The Roads and Transport Authority have announced that construction work on the Dubai Metro Blue Line will begin in 2024. The US $4.9bn project aims to transform the north-east section of Dubai and is to feature 14 stations, extending the Dubai Metro network by 30km.
Once complete, the Blue Line will connect five principal urban regions of Dubai – Bur Dubai and Deira, Downtown and Business Bay, Dubai Silicon Oasis, Dubai Marina and JBR and Expo City Dubai. On completion of this line, the Dubai Metro will span 131km and boast 78 stations and 168 trains.
“This year will witness the start of implementation of the Dubai Metro Blue Line project. It serves vital areas whose population is expected to reach about one million, according to the Dubai Urban Plan 2040, and achieves connectivity and integration with the Red and Green Lines,” explained Mattar Al Tayer, Director General of the RTA.
Al Tayer also noted that the Dubai Metro accounted for the largest proportion of users of mass transit, shared transport and taxis in 2023, at 37%. The RTA stated that the combined ridership of public transport and shared mobility, including Dubai Metro, tram, buses, marine transport and taxis reached about 702m, an increase of 13% from the 621.4 million recorded in 2022.
The average daily ridership of these modes of transport last year was 1.92m, compared to 1.7m in 2022.
The project is scheduled for completion in 2029, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Dubai Metro, the RTA stated.
Saudi conglomerate Kingdom Holding Company has sold its residential complex – Kingdom City – to a real estate fund affiliated with Alawwal Investment for US $240mn.
Located in the Al Rabie neighbourhood of Riyadh, Kingdom City is one of the most prominent luxury residential complexes in the Saudi capital and is situated at the intersection of Al Thumama Road and King Abdulaziz Road.
The complex features 384 residential units along with other key facilities, distinguished by its proximity to current and future quality projects in Riyadh, such as the King Abdullah Financial Center, the Sports Boulevard Project, King Salman Airport, and Roshan Front.
The conglomerate stated that there will be no change in the name and the complex will be known as ‘Kingdom City’.
Announcing its next move, Kingdom Holding Company said it will now participate in a new fund that owns ‘Kingdom City’ and will announce the percentage of its participation on a later date.
Meanwhile, the fund’s strategy now is to grow the revenues of the residential complex and improve the quality of life by raising operational efficiency and improving overall service levels.
Spanning six continents, Kingdom Holding Company has assets worth over $13.2bn covering 18 sectors, ranging from hotel management, real estate and hotel properties, to digital media and entertainment, financial and investment services, e-commerce, petrochemicals, education, health care and aviation and transportation.
The designs for two new towers as part of Phase Two of the Uptown project being developed in collaboration with Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) have been unveiled by Brewer Smith Brewer Group (BSBG).
As per the contract awarded by DMCC, BSBG will be responsible for provision of design and executive architecture, interior design, lead consultancy and construction supervision services for the project.
According to a statement, the design of Uptown Phase 2 features two mid-rise commercial towers – of 23 and 17 storeys – providing approximately 70,000sqm of Grade A commercial office space, as well as 8,000sqm of F&B and retail.
The project has been designed to interact with the wider masterplan, as the towers open out to an activated central plaza, which will become the focal point of the wider Uptown Dubai district. The plaza will host a dynamic and diverse offering of activities from immersive art installations to music, film and fashion performances, said BSBG.
“The process of design involved analysing the masterplan beyond the plot boundary, to understand how to extract the most value for the client. We had the opportunity to look at the wider context of Uptown as a destination, and interpret the way in which that translates into our project. Complex mixed-use schemes such as this are hugely challenging, from the wider masterplanning to destination development – but it’s a process we really embrace within the studio, and we’re incredibly proud of the final outcome,” said BSBG Group Design Director Michael Lewis.
Philip Beckett, a Senior Design Architect on the project added, “Creating a connection between the upper level drop-off and the urban plaza was a key decision we made early in the design process. The introduction of the central spine enhances wayfinding and creates a multi-level F&B activation strategy with elevated terraces overlooking the plaza. This arrangement not only enhances the visual experience but helps to create a vibrant and energetic lifestyle destination. As we were working on a large urban masterplan, the immediate and wider context had to be considered with every design decision we made.”
BSBG is also the designer of Mercer House, the first residential project to be announced at Uptown Dubai, he concluded.
Soudah Development has signed a contract with Parsons Corporation to provide project management consultancy services for the development of Soudah Peaks. The year-round luxury mountain tourism destination is set 3,015m above sea level, on KSA’s highest peak.
An ambitious project for Soudah, the resort is geared towards building sustainable tourism infrastructure with a focus on nature, wellness, adventure, sports, culture and heritage.
Parsons’ scope of work includes all project management and site supervision services for the development of Soudah Peaks which is home to six unique development zones: Tahlal, Sahab, Sabrah, Jareen, Rijal, and Red Rock.
On the strategic project, Soudah Development CEO, Eng. Saleh Aloraini said, “We are delighted to partner with Parsons on this project, marking a giant leap forward in bringing our vision of luxury tourism experiences to life. The detailed design of the Soudah Peaks masterplan outlines our total commitment and dedication to upholding a sustainable environmental framework, offering high-end hospitality services, and developing ultra luxury facilities and assets to provide Soudah Peaks’ visitors with an unparalleled living experience.”
“Parsons brings extensive consulting experience in project management to support the completion of the construction phases of Soudah Peaks; and will contribute to achieving the goals of the Public Investment Fund in developing tourism and entertainment sectors in Saudi Arabia.”
Pierre Santoni, President, Infrastructure EMEA, Parsons added, “We’re thrilled to be working on yet another one of the key projects under the Saudi leadership’s national transformation blueprint, Vision 2030. Working on a project of this nature, which will preserve and enhance the surrounding area and prioritise environmental integrity, directly aligns with Parsons’ core values, and allows us to bring our expertise in managing projects with the utmost precision to another important project in the Kingdom.”
Construction costs in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are predicted to increase by 2-3% and 5-7% respectively in 2024, intensifying the financial pressure on the construction industry, according to a new report by Currie & Brown, a global leader in cost management, project management, and advisory services. This follows a year of significant increases, with costs rising by 3% in the UAE and 7% in Saudi Arabia in 2023.
The report, titled “How to navigate 2024: Balancing challenge with opportunity,” outlines key strategies for construction firms to mitigate these cost escalations. It emphasizes the adoption of innovative working methods, such as modular construction, to alleviate the effects of local skills and materials shortages. It also highlights the importance of integrating sustainability at every project stage to meet evolving standards and recommends the embrace of digital technologies, including artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics, to enhance project return on investment (ROI) and manage future challenges effectively.
Doug McGillivray, Managing Director, Southern Gulf for Currie & Brown, commented on the findings, stating, ““2024 will bring fresh challenges for the construction industry, but these also present opportunities for firms and their clients.
“By considering sustainability, embracing digital technologies, and developing new ways of working, both will benefit from operational efficiencies. This will help mitigate the impact of construction cost increases now and in the future, while creating better, sustainable built environments for all.”
The report draws attention to the broader context of construction cost increases, noting similar trends across Currie & Brown’s operating regions. The primary driver of these increases is identified as inflation, which, despite showing signs of stabilisation towards the end of 2023, continues to pose challenges due to its variability across the Gulf region. Other factors contributing to the rise in construction costs include tightening sustainability regulations, particularly in the wake of COP 28 hosted in Dubai, skills and materials shortages exacerbated by strained supply chains, and geopolitical uncertainties impacting trade routes and material prices.
To help organisations navigate uncertainty and be more cost effective, the report advises project teams to act in the following areas:
Adopt new ways of working, such as modularconstruction. This will help reduce the impact of local skills and materials shortages, giving greater certainty on construction costs. Close collaboration between developers, consultants and contractors will also lead to greater clarity on schedules so that skilled labour can be secured early.
Incorporate sustainability at every stage. Firms need to consider the carbon impact of projects at every stage of development to make sure these will meet current and future standards. Doing so will reduce the need for organisations to make further investments down the line. They will also benefit from operational efficiencies sooner, reducing the cost and whole life carbon impact of their estates.
Embrace digitisation. From AI to advanced data analytics, digital technologies are offering new ways to enhance project ROI and predict and manage future challenges. Organisations must be open-minded to the potential of new technologies and work together to apply them where they will add the most value to projects.
McGillivray concluded, ““Cost escalation continues to be a significant challenge for the construction industry, but it is nothing new. Since June 2023, the price of raw materials, including steel, cement and concrete have, increased in both the UAE and Saudi Arabian markets. As an industry we need to work with our clients to develop solutions to deal with this long-term trend. What can we do now to address cost drivers and give them greater certainty in the future? This is where focusing on long-term trends makes all the difference.”
The insights provided by Currie & Brown’s report are based on data extrapolated from regional sources as of February 2024, aiming to equip construction firms with the knowledge and strategies to navigate the upcoming year’s economic challenges successfully.
Regional cost escalation statistics – How does the Middle East stack up?
Majid Al Futtaim Development has awarded the role of main contractor for its Elysian Mansions project to Innovo Build, the design and construction arm of Innovo Group. Elysian Mansions is a luxury development within Dubai’s Tilal Al Ghaf community; the project contract is valued at AED1.13 billion ($817 million).
Headquartered in London, the Innovo Group is a leader in urban development, specialising in the design, engineering, and construction of city projects across four continents. It has offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Toronto, Cairo, Senegal, and Riyadh.
A premium project for Majid Al Futtaim, the Elysian Mansions development will feature 94 five and six-bedroom mansions, which are expected to be completed by mid-2026. Living areas start at 11,000 sq.ft.
The development will bring together art, culture, architecture, and nature to create human-centric living spaces fostering a strong sense of community.
On the contract win, Innovo Group CEO, Bishoy Azmy said: “Innovo is proud to continue to be the contractor of choice for major developments in Dubai. We are particularly excited to bring our commitment to sustainable building practices to this community, delivering Dubai’s first BREEAM-certified project.
“This project will also allow us to harness our fantastic team and cutting-edge technology to deliver a flagship community for our customers. The construction of the Elysian Mansions demonstrates our ability to build the highest quality homes that place people and the community at the heart of all the residential developments we create.”
BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is a leading science-based validation and certification system for a sustainable built environment. It uses recognised measures of sustainable performance set against established benchmarks, to provide an independent, third-party evaluation of a building’s specification, design, construction and use.
Mapei Group, the leading Italian manufacturer of chemical products for use in the building industry, has announced the successful acquisition of Bitumat, a waterproofing specialist in Saudi Arabia.
The acquisition marks a significant milestone for Mapei Group as it bolsters expansion plans to strengthen its presence in the Middle East region.
Wholly owned and developed by Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC), Bitumat’s extensive reach will enable Mapei Group to tap into key source markets, aligning with its expansion strategy in the region.
Bitumat’s infrastructure includes its main factory, spanning an area of over 100,000 sq. m. in Dammam, KSA, and a manufacturing plant in Bahrain.
The leading waterproofing solutions manufacturer has offices and warehouses in Riyadh and Jeddah, and sales offices in UAE and Oman. Bitumat’s waterproofing products have been used successfully across numerous building sites in the Middle East and Africa.
On the strategic takeover, Mapei Group CEO, Veronica Squinzi, said: “With this acquisition, Mapei Group will strengthen its foothold in the Middle East region, one of the biggest growth markets for us. At Mapei, our revenue increased by over 37% in 2022, and we made important regional investments in recent years.”
Acquiring Bitumat will enhance Mapei’s portfolio of waterproofing solutions and increase the Italian multinational’s competitiveness in regional markets – extending its footprint to 102 subsidiaries across 57 countries and 90 manufacturing plants in 35 nations globally, with a workforce of over 11,900 employees.
Mapei has already supplied its technical solutions and cutting-edge services to numerous projects in Saudi Arabia, including the NEOM giga-project; the designated Expo 2030 site in the capital city Riyadh; the Red Sea development; and the conservation of the Heqra archaeological site.
Mapei also invests heavily in the region, operating a manufacturing plant in UAE, and having a local presence in Saudi Arabia under the name of Mapei Saudia.
AlbalDesign says the UAE’s first science-based concept, ‘Tafaseel’, can transform “any home or commercial space to reflect an individual’s personality, style/mood or brand identity”.
Emirati interior designer Noura Alghandi has developed the concept ‘Tafaseel’ by integrating psychology, music and art to provide design cues to showcase a brand’s identity/ individual style.
“We spend so much time indoors – so, your home, office or even a retail outlet should be able to reflect your personality, company culture / identity or be able to connect with a customer,” said Alghandi.
Tailormade to each client and project, it empowers creative storytelling and ability to transform it to a tangible design, says Albal Design
Clients are given the freedom to express themselves by scribbling on a piece of paper over any music and blindfolded. Applying cognitive psychology to indicate a connection between shapes and feelings or memory,Albal’s team analyses the scribbles to extract details such as shapes, texture, colours and patterns.
This process helps stir memories/ emotions that they are most comfortable with, which is then translated to create unique designs that can be applied to interiors, branding, furniture and even couture.
This design process can be incorporated into any space, leading to better productivity/ sales in commercial projects, staff well-being, or a sanctuary for homeowners.
“Psychology and design go hand in hand – and this collaborative process just helps articulate a customer’s story to bring a fresh perspective, and a fantastic and unique design,” added Alghandi.
Saudi Egyptian Developers says it is now ready to accept interest from house buyers for the second phase of the ‘Arabesque’ residential project after its formal launch.
The project in Cairo is taking shape near the Museum of Civilization and appropriately, the firm announced on its Facebook page that it is: “Taking you on another journey through history. Arabesque is launching Phase TWO”
Mohamed Al-Taher, CEO of Saudi Egyptian Developers, was reported by Zawya as stating that the project’s second phase will feature 340 residential units across 13 buildings of varying sizes.
The New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) has entrusted Saudi Egyptian Developers with the marketing, sales, and customer service operations for its Arabesque project.
This initiative marks the debut of the first comprehensive gated community in Majar al-Oyoun, situated in the historic core of Old Cairo.
Al-Taher highlighted that the architecture of the buildings blends traditional arabesque designs with contemporary elements, offering a unique aesthetic appeal.
He further elaborated that the Arabesque project encompasses 79 buildings, housing a total of 1,924 residential units in a variety of sizes. The community also boasts commercial spaces, including restaurants, cafes, a cinema, a theater, and a shopping mall, offering a holistic living experience.
The National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (Bahri) has marked the commencement of construction for its new logistics centre at the Jeddah Islamic Port.
The groundbreaking ceremony, held on February 18, saw the laying of the cornerstone for this cutting-edge facility, which is set to span over 95,436 square meters.
Managed by Bahri Logistics, the centre is poised to elevate the country’s logistics capabilities and supply chain efficiency.
The event was graced by the presence of notable figures, including Engineer Saleh bin Nasser Al Jasser, Minister of Transport and Logistics Services and Chairman of the Saudi Ports Authority, alongside Omar Hariri, President of the Saudi Ports Authority (Mawani), and Engineer Ahmed Ali Al Subaey, CEO of Bahri. Their attendance underscores the project’s significance to the nation’s strategic logistics vision.
Designed to cater to a broad spectrum of storage needs, the Bahri Logistics Center will feature temperature-controlled areas, comprehensive handling services, and a suite of value-added services. This initiative aims not only to enhance logistics operations within the Kingdom but also to attract multinational companies looking to establish logistics hubs in the region.
Omar Hariri highlighted the centre’s pivotal role in reinforcing the maritime transport and logistics sector, aligning with the National Transportation and Logistics Strategy (NTLS). This strategy is a cornerstone of the Kingdom’s ambitious vision to stimulate economic growth and increase non-oil exports.