Saraya develops Aqaba to bring Jordan onto the map
As mega projects in Jordan move onto the radar of the regional industry, Christopher Sell talks to Elias Moubayed, director of design and construction, Saraya about the companyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plans for Aqaba on the Red Sea coast.
What projects are you involved in at the moment?
There are several we are currently working on; the Saraya Aqaba project, the Saraya Islands, and several others are in the pipeline including one in Oman, which is still at the early stages at a very unique site.
I am responsible for the design elements, from the master planning all the way through to the delivery of the projects.
What stage is the Aqaba project at?
The Aqaba project infrastructure has been completed and the actual construction ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ piling work, utilities and tunnelling ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ has started. Earthworks and site levelling for some of the residential villas has also been started.
Do you oversee these personally?
We have a team of consultants working with us. It is a very unique set-up; it is being done as an EPC contract ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ engineer, procure and construct ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ with Saudi Oger as the contractor. So all the main consultants for that project are working under Saudi Oger. We are the client representative ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ the vision ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ but the work is being done by the consultants.
Why did you follow this particular procurement process?
Because of the scale of the project and the fact that we have Saudi Oger as part of the overall group that is working here. Given the challenges, we needed to make sure that we had a contractor on board early on, to make sure it is built on time and any construction issues that might come up are dealt with. If you have a contractor on site with you from day one they are able to help you control the on-site process.
Which consultants are involved?
There are a number of consultants. The initial concept work was done by Phil Hettema, and then based on the concept design, Laceco International drew up the masterplanning and the infrastructure works as well as the further development of the residential section of the project. Laceco took the project up to a certain level of completion and now it is being handed over to the architects, who are developing this further.
There is not one architect overlooking the entire group; the concept is controlled by Phil Hettema, but it is too large for one person.
What is the concept and what is it trying to achieve?
The original concept was to expand the Arabian city that already existed. Over the years it has been consistently developed in series of layers, so we are drawing on different themes of architecture of the region.
We are creating a lagoon which is increasing the beachfront to 1.5km. That becomes, along with the old Citadel, the heart of the project and everything in it is arranged in concentric fashion.
When will the project be completed?
The actual project will be completed in 2009, in one big phase of development. It has a land area of 617,000m2 and a developed area of 430,000m2.
With numerous parties involved and the sheer volume of work, is this proving a challenge?
The scale of the project is a challenge in itself from a construction point of view. You have a number of designers, and there must be coordination between all parties. But again, Saudi Oger is an experienced contractor so it can pull all these people together.
The scale requires you to have this number of people working on the project ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ it becomes very difficult to have one architect or designer, but in order to retain the overall theme you have to have to have it under one entity ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ like Hattema.
So we have established the overall design with all these different teams but with Saudi Oger overseeing the process, we are confident the project will be well coordinated.
Where has the funding come from for the projectÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€?Â¢s development?
Several sources; Saraya itself, the Arab Bank, which is a major shareholder in the company. One of the strategies for this project was to get into public private partnerships; Aqaba Development Corporation (ADC) donated land as part of their share and the Social Security Corporation (SSC) of Jordan is also involved.
How does the Saraya Islands differ?
We are currently completing the master plan for that project and will soon go on to the next phase of design. We will be building it in Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE on a very unique and interesting site.
Unlike other projects where people are creating islands, this one already exists. We are capitalising on its existence and taking advantage of the natural features of the site.
The Islands is a big project, both geographically and financially. In terms of land mass we are talking about 1.2 million m2. It will be completed in 2011.