The sun still shines on Masdar

Masdar City continues to be an important source of building contracts

Gerhard Hope.
Gerhard Hope.

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On the utility and MEP levels, Masdar City has evoked debate about renewable energy in the Middle East. On the construction level, the project continues to be hugely important.

The latest contractor to benefit was Arabian Construction Company (ACC). It announced a $204.2million contract to expand the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MIST) campus. Not only will this add 82,000m2 to the campus, it will keep ACC busy over the next 18 months, and be a welcome boost to its bottom line in 2011.

In commenting on the contract win, ACC director Hamed Mikati touted the company as a ‘seasoned’ sustainability contractor building on the future of green construction.

ACC is a key example of a major contractor that has adapted to the current business environment by diversifying geographically, focusing on its core business and keeping in touch with the latest trends and issues.

It has also been awarded the main contract to build Jordan’s tallest skyscraper, the 188m high Rotana Hotel in Amman. These two contracts will keep ACC on a high profile for the foreseeable future.

Masdar City was also in the news recently due to the visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lauded the cleantech and renewable initiatives being undertaken by MIST.

A potential cloud on all the good news was the revelation that Masdar Power no longer aims to manufacture solar panels locally as planned, but this is more a rationalisation than a step back.

Equally interesting was the inaugural meeting of the Emirates Solar Industry Association (ESIA) at the Yas Island Rotana in Abu Dhabi. It concluded that, while solar energy is a hot topic, a lot needs to be done to realise its full potential.

There are 70 solar-related companies in the UAE, says to ESIA. These range from vendors of solar thermal hot water heating to photovoltaic systems. The construction industry is having to ‘adapt or die’ when it comes to the fast-changing solar industry. The most immediate impact is likely to be the large-scale provision of solar thermal hot water heating in all projects – which is a huge consumer of energy in the Middle East.

The past was dominated by the attitude that you build first, and then let someone else worry about the end users and larger infrastructural issues.
This has changed markedly in the wake of the downturn, which is to the benefit of everybody. Contractors are even beginning to talk nice with consultants, as with the research project between Ramboll and Samsung Construction to develop a sustainable building materials database for the entire region.

This has important ramifications for specification and procurement, and is likely to drive building costs down even further while having a marked impact on overall quality, and that can only be a good thing.

It is clear that professional relationships along the entire supply chain, from architects to contractors and product vendors, are maturing, along with the construction industry itself.

That this has made for a smaller overall construction market at the end of the day is inevitable, but it is equally clear that high-profile projects like Masdar City will continue to prove the mettle of the construction industry.

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