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Crystal Lagoons to license patented tech to MENA developers this year

Crystal Lagoons’ regional director, Carlos Salas, says the company plans to reshape the Middle East’s built environment by developing inexpensive crystalline lagoons in the heart of the desert

INTERVIEWS, Developers, Projects, Carlos Salas, Crystal lagoons, Environment-friendly technology, MENA, Middle East construction, Technology

Artificial lagoon manufacturer Crystal Lagoons hopes its man-made pools will make a splash in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE this year.

Its environment-friendly technology is a blueprint for building crystalline lagoons of unlimited size anywhere in the world – from the arid Arabian deserts to the centre of an urban metropolis.

The lagoons use 100 times fewer chemicals than traditional swimming pools, consuming 98% less energy than regular filtration systems.

Crystal Lagoons’ regional director for the Middle East, Carlos Salas, tells Construction Week that his team hopes to “revolutionise” the market by allowing developers to bring Caribbean-style crystalline waters to projects without significant investment.

Crystal Lagoons is based in the US, and has 16 international offices. Salas leads operations in the Middle East between offices in the UAE and Egypt, and describes the business as a “technology and innovation company” rather than an artificial lagoon developer. This definition is helped along by Crystal Lagoons licensing its patented technology to hundreds of global developers. The strategy is already paying dividends, with Crystal Lagoons registering strong interest from developers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

MENA “keeps growing” for Crystal Lagoons, says Salas, who has his eye on four markets this year: the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. In Egypt, Salas explains, Crystal Lagoons made significant progress in 2017 after signing contracts with local developers Azha, Arco, Tatweer Misr, and Ein Hills. While the North African country may not at first glance be an obvious choice for luxury amenities such as man-made lagoons, Salas explains that Egypt was the first MENA country to bring the crystalline lagoons to the region in 2010, and remains a crucial market for Crystal Lagoons today.

“Egypt is a surprisingly big market for us and our numbers are quite huge in the country because our lagoon amenity has been able to enter big gated community projects,” says Salas. Crystal Lagoons is sitting on a $20bn pipeline of 14 projects stretching from Egypt’s North Coast to the Red Sea, and “very soon”, even New Cairo, the regional head reveals.

Salas says the Egyptian property market is mature enough to buy and fully optimise the company’s high-end technology, since the lagoons are cheap to build and maintain, which means costs needn’t be passed on to residents: “The beauty of our lagoon technology is that has very low construction and maintenance costs.

“Even our projects in South America are targeted towards middle-class buyers. Even in markets such as Mexico, Argentina, and Egypt – which are not places of high average income like Dubai or the US – our projects have a high rate of penetration.

“Most of our projects in Egypt are in the luxury segment in the North Coast, which has seen heavy investment in real estate due to the devaluation of the Egyptian pound. However, there are also projects in Egypt that are [targeted towards] middle-income buyers.”

The company’s projects in Egypt include a 12.5ha lagoon to be built for the Citystars Sharm El Sheikh development. In 2015, this lagoon won a Guinness World Record for the largest man-made lagoon on the planet. However, this record will be eclipsed by the lagoon in the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City – District One residential development in Dubai, which will be four times larger than Sharm El Sheikh’s. While a deadline hasn’t been set for the project, it remains Crystal Lagoons’ most important project in the UAE. Phase 1 is complete and work is already under way for Phase 2, with the project due to be completed in association with Meydan Group and Indian development giant, Sobha Group.

The company’s other notable projects in the Gulf include the largest man-made lagoon in Saudi Arabia for the $4bn (SAR15bn) Prince Sultan Cultural Centre megaproject in Jeddah. Crystal Lagoons is also in talks with an undisclosed number of Jordanian developers to promote the establishment of lagoons in Aqaba and the country’s Dead Sea region.

The artificial lagoon manufacturer is currently pushing two concepts in Egypt, Jordan, UAE, and Saudi Arabia: public access lagoons, and floating lagoons. The former is a pay-as-you-go product that Salas says will lead to a “revolution” in entertainment complexes by making beaches available anywhere in the world. Salas says the idea could be introduced at a host of venues, including university campuses, Olympic-sized sporting arenas, shopping centres, and racing tracks.

Retail, leisure, water and amusement parks are the market segments that Salas says hold the most potential for Crystal Lagoons in the Middle East: “In the leisure segment, we feel we can help by bringing the beach lifestyle to the golf course. Golfers would be able to bring their whole family to the beach for the day whilst they go off and enjoy an 18-hole round of golf.

“We also want to move into the water and theme park segment because we believe there is a gap in the market. People are looking for experiences where they can participate in water sports, especially the millennial generation. Dubai has developed great water projects along the Palm Jumeirah, but we can actually build the same projects inland in every destination in the world.

“We’re talking to a lot of people about this, I can’t reveal names at this stage but these are strategic conversations. Hopefully we will sign our first [public access lagoon] soon.”

In conjunction to public access lagoons, the business is pushing the floating concept and has held “preliminary conversations” with third parties about rolling them out.

While Salas is unable to disclose details of the discussions at this stage, he is extremely confident that the companies will put money behind the concept.

“In 2018, we expect to sign contracts in Saudi, the UAE, and Egypt,” he says. “And because of the low cost of construction involved in these lagoons, the developments will pay off much more quickly [than similar man-made lagoon projects].”

For a company that broke the world record for the world’s largest man-made lagoon – and is now working to break its own record – the MENA region appears to be staying true to Salas’ words: it just keeps growing. From the biggest man-made lagoon in Saudi Arabia to increasing the number of lagoons in Jordan and the UAE, the list of projects goes on for Crystal Lagoons, proving that that MENA developers are noticing the benefits of man-made lagoons.

With Salas and his team powering through the region, Caribbean-style waters could very soon be coming to local deserts and urban metropolises.

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