Stamp of approval

The impression is that build quality in Dubai is generally poor

Gerhard Hope.
Gerhard Hope.

The impression is that build quality in Dubai is generally poor, but a company director I spoke to recently, who began working in Dubai in early 2000, said: “Funnily enough, when I first came here, I thought the quality was very good. I think it went through a stage in the boom times when build quality deteriorated dramatically.”

Interestingly, the director also said: “I was equally surprised at the lack of engineering capability on the part of many contractors. That has corrected itself for the better, but quality has definitely deteriorated.”

The consultancy in question is South African, and the director came over to Dubai after that country’s own building boom peaked with a spate of luxury casino and hotel resorts, such as Montecasino in Johannesburg. Having such iconic Dubai projects as the Madinat Jumeirat development under its belt, the consultancy has just sent one of its other directors back to the South African operation.

Here he will relay the invaluable experience he has garnered to the loyal troops there, particularly in MEP, which is structured differently in the South African construction industry.

We often hear about companies and individuals undertaking the great trek to Dubai, but it is refreshing to hear the construction industry here serving as a benchmark for the rest of the world as well.

That very same consultancy is now also looking to expand to the Indian subcontinent, where it will no doubt put its Middle East experience to good use as well.

Commenting on the business environment in 2011, the director said: “Developers are under pressure, but they are doing things the proper way by looking at feasibility first; we are helping with value engineering at the outset rather than cost-cutting at the end, which can compromise the intentions of the initial design [in terms of energy efficiency], whereas doing it from day one is far more integrated and sustainable.”

The director added it was a pity that the downturn was so stark. “If only it had been a bit less dramatic, it would have been better for the economy. It has over-corrected, and needs to go up again.” He added that “the mice had got scared and have scampered away.”

The comment that struck a real chord was that: “Dubai has only been good to us, and now it is a case of putting a bit of that trust back.” This pragmatic attitude is typically South African. Nevertheless it is great advice for the New Year: to knuckle down to work and make things turn out for the better.

“From our side, all the stakeholders, from suppliers to manufacturers, promote a strategic vision for projects … We all take ownership of the quality; we all can make the difference.

“At the end of the day, we are definitely positive about future opportunities throughout the region. Dubai has given us the strength to carry on, after having initially shown us the way. It is a great platform to build on.”

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