite into a controlled environment, delivering a 60 per cent improvement in efficiency and a 30 per cent improvement in project schedule. An example is the Grange University Hospital project in South Wales (Figure 8), on which Laing O’Rourke was a principal contractor. This 560-bed, state-of-the-art hospital opened with zero defects in November 2020, four months ahead of schedule, helping the Health Board respond to winter season pressures and the second wave of Covid-19.

Additional technologies that are being implemented at Laing O'Rourke include digital modeling, 4D scheduling, detailed simulation, augmented reality, and virtual reality (Figure 9). The project that was used to showcase the use of these technologies is the new 52,888-seater, £555 million football stadium for Everton FC in Liverpool (Figure 10). Laing O’Rourke is the main contractor on this large and complex stadium project, and it is using both its expertise with digital technologies and its in-house supply chain to help efficiently deliver the project on time and within budget.  The stadium is currently under construction and aims to be completed in time for the 2024/25 season.


While the webinar also included a presentation by WSP, one of the world’s leading engineering and professional services firms, it discussed the use of technology in construction from a more abstract perspective rather than with specific project examples, which is why it hasn’t been covered in this article.

While both ES Global and Laing O'Rourke are large international firms and therefore not really representative of the vast majority of construction firms building the world’s physical infrastructure, it was very informative to see what these firms, with their vast resources in exploring technology solutions, are doing and where they are headed. It seems clear that modularity and prefabrication are the way to go, not just for small (and boring) “cookie-cutter” projects, but for any large, complex, and geometrically challenging project that can be envisioned.

About the Author

Lachmi Khemlani is founder and editor of AECbytes. She has a Ph.D. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, specializing in intelligent building modeling, and consults and writes on AEC technology. She can be reached at


Have comments or feedback on this article? Visit its AECbytes blog posting to share them with other readers or see what others have to say.

AECbytes content should not be reproduced on any other website, blog, print publication, or newsletter without permission.

Related Articles

LeChase Construction: Firm Profile

Chris Preston, BIM Manager at LeChase, a construction company with annual revenues approaching $1 billion and 11 regional offices across the east coast, describes its implementation of AEC technology in this Firm Profile.

Exploring the Impact of AI on Architecture

This article captures the discussion on the potential impact of AI in Architecture presented at the WA100 Live 2024 event, with leading firms in the UK including Foster + Partners and Heatherwick Studio sharing the exploratory work they are doing with AI.

Engineering Excellence: The Shusha Bridge

This article shows how the global design and engineering firm, Yüksel Proje, harnessed the power of parametric modeling, streamlined workflow processes, and advanced visualization techniques with Allplan Bridge to create the Shusha Bridge in Azerbaijan.

Qatar Stadium for the 2022 FIFA World Cup

This article describes how the BIM application for HVAC, FineHVAC, was used by the firm, GKA Engineers, for the design of the HVAC network installations in the Qatar Foundation Stadium, a host venue for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.