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Façade and fire testing company Thomas Bell-Wright P.16


When should consultants get involved in a project? P.24


TOP OF THE HILL Irvin and David Richter discuss Hill International’s ever-growing global empire


MARCH 2014


“We have noticed a marked increase in RFPs following the expo win, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.” NIGEL CRADDOCK



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“How important is the Middle East to us? It’s kind of like saying, ‘how important is your heart?’ I need that little baby there, ticking away every day!” IRVIN RICHTER












Faithful + Gould’s Simon Millman on design and build

Dr Philip Oldfield on the impact of embodied carbon

London Aquatics Centre opens to the public in legacy mode









‘The One’ tower on Sheikh Zayed Road nears completion

Façade and fire testing consultant Thomas Bell-Wright

Evocative concepts and ideas from across the industry

Frank Gehry’s Panama museum, Russia’s new airport, and more






A round up of the latest announcements across the region


Loay Quota, the new president of the AIA Middle East chapter



Hill International’s founding father and spearheading son



At what stage should consultants get involved in a project?



Riyadh’s tallest building Burj Rafal prepares for March opening


How will the lead up to Expo 2020 affect consultants?


24 hours with Nabil Sherif, founder of NGS Architects



Living in Dubai Marina – a few hundred metres from The Walk – I’ve passed the huge construction site of Meraas’ The Beach several times in the last year, while accompanied by either friends or family.

Whenever the construction site came into view, someone in the group would remark, “why do we need another mall?” or “why would they ruin JBR?” or “this is going to be a nightmare”. That someone was usually me. A few nights ago, I suggested going on an after-dinner stroll along JBR with my fiancé. We passed the construction site, as usual, but to our surprise the hoarding terminated at the entrance to what looked like a large public square. We were compelled to explore.

The more we saw, the more we were astounded. Restaurants buzzed with activity, landscaped courtyards led to beachside promenades with the sound of lapping waves. It’s more than a collection of buildings within a masterplan; it’s a real, human-scale urban environment that Dubai has been crying out for. The Beach might not be as spectacular as the area around Dubai Fountain, but I know where I’d rather spend my time. Just as the name of the development suggests, Meraas and its consultant team has capitalised on one of Dubai’s greatest but most underutilised assets – the beach. I can’t think of anywhere in the world like it. A futuristic, cleaned up version of Santa Monica perhaps. With its evocative lighting, varied landscaping, sculptural street furniture, interactive info stations and harmonious connection to the beach – all without a hint of monotony – it clearly involved a lot of thought and investment. One of the units that’s already open is a well-stocked souvenir shop – a surefire sign that tourists are expected to come in their droves. There’s no doubt in my mind that The Beach will be a huge success and a real asset to Dubai.

Oliver Ephgrave Editor, Middle East Consultant



REGISTERED AT IMPZ PO BOX 13700, DUBAI, UAE TEL: +971 4 440 9100 FAX: +971 4 447 2409 WWW.CPIMEDIAGROUP.COM Printed by Printwell Printing press LLC © Copyright 2014 CPI. All rights reserved While the publishers have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of all information in this magazine, they will not be held responsible for any errors therein.


We nurture winning teams. If you ask us what empowers us to deliver engineering solutions to landmark projects in 28 cities across 10 countries, the answer is: we nurture winning teams. Our teams come from experience, from diversity, from values, from beliefs, from knowledge, from tenacity. At the heart of our work lies the belief that every project is as unique as our people are. They come with unique needs and unique attributes, thus demanding unique solutions. Want a winning team on your project? Talk to us today. Dubai Bangalore Kochi




THE TEAM Developer: Rafal Owners: Riyad Capital/Rafal Hotel operator: Kempinski Architecture, structures, MEP: P&T Contractor: DCC Interiors: Wa International Local consultant: Architectonica Lighting consultant: dpa Engineering & design consultant: Ramboll Whitby & Bird

RIYADH’S TALLEST TOWER PREPARES FOR OPENING P&T COMPLETES DESIGN AND ENGINEERING OF BURJ RAFAL This month sees the opening of Riyadh’s tallest building, Burj Rafal, a 308m-high mixed-used tower containing residences, a Kempinski hotel and service apartments and a compact luxury shopping mall. Architecture, structures and MEP services were all provided by P&T, while Saudi firm Architectonica was the local consultant. The prominent location and size of the building has drawn close attention from the Mayor of Riyadh, who insisted that the building include local Najdi elements. In addition to Najdi-style triangular windows, the building’s podium has a Riyadh stone cladding, according to Stephan Franzen, Dubai-based director at P&T. Clearly pleased with the result, Franzen continued: “The tower

has a very specific, slightly reflective glass that reflects the changing colours in the sky in the most beautiful way. The building stands out and contributes to the changing skyline of Riyadh.” One of the key challenges for P&T was retaining the integrity of the building, yet Franzen claimed that the final product remains true to the original concept. He added: “Due to the client’s efforts and the importance of the project, the approvals were not really a challenge. The project was in many ways running more smoothly than we had expected.” As well as being the tallest tower in Riyadh, the tower is the city’s first high-rise residential building. Frantzen believes that the integrated Kempinski hotel gives residents

an extra dimension. “Residents are sharing all the facilities of Kempinski including a 2,000m2 ballroom, and they live as part of a luxury retail mall with additional F&B outlets,” he said. “It’s a comprehensive lifestyle experience which is new to Riyadh. The sales results show that this concept is very well received.” According to Frantzen, this satisfaction extends to the project team. “P&T is very pleased with the result and more importantly, the project has exceeded the expectations of the client. “The real test of a building is years after the completion but we are confident that this new destination will be welcomed by people living in the building, the residents of Riyadh and visitors to the city.”




THE TEAM Client: Rashid Al Mazroui Lead, design, structures, QS, supervision: Dewan MEP: Ian Banham & Associates Traffic: PTV Group Vertical transportation: Semaan & Soberman

‘THE ONE’ NEARS COMPLETION DEWAN SUPERVISING FINAL TOUCHES ON ELEGANT TECOM SCHEME After being put on hold during the economic downturn, the 47-storey ‘The One’ Tower has emerged on Sheikh Zayed Road next to Internet City metro station. With the curtain wall installed, the tower is due for final completion in July according to Dewan, the consultant that handled the project’s design, structures, QS and supervision. “The project is more than just an inspired architectural expression of comfortable office spaces – it is an attempt to explore new horizons in the nature of everyday office experience by creating dynamic 3600 views at every level,” said Dewan’s Hussain Saleh, principal designer on the project. The tower appears as two dominating vertical glass features held together by a series of decorative steel truss elements symbolising “the perpetual state of activity usually associated with the dynamics of modern day business”, according to Saleh. Looking at the project’s conceptual renderings, the design changed from a more transparent initial form. One of the project’s team members told Middle East Consultant this was due to value engineering/client requests.


The building also contains state of the art business amenities and a range of leisure and recreation facilities at various locations to provide a selection of relaxing opportunities for the users. The topmost two floors contain a penthouse for the owner. The fact that the building was surrounded by access roads, a metro station and a footbridge proved to be a challenge – regular coordination was required with the metro construction team. With its shimmering façade punctuated by steel trusses, it is certainly the standout building in the vicinity. Saleh points out that it was designed as a landmark for the area. He continues: “The One Tower contributes to the quality of the entire urban environment by being designed as part of the gateway zone of Dubai Media City. It is positioned on one of the finest locations in Dubai Media City, facing Dubai’s busiest street, Sheikh Zayed Road. “The design is the outcome of a dynamic mix of functions displayed in simple and clean architectural masses. We at Dewan believe it has a distinguishable presence in the surroundings.”

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MADINAT JUMEIRAH PHASE 4 UNDER CONSTRUCTION Work on the 100,000m2 Madinat Jumeirah Phase 4 in Dubai is now underway, increasing the popular resort’s capacity by an additional 435 rooms. Developed by Mirage Leisure and Development, con-

sultants include Woods Bagot’s Dubai studio and South African Northpoint Architects. The development will complete the beachfront experience, flanked by the three hotel com-

plexes – Madinat Jumeirah on one side, Burj Al Arab ahead and Wild Wadi Waterpark and Jumeirah Beach Hotel on the other side. It has been designed to connect with neighbouring buildings so

hotel guests can easily access the wider resort, which includes 26 swimming pools and over three kilometres of waterways. Madinat Jumeirah Phase 4 is expected to open in 2016.

MASTERPLAN FOR NEW CAIRO UNVEILED BY SCOTTISH FIRM Glasgow-based Keppie Design has won an international design competition to prepare a city centre master plan for New Cairo, a satellite community of the Egyptian capital. The scheme is spearheaded by OUIA Real Estate Investment Company, one of the biggest participants of the Libyan Foreign Investment Company, SAL. The project will contain 150ha of mixed-use urban development including retail, office and leisure components. Keppie is no stranger to the Egyptian market, having designed the country’s first PPP healthcare project.





Advanced Construction Technology Services (ACTS) has been appointed to carry out quality control on all construction machinery used on Jeddah’s upcoming Kingdom Tower, designed by architecture firm AS+GG. ACTS will carry out third party testing works on 500,000m3 of concrete and around 80,000 tonnes of steel, which will be used on the 1,000m-high structure. The consultant will also deploy special equipment to evaluate the rheological properties of concrete

Many of the world’s top firms have been shortlisted to rebuild the 1851 Crystal Palace in London, funded by Chinese investment firm ZhongRong Group. The $833m project will restore Joseph Paxton’s structure – which burned down in 1936 – as well as the surrounding park as part of a wider masterplan. Led by Arup, the scheme will replicate the spirit and scale of the original and create more than 2,000 permanent jobs for the local economy.

to ensure it will be pumpable to very high elevations – a necessary precaution given the great height of the Kingdom Tower – which will require high strength, high performance concrete. As part of its consultant remit, ACTS will deploy 100 staff members to a fully-equipped site laboratory, which will carry out the day-to-day quality control operations. It will also provide testing services from its laboratory in Briman, Jeddah – one of the largest testing facilities in the region.

The six shortlisted teams are: David Chipperfield Architects, Grimshaw, Haworth Tompkins Architects, Marks Barfield Architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Zaha Hadid Architects with Anish Kapoor. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “The rebuild of Crystal Palace is set to produce an extraordinary new landmark for the capital, which will support the rebirth of this historic park and catalyse jobs and growth in the local area.”

DSI WINS $88M KING SAUD UNIVERSITY MEP CONTRACT Drake & Scull International (DSI) has been awarded an $88m contract to complete MEP works at King Saud University in Riyadh. DSI KSA will design, install, test and commission complete

electro-mechanical works for three buildings at the university’s Endowment Projects, with work to be completed by 2015. Saudi Arabia is DSI’s biggest market in the region, having deliv-

ered educational projects for King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) and the Information Technology Communications Complex (ITCC). Within the healthcare sector, the company

has undertaken MEP services for the National Institute of Neurosciences, the Cancer & Cardiac Centres in the King Fahd Medical City, Riyadh and a 400-bed hospital in Dammam.




ATKINS ON COURSE FOR $234M NET FUNDS CONSULTANCY GIANT RELEASES INTERIM MANAGEMENT STATEMENT Global design and engineering firm Atkins released an interim management statement for the period 1 October 2013 to February 2014, revealing that the company is on course to achieve net funds of around $234m as of 31 March 2014. The report said the group is continuing to trade ‘in line with expectations’, the outlook for the full year ‘remains unchanged’ and

the group’s financial position ‘remains strong’. It highlighted the importance on the firm’s Middle East transportation projects, such as Doha Metro and Riyadh Metro. ‘We are now mobilising on our recent metro wins in the region and our pipeline remains strong, with property opportunities in the UAE starting to materialise. Headcount growth on these

metro projects in the second half will be somewhat offset by reductions elsewhere, as we complete our restructuring in Bahrain and Kuwait,’ stated the report. Elsewhere, the UK business is deriving 40% of its revenue from rail and highway consultancy divisions, underpinned by government driven infrastructure investment. Europe continues to track in line with expectations,

with ‘turnover broadly flat year on year’ while the company experienced stable market conditions in North America. In the latter region, Atkins anticipates a steady margin performance through the second half of the year. In the Asia Pacific region, the business is focusing on diversifying from its historic Hong Kong and mainland China base.


“The main issue we have when dealing with consultants is mutual respect. Do people understand what facilities management is? Largely they’ll think of it as cleaning and maintenance. For us as a business it is broader than that. If you asked 100 people what facilities management is, you’ll probably get 100 different views. If you ask ‘what is an architect?’ they will have a clearer understanding. This is partly because facilities management is a relatively new profession that emerged in the early 90s because buildings have become more complex, with new issues such as security.” BILL HEATH, CHAIRMAN, MACRO



DATES FOR THE DIARY MARCH 9-12, Jeddah Centre for Forum and Events Big 5 Saudi



The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has elevated Thierry Paret to its prestigious College of Fellows. Paret was the founder and first president of the AIA Middle East Chapter from 2010 to 2012, and is currently is the treasurer and director of the AIA International Region, the body responsible for the AIA’s international affairs. With 23 years professional experience, Paret is a design advisor for the Government of Qatar, working on a wide range of initiatives and policies affecting projects throughout the country. From the total AIA membership of over 83,000, fewer than 3,100 are crowned with fellowship and honorary fellowship – it is only open to architects with at least 10 years of AIA membership. Paret is the first AIA architect from the AIA Middle East Chapter to be elevated to the College of Fellows.

Civil engineer Dr Kamiran Ibrahim has been appointed by Hyder Consulting as managing director, utilities sector, Middle East. Ibrahim has over 28 years experience working within contracting and consultancy firms. Over recent years, he has assumed several senior roles with Hyder such as project director, technical director, and regional business director – tunnels and geotechnics. Ibrahim joined Hyder UK’s geotechnical team in 2003 from JacobsGIBB Limited, and was transferred to the Middle East in 2006 to become the regional function group leader for the geotechnical team. Subsequently, he has successfully established and led the tunnelling and geotechnical group within Hyder in the Middle East. He has been involved in several high profile projects such as Burj Khalifa and JBR in Dubai, Muharraq Tunnel in Bahrain, STEP Tunnel in Abu Dhabi, Dubai Tower Doha and the M25 rapid widening in the UK.

10-12, DWTC Middle East Coatings Show www.coatings-group. com/show/mecs APRIL 15-17, DWTC Dubai International Property Show 14-16, DWTC Wetex 22-24, ADNEC Cityscape Abu Dhabi/ World Eco Construct www.cityscape MAY 4-6, Jeddah Centre for Forum and Events Cityscape Jeddah www.cityscape 19-23, DWTC Index








29,176 30,477 39,874

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Simon Millman


Cutting through the misconceptions about design and build Design and build contracts have been used for several decades outside of the UAE, but are not commonly practised in the Middle East at present. Yet what are the advantages of design and build to employers?

It’s worth noting that no procurement route offers a solution to all issues. There is always a compromise and all routes have their advantages and disadvantages. Design and build should definitely not be seen as a route that brings lower quality. The quality of any finished building is not attributable to any one factor. When projects suffer from low quality, we have to take in to account other influential elements. The key to understanding this type of procurement is to stop thinking that design and build opens up the doors for contractors to deliver an inferior building. So, what can employers do to make design and build work to their advantage? One way of ensuring buildings are delivered for the best value for money, and are finished to a satisfactory level of quality, is to make sure that the design is focused and developed in the areas that are important to the employer. In addition, it is critical that the employer’s requirements are written in a way that protects them. There is often no value to an employer paying for a full design if a contractor can design some of the elements more efficiently. If you chose this route, does it mean less control? Absolutely not – less control is another misunderstanding. The employer has just as much control to make decisions and changes along the design and build procurement route as with traditional procurement. Of course, adequate control mechanisms should be put into place to ensure this is possible; for instance a robust pricing document. I would usually advocate using the scheme design cost plan as the pricing document. From the employer’s perspective, this acts in the


same way as a detailed BOQ, but costs much less to produce. Like any contract – not just construction – ambiguity leads to problems and disputes. Design and build contracts will succeed if the employer’s requirements are clear. For success, the contractor should be given the scope to use their expertise where you want them to. This may be in areas that are performance rather than aesthetically driven. In areas that are aesthetically important, the design and specification should be developed prior to contractor appointment, to a level that removes any scope for ambiguity. In the Middle East, true design and build procurement may require a better understanding of the advantages for employers, before they accept this as usual practice. It is interesting to note that, in the Middle East, most projects are procured traditionally under the FIDIC Red Book, with a full design. However employers may well miss out on the advantages of a full design, as elements of design liability are regularly passed onto the contractor to complete the design, post-award. It would therefore appear, from a design perspective, that many employer’s requirement documents reach tender stage incomplete to some extent, so employers may unknowingly be involved in a project that has elements of contractor design already. Perhaps once this is understood more widely, employers may conclude that true design and build is not such a big step after all.

Simon Millman is operations director, commercial services, Dubai at Faithful + Gould


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01 Curtain wall laboratory testing 02 Resistance to fire testing

DAMAGE CONTROL Façade testing consultant Thomas Bell-Wright has been making UAE buildings safer for two decades

In 1993, Bill Clinton became president of the USA, the European Union was officially established and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven won best picture at the Oscars. It was also the year that Thomas-Bell Wright came to the UAE to act as a façade consultant for Abu Dhabi’s Baynunah Tower, then the region's tallest building at 185m.

Two years later, Bell-Wright established an eponymous consulting firm in Dubai, offering a suite of services including façade consulting, testing and more recently, fire testing. Sitting in the boardroom at the company’s hub in Ras Al Khor industrial district, BellWright reminisces. “Somebody needed to come out here and oversee the assembly of the unitised framing of the curtain wall on Baynunah Tower, so my wife and I left the USA. By the time the job was finished 21 months later, we had other curtain wall jobs going on so we just stayed here.” The firm’s fully-fledged laboratory provides a structure for a curtain wall contractor to fix a specimen which is then enclosed to form an air-tight chamber. Mock-ups are usually at least three modules wide and two storeys high, but can be much bigger, and must include movement joints. The basic tests are for air infiltration, static water penetration and structural load. Bell-Wright states that tests are crucial for preventing premature failure. “A curtain wall protects a huge amount of investment – around 15% of the building. But if there’s a problem, it will extend throughout the whole system, as it is repetitive. You have to replace the entire curtain wall, and you have to get everybody out of the building. It’s installed from the bottom

to the top with tower cranes, but on a finished building there are no tower cranes, so obviously this is a problem.” Even if the façade is re-installed, there will be many additional expenses, as Bell-Wright points out. “You have to replace the interior finishes on all of the exterior rooms because of the interface with the curtain wall. And if you do that you are probably going to replace the mechanical systems over time. It all adds up – so it might make more sense to knock your building down. The amount of value that curtain wall testing protects is amazing.” Testing should always be carried out, even if a high-quality contractor is used, according to Bell-Wright. “There are a number of very qualified contractors in the market but every job is different. You can’t just pick a good contractor and think it will be OK – curtain walls should always be tested.” One of the issues with a curtain wall is that it can’t really be inspected once it is installed, making testing all the more critical. Bell-Wright adds: “The important part is the spandrel area – the part that’s opaque – which includes the brackets and insulation. You might be able to inspect by removing finishes or glass on the outside, but essentially they are all closed in.” More recently, the company has expanded its offering and claims to offer the only facility capable of testing fire rated doors, walls and partitions, and flame resistant materials. The company’s fire testing expertise has come under increasing demand after the spate of high profile incidents in the region, including fires at the Villagio Mall in Doha – which tragically claimed the lives of 19 people – and the Tamweel Tower in JLT, Dubai. The aluminum composite cladding used on the

latter has been labelled as unsafe due to its combustible core which burns readily and rapidly when ignited. Bell-Wright states that fire safety is improving in the UAE, although it is mainly due to the actions of civil defence rather than the industry. He continues: “Civil defence is making it more difficult for manufacturers to supply and install the wrong materials. There is a temptation to use more economical materials if you can, if they fulfill the functional and aesthetic requirements. But the actions of civil defence are helping.” He believes that good practice rubs off. “More education is required among consultants, building inspectors and planning reviewers, but the market has developed a lot – consultants see others' specifications and then they want to do what’s right. Things improve naturally.” However, Bell-Wright reiterates that safety is paramount and that testing is the best way for UAE buildings to meet international standards. “It’s not practical to buy materials from the US, and then fly to the US to test. There has got to be some sort of middle ground. By providing these tests we are working to UK, European and North American standards.”

THOMAS BELL-WRIGHT INTERNATIONAL CONSULTANTS – VITAL STATISTICS 19 years in operation 50 employees 4 years of fire testing 3 x 3 metre vertical furnace for fire testing




Loay Quota, the new president of the AIA Middle East, explains how associations are helping to raise design and construction standards across the region “We are trying to push as much as possible so people know what we can do for the architecture community.”

Freshly appointed, Loay Quota is the first Saudi-based president for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Middle East chapter, which is now in its fourth year of operation. Born in California, Quota holds a Masters degree in architecture from USC and several years experience working in Saudi Arabia. He is one of the founding members of the Saudi Green Building Council, a part-time instructor at Effat University and a frequent critic at King Abdul-Aziz University. In 2008, Quota founded his own practice Architectural Projections, which is based in Jeddah.

What does it mean to be president of AIA Middle East? It’s a lot on my shoulders but hopefully I’m up to the challenge. We are a small chapter but we have a lot of members. However, for some people, the AIA is kind of new and they don’t know what it’s about. We are trying to push as much as possible so people know what our aim is and what we can do for the architecture community. What are the main aims of AIA Middle East? We represent the profession and discuss the latest issues. For example, we educate architects on contracts and the latest technology and materials to make sure they are top notch. Our goal is to blend in with the society – to serve not just American architects, but also local architects. For instance, we have done several conference and lectures with the Royal Institute of


LOAY QUOTA on our learnings and also gain from their knowledge and experience.

British Architects (RIBA). There’s already an agreement to share learning units and we try to work together as much as possible. At the end of the day, our association is for the society as well as the built environment. Does AIA Middle East partner with any other associations? At the AIA we represent architects, but architects never work alone, especially if they are working on a project. In our lectures, we try to bring everyone on the same table and to collaborate as much as possible. We work with the Council of Engineers in the UAE and we are trying to reach out to them in Saudi Arabia. The idea is to co-operate is some way – such as lectures, seminars, workshops and so on. We want to pass

What are the main locations you are targetting for membership? A key development is that we have split the board – now we are not centralised in the UAE, as I am based in Jeddah. Hopefully this will help spread our wings a bit further. My goal is to build awareness, country by country. We previously focused on the UAE and Saudi and this year our focus will be Qatar – we’ll have our next conference there. One of our past presidents, Thierry Paret, is now based in Qatar and he is a key resource for us. Are standards improving in the region? I do see an improvement. For example, the Saudi government is trying to standardise contracts and that will affect relationships between a client, architect and a contractor. Such measures may seem like baby steps but in time they will make a big difference.

WE ARE WSP... Providing sustainable solutions to the built environment across our entire disciplines... Did you know that: WSP is one of the world’s leading professional services company? WSP has more than 500 Staff in the Middle East and 15,000 globally? WSP is based in more than 300 Offices and 35 countries globally? WSP is currently engaged in signature projects across the globe from ‘Freedom Tower’ in New York to ‘The Shard’ in Central London, and that we are appointed to deliver some of the Middle East’s most challenging and prestigious projects including ‘Zayed National Museum’ ‘Presidential Palace’ and ‘Masdar City’ in Abu Dhabi and the ‘Roads Contract 2’ in Doha? To see how we can add value to your project please get in touch with any of our team.

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Middle East Consultant meets Irvin and David Richter, the founding father and spearheading son behind Hill International



“How important is the Middle East to us? It’s kind of like saying, ‘how important is your heart?’ I need that little baby there, ticking away every day!” IRVIN RICHTER, HILL INTERNATIONAL

On paper, a meeting with the two most senior figures at Hill International – a ubiquitous force in the global construction industry – would be highly formal, serious and perfunctory. Yet as soon as Irvin Richter and his son David enter the meeting room at The Address Dubai Marina, it is clear that this won’t be the case. With a beaming smile, Irvin cracks jokes from 80s movies while David asks intently about our fledgling magazine. On this evidence, it would seem that the duo’s charm and personality have played a big part in their success.

Irvin recalls how the journey started when working for a CPM scheduling consultant as a young man in New Jersey, USA. Quite fortuitously, Irvin was lumbered with helping a client with a claims case because no one in that com-

pany wanted to. Although neither an engineer nor an architect by training, Irvin almost immediately grasped the claims process and helped the client get what he wanted. As more and more work was thrown his way, Irvin decided to set up his own company at his home in New Jersey with a business partner. “We started in my younger son’s bedroom. About nine months later we got an office. My first client was hoping to get $500,000 and he got $999,000 – the opposing side didn’t want any headlines with ‘Million Dollar Settlement’ – and he was tickled pink. My second client was the City of Niagara Falls. It grew very quickly and it was fun. We were constantly in a growth mode and it was all new for us.” Fast forward nearly forty years and Hill International is now a giant in both claims and project management services, with 4,000 employees worldwide. On 1 January 2015, David



will officially take the reins as CEO and dayto-day decision maker, with Irvin remaining as chairman. For David, it’s the natural time to step up. He remarks: “My dad hitting 70-years-old is a transition for him personally. We expect a smooth process – I’ve been president of the company for 10 years and been there for 19 in total. We work together very well – there’s a strategy in place that’s working and the company is growing tremendously. I don’t expect much is going to change.” An integral task for David will be retaining the “unique” company culture that has remarkably endured the growth from small consulting firm to a global behemoth. He says that this is due to his father’s lack of an ego when building the firm. “We at Hill have the best and the brightest in this industry – it’s not about me, or him – we are a collection of 4,000 extraordinary people. There are plenty of firms, especially in architecture, where the founder of the firm makes it all about him and surrounds himself with less talented underlings. “My dad is a great businessman but he’s not an architect or engineer – and wasn’t a lawyer until later – he had to surround himself with the best technical people he could possibly find. It wasn’t about him being the ‘starchitect’ or the guy that was doing everything. That mentality has continued all the way through to today, four decades later.” Another remarkable aspect of the company’s modus operandi is that it rarely offers contracts for employees. Irvin explains: “Usually the only time we wind up with contracts is when we buy a company – we have to tie those people in. I’ve only had a contract since we went public, but for many years most of our people did not have a contract. I don’t see any reason to tie them in. If they don’t want to be here, good luck.” David continues: “We try to create an environment where everyone wants to work for our company. If you don’t want to work at Hill… goodbye. Get out, so you don’t spread that unhappiness to other employees. In business, culture is often talked about but morale rarely


“The Abu Dhabi office was set up in 1987 – it was our first overseas office. Since then we’ve proved how we can manage and fix projects.” IRVIN RICHTER, HILL INTERNATIONAL

is. Morale at a company is as important if not more important than culture.” This unorthodox approach has helped to build a loyal workforce, with high staff retention rates, yet it is certainly not watertight according to Irvin. “The bigger problem today is that our people are so successful and well-known that they are constantly barraged with offers. When

you don’t have contracts with people [they are not tied]. We have a meeting after this interview and I think it’s going to be about some of our people from the Middle East.” When asked about the importance of the Middle East region to Hill, Irvin replies: “It’s kind of like saying, ‘how important is your heart?’ I need that little baby there, ticking away every day! The Middle East is part of what makes us strong. We were a baby in project management when we first came to the Middle East – we came to do claims. The Abu Dhabi office was set up in 1987 – it was our first overseas office. Since then we’ve proved how we can manage and fix projects.” Project management currently constitutes 75% of Hill’s global revenue with claims making up the remaining 25%. Irvin likens the claims business to a hospital. “We might not know what was wrong with you when you come to us, but we have a specialist that you can go and see. After that you want to get out as soon as you can. “Our clients don’t want to pay us, or their lawyers, for the next five years. They want to get it over, out, done. We help them do that quickly


“We at Hill have the best and the brightest in this industry – it’s not about me, or him – we are a collection of 4,000 extraordinary people." DAVID RICHTER, HILL INTERNATIONAL

– we know what they want. They don’t want to spend money on something that goes down the drain – on pain and suffering. It’s not like paying an architect or an engineer.” Hill International’s project management capabilities have grown exponentially in recent years. David continues: “One of the beauties of project management is that it’s essentially a consulting business. We don’t have the kind of risk that a designer or a contractor has on a project. We’re acting in an advisory role on our client’s behalf, but it’s not the short term, small personnel work – typically, it is long term contracts with very high staffing. We have the best of both worlds.” According to David, the Middle East region is even further weighted towards project management ahead of claims. He reveals that a key market of late has been Oman, while he also predicts a comeback in Libya. “From having no presence in Oman two years ago we are now managing one of the biggest projects in the region – the construction of the new Muscat International Airport. We have some other projects there and it has become a big market for us. Libya was a big market for us, and obviously

for the last three years it hasn’t been, but we see 2014 as the year that we get back to Libya in a big way,” he says. With projects like Muscat International Airport, the Middle East is driving Hill International’s burgeoning transportation portfolio. Five years ago the sector accounted for under 10% of the business; now it constitutes more than 30%. David continues: “Our transportation portfolio is across the board – rail, highways, bridges, airports, ports. It’s a great market for us to grow in the Middle East. Before the recession, most of our business was private sector work for developers but now it is a lot of public sector work for government agencies.” Like many, he believes that Expo 2020 will help maintain an upwards trajectory for Dubai. “It’s always surprised me how billions of dollars are invested in connection with a [temporary] event. But governments tend to use them to spur development that they would have done anyway. Dubai is coming back and the expo is going to spur that even further. We’ve seen a lot our growth outside and around Dubai. The next five to six years should see a very strong

construction market for Dubai in the lead up to the event.” He points out how Hill International has a huge amount of experience in large scale events. “The Olympics are a particularly good market for us. We have been involved in several from the claims side. Construction on Olympics always overruns – there’s a 100% track record of that happening. At the moment we are hoping to be the project manager for the entire 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.” With its growing influence and prestige across the world, Hill International has come a long way since its humble beginnings. But did Irvin have a global empire in mind when he set up the firm in his house in 1976? “Oh sure,” he replies, before breaking back into his trademark smile. “Not for one second. I was just trying to feed my children and my wife. I wasn’t thinking about building a giant enterprise. I never expected, ever, that we would be this big. I thought we would be a small firm. Sometimes I wish we still were!”




At what stage should consultants get involved in a project? While the grandest structures of the ancient world would have hinged around the expertise of perhaps just one master builder, these days it’s not uncommon for a project consultant team to resemble a small army. Yet how many specialists does it really take to deliver a project, and at what stage should each be engaged?

Danny Smith, façade engineer at Dubaibased Inhabit Group, points out the size of the construction team will depend on each project. “Aside from the lead consultant, which could be an architect, the typical consultants employed for construction are civil/ structural engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers, transportation access and site planners, vertical transportation (high-rise), façade consultants, interior designers, lighting and acoustic consultants and facilities managers. Some or all may be involved, based on project size and the client’s budget.” Overseeing all these bodies and their operations can prove to be a tough ask, especially when multiple consultants are involved in large-scale projects. In this scenario, the role of project managers becomes critical to ensure project development does not suffer. Ian Armstrong, Sweett Group’s director of project management for the MENA region, underlines the value of his profession. “I would deem the project manager to be the most important consultant member and should be the first appointment. From the outset, the project manager will ensure the client’s objectives and goals are identified and a clear, well-defined brief is established.”


Armstrong continues: “Project managers will also recommend on procurement routes in terms of what’s best suited for the project, and are fundamental in all other consultant member appointments. The project manager ultimately leads the entire project team in achieving the client’s goals.” Naturally, many consultants will insist the ‘right time’ for them to be involved in a project is at the very beginning. While proponents of this view claim early participation makes for easier project planning and development, critics argue that the involvement of numerous parties may hinder project development. “The ideal time for a facilities management firm to start involvement is during concept design,” says Bill Heath, chairman of Macro Facilities Management. Heath adds: “If we’re involved during the initial stages of a project then can help look at the efficiency of maintenance and cleaning, how the space is going to be organised, how the circulation and the security work. The

“I would deem the project manager to be the most important consultant member and should be the first appointment.” IAN ARMSTRONG, SWEETT GROUP

earlier we’re involved the better, from our perspective. Sometimes the involvement comes further downstream.” However, some consulting roles require intermittent involvement throughout a project, as Smith explains. “As façade consultants, we are often required on the testing site to ensure that the contractor has built the façade to the correct design and fabrication intent, and that it meets the performance requirements before it is mass produced and installed on site. “We may then be required to provide onsite supervision to check for structural stability and ensure that the safety requirements have been met,” adds Smith. Other roles, such as energy consultants or cost managers, are also a part of the larger picture in the case of high-budget development. Ziad el Chaar, managing director of Damac Properties, reveals that his development company employs a well-stocked internal team. “Our operations are broadly undertaken by two [internal] teams,” reveals el Chaar. “One team extensively handles project management activities and has been a part of our workings for a long time now. The other team, called the technical team, includes specialists such as architects, interior designers, MEP specialists, safety handlers and so on.” Importantly, el Chaar explains, the technical team does not undertake the actual operations of construction; Damac, like most developers, hires external consultants to assist the internal team at various design stages. “For instance,” he says, “we work with external concept design firms who work on a set of plans. These are then analysed by our tech-




“Cooperation between the various bodies is fundamental to the success of a project.” DANNY SMITH, INHABIT GROUP nical team and optimised for inefficiencies, legal requirements, dead spaces and so on.” The expanding GCC construction market is becoming increasingly attractive to niche consultants, such as geotechnical specialists, to undertake activities that were perhaps previously the domain of architects, engineers or contractors. Although seen as a positive step for the industry, Sweett’s Armstrong believes the involvement of numerous parties can sometimes hinder project development. “With the advent of specialisation, and given the complexity of buildings today, more and more specialised disciplines are forming part of the project team,” he says. “This creates complexity. Couple this with the varying agendas of each party – which are typically commercially driven – the project can suffer.” Armstrong’s argument echoes the concerns faced by many consultants participating in large, multi-party projects. An unbiased distillation of the various opinions and inputs can prove to be a challenging task.


Heath says it all depends on the lead consultant. “If the architect is the lead consultant, they may only look at the perspective they want the development to look like and not take on-board other considerations. “A lead consultant should have the interests of all consultants. At the end of the day, you can put down recommendations, but it’s the client that makes the ultimate decision,” Heath adds. Speaking from the client’s perspective, Damac’s El Chaar is a strong believer in coordinated consultant efforts. “Even within our in-house teams, the interior designers cannot work independently, without adequate backing by, say, the MEP specialists,” he explains. “For instance, even a basic interior layout requires in-depth knowledge of the room’s AC grills,” el Chaar adds, emphasising the need for cooperation within project consultants. Time is money in the construction world, and delays must be avoided. “Like most industries, cooperation between the various bodies is fundamental to the success of a

project,” says Smith. “Regular meetings and attendance of workshops between different consultants is required to resolve the challenges as and when they arise, from as early as concept design stage right through to providing construction support to the contractor.” With the GCC gearing up for global events, such as Expo 2020 and the FIFA World Cup 2022, the region's consultancy firms will be working together more than ever before. Armstrong believes this is the best time for clients and project managers to use systems that promote integrated efforts on projects, while utilising ‘contractual nuances’ to ensure disagreements are “resolved more quickly and less painfully”. He adds: “The development of a common goal approach with likeminded individuals will assist greatly and the project manager is instrumental in promoting and engendering this culture of trust and openness.”

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80,000 Steel, in tonnes

500,000 Concrete, in metres3

1,000+ Height, in metres

Estimations by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) suggest that the Middle East will have 289 skyscrapers above 150m by 2015.

In recent years these dramatic statistics have been supported by a growing environmental concern, with the region at the forefront of developing experimental tall building-integrated sustainable technologies, such as wind turbines and solar photovoltaic skins. Much of this current concern is focused on reducing the environmental impacts associated with the operation of tall buildings on a day-to-day basis – for example, space conditioning, lighting, equipment operation, water supply and water heating. But we must look beyond operation. All buildings utilise energy and generate emissions –from the extraction of the raw materials needed for construction, to the disposal and recycling of materials after demolition. This is embodied energy, or embodied carbon, and research suggests it is responsible for around 40% of a building’s total environmental impacts. As we build taller, we use more materials like steel and concrete to resist the lateral loads from wind and seismic forces, which means high-rises have much greater levels of embodied carbon. The world’s future tallest skyscraper, the 1km+ tall Kingdom Tower, will use about 500,000m3 cubic meters of concrete and around 80,000 tonnes of steel.



A rough embodied carbon calculation suggests just these two materials alone will contribute 348,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions – and this is before a light switch has even been turned on! To put this figure into context, it is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 72,500 passenger vehicles. So what can be done? Well, for starters, there needs to be a greater consideration of embodied carbon and the value it can play in the creation of sustainable highrise. The use of wind turbines and solar panels may provide a very visual statement of environmental intent but will likely only reduce a small percentage of energy needs. While not as glamorous, much greater levels of energy would likely be saved through using cement replacement materials, such as fly ash or blast furnace slag in structural concrete, before a skyscraper has even opened its doors. With perhaps hundreds of new highrise set to be built across the region, there is a pressing need to think beyond skyscraper operations and to consider the sustainability of the materials that keep the Middle East’s tallest buildings standing in the first place.

Dr Philip Oldfield, course director, Masters in Sustainable Tall Buildings Programme, University of Nottingham, UK

“The glass industry already has ‘smart’ products, such as windows that automatically detect smoke and allow for fire safety [by opening in the event of fire smoke to let air out]. There is nothing in the world right now that doesn’t need IT – it is no longer a luxury, but the very ground we walk on. Who knows, we may even have mind reading glass in the future!” AMMAR ALUL, GENERAL MANAGER OF SCHUECO MIDDLE EAST


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“One could construct a hotel where every room is equipped with a mirror that speaks to the occupant. 'Here’s your email, here are the pictures of your friends, you have a meeting with XYZ and you might want to leave early because there’s a traffic jam.' Building smart governments and smart cities requires a joint effort from all industries, of which construction plays a huge part.” RABIH DABOUSSI, MANAGING DIRECTOR AND GENERAL MANAGER OF CISCO SYSTEMS INTERNATIONAL – UAE

"My hope is one day you will go to Mall of the Emirates and see holograms of landscapes such as Niagara Falls and famous people such as Winston Churchill. We want our students to be the first to mix reality with virtual reality and lead in the field of digital architecture. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed is inspiring everybody. He is a man of such vision. Thanks to him, it's all possible." DR. NABYL CHENAF, DEAN OF THE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE, ART AND DESIGN AND ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ARCHITECTURE AT THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN DUBAI




Middle East Consultant predicts the reality for consultants in the lead up to Dubai’s greatest exhibition




Now that the dust has settled on Dubai’s expo win, the regional construction industry has had a chance to reflect on what will happen in the next six years. While business seems to be picking up for most, there is an underlying feeling of déjà vu.

The most noticeable impact for Dubai residents and businesses is that the cost of living shot up in the months before and after the expo announcement, with average house price increases of around 22%, according to Jones Lang La Salle ( JLL). Craig Plumb, head of research MENA for JLL, points to the expo as a key reason for the increase. “While the economic fundamentals of the UAE continued to improve, there is no doubt that a major part of this increase was due to improved confidence, and winning Expo 2020 played a significant part,” he says. Is this rise likely to continue at the same rate? Hopefully not, says Plumb. “JLL are of the view that the current rate of increase in residential prices/rents in Dubai is unsustainable – if this continues at the same rate in 2014 it will negatively impact the city’s competitiveness with other regional destinations. We believe the rate of increase will reduce from that seen in 2013.”



01 The iconic venue for Expo 2020 02 The central plaza, known as The Wasl 03 Masterplan consultants include HOK, Populous and Arup

Plumb stresses that Expo 2020 will have legacy benefits to the local economy, such as bringing forward infrastructure spending on Dubai World Central (DWC) and an extension to the metro system. He adds: “The greatest benefit will be on the hospitality and industrial/logistics sectors, with the impact on residential and commercial real estate being less direct." Another positive byproduct of the expo win, certainly for construction consultants, is an increase in RFPs from clients over recent months. Bart Leclercq, head of structures design at professional services consultancy WSP, adds: “Last year we received about 1,700 RFPs, varying from very small single discipline RFPs to very big multi-disciplinary RFPs. This is mainly on hotels, residential and retail, predominately in Dubai. Also the size of RFPs has increased. In addition we’ve seen a lot of the old projects that were stopped in 2008 restart again.” The situation is similar for architecture firm Stride Treglown, according to Nigel Craddock, regional director. He says: “We have noticed a marked increase in RFPs following the win, both in Dubai but also in Abu Dhabi. Some clients turned increasingly bullish about Dubai immediately following the win. “It seems there was a lot being stored up ready for release. We’ve had a number of RFPs from client bodies that have been dormant for

a considerable time. Existing clients have also started asking for feasibility studies on additional projects. It’s all positive stuff.” Leclercq stresses that many clients are under the false illusion that construction drawings from pre-2008 can be passed through in 2014. He adds: “The challenge for the industry, particularly with regards to older and shelved projects is that time has moved on and design standards have changed. “We went from an earthquake zone 2A to 2B. The wind speed value has gone up from 38 to 45m per second. With MEP, you cannot do any ventilation of car parking with jet fans anymore and fire and life safety regulations have changed. We now have to implement BIM and the introduction of the Dubai Green Building Code is going to surprise a lot of clients as well. We cannot simply pick up from where we left off – the industry must take these changes into account when dusting off the old." He also questions the availability of finance and suggests that some clients are prepared to cut corners to save money. “Sometimes, when I look at the activity I feel that we are back in 2007/2008 again. I still see a problem with the financing of projects. I think there is not enough money in the system yet, but there is a real eagerness to go. Clients want to go into the market and start selling properties again – 03



purely based on a concept design – and then give the concept to the contractor to do design and build so they don’t have to spend as much as in a traditional design set up.” Yet Stride Treglown’s Craddock believes that clients are not trying to cut down on the number of consultants. “Developers are more cost conscious than ever but I haven’t seen it result in a reduced numbers of consultants. I think there’s an awareness that quality counts and there’s little point cutting corners and delivering sub-standard products to the market. “I see clients becoming more sophisticated within their own teams and the types of people they employ to look after their interests. Consultants have to work ever harder to make the project stack up, on every possible level. The days of getting a project approved on the basis of a flashy image are gone.” He does, however, raise alarm bells about the rise in speculative development – a key factor in the property meltdown of 2008. “It’s deeply concerning to see so much speculative purchasing and flipping back in the market. We’ve seen it all before and no-one wants that situation


“Clients want to go into the market and start selling, purely based on a concept design, and then give it to a contractor to do design and build.” BART LECLERCQ again. We can only hope for a continued balance of development in line with population growth and a general growth in the economy outside of the real estate sector.” JLL’s Plumb is more positive about the state of the property market and the sales methods of developers. He says: “The market is less dependent on pre-sales. From 2013 to date the numeber of pre-sales has been limited at just 2,300 – from well-respected developers such as Emaar and Damac.”

Plumb adds: “There have been no recent announcements of master developers selling land plots to sub developers, which was one of the major reasons for the previous crash as these sub-developers faced funding issues following the impact of the global financial crises.” While some in the industry may fear than an expo-driven development boom will result in another bust, Plumb believes that the situation is now different. “While there are some worrying signs of overheating creeping into the market, conditions are sufficiently different this time around that another bubble can be avoided. A new supply of residential units will keep the market competitive and act to temper the rate of price and rental growth. “In addition, developers have recognised the need to adopt a more long term and coordinated approach, with more emphasis on phasing supply in line with demand, rather than developing too much real estate too quickly.” For WSP’s Leclercq, the rate of development has been disappointing considering the amount of buzz. “It is very hopeful and positive, but if you think about the amount of contracts

that have been awarded and are actually going to site, it’s actually quite disappointing.” Plumb agrees that some proposed projects may not see the light of day, or will be slow to get off the ground. “Given that funders are more cautious in their approach to real estate development than in 2006/2007, it is inevitable that not all of the proposed or announced projects will proceed to the construction stage, and those that do will be phased over a significant timeframe. “The level of funding will apply a natural and positive brake on the pace of potential development. Having said this, many developers are in a much healthier financial position now than in 2008/2009 and have access to a wider range of funding options.” A potential thorn in the side for Dubai’s expo development plan is Qatar’s World Cup preparations. Leclercq believes that Qatar is likely to drain resources away from Dubai. “There will be a lot of competition between the UAE and Qatar in terms of resources. Qatar will pay a little bit of a premium to make sure they get the architects and engineers to work over there.” Craddock concurs: “There’s the distinct possibility that candidates with specific skill sets will be lured to Qatar by higher salaries, particularly if the cost of living in Dubai continues on a steep upward trend. The issue for Dubai companies is keeping up with the salary expectations of highly qualified staff.” Despite the spiraling living costs and currently enigmatic development climate, Dubai and its expo will ultimately reward quality consultants that resist the lure of relocating to Qatar, according to Craddock. He concludes: “Expo 2020 is a global event that draws in international investors and developers. There are, and will be, an increasing number of clients that want a quality assured international standard of service but with local knowledge and expertise, and the requisite support. If you can offer that, you’ll benefit from the expo.”




LONDON AQUATICS CENTRE – LEGACY MODE Having shed its awkward temporary seating wings, London’s Olympic swimming venue looks better than ever


Images: Hufton + Crow


BUILDING DETAILS Location: Olympic Park, Stratford, Built up area: 36,875m2 Footprint area (Olympics): 21,897m² Footprint area (legacy mode): 15,950m² Seating capacity (Olympics): 17,500 Seating capacity (legacy mode): 2,500 Legacy mode opening: March 1 2014



On March 1 2014, the London Aquatics Centre opened to the public, following the removal of the controversial temporary seating stands required for the London Olympics 2012. With its significantly reduced capacity (17,500 down to 2,500), the legacy mode is more aesthetically cohesive, featuring sleek glazed walls rather than the boxy stands which earned the centre its nickname ‘the stingray’. The sports venue will continue to host national and international events including the FINA/NVC 2014 World Diving Series and 2016 European Swimming Championships. It will also provide public facilities, from swimming and diving lessons, to water polo, synchronised swimming and dry diving. Commenting on the redevelopment, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “After a post-Olympic makeover, London’s majestic aquatics centre is now flinging open its doors for everyone to enjoy, whether an elite athlete or enthusiastic amateur. All of the world class sporting venues on the magnificent Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park have secured bright, futures, dispelling fears of white elephants and helping to drive our ambitious regeneration plans for east London.”



ARCHITECTURE ZAHA HADID ARCHITECTS The concept was inspired by the ‘fluid geometry of water in motion, creating spaces and a surrounding environment in sympathy with the river landscape of the Olympic Park’, according to Zaha Hadid Architects. An undulating roof sweeps up from the ground as a wave, enclosing the pools in a unifying gesture. It was planned on an orthogonal axis perpendicular to the Stratford City Bridge, along which three pools are laid out. The training pool is located under the bridge while the competition and diving pools are within a large volumetric pool hall. Zaha Hadid Architects’ overall strategy was to frame the base of the pool hall as a podium. This podium contains a variety of different elements in a single architectural volume, emerging from underneath the bridge and cascading around the pool hall to the lower level of the canal side level. The pool hall is expressed above the podium level by a large roof arching along the same axis as the pools. The double-curvature geometry creates a structure of parabolic arches, which gives the roof its distinctive form.



SUSTAINABILITY ARUP With its focus on legacy use, the Aquatics Centre was designed to be sustainable within the budget. From the outset, Arup concentrated on practical measures, such as best practice insulation, envelope air tightness and the use of daylight. Pool tanks are insulated and an adaptable environmental control system works with the large volume of the hall. The ventilation system is split into local zones that can be turned on and off to meet demand. The amount of concrete was reduced through the use of secondary aggregates and the project received a BREEAM Innovation Credit for the concrete mixes. Water treatment systems are demand controlled which helps the legacy operator to save money by reducing power, water and chemical consumption (potable water use was reduced by 42%).




05 01 02 03 04 05 06 07

Curvaceous cantilever Canalside view Position in Olympic Park Looking towards the diving pool A diver's view Wooden panelling Not a straight line in sight

FAÇADES VS-A GROUP France based VS-A Group provided complex and parametric geometries, from construction design until practical completion. Its key role was to design and optimise the doublecurved roof, highlighting the aerial concept (one floating roof resting on three points). It offered solutions for the cantilevered façade of the legacy mode, as well as consulting on blast resistance to meet Olympic security concerns.


06 07

Arup was involved in delivering the spectacular long-span roof from scheme design to completion. The challenge was to make the flowing geometry work effectively – this meant bringing down the self-weight of the structure to ensure each section of steel was fully utilised. Long spans are usually arches, which require abutments or ties, however the design needed to move away from an arch solution to minimise the interdependence of the roof and substructure and make the roof easier to build. Arup decided on a series of trusses, spanning in the long direction – and supported at just three points – making for an effective structure with limited supports. The roof not only spans a large length, but also a large width. In the centre, the depth was used to span the distance using truss sections, but the Arup team had to find a different solution for the section of the roof that becomes thinner towards the wings. An inclined arch-shape geometry was used for the roof in the cantilever wings, so the structure could support itself.


Image: James Ewing | OTTO


01 SOM UNVEILS NEW YORK UNIVERSITY CENTRE Last month saw the opening of The New School University Centre in New York, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). The 35,000m2, 16-storey complex reflects the experimental nature of The New School, with 18,500m2 of academic space on the first seven floors and a 600-bed dormitory on the levels above. Designed to achieve LEED Gold, it contains design studios, laboratories, classrooms, a main library, a nine-floor student residence, an 800-seat auditorium, a café, and flexible academic and social spaces for student activity. Connections between the classrooms, studios, library, cafés, auditorium, and student residences take the form of stacked staircases and sky quads, to stimulate chance encounters and interaction.



02 GEHRY’S BIOMUSEO TAKES SHAPE IN PANAMA CITY One of the world’s most eyecatching buildings – Frank Gehry’s Biomuseo in Panama – is set to open its doors to the public, almost a decade after construction began. Designed in Gehry’s trademark style, but with more hues


than a kid’s colouring-in book, the 4,000m2 museum explores the diverse range of species that inhabit the region. Its eight permanent galleries were designed in consultation with the nearby Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Located at the Amador Causeway at the entrance of the Panama Canal, the $60m museum will contain a central open-air atrium leading to eight exhibition galleries, the majority of which will be created by Bruce Mau Design.

It also houses a temporary gallery space, museum shop, café and a landscaped botanical garden by Edwina von Gal which can accommodate various outdoor exhibits. The opening is expected to coincide with the presidential election in May.



03 MERAAS’ JBR MEGASCHEME SPRINGS TO LIFE The Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR), developed by Meraas, has partially opened to the public. This follows an official visit by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of

Image: Grimshaw


Dubai. A number of retail outlets and restaurants are now open for business, while pedestrians can stroll through courtyards and beachside walkways. Currently visitors can also use the many interactive info stations and admire sculp-

tural sand castles. The low-rise scheme runs for 1km across the beach from the Sheraton JBR to the Hilton JBR. It will eventually contain four plazas, a total of 70 outlets, a 1,200-bay car park, plus the UAE’s first outdoor cinema.

04 PULKOVO INTERNATIONAL OPENS IN ST PETERSBURG A striking airport in St Petersburg – Pulkovo International – has opened following a collaboration between Grimshaw Architects, Pascall + Watson Architects and Ramboll. A second phase will be completed in 2015, extending the capacity to 17m passengers annually. Mark Middleton, Grimshaw project partner, stated: “This development is a quantum leap, easily holding its own among the world’s top airports. I think the future for St Petersburg is bright. Pulkovo will become a large hub, drawing business from Asia and Eastern Europe.” The terminal is enclosed by a geometric roof is created from a series of 18m bays, which effectively act as large hoppers. The tessellating pattern stretches to the

window-scheme, wrapping the space to form a plaza. The internal layout of the new terminal consists of well-defined and separate zones connected by individual walkways to echo the external layout of islands and bridges which make up the city. Bearing in mind St Petersburg’s extreme seasons, the roof and façade have been developed to withstand heavy snowfall in the winter. Middleton added: “This building represents a point of departure for Grimshaw. We are known for our expressive structures and attention to detail. We wanted to keep all of those elements – the practicality and the buildability, and our interest in sustainability – but also try to make this building more about form and space.”




Nabil Sherif founded NGS Architects in 2009 and now also runs NGS Materials, NGS Studios and Kit Your Pad

“I’m constantly trying to find a balance between bringing in projects and actually designing and executing them.”






Because I run a group of four different companies – NGS Architects, NGS Materials, NGS Studios and Kit Your Pad – every day for me is very different. My day begins at around 7am. After a quick workout session, including yoga, my wife and I share breakfast. I'll get to the office in Jumeirah Lakes Towers by 9am. Ideally, I schedule at least four meetings per day; two in the office and two elsewhere. My meetings are usually a good way to ensure I’m interacting with people who have been in the region for long and have wisdom to share. In a way, I’m learning everything I can about different companies without having to actually work for them!

Lunch is usually my business development hour, and I tend to spend this time with some key personnel from the industry. I’m constantly trying to find a balance between bringing in projects and actually designing and executing them. To me, the idea of investors backing me will depend on the brand value I show them through my work. There are usually more meetings scheduled for after lunch – I often dedicate these for NGS Materials which is a brand new supplier consultant in the market and requires more attention at present. I try to make it back to the office at 5-6pm. This is when I review the operations of the day and strategise what our next few days or weeks will involve.

On a light working day, I get to pack up and leave for home by 6pm. In the weeks leading up to a project deadline, however, I stay back till around 9pm, and work Saturdays if needed. My evenings are usually reserved for my wife and the rest of our family – we have a big extended family by the grace of God and we often dine and spend time with them. Some evenings, I hit the gym if I’m not too exhausted from work. There’s not much socialising in my life at the moment, but that’s how it is! I strongly believe in prioritising my goals and setting the right timeframe I need to achieve them. It has worked well for me so far, and I’m hoping I’ll continue to maintain the right balance in the future too.


Sales contact UAE nora systems GmbH (JLT Branch) 2008 HDS Business Centre| Jumeirah Lakes Towers PO Box 478392 | Dubai, UAE Tel.: +971 (4) 450 8175 Fax: +971 (4) 450 8374 E-mail:


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ME Consultant March 2014  
ME Consultant March 2014  

Insight and analysis for construction specialists