By Thyer Al Kubaisi
Over the past year, Saudi Arabia has taken monumental steps to overhaul the nation’s real estate market. The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 initiative is central to this plan, as it challenges the industry to jumpstart the economy, accelerate the nation’s commitment to sustainability, and construct a million new homes. The Vision 2030 initiative requires architects and engineers to develop creative solutions to frame the future of Saudi Arabia in a short time period. In order to meet the moment, architects, engineers, and construction professionals will have to work in tandem to be more efficient and within budget.
As the architecture and construction industries in Saudi Arabia prepare themselves for the increase in projects, firms with experience in working in growing markets are being called upon. One architecture firm that has vast experience in delivering high-quality projects in a short time frame is Dewan, a team that has been integral to Dubai’s growth over the last 30 years. The firm’s success can be credited to its corporate structure; like many architecture firms it is equipped with various departments that are specialized and ready to handle unique situations. As one of the most important departments, post-contract ensures buildings are constructed on time and on budget. As someone with over 30 years experience in the AEC industry, I know that the post-contract department will play a critical role in fulfilling Saudi Arabia’s goal of one million new homes by 2030. The proposed work in Saudi Arabia will test our expertise and also prepare us for future work in regions experiencing population growth.
What is a Post-Contract Department?
Post-contract departments are what bridge the architecture and design teams with the construction group building a project. At Dewan, the post-contract department is in constant communication with all of the construction sites throughout the Middle East. We spend a portion of our day talking with supervisors and project managers to walk through their daily tasks and any challenges they are facing throughout the construction process. If necessary, we will even travel to job sites to check on the status of a project, ensuring all is going smoothly.
Visiting construction sites is one of the most important aspects of working in my role. Because developers and stakeholders heavily invest in their developments, they rightfully expect the highest quality from the finished product. My team must be sticklers for quality and respect the construction process. The post-contract department uses new technology to look for mistakes that the human eye may overlook before the construction process is completed. Finding a mistake after a tenant moves in isn’t only a costly error to fix, but it affects the trust developers have in the engineering firm they partnered with.
Safety is paramount in our industry and the post-contract department is what ensures construction sites meet rigorous regulations and protocols. In recent years, the general safety protocols that workers must follow in the United Arab Emirates have increased. With new rules, those in charge of construction sites must familiarize themselves with the regulations. Failure to adhere to the new guidelines can result in serious consequences for developers and construction project groups. One of the most impactful safety changes in the UAE is the reduction of workers’ exposure to sunlight. The new rule has forced the post-contract department to start work days much earlier to ensure work does not take place between the hours of 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. As work increases in Saudi Arabia with the new initiative, it won’t be a surprise if further safety measures are put into place to protect workers. Even if new guidelines are set, Dewan will be able to adjust appropriately and complete projects just like the firm did in the UAE.
While safety is always a top priority, adhering to regulations is also crucial to staying on schedule and budget. If a safety inspector visits a site and deems it unsafe, it could force the project to shutdown for any given period of time, causing delays and ultimately, affecting the developer’s bottom line. The post-contract department, along with site supervisors, are responsible for spotting safety violations and correcting them before safety inspectors get involved.
Technology in Post-Contract Departments
Having worked on many projects while in the post-contract department throughout my career I have seen the industry change considerably, and as technology keeps advancing, new challenges have presented themselves. While technology has made some aspects of our department easier, it also increased client expectations. Timelines for projects have decreased while designs are now more sophisticated. As an architecture and engineering firm with projects in many regions, we have experience working with local authorities to meet local codes, requirements, and project timelines.
Using technology has drastically improved our ability to keep track of progress and information on projects under construction. Managers on construction sites are able to use software to update our department on materials that arrive and the timeline for completion. Not only does this information help our department on current projects, but it also helps us forecast future projects. Technology also allows our department to spot any potential weaknesses and shows us where we would need to improve. Previously we would make improvements based on our overall expertise, and now technology provides us with statistics and facts that go a long way in bettering ourselves.
The Influence of Sustainability
Sustainability is greatly impacting the way our industry operates. Previously, waste on construction sites was of great concern in our department, but Dewan has put solving this issue and others at the forefront of our efforts. Waste management requires separation, disposal, and for some, recycling, while also considering special controls needed for pollutants in paints or oils. By sourcing recycled materials and those that are local to construction sites, our department has been able to significantly reduce pollution from building waste. Local materials require less transportation and they spend less time standing idle on job sites. Dewan has diminished waste over the past few years and is expecting to see a further reduction in the future.
Not only do new regulations and guidelines affect construction, but they also influence how developers choose to design and which materials they use. Our department and clients are always discussing ways to make their projects more sustainable. Using materials and tools that are environmentally friendly can seem more expensive upfront, but over a building’s lifespan, these sustainable materials will save developers money while making less of a footprint on the earth.
Expanding in Saudi Arabia
Dewan’s Saudi Arabia office in Riyadh is facing the same deadline challenges in the region as we’ve faced in other parts of the Middle East. One of the main challenges in Saudi Arabia is time— with the 2030 challenge looming, all those involved are working around the clock to meet deadlines. Dewan is well-suited for this challenge, as we have extensive experience in rapidly growing markets like the United Arab Emirates, which is one of the busiest construction regions in the world. Our team has produced high-quality projects in a short amount of time in cities including Abu Dhabi and Dubai and are up for the challenge to build quickly and efficiently in Saudi Arabia.
As head of post-contracts in Saudi Arabia, part of my job is educating designers and developers on quality materials. The time crunch is forcing industry professionals to focus on quantity and not quality. In my meetings with developers I am advocating for different materials that make their projects more elegant and sustainable. As the government proceeds with this great initiative, it is imperative that all the teams involved work smartly, quickly, and safely while being quality conscious. Post-contract departments are paramount in ensuring that.
Thyer Al Kubaisi, is Director of Post-Contract Department at Dewan.