With construction almost completed and many residents already moved in, Construction Week talks to the project manager of the US $1.5 billion Barwa Village to find out the idea behind this project and how construction in Qatar is moving ahead.
It’s difficult to understand how Qatar, despite its laidback attitude in general, has managed to forge ahead with construction, and be seemingly unaffected by the crisis, when all other states in the region have taken some severe blows.
A 9am start is not something that people aim for in this petrodollar fuelled Gulf state. So maybe arriving at the office of Barwa Village project manager Khalid Abdulla Al Hitmi on the dot, can be brushed aside as a lack of Qatari experience.
But it was worth the wait. An hour with Al Hitmi shed some much needed light on the project and on Qatar’s market as a whole.
“Barwa Village is made up of 18 low-level residential blocks that provide a mix of apartment lifestyle options including 96 studios, 262 one-bedroom and 100 two-bedroom apartments, in addition to 918 retail shops,” said Al Hitmi.
“Barwa Village was built to accommodate all those people who have been displaced due to plans for the Heart of Doha project. Everyone who lived in the area, where they’re going to construct this new development, now has the opportunity to buy or rent in Barwa Village.”
Last month Dohaland, a subsidiary of Qatar Foundation launched the Heart of Doha project, which will span an area of 350,000m² in the centre of the city. The project will be completed in five phases and will include 226 buildings, a theatre, a museum, a tram system and a range of hotels and schools.
The first phase, which includes the demolition of existing buildings and the expansion of government buildings is already underway and will cost around US $604 million (QAR2.1 billion). This phase is scheduled to be completed in 2012 with the entire project scheduled to be completed in 2016. It will cost a total of $5.5 billion.
So what exactly will Barwa Village provide for these displaced people? Al Hitmi says everything they need.
“It’s a big development that was valued at QAR1.5 billion. It’s a mixed residential and commercial development and is like one of those gated communities you have in Dubai and other places in the Gulf. The project has all sorts of amenities including an international standard school, nursery, park, public plaza, playground, shopping center, mosque, and administration building,” he explains.“The quality of construction is also very good, but then in Qatar the quality of the finish and construction is generally much better than in other places.”
Qatar-based construction company Marbu is the main contractor for the 400,000m² Barwa Village.
Barwa, which is a sister concern of Qatari Diar – the leading developer in Qatar and a government owned entity, seems to have all the backing it needs to carry on with its projects without any worries of finance.
Al Hitmi said Qatari Diar owns 40% shares in Barwa and mainly focuses on the international market, leaving the Qatar market to Barwa.
But as is the case in any developing economy that is building its infrastructure to accommodate a growing population, problems would be in abundance. And Qatar is not exempt from its share of them.
“Of course we have a few problems. We need the infrastructure work to run alongside our construction schedule. The efforts of Ashghal are not near enough for things to run smoothly. I mean the state of our roads due to expansions is terrible. Even if you switch onto the radio, you’ll hear all the talk about it,” said Al Hitmi.
But keeping up with construction is certainly not an easy feat especially in previously booming economies that were spinning out of control with construction activity.
An answer to energy concerns however is something that Qatar is looking into, with the government’s interest in nuclear power.
“I think it’s a good idea if it is handled properly and is safe,” said Al Hitmi. “I’m just afraid of pollution going into Gulf waters. I’m glad that the GCC-wide electricity grid will be the supply for the entire region. This was a very good idea.”
Nuclear or not, Qatar’s construction industry seems to be moving along at a steady pace despite the downturn, and from how things are going, it looks like it’s only a matter of time before Qatar becomes one of the leading construction markets in the region.