New in store for Bahrain
Majaal is supplying 65,500 square metres of valuable warehousing space
Far from the bustle and modern skyscrapers in Manama, the Salman Industrial City is home to a quiet surge in industrial activity, with construction projects following closely in step.
The site and company in question act like a series of Russian dolls, as within this complex, about half a mile from the front gates and another half a mile from Mina al Salman port, lies Bahrain Investment Wharf (BIW). Within this lies Majaal, a project and a company of the same name under development by First Bahrain Real Estate Development Company, a Kuwait-based developer that has focused on the industrial sector as a fertile ground for steady returns.
Majaal is a series of warehouses covering 65,500m2 at the Bahrain Investment Wharf (BIW) in Hidd. It provides modern facilities to small and medium-sized companies.
The key is on higher-quality space that can provide storage and offices, as well room for some light manufacturing if need be. It aims to attract both local companies as well as international firms looking to establish a foothold in the region.
First Bahrain has leased six plots from BIW, a $1.6 billion development by Tameer that is the only privately-owned, operated and managed industrial park in the Kingdom.
Amin Al-Arrayed, general manager of First Bahrain, explains that after a severe market correction for commercial and residential building in places such as Bahrain and Dubai, industrial-focused projects provided a less volatile context in which to develop. It also met a local market need.
“Due to the market dynamics today, it makes sense for us to go industrial, and I think it was a wise decision on our part to say okay, we will focus on this sector,” says Al Arrayed.
“So for us, it was a sensible and clear decision to say the economy is weak, and this is a sector that is getting a lot of government support. It should do well during a recessionary period, so let us invest.”
Majaal’s development – launched mid-2007 – is split into three phases. The first phase, built by Abdulla Al-Darazi & Sons, a local contractor, was finished last year, and comprises three warehouses that will be split internally into areas from 250m2 to 1,000m2. These have been leased to a range of tenants, from banks and manufacturers to drug companies.
Phase one was designed by Dutch company Tebodin Consultants & Engineering, a broad-service consultancy that posted a turnover of $276.3million in 2009, has a network of offices around the Middle East, and has been in Bahrain since 1997. The three warehouses cover 12,000m2 in total.
Construction began in February 2009, with Abdulla Al-Darazi using its local contact book to procure materials and services. Kirby Building Systems supplied the steel structure , along with a clutch of other projects in the country, with Al Moayyed International Group providing the fire safety equipment and the MEP works.
“There has been a mix of companies, some that are here for the first time in Bahrain,” says Yasser O. Abu-Lughod, head of development at First Bahrain. This includes foreign companies from Europe. “It is the only place in Bahrain where you can have security 24/7,” he says.
“Each unit has an address. There are [also safety features such as] fire alarm systems.”
Inside the smaller of the two warehouses, walls for partitioning have already been put in place, though this is still a sizeable space. A single office has been constructed aloft in one corner of a unit, with small kitchen facilities underneath. “There are lots of facilities provided for the tenant to build on, or if there needs to be a mezzanine, for example,” he says.
The warehouses use simple innovations to reduce tenancy costs, such as broad skylights to reduce the need for artificial lighting, along with many elements of the design and construction deployed to accommodate the wear and tear involved with heavy loads and complex machinery.
The floor is a particular innovation, made from concrete infused with steel fibres. This compares to a standard slab cast around steel rebar mesh.
Sushil Kher, executive director at Mohamed Salahuddin Consulting Engineering Bureau, a local architectural consultant, which was contracted to design the second phase, said this is an innovation from Europe.
“Slab floors are traditionally made from concrete reinforced by a steel mesh. In this case, it is a particular grade of concrete combined with steel fabric rather than mesh. [European companies] have been using and testing the system for years. The overall effect is that it can take a much heavier load,” says Kher.
The floors were provided by the Luxembourg-based firm Twintec International, a specialist contractor for steel-fibre reinforced concrete as applied to industrial flooring. The company’s key product is the Freeplan joint-free floor that can be produced on ground or on piles.
As with any innovation, however, it is typically more expensive to install than more orthodox flooring.
We keep upgrading our products, and compile case studies to show clients. We receive a briefing from the manufacturer, and then in turn we brief the client,” explains Kher.
Fawzi Al-Darazi, a co-managing director at Abdulla Al-Darazi, says projects have been emerging at a steady rate recently, and that the market was not as severely hit by the wider recession as property-heavy Dubai was.
First Bahrain awarded the design of the second phase to Mohamed Salahuddin Consulting Engineering Bureau in August last year.
Sushil Kher says the design and eventual construction of the second phase – a single 13,000m2 warehouse, which will be divided into 1,000m2 units – intends to be more user-friendly than the first phase.
“One major difference is that phase one has no docking levellers to park trailer trucks,” he says, an additional feature that will be present in the upcoming facility," Kher says.
A feature retained from the first phase is the flexibility to accommodate diverse end users. “The areas in one warehouse were 1,000m2, but the design has the flexibility that if a potential client wants to use 5,000m2, all of it could be theirs, or they might want only 2,000m2.”
Yasser O. Abu-Lughod, head of development at First Bahrain, adds that a new tenant had requested a 4,000m2 space, for example.
“We will be able to hold off the construction of the partition wall until near the end of construction, although even if the wall had to be built, it can be knocked down again if the client wants it,” says Kher.
“It is a joint process with the client; we are working closely with them to assess which tenants will be in the warehouse.” Tenders for the construction of the second phase closed at the end of December last year, and negotiations are still in process, according to Abu-Lughod.
Further down the line, he reveals that the company is keeping in mind plans for the third phase, which will be another single warehouse. But unlike the warehouse of the second phase, this is intended to house a single tenant. Abu-Lughod would not reveal the potential tenant, though speculated that it could very well be a shipping company.
For Abdulla Al Darazi, this is just one of a number of industrial projects earmarked for the region. “We are in close contact with potential clients to commence with two projects in the industrial sector, and are anticipating to start working on this in early March this year,” says Nishad Abdul Samad.