With age comes maturity

Confidence in UAE’s construction and engineering sectors continues, with a focus on sustainability.

2016 proved to be a challenging period for the UAE’s construction industry. Reduced Government spending, delays to large infrastructural projects in Saudi Arabia and across the region, coupled with the continued low oil prices, saw many of the industry’s key players book reduced profits. Damac Properties, one of the UAE’s leading real-estate companies saw its net profit drop by 11.7% for the last quarter of 2016. Sub-contracting companies were particularly hard hit with large-scale job losses seen throughout the industry. But as 2017 approaches, the outlook in the UAE isn’t all doom and gloom. With Abu Dhabi’s plan to invest more than $130 million in infrastructure development and several ambitious projects planned for Dubai, the UAE is continuing to actively structure the nation’s growth, keeping environmental sustainability in mind.

The construction industry has been buoyed by the successful completion of large projects in the UAE. The new Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Road highway, phase two of the Dubai Water Canal and the completion of the Dubai Opera House have boistered public opinion that the UAE is still a world leader in innovative construction projects. Speaking with World Business Times, Adnan Mian, President and CEO of Mercury MENA, a leading international engineering firm, shared his opinion, “Perception plays an important role in creating a positive environment, which is much needed after a difficult past few years.”

After ground was broken on the Dubai World Expo 2020 site, measuring 4.38 square kilometres, and other projects linked with it were given the go ahead, the event itself is generating optimism within the industry. With infrastructure and development well underway, including a 15-kilometre extension to the Dubai Metro and continued expansion of Al Maktoum International Airport, the Dubai Government has worked hard to ensure a successful Expo 2020. Sanjay Bhatia, Managing Director of the financial advisory firm Alpen Capital (M.E.) Ltd. commented that, “As many as 20,000 new businesses are being set up in Dubai to support the event, creating around 275,000 new jobs across sectors. Such a boost to the economy can benefit the residential and commercial construction industries.”

There is also a focus on efficiency and sustainability, with Dubai Municipality implementing key initiatives with the goal of making Dubai a fully sustainable city by 2021. Wastewater projects will replace the current tunnel system to centralise flow and treatment with the system designed to last 100 years, and lower electricity usage by 30%, reducing Dubai’s overall carbon footprint. Additionally, several green building regulations are now mandatory for the private as well as the public sector to meet the Dubai Government’s initiative to become the world’s leading green city. Both are examples of Dubai’s commitment to sustainable development for the UAE.

Similarly, Dr. Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, described Abu Dhabi’s Strategic Tunnel Enhancement Programme (STEP) as one of the UAE’s most important sustainable and efficient infrastructure projects. As a massive gravity-driven hydraulic wastewater network tunnel, it will triple Abu Dhabi’s existing sewage network in order to manage population growth with an anticipated 1.9 million cubic metres of wastewater flow per day by 2030. The project will allow for a decommissioning of an estimated 35 treatment plants in Abu Dhabi. This is expected to increase the quality of life for residents and significantly reduce the UAE’s carbon footprint.

With the Abu Dhabi Midfield Terminal under construction, sustainability will take centre stage with angled, high-performance glass to reduce heat and state-of- the-art district cooling plants. These forward-thinking features will ensure the terminal is ready for increased capacity and ensure a reduced environmental impact. The entire facility is designed to meet the requirements for a Two Pearl Rating under the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council’s Estidama programme for sustainable development. As Mr. Mian states, “With the energy costs rising, sustainable design, construction and operations will be critical towards delivering energy-efficient, reliable and robust buildings.”