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Expectations rise as market matures

Sami Al Hashami, CEO, Mizin, discusses how customer demands for innovative properties will force developers to raise the quality of construction.

Sami Al Hashami advocates sustainability.
Sami Al Hashami advocates sustainability.

Sami Al Hashami, CEO, Mizin, discusses how customer demands for innovative properties will force developers to raise the quality of construction.

What is the philosophy of Mizin and how does it differ from other developers?

We believe that as the market matures, customers will come to expect more from developers. They will expect features, options and customer service levels that transcend what is currently being offered.

We also believe that the "one size fits all" or "build it and they will come" approach will become obsolete. We aim to provide a different kind of buying experience, a new kind of product and new added value offerings.

What do you feel are the main challenges in the industry?

I believe the uniqueness of our approach to master-planning has allowed us to circumvent several of the current issues an investor typically encounters. These relate mainly to early access to the site and availability of infrastructure.

Our approach is based on phasing infrastructure work into two segments. The first includes roads and basic infrastructure and grading and phase II includes major infrastructure works on utilities. We only launch a project upon completion of the site planning.

This enables investors and developers to access their site at the earliest, plan construction accordingly and launch their projects in accordance with current market demand. This is a huge advantage for developers as it impacts their return on investment and the viability of the project.

For the industry as a whole, I believe the ever increasing construction costs are threatening to put developments beyond the reach of a large percentage of prospective buyers.

I believe developers have also been experiencing a lower response rate to tenders by contractors. We at Mizin are surmounting the current challenges by exploring various procurement strategies and leveraging the scale of our projects and the economies of scale that these provide.

What are your views on innovation and transparency within the real estate development industry?

I think current innovation in building projects is primarily driven by a corporate image rather than the needs of the customer.

We at Mizin allocate a significant portion of our investments to research to identify industry trends, customer requirements and current attitudes. This is augmented by rigorous financial and feasibility plans drawn up by an independent party.

We also "concept test" most of our developments to ascertain their suitability to current and future customer needs. Remraam is a case in point, where our research highlighted a perception that value for money usually entailed a compromise on location, building quality, community facilities or overall design.

I believe we have managed to address this niche in Remraam by delivering a community that combines value for money with upscale living. The response to our Remraam project was phenomenal because this is the type of innovation that touches and impacts the customers directly.

As for transparency, again our research indicates that customer expectations are not being met in several areas. This is of course typical of any new industry, where the focus is on product rather than added value services.

Our belief is that this will change as the market matures and competition increases. Developers will realise that it will take more than just a well-designed product to differentiate them from the competition.

How is Mizin managing to overcome these issues?

The main challenge to the construction industry currently is rising costs. This is driven by a number of factors namely: negative interest rates, which is a result of inflation and low interest rates. This is further compounded by rising fuel costs and scarcity of steel and other building materials.

The measures we are employing to meet these challenges are exploring out-of-the-box solutions to tendering as well as looking at adopting innovative building designs, and direct negotiation with suppliers to meet delivery timelines.

Let's talk about sustainability. What is Mizin doing to meet the new green building standards?

We are focusing on three key sustainability elements this year: energy consumption, water consumption and waste generation. Our aim is to be a pioneer in green design and to lead by example.

One of our projects, which is still at the design stage, will redefine and establish the standards for green buildings in Dubai.

I do not want to give away too many details now, but I believe this project will push the boundaries of what is possible on a worldwide scale. We are also developing a number of green measures in Remraam, Majan, Liwan and Arjan such as solar lighting and water heating. These will be announced in more detail once our testing is complete.

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