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Sat 9 Jan 2010 04:00 AM

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Pushing on

World Wide Project Management and its Sahara Livings development prove that, even after a tough year, Dubai's construction industry will continue to progress.

Pushing on
Construction of Sahara livings is 15% complete and substructure and superstructure work is ongoing.
Pushing on
Block work and internal plastering has commenced on some villas.
Pushing on
Worldwide Project Management Managing Director Abdel Wahab Talaat.
Pushing on
Twenty-seven villas are at the Substructure of development. Here labourers put in place columns where concrete will soon be poured.

World Wide Project Management and its Sahara Livings development prove that, even after a tough year, Dubai's construction industry will continue to progress.

As 2009 unfolded, the confidence industry experts had in Dubai's construction sector took a few knocks. Projects were halted if not cancelled and then came the news that Dubai World, whose subsidiary is construction giant Nakheel,  would seek delays on billions of dollars of debt obligations, leaving many suppliers discouraged from investing in the emirate.

But, one construction company that still has faith in the troubled city is World Wide Project Management, the client representative for a whopping 19 projects worth US $1 billion (AED3.7 billion) under construction and progressing in Dubai.

One such project is Sahara Livings, a residential development consisting of 84 villas spread across an area of 18,116m² in Dubai Industrial City.

Reem Dubai Contracting was given 548 days to complete the project after being awarded the main construction contract in February 2009 and, so far, 15% of the development has been completed and 78 villas are currently under construction.

"Right now we are working on substructure and superstructure. In four months time, all the superstructure of the villas will be completed. We have also started block works and internal plastering on some villas," says World Wide Project Management managing director Abdel Wahab Talaat.

Infrastructure, including narrow roads, internal MEP works and internal lighting, is being completed by Reem Dubai in parallel with the superstructure work and is set to be finished within six months.

And, so far, superstructure work for 40 of the two-storey villas has been completed.

"We will soon pick up the pace because once you are above ground everything progresses fairly quickly," Talaat adds.

But, in such troubled times, how has Sahara Livings been able to continue without delays? World Wide Project Management, which supervises and monitors the delivery of the project, believes the answer boils down to low construction costs.

"We have an advantage of low prices of materials," says Talaat. "We are seizing this opportunity by continuing with our projects."

As a result of the reduction in material prices, World Wide Project Management saved the client, Sahara Living, around $1 million in construction costs before mobilisation began on March 1.

In the past, however, the use of cheap materials has led to several on-site accidents and fatalities in the Middle East, but Talaat is adamant that the quality of the building materials used for Sahara Livings has not been compromised.

"We ensure that the project is constructed on time with the right materials and that the finished project is of high quality," he insists.

"Health and safety is very important to us because during construction you are exposed to a lot of accidents. We have onsite safety officers and there have been a minimum percentage of injuries during the construction. Also, the authorities have checked that we are implementing safety on site and that we are doing our job in a safe way."

Despite predictions that material prices are to rise this year and the growing popularity of setting up projects in other Middle Eastern cities, such as Doha and Riyadh, Talaat expresses full confidence in Dubai.

"We are not afraid of the downturn. We need to show that we are still commited to Dubai," he says.

"We need to restore the trust to encourage investors to come back. It will take time, but we are confident in the vision of the city and of the UAE as a whole."

And, with the progression of several of his Dubai projects in full swing, Talaat has every right to be optimistic.

Three developments on Palm Jebel Ali, for example, are currently at design stage and enabling works contracts are expected to be awarded next month.

Work is set to begin on Nathalie Tower, Blue Moon Tower and Noah's Arc Tower immediately after the contract is awarded."We are currently in negotiations with Sharaf Foundations and Geo Foundation," explains Talaat.

"Other bidders included IFG Foundation and Italian Foundation."

When asked, Talaat could not reveal the value of the bids.

The client for the three projects is Almasah Real Estate and smaller clients such as Sahara Living come under the firm's umbrella.

Each of the three-bedroom villas at Sahara Livings, which are targeted at middle-income investors, include a small garden and the project's community pool will be surrounded by plants and trees.

On the surface, it sounds like a green project, but in an area apply surrounded by desert, how sustainable is the Sahara Livings development?

Talaat admits that there will not be any green building initiatives implemented in the project.

"For this project, we have not put in place any green building regulations. I'm not objecting to green building - it is a good thing. But, implementing green initiatives is very costly. Also, you need consultants to help advise you about green building and this costs too much money," Talaat explains.

"For a project we are developing in Jumeriah Village we are paying more than $2.7 million for the green building consultant and we have to pay them extra to implement the design, which fits the green building requirements. We also have to pay the contractor extra to meet the green building requirements."

But what about the long-term benefits that green building can bring to a project such as reduced energy consumption and, in turn, decreased utility costs?

Talaat explains that to introduce green initiatives into ongoing projects would have serious effects on construction costs and would cause severe delays to the completion of a development.

"The problem is, green building has come in suddenly to the market and we don't have enough time to prepare ourselves because we have already finalised the designs for most of our projects. So, to implement the green initiatives we would have to redesign our developments," he says.

"If I know from the beginning I have regulations to be implemented in my design I would prepare myself. Also, I would prepare my consultant to implement green initiatives from the beginning so I am not wasting my time and not paying more money for the new consultant and the redesign of the project."

Talaat says that the introduction of green regulations has been the most difficult challenge his company has faced over the past six months. He wishes to implement the initiatives into future projects but, right now, the focus is on fulfilling promises of on-time project delivery in Dubai - a rarity in today's climate.

"So far we don't have any plans to expand outside of Dubai because we have enough projects here that we need to finish but maybe in the future we will."

The next step for Sahara Livings is the completion of block works and the entire project is scheduled to be completed by October 7 this year.

"When we get to a certain point of construction we will move the site office into a villa or rent land outside the plot so we can start work on the landscaping."

Other developments under World Wide Project Management's belt include the $13.6 million Judi Place and the $49 million Jouri 5, both located in Jumeriah Village.

"Our main objective is to deliver on what we have promised to our investors," says Almasah chairman Abou Taleb Talebi.

Mobilisation works on Judi Palace started on November 1, 2009 and the project is expected to be delivered in 17 months.

Jouri 5 will take 20 months to deliver and will include 511 units spread over 16 floors.

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