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Sat 1 May 2010 04:00 AM

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Deutschland to Dubai

Bavaria Gulf’s flagship Sandoval gardens project has been an interesting mix of German and Arab expertise, and its townhouses are near to completion.

Deutschland to Dubai
(Shruti Jagdeesh/ITP Images)
Deutschland to Dubai
Main room of the show town house. (Shruti Jagdeesh/ITP Images)
Deutschland to Dubai
Raymond Lefevre, of Bavaria Gulf.

Bavaria Gulf’s flagship Sandoval gardens project has been an interesting mix of German and Arab expertise, and its townhouses are near to completion.

There is so much suspicion in the market now, everything is questioned. That’s why we’re very transparent,” says Raymond Lefevre, general manager of Bavaria Gulf, standing in the doorway of one of the sand-coloured townhouses in the company’s Sandoval Gardens complex in Jumeirah Village.

He explains that all buyers of the townhouses receive a detailed specification, which is an advance on the state of communication between developer and customer in the context of the last few years.

“If you bought a property three years ago often there would be no specification,” he explains. “I bought a property and for a specification there was a blank sheet that simply said: ‘to be provided later’. We wanted to be a transparent company, and that’s why we have a huge list. All items are listed, including which brands and which models. This is very important – when you target end users they want to know what they’re getting for their money.”

The 36 townhouses are the first part of an AED260 million twin-development of the overall Sandoval Gardens that will also include a five-star-level apartment building. The designs and construction are part of a new niche of German design for the UAE market. The company is now close to handing over the residences, which it says are 95% sold.

All townhouses conform to TUeV, a German standard of quality that is a common benchmark in Lefevre’s home market. This means that all construction and finishing is assessed by a third-party, which essentially represents the buyer. “These third parties are important because they represent the buyer and ensure specifications are fulfilled – otherwise the buyer would just have to trust the developer!”

He adds that the transparency message – which includes monthly newsletters containing pictures and interviews with suppliers – has been well received by the buyers. Site visits are also accommodated, and frequently popular. “Some people come every month,” says Lefevre.

The German paint on the outside is one of the first notable aspects: it has a flexible component that makes it elastic – important to cover cracks and adapt to minor expansions in the building. “As every civil engineer knows, there will always be cracks. The paint can expand and contract with the building, from the heat of the day when it can be 40 degrees to the evening when it’s 20 degrees.”

Lefevre explains that 90% of the finishing materials came from Germany and the rest of Europe, as well as some of the MEP materials. “With TUeV we’re committed to German standards and some finishing materials, for example from China, we couldn’t get them.”
He admits that there had been some delay to the construction based on the ubiquitous problem of rising material costs, and that this problem is exacerbated by purchasing across continents.
This admittance was echoed by Bassam Khamash, assistant civil engineer at Al Sayegh Contracting, the main contractor who worked closely on the project. “There was a delay in the delivery for many of the materials that came from Europe. For local materials, we found that suppliers have less in stock as they have not ordered more than they need from their sources.”

He forecasts that the recent problems to air freight coming from Europe caused by Icelandic volcanic ash might have an effect on the materials for the other parts of the project still to be completed.

Khamash says that he was very impressed by the standard of materials procured from Europe.

Another slight delay to construction proceedings lay in the developer’s decision to install some elements such as TRASTA outside cladding in a way typical to the German market. This resulted in a German specialist flying in to train the workers. Khammash was amused by the international variations of this task. “No-one here knows their method of installation. You can get materials in the UAE from anywhere in the world, yet the local method of installation is the same. But every country has different ways of installing!”

Lefevre says that the financial slowdown reduced some of the profitability, but still not below initial values. In Europe that price for some finishing materials has not come down, and with the currency exchange we’ve had to purchase at a higher price. For us, the strategy is that we’re looking to break even. We still have to deliver on what we promised. I think breaking even is a good result in today’s market.”

But he adds that the fact that projects such as this have been able to continue has been testament to some important principles.

“In the last two years the industry has seen many projects stop. Now, the big question to ask is why?

“It’s an interesting point. The first answer is that the properties were bought by end users and not speculators, and our policy has been to only sell to end users. The second is to be totally transparent. If you as a buyer are left in the dark, you are going to be scared to pay. The third point is that we try to help customers be as flexible as possible with their payments.
The land was purchased three years ago from Bavaria Gulf’s own funds, and the project is funded by the so-far steady stream of payments from buyers. “If you are the end user, it is in your interest to keep the payments coming,” he notes.

Upstairs the sand-coloured walls of the corridors lead to bedrooms in the front and back. Taps in the bathrooms are fitted with a mechanism that will cause the water running out to bubble, thus reducing the number of litres used over a typical day, along with two levels for the toilet flush.

The master bedroom contains a balcony that looks over the skeletal construction of the apartment building, which stands between the two sets of townhouses. Overlooking the structure slowly taking shape, populated by workers carrying poles and corrugated metal sheets above their heads, he explains that the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification that is voluntary in some parts of the world, is mandated in this part of the city by the planning and construction regulations for commercial developments in the Jebel Ali free zone (JAFZA).

“JAFZA amended LEED to make the standard workable – so there are different requirements for different things depending on the environment,” he says. “Here it would be things like water conservation, and, of course, you would need special provisions for air conditioning, with less of an emphasis on how rain water is used.”

He adds however, that the townhouses have a facility to collect rainwater to be used for the irrigation of the plants.

He is happy with the company’s choice of Al Sayegh. “Al Sayegh is a good contractor with high standards. It was very open to bring the quality to a higher level.”

It is a time of quiet excitement for Bavaria Gulf, close to completion of the first phase after a year in construction for what is for the company its ‘flagship’ project in Dubai. It is likely to be particularly satisfying for Lefevre, who claims not to have had a vacation for two years – ‘next year, maybe’ – and has spent an unusual amount of personal time coordinating onsite.

Every day is a challenge, he says, though he is buoyed by the fact that this is just the beginning. “Next year we will be diversifying into property management and facilities management and have another project.

“We took into account the regional aspects of the design, we took care with the communal areas so there will be some beautiful landscapes. So much effort has been put into this project, probably much of which the client won’t see. What we hope is that over the next couple of years people will notice certain parts of the design and say we put a lot of thought into it.”