COVID-19 in Construction: How architects have dealt with disruption

We took a seat with Azlina Bulmer, RIBA, Director of International at The Big 5 Digital Festival to talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world of architecture.

Q: According to you, what are the most exciting trends facing architects globally over the coming 5 years?

A: COVID-19 has impacted the sector on a global scale, and as we move into a post-pandemic world, public health will be a priority.

We are also entering an increasingly digitally connected age, and architects will need to look at delivering buildings, cities and towns that are adaptable to changing living and working arrangements, as well as protecting the health and wellbeing of those who occupy them.

At the RIBA we are proud to be working with the FCDO and UN Habitat, to help deliver the UK Government’s Global Future Cities Programme. We are working with 19 cities in 10 middle income countries to share expertise on one of the most significant challenges we all face: how to adapt urban spaces and our ways of living to make them future ready. We are exploring how cities can meet the UN Sustainable Goals and respond to rapid urbanization, while dealing with and learning from the pandemic.

Q: How does the regional industry compare to international trends and challenges?

A: Considering the impact of the pandemic, regional industries across the globe face the same threats.

The UAE has always been ahead in terms of technological advancement in local infrastructure which seeps into the built environment as well. If anything, the UAE had a solid base to tackle the pandemic.

The RIBA has noticed a spike in virtual engagement in RIBA activities across the seven Gulf countries and we continue to provide content digitally to members across the region through CPDs, competitions and networking events.

Q: According to you, what are some of the most pressing barriers faced by professionals in your field?

A: The RIBA surveys of the profession, such as our monthly Future Trends reports and COVID-19 surveys, have shown the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the personal and professional lives of architects.

There have been economic challenges, delays to projects, and an impact on confidence, but the sector has remained resilient. However, we have been concerned to see a significant decline in mental health, with many professionals having to deal with reduced incomes, while juggling caring responsibilities with home working.

Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, the RIBA remains focused on the single biggest issue facing the profession – the role of the built environment in dealing with the climate emergency and playing our part in a green economic recovery.

Q: What is your advice to professionals trying to overcome these barriers?

As lockdown restrictions come and go and the world adapts to life post-pandemic, we must embrace new ways of working. It’s also important to prioritise our health and wellbeing – and those of our employees and colleagues – and seek support should we need to. Practice leaders can help by promoting a healthy work-life balance.

The RIBA is working hard to provide our members with all the information and tools they need to navigate their way through this time. From lobbying UK government on the key issues that matter to our sector, to providing advice on practice resilience and remote working, we are tailoring our plans to respond to our members’ feedback and support them every step of the way.

Q: Why is it important for events such as The Big 5 to continue to offer free education to construction professionals, even in the face of COVID-19?

A: Architecture, design and construction have a key role to play in our response to the global pandemic, and events like The Big 5 provide an important platform for professionals to share their knowledge and expertise.

We have continued to offer free Global Architecture Exchanges, an online series of talks by the RIBA and other professional architecture institutes from around the world. These have explored circular architecture and the relationship between architecture and culture, and how these are approached internationally. Our final event, focusing on design for the elderly, will take place on 10 December. For more information visit:

Q: Why is it important for your association to support The Big 5 Digital Festival in 2020?

A: As an international organisation with offices in the UAE, UK and China, the RIBA supports architects and architecture students globally. We are very pleased to partner with The Big 5 Digital Festival in its inaugural year, and this year’s event provides a great opportunity for architects from around the world to come together, to learn and share their experiences and expertise.

The Big 5 Digital Festival successfully concluded in November 2020. Thousands of construction and infrastructure professionals tuned-in from around the world to restart business together, get a clear vision of what’s next for the sector, build strategic connections, and be inspired by powerful ideas.

Watch The Big 5 Digital Festival's sessions on-demand:

The Big 5 will return from 12-15 September at the Dubai World Trade Centre. Supporting economic growth and recovery, the event will feature enhanced health and safety measures to ensure all participants can meet, network, and do business in a safe environment.

To know more about The Big 5, visit

Media Contacts:

Elisha Dessurne
Elisha Dessurne Content and Public Relations Manager, dmg events


About The Big 5

The Big 5 is the construction event providing leading-edge innovation, knowledge, and business opportunities for industry players around the world to connect, grow, and succeed.

Taking place annually in Dubai since 1979, the event has launched hundreds of thousands of products boosting the expansion of emerging markets. It has facilitated partnerships, advanced knowledge and industry best practices, while serving as the gateway for international companies to access the Middle East, Africa and South Asia regions.

The Big 5 covers the full construction cycle; not only does it showcase products across dedicated sectors, it also runs alongside nine specialised events enabling industry professionals to source building solutions from around the globe for every stage of the construction projects: The Big 5 Heavy, Middle East Concrete, Windows, Doors & Facades Event, Gulf Glass, HVAC R Expo, The Big 5 Solar, Middle East Stone, the Urban Design & Landscape Expo, and FM Expo.

The event includes high-level summits, practical seminars, CPD-certified workshops, and The Big 5 Impact Awards to foster collaboration, support best practices, and provide effective solutions to today’s industry challenges.

The Big 5 is organised by dmg events and is free to attend for all pre-registered visitors. 


To know more, visit

About dmg events

dmg events is a leading organiser of face-to-face events and a publisher of trade magazines.

We aim to keep businesses informed and connect them with relevant communities to create vibrant marketplaces and to accelerate their business through face-to-face events.

dmg events organises more than 80 events across 25 countries, attracting over 425,000 attendees and delegates every year. The company’s portfolio of products includes many industry-leading events in the energy, construction, hospitality & design, coatings and transportation sectors. ADIPEC, The Big 5, Gastech, EGYPS, The Hotel Show and INDEX are the company’s flagship events. For more information visit

About DMGT

DMGT manages a portfolio of companies that provide businesses and consumers with compelling information, analysis, insight, events, news and entertainment. The Group takes a long-term approach to investment and has market-leading positions in consumer media, insurance risk, property information, education technology, energy information and events & exhibitions. In total, DMGT generates revenues of around £1 billion.