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Sat 29 Dec 2007 04:00 AM

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Review of the year 2007

A year is a long time in construction, and a long time in publishing. Construction Week takes a look back over an eventful 12 months.

A year is a long time in construction, and a long time in publishing. Construction Week takes a look back over an eventful 12 months.

January

The year started with the news that the Iraqi Ministry of Construction and Housing was to push forward measures to attract more international contractors to help rebuild the country. With reconstruction efforts continuously hampered by violence and alleged corruption, it was hoped the move to ease restrictions would enable the ministry to meet basic infrastructure and housing needs. This included building around 400,000 homes, roads, bridges, modernising Baghdad's airport and setting up water, power and sewage treatment plants.

Later in the month, a contractor in Abu Dhabi felt the force of new regulations requiring companies to cover health treatment for their employees and families. The second phase of the emirate's new health insurance law, which applies to companies with less than 1,000 employees and their dependents, took full effect on 1 January.

February

Dominating the headlines was the Fortune Tower disaster, which saw two workers killed and around 25 injured. The fire, which broke out on the 29th floor on 18 January at the Jumeirah Lake Towers, was caused by a spark from electrical wiring that ignited plastic materials nearby. There were 280 labourers onsite at the time. As a result of this accident, Dubai Civil Defence pledged stricter enforcement of fire-fighting procedures.

Later in the month speculation remained over the veracity of the rumoured Ajman Metro project that had appeared in some sections of the press.

While some claimed the project would see the emirate build a system that would run through the Emirates Road to Al Corniche in Ajman, and onto Al Zawra, Construction Week learned at the time that the proposal was little more than an ‘idea'. Consultants questioned the cost of implementing such a system within an emirate the size of Ajman.

March

Early March saw Construction Week highlight how political tensions were hampering Lebanon's reconstruction effort. Despite billions of dollars worth of investment being ploughed into the country's real estate sector before the 34-day bombardment by Israel the July before, no new contracts had been awarded since the war, and work that was underway was slow to progress. These efforts suffered a further setback following reports that the US had slammed sanctions on Jihad Al-Binaa, the construction arm of Hezbollah, saying it was directly funded by Iran.

Closer to home, Nakheel was due to announce a series of design changes to the Palm Deira, which remained focused on the island's infrastructure and land plots configuration.

Another fire, this time on Sheikh Zayed Road's Al Attar Tower, prompted further concerns over the way flammable materials were stored. Thankfully, despite 50 workers being onsite at the time of the fire, there were no casualties.

April

April seemed to be materials month. From cement rackets in Lebanon and a call for official standards for steel, to incorporating recycled waste material in roads, construction materials took up most of the Construction Week team's time. There were, however, other issues in the industry that the magazine shed light on, including insufficient energy for completed buildings in the city; Australia's Barclay Mowlem winning the US $776 million rail job on the North-South Railway project in Saudi Arabia and a freak fire at a company's onsite office in Al Barsha.

May

May was a bit of a disastrous month. A fire on Palm Jumeirah's Golden Mile had the industry up in arms about fire safety, which was compounded later in the month when 16 workers lost their lives after a fire broke out in their labour camp in Bahrain.

On a positive note, Arabtec shone through by winning what was billed as being the biggest construction contract ever awarded in Qatar for the construction of Al Waab City.

Alongside all of this, up in Construction Week towers, the team was preparing to revamp the look of the magazine from a flimsy tabloid format into a more manageable and petite A4 magazine size.

June

After months of behind-the-scenes preparation, the month of June saw Construction Week take on a whole new look.

Gone were the front page splashes and along came a magazine-style format, complete with front cover and some new editorial content.

After an early morning jog around the Palm Jumeirah, UK fashion-turned-housing designer Wayne Hemingway gave his take on how development in the UAE could be sustained in an exclusive interview.

Our reporters also got to scale the height of the Burj Dubai, a good month before a downmarket publication staked the claim for being the first to visit the tallest tower in the world, and having ‘exclusive' photos; they forgot to mention it was Construction Week who broke the story about the cladding.

Cyclone Gonu struck Oman later in the month, destroying homes, roads and bridges and causing around 70 deaths.

As the strongest cyclone to have hit the Arabian Peninsula since records began, coupled with the issue of global warming, the tragedy raised questions about the longevity of waterfront developments in the region.

July

With the rising temperature came this year's enforcement of the two-month midday working ban.
Once again, the ban prompted debate on just how effective the break is - particularly when temperatures don't really drop until 8pm at night during the summer months and many construction workers have nowhere to go to actually take their break.

With the announcement of the Abu Dhabi 2020 Masterplan in May came more analysis about how the plan could shape the emirate.

Although several projects were stopped or redesigned to accommodate the initiative, most of the feedback was supportive of the emirate's desire to ensure development and infrastructure were well-coordinated.

After a relatively quiet month or two of worker unrest, 300 workers resigned from the Ruwais HGCE project near Abu Dhabi after striking for almost a week over pay. Around 1,300 workers took part in the strike.

August

A relatively quiet month generally, but not so much for the construction industry.

Our sterling features editor, Christopher Sell, gathered some industry insight on the meaning of ‘sustainability', which generated a fair amount of debate from our readers.

Elsewhere, talk centred on the dynamics of ‘team-building' and how the relationship between contractors and developers could be improved to create better results.

On the contract award front, Al Masaood Bergum won the US $63.9 million deal for the first phase of construction of Nakheel's labour accommodation complex at Dubai Waterfront, while South Korean firm Sungwon won a $108 million contract to build a three-level interchange in Isa Town, Bahrain.

September

As the unrest in Iraq showed no signs of abating, the Iraqi government called on contractors in the UAE to bid for projects in the country.

Iraq's Development Programme market is worth US $100 billion - making it one of the biggest reconstruction opportunities in the world - yet security issues continue to deter many contractors.

Later in the month, rumours mounted about plans being hatched by several developers for the construction of a tower that will be even taller than the Burj Dubai elsewhere in the GCC. Will it be in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia? Watch this space.

October

October kept the Construction Week team on its toes with a lot happening within the GCC, including the resurfacing of the Bahrain-Qatar friendship causeway project, the launch of a new magazine - PMV Middle East - for the plant and machinery sector, and sustainability becoming top of the construction industry's agenda.

Not to mention our features editor taking the time out, amidst all this mayhem, to knock back a few jugs of beer in Germany at the Oktober Fest. Who said we don't know how to mix business with pleasure?

The team also went into overdrive in preparation for the Big 5 exhibition.

November

Construction Week's busiest time of the year falls in November. In the space of a week, the team produced five daily issue for the Big 5, hosted tables at the Construction Week awards and even found time to check out the magazine's first-ever conference.

The awards evening was a resounding success and saw ALEC pick up the Supreme Judges Award. Among the other winners on the night were Besix, ASGC, ETA, Waagner Biro Gulf and Nasa Multiplex.

On a less positive note, the month also saw the remergence of labour unrest, along with a spate of site accidents - one of which caused the death of seven workers.

The strikes did however prompt an urgent pay review, while the government issued staunch warnings to contractors flouting health and safety rules, whether that be on site or in labour accommodation.

December

The publication of Construction Week's ‘Sustainability' report gave rise to some debate on the imminent new regulations governing ‘green' building, with some fearing that the Middle East market may be too immature to take on the challenge.

Although light is yet to be shed on the regulations, most were in agreement that the rules were paramount for future development and the environment.

Elsewhere, the RTA announced a multi-billion dollar infrastructure spending plan until 2020.

With the first part of the Garhoud Bridge now open, there will be many more road, bridge and interchange projects up for grabs in the coming years.

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