Partner - Godwin Austen Johnson

We asked award winning Nathan Cartwright from Godwin Austen Johnson to share his views on today's construction industry for The Big 5 Opinion Leaders Series, and this is what he had to say:

What are the major opportunities in the GCC/UAE construction industry currently?

The major opportunities we see at present, and this reflects the enquiries we are receiving, continues to be the hospitality sector in the UAE and in KSA.
Locally in the UAE there is a push to complete hospitality developments, both new and those that are being refurbished prior to Expo 2020. And in Saudi Arabia the current reforms are also providing additional opportunities, particularly in hospitality and residential developments.

What are the major growth drivers for the construction industry in the UAE?

Expo 2020 will continue to drive growth in Dubai and, to some extent, the other Emirates. This will be further enhanced by the growth in tourism so we do not see the current 7 – 8% year on year growth in construction slowing for the short term.

How do you think the construction industry will evolve in the next years?

In the next few years I believe there will be a greater focus on sustainability with more stringent energy saving targets. With the improvement in metering and visibility of consumption, the results of an energy efficient approach are now tangible and measureable.  There is a clear understanding that if a building is designed efficiently and operated well, it will cost less to run.
BIM will expand to cover all phases of the project through to and including operation. The current employment of BIM is fairly limited, however as consultants and contractors improve the quality of models it will become more viable.
I think we will also start to see more focus on modular and off-site construction assisted by 3D printing because of the numerous benefits this offers most notably in the reduction of supply costs and build times.

What is the biggest challenge for you in the market this year and why?

The current trend for projects both for pre and post contract to be awarded based on fee rather than value presents a significant challenge.  This is a false economy which will inevitably lead to delays, an increase in litigation and decrease in project quality.

Why do you think it is important for Architects to attend The Big 5, the largest construction show in the Middle East?

The value of trade shows should not be under-estimated. Attendance at The Big 5 gives us access to key business partners and relevant suppliers all under one roof allowing us quality networking opportunities. We also always make a point of attending the Big 5 Talks for fruitful discussions and to learn of the latest industry updates.

Nathan Cartwright, Partner - Commercial and Operations Director

 Australian-born Nathan has more than 20 years’ experience working in the construction industry and is a highly respected member of the local engineering community.

 Following a more practical path to start his career Nathan completed an electrical apprenticeship with BHP Australia before moving into Building Services Engineering in the UK. In 2007 Nathan relocated to the UAE with international consulting firm Scott Wilson to build a regional MEP team which he successfully managed as Head of MEP until 2012 when the opportunity arose to join Godwin Austen Johnson and build an in-house MEP capability for the award-winning firm.

 Nathan’s work has focused on sustainable design and spans the education, hospitality, healthcare, residential and commercial sectors. He has been instrumental in the design of many award-winning projects including the Sustainable Project of the Year at the 2016 ME MEP awards for the Arcadia Preparatory School in the UAE.

 As the Commercial and Operations Director, Nathan heads up business development as well as business support operations which encompasses fee bids, programming and planning within the practice. While his current role involves a more commercial focus, Nathan is on hand to advise on technical issues and he remains involved in the MEP department.

About GAJ

Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ) is one of the largest and longest-established UK architectural and design practices in the UAE. Throughout its history, which spans almost 30 years, the company has created some of the Emirates most iconic buildings and has helped define the Emirates as we know it today.

An award-winning and multi-disciplinary architecture, interior design, specialist lighting and MEP practice, GAJ has particular expertise in hotel and hospitality, residential and commercial, education, sport and leisure design.  Despite its years the company remains young and dynamic employing more than 180 employees from its Dubai headquarters with offices also in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Muscat and the UK. The GAJ portfolio of work is extensive with a wide range of built and ongoing projects across the Middle East and North Africa.

Godwin Austen Johnson is committed to the belief that the quality of the built environment is an essential part of the economic and cultural fabric of society in which the very best architectural approach plays a central and intrinsic role.


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.