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Tue 10 Sep 2013 03:15 PM

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Burj Khalifa builder questions Gulf’s desire for 'iconic' projects

Company COO says the function should be more important than how a building looks

Burj Khalifa builder questions Gulf’s desire for 'iconic' projects

Middle East master developers are too concerned about making a building “iconic” and should pay more attention to its function and how much power it will consume, a leading executive from Dubai’s Arabtec Construction, which worked on the Burj Khalifa, the Burj Al Arab and is currently building the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum, said on Tuesday.

“I have argued, and this may be a bit controversial, for me there is a balance in any building environment between the function, the overall lifetime cost of running a building and how iconic it is,” Mark Andrews, group chief operating officer at Arabtec Construction Group, said at a conference in Dubai.

“A lot of the architects in the room may disagree with me,” he told delegates at the ‘Construction Week: Leaders in Construction UAE Summit’. “My sense is if you compare this market to say the European market there is still a significant focus on the iconic nature of the building and that inevitably means that you are going to somewhat compromise function and the footprint in terms of power utilisation in the building.

“If I look at the buildings that have been done recently in the UK, in things like hospitals and schools, they are all about function and how much power is going to be consumed in the building. What the building looks like, while it may not be insignificant, is a lot less significant.

“I still feel a sense here that buildings have to be iconic and therefore we are still making compromises with the power consumption that is going to be required to feed it.”

One of the region’s largest construction firms, Arabtec has worked on a number of high-profile construction projects, including the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, the luxury Burj Al Arab hotel, Terminal 1 of Dubai International Airport, the passenger terminal of Dubai World Central International Airport and Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace hotel.

The developer, whose largest shareholder is  Abu Dhabi state fund Aabar Investments, which owns a 21.57 percent stake, is also currently working on the Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre Abu Dhabi building on Saadiyat Island and the Palazzo Versace resort in Dubai Creek.

High-profile international projects also include the Hanging Gardens project in Egypt, Doha’s World Trade Centre and is the Okhta Center in St. Petersburg, which will be the tallest building in Europe when complete.

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jonjon 6 years ago

i agree with the exec

jenny 6 years ago

is mr andrews suggesting that having efficient cooling systems, using proper building materials, and ensuring that plumbing and electrical installations are fit for purpose are all more important than having 543 floors of pretty facade?? me, i quite enjoy paying 120,000 aed for a two bedroom apartment on the nose-bleed floor of a poorly and cheaply constructed building and having to call maintenance every couple of weeks because my bathrooms are flooded and the a/c unit is dripping causing water damage, mold build-up and short circuits.

Valerie Houghton 6 years ago

Lay a Timex 100.00 AED watch beside an Omega 100,000.00 AED watch. At 12noon they both read the same time. You can infer that functionality is the same for both watches.
But to the Omega owner, it is not about functionality, but rather style or what the watch is supposed to reveal to others about the wearer.
Functionality vs. appearance-at the very heart of many issues here- not just the construction business. You are courageous Mr. Andrews to speak of this issue in public-perhaps not a career enhancing move, but gutsy!


Abdulsalam Bastaki 6 years ago

I agree with Andrews concern and that we have to pay more attention to have a solid infrastructure first prior to wish lists.

langyaw 6 years ago

Dubai is enjoying the benefits of construction technology and engineering advances because of her relatively young age as a country. you cannot compare her with Europe or the Americas, which has been in existence for hundreds of years.
being young, you'd expect Dubai's looks to be young and daring.
this is where the challenge for engineers and constructors are at - to build energy-efficient, fully-functional buildings that are also attractive or iconic at the same time. environmental concerns have never been sacrificed in Dubai's new buildings.
so, IMHO, Mr. Mark Andrews is looking for buildings which are easy for him to build, where his margins are wider. bottom line? he's not competitive here in Dubai, or he's not willing to take on projects that reduces his margins.
-- langyaw

Jihad Jaljouli 6 years ago

It is all about mindset.
Caring about function and operating costs is caring about the people who will use the building and about the pockets of those who lease it ,,, a public welfare mindset
Caring about how the building looks is caring for the ego of who was behind the idea ,,, an egotistic mindset.

Unfortunately, in this part of the world we are still prisoners of an egotistic mindset.