Face to face: Dr Kassem Rahal, Al Rostamani Pegel

Dr Kassem Rahal, general manager of Al Rostamani Pegel, delves into the contracting firm’s project pipeline in Dubai, and emphasises the importance of labour training in overcoming the challenges currently being faced by the UAE’s construction sector

Dr Kassem Rahal, general manager, Al Rostamani Pegel.
Dr Kassem Rahal, general manager, Al Rostamani Pegel.

Dr Kassem Rahal could almost be considered a newcomer to Al Rostamani Pegel (ARP) – he joined the UAE-based contractor as its general manager in August 2014. However, having previously worked in London, Lebanon, and Qatar – and with more than 33 years of experience in structural and civil engineering projects – Rahal has already added some big-ticket projects to ARP’s project portfolio, amid tough market conditions.

The contractor is currently working on four projects, all in Dubai, because as Rahal mentions, “it will be the main market to concentrate on 2016”.

He tells us: “The market remains challenging, yet with the reputation that we have established in the local sector over the years, we were able to secure projects with prestigious clients.”

One of the projects in ARP’s kitty is the much-anticipated Dubai Frame, an ambitious endeavour by Dubai Municipality that is being constructed at Zabeel Park.

The 150m-high, 93m-wide structure has been designed to resemble a giant picture frame. Once completed, the Frame will offer panoramic views of the city’s best-known architectural landmarks, both old and new.

On one side stand historic sites such as Bastakiya, Bur Dubai, Karama, and Deira, and the other side will showcase ‘New Dubai’, with modern masterpieces such as Burj Al Arab, Emirates Towers, and Burj Khalifa.

The tower’s height is comparable to that of a 50-storey building. Upon opening, visitors will have access to the museum located on the ground floor, which will showcase artefacts representing new and old Dubai, and will be equipped with multimedia presentations narrating the progress of Dubai’s rapid transformation from a small fishing and trading town by the sea to a modern metropolis.

Rahal points out: “Since construction started at the beginning of 2014, the Dubai Frame has, due to its unique features, undergone substantial changes that has extended the completion date of this landmark project, and we are proud to be associated with it.” However, he refrains from providing any additional details about the current progress.

ARP’s portfolio also includes the $218m (AED800m) luxury mixed-use twin tower complex, The Atria, being built for Deyaar in Dubai’s Business Bay neighbourhood.

The 11.6ha project is Deyaar’s first foray into the hospitality sector, and will include a 30-storey mixed-use complex with views of the Burj Khalifa, Business Bay Canal, and the Dubai Stables.

The Atria’s hotel apartment tower will feature studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments; three bedroom duplex units; and a five-star spa, gym, and infinity pool on the 25th floor, as well as fine-dining restaurants.

Rahal considers it as a great privilege to work with Deyaar and its experienced team for such a prestigious project. “We are grateful to have gained the faith and trust of Deyaar, contribute towards meeting their long term business focus and strategy, and maintain their leading position in the real estate market. We are fully committed to deliver the project within the completion date, and to the quality standards expected by Deyaar’s stakeholders,” he says.

Elsewhere, ARP is also building the Marina Arcade, a luxury tower in Dubai Marina, featuring one-, two-, and three-bedroom residences overlooking Palm Jumeirah. The project features a limited number of four-bedroom penthouses with large terraces and private pools that overlook Dubai Media City, Jumeirah Beach, and the Emirates Golf Course.

Al Ajmi Engineering is the consultant for the project, which is being financed by Emirates Islamic Bank (EIB). Rahal proudly says: “The work on the Marina Arcade tower is progressing as planned, and we are hopeful of meeting the scheduled completion date.”

Last but not the least, ARP is also working on a 72,571-sqm mixed-use development located in Jumeirah, and being developed by wasl Asset Management.

But despite an impressive line-up of projects, and a strong 2,200 staff onboard, ARP is not immune to market challenges. The most recent concern plaguing the company – and indeed, contractors across the region – is the shortage of skilled labour. “We are recruiting on a continuous basis, but finding the right labour force, and competent staff, is still a challenge these days,” Rahal says.

“Construction is very dynamic, and it is always expected to encounter obstacles during the project execution process.”

He adds: “If no delays are to be expected on a project, then a perfect design with no changes must be the norm.”

Despite a lacklustre market outlook, and an uncertainty over private investments pouring into the sector, Rahal maintains a fairly positive attitude towards the emirate’s construction market.

“We are still optimistic about the current market scenario, and have strategic plans for expansion. We have also restructured the organisation in order to improve our capabilities and efficiencies.

“We are currently tendering very aggressively, utilising our strengths in technical estimation and project management to add more value to our customers, and also to increase our project portfolio,” ARP’s general manager adds.

Amplified focus on Dubai for 2016, however, doesn’t thwart the expansion plans that Rahal has for ARP. “We are definitely looking at expanding into the other emirates, and are also closely monitoring the markets in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.”

Speaking from experience, Rahal has one small piece of advice for all contractors: “We firmly believe that imparting the proper training holds the solution for many labour related issues. At ARP we have improved our budgetary controls through integrated programmes and processes that encourage competency and raise productivity.

“If there are obstacles in the way, you will be able to encourage your labour force to improve its productivity. There will be incentives for the same, and both parties stand to benefit from it,” he concludes.

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