The Desert Group

Offering multiple services gives greater project control, says James Balderstone, project manager at The Desert Group.

James Balderstone
James Balderstone

Offering multiple services gives greater project control, says James Balderstone, project manager at The Desert Group.

Operating in the UAE since 1988, The Desert Group is one of the biggest names in the landscape business. Project manager James Balderstone talks to Commercial Outdoor Design.

What does The Desert Group do?

The Dubai-based Desert Group is the umbrella organisation for six landscape related companies operating within the UAE.

The group founded Desert Landscape Company first in 1988 and the other companies were developed over time to give a complete landscaping solution.

The group consists of: Desert Landscape Company, Desert Leisure, Desert Rockcraft, Desert Turfcare, the Dubai Garden Centre, and Wahat Al Sahraa Seeds and Agriculture, the agricultural and nursery division of the group.

What services do you offer?

Desert Landscape is the largest division of the group. It offers a fully comprehensive service including landscape design and architecture, establishment of on-site plant nurseries, landscape construction, irrigation design, irrigation construction, building and civil engineering (relating to landscape structures), mechanical and electrical work, post-project operation and maintenance.

Desert Landscape works with its sister companies on particular elements of projects, for example, with Desert Rockcraft on specialized hard landscaping and artificial themed rockwork features, and with Desert Leisure on the design and supply of swimming pool and water features.

What advantages are there in offering a variety of services?

We found that it was very frustrating working with so many different contractors and sub-contractors on site and figured that we could do better and have fewer delays by running our own divisions.

What projects has The Desert Group worked on?

The Desert Group has worked on a wide range of projects in the UAE from the Jumeirah Beach club to The One and Only Royal Mirage hotel to Bab Al Shams.

As well as these large-scale prestigious projects, the small works section of Desert Landscape provides landscape design, construction, and maintenance services to private homeowners.

What projects are you doing at the moment?

One of our biggest projects is the Greg Norman golf courses at the Jumeirah Golf Estates. The Desert Group is building the first two courses, Fire and Earth, of the development.

What are the main challenges of working in this region?

One of the major problems is logistics. It can be hard getting good workers, qualified professionals to work on jobs. Availability of materials, such as plants, can be another problem. It helps in this to have our own nurseries.

Before coming to Dubai, you worked in Australia. What are the main differences you find between working on landscape projects in Australia and here?

In Australia, they are very strict and you have to adhere to a lot of policies, there is a huge design approval process. In this region, there isn't time to go through huge approval processes, so things tend to generally happen a lot quicker.

What plans does The Desert Group have for the future?

One of our key focuses is to set up a design and build division as part of the Desert Landscape division.

The service is targeted at premium 'private' and 'commercial' projects that require quality 'design and build' works. As part of this, we are adding more landscape architects to our staff.

The company is also looking to expand in the Middle East region. We have started to establish ourselves in Abu Dhabi, and we're looking at work opportunities in Oman and Qatar, as well as in Morocco.

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