Site visit: Sandan Light Industries Park, Oman

With Phase 1 of Sandan’s light industries park due to complete in 2018, this first-of-its-kind project looks set to become a hub for Oman’s tradespeople

Sandan selected Oman-based Towell as the main contractor for the development.
Sandan selected Oman-based Towell as the main contractor for the development.

More often than not, GCC tradespeople struggle to find industrial parks equipped to meet all of their needs. But with Sandan Development’s first-of-its-kind light industries park, Oman will soon boast a large-scale industrial hub designed to provide a comprehensive range of products and services for the country’s automotive and construction communities.

The sultanate’s first integrated light industries park is located 5km away from Muscat Expressway’s Al Mabailah exit. The project, which is named after its developer, will occupy an area of 25ha, and is being built at an estimated cost of $260m (OMR100m). Once completed, it will house 2,400 workshops, 400 offices, and 1,750 residential units for employees. A boulevard will separate the park’s two zones, the first of which will cater to the automotive sector, and the second to construction professionals.

The boulevard itself will feature a range of amenities for residents, including a hypermarket, restaurants and cafés, a hospital, and a mosque. The park will also become home to 50 used-car dealerships, which will showcase 1,000 vehicles in a single location.

All of the project’s units, including workshops, offices, exhibition areas, and residential spaces, will be offered up for direct sale; buyers will be given the opportunity to pay interest-free installments over 18-month periods. Bank Muscat has signed an agreement to assist Sandan’s business owners with their financing requirements.

Sandan Development’s chief executive officer, Said bin Nasser bin Salim Al Rashdi, who took Construction Week on a tour of the site, explains: “[Oman doesn’t yet] have a purpose-built area for small-scale industries that services customers directly. So far, we have had such industries only within crowded residential areas. So, to cater to the needs of the market, we acquired a medium-sized plot in Halban to build our debut project.

“People constructing their dream homes can easily come to Sandan; all their needs [can be met] in one organised spot. Also, having [Oman’s] largest collection of car dealers in one location, Sandan will be the first place to offer [automotive] parts and accessories in a structured environment.”

Sandan Development assigned the comprehensive feasibility study to PwC, and the technical feasibility study to Huller. The tender for Phase 1 of the project was floated in April 2016. When main contractor, Towell Construction & Company (TCC), was dispatched to the site in May 2016, construction commenced.

John Joseph, Sandan Development’s chief financial officer, says that his employer received 14 offers from domestic and international construction companies after inaugurating the project. He explains: “We studied the offers [carefully] and decided to award the construction of the park to TCC. We want to attach more interest and value to the technical aspects. TCC has a decent record in Oman, and we are happy to cooperate with them [on] this project – and in the future.”

Approximately one million cubic metres of land-filling and excavation was completed within the space of a month, earlier this year. Phase 1 of the development is expected to complete in mid-2018, with handovers beginning from January of that year.

Eng Tamer Kamel, project manager at Capital Engineering Consulting (CEC), the company responsible for the overall supervision of the development, says: “The entire project will have 30 buildings in total; we are working on 18 buildings [as part of] Phase 1. The substructures of the buildings were completed in June of this year, whereas the superstructures are around 20% complete. Around 1,000 workers [are currently supporting construction] on site.

“[Shops in] Phase 1 sold out completely within two months of [their February 2016 launch. At present,] we are studying the feasibility of announcing Phase 2, according to the needs of the market. The project is a planned city, so we cannot make the second phase radically different from the current one. We will rely heavily on input from [Sandan’s business] owners to see what more can be added,” he continues.

Kamel also points out that the raw materials being used in the skirting stage of the project, including aggregates and sand, have all been sourced locally. Although common in Oman, the use of stone has been kept to a minimum at Sandan. Instead, the project team has favoured a combination of mechanical plaster and conventional paints. Meanwhile, the showrooms that will line the boulevard will feature aluminium cladding.

One of the highlights of the project, according to its developer, is the residential space located atop each unit. These areas will allow the park’s business owners and employees to live at their workplaces. Sandan’s Al Rashdi notes: “There will be residential units dedicated to the labour staff who will work here. [This] will not only save time, but will also allow them to keep an eye on their businesses 24/7. Each unit will be divided into three floors: a ground [level], a mezzanine, and accommodation on top.”

Once the project is completed, a facilities management (FM) firm will be appointed to take care of maintenance across the entire enclave. Kamel explains: “Either an external company or an association of owners will take care of FM [at] the development.”

In addition, special attention has been paid to the project’s sustainable aspects. Kamel says that his team integrated solar panels into the streetlights, and used innovative techniques to recycle wastewater.

A 25ha horizontal development is bound to present certain challenges from a project management perspective. But Kamel says that, when it comes to Sandan’s light industries park, the main challenge lies in successfully managing the volume of work necessary to complete the project on time.

He elaborates: “Each development has its own set of challenges. Here, technically, the scale of the work presents a massive task. The quantity of work is huge, hence the planning is very critical.

“In order to [ensure that] the construction process [runs smoothly], we decided to divide the project into phases. We cannot focus on the elements of all the phases at one time, so each one has its own construction schedule. Each unit will be customised to meet the specific demands of business owners.”

A project funded entirely by equity and pre-sales, Sandan has focussed heavily on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Al Rashdi concludes: “We hope that this concept, which is a first in the region, works. There is a clear focus on the SMEs in [Oman]; there is a need for them to own their units. We expect that the innovative concept of modular units in an organised location will boost the business of SMEs.”

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