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Smart project planning will make UAE more livable

The UAE’s construction sector has proven time and again that it can walk the walk when it comes to project development, but it needs to help the rest of us do the same

COMMENT, Projects, Construction, Planning, Project development, Smart, Uae, United Arab Emirates

I’ve been living in the UAE since 2013, and despite the myriad plus-points that have convinced me to call this country my home, there remain a number of factors that – on occasion – make me long to return to my old life in the United Kingdom.

At this point, it would be reasonable of you to assume that I am referring to the absence of my friends and family, but you’d be wrong; I am nothing if not unsentimental. No, aside from some particularly aggravating driving habits, my chief bugbear when it comes to the UAE is the pavement situation.

I concede that pavements exist in the Emirates. What aggrieves me is the regularity with which they cease to exist – and with no apparent warning.

One of my most vivid memories of Dubai is the anger I felt when, after walking along a bridge from the Marina to JBR, I was confronted with a pile of construction debris in lieu of an exit. I had three options: proceed to my destination by hurdling the concrete barrier to my left, navigating heavy traffic in the process; jump the steel barrier on my right and swim ashore; or admit defeat, turn back, and find another route. I chose the latter.

In JBR’s defence, this anecdote harks back to a time when construction work for Dubai Tram was in full swing. I appreciate that it’s impossible to deliver such large-scale projects without inconveniencing drivers and pedestrians. Even so, a sign – or better yet, a barrier – at the other end of the bridge would have been nice.

The problem – and as editor of Construction Week, I mean this in the loosest sense of the word – is that the UAE is home to so many pavement-blocking construction projects. It’s difficult to walk 100 yards in this country without coming across a building site. In turn, it can be difficult to walk 100 yards in this country.

But all is not lost. The UAE’s pavement woes are only temporary, or so I hope. Measures such as Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council’s (UPC) Integrated Concept Master Plan (ICMP) for Al Reem Island – and comparable megaprojects – is a prime example of how policy makers are working to ensure that pedestrian and public transport links of separate developments actually link.

The importance of user-centric design is also becoming a talking point in other sections of the supply chain. Commenting after the announcement of Emaar’s Dubai Creek tower (page 7), David Godchaux, CEO of Core Savills, said that whilst Dubai certainly has the capacity to accommodate further megaprojects, developers must focus on making their communities more ‘livable’ (page 17). Hear, hear.

In truth, there’s every chance I’m just a spoilt European. After all, my native UK was built a long time ago, and it would be unfair to judge the UAE until its construction community has finished what it started.

And for the record, I have been speaking hyperbolically. Of course I miss my friends and family. Just not as much as I miss pavements.

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Construction Week - Issue 754
Nov 23, 2019