Land of Opportunity

Aedas is working on the design for Doha Marina, which includes a hotel, spa, restaurants and retail facilities.

Any Middle East-based company that is involved in design or construction will probably have Qatar on its radar.

But what is the true condition of the market and what are the best ways for interested firms to make inroads in the country? To answer these questions, Middle East Architect caught up with three industry professionals that are active in Qatar: Ibrahim Mohammed Al Jaidah, principal of Doha-based firm Arab Engineering Bureau (AEB); Peter deVido, Qatar director, Aedas; and Tony Morris, director of UK-based engineering firm Hilson Moran.

How strong is the construction market in Qatar?
IMAJ: Qatar is very wealthy and strong and it will spend billions on construction projects. Contractors and designers have not yet felt the full impact. AEB will have to double its size to deliver all of our projects.

PDV: The market in Qatar is very strong. It is focusing on infrastructure at the moment and less on other developments. Qatar has big aspirations – if it wasn’t hosting a World Cup, then maybe it would target something like Formula One. In 2006 it hosted the Asian Games. The World Cup is one of several things to put Qatar on the map.

The potential of the market in the future is tremendous. We cannot ignore the opportunities that will arise from the World Cup, but the strength of the market and the opportunities in the future would still exist without the World Cup win.

In addition we must not forget that the country is very stable politically and economically. These are two very important factors, especially considering the unrest in other countries in the region. Like Abu Dhabi, Qatar has a 2030 development plan that considers the society and future growth.

Is there a big demand for internatioal consultancies?
PDV: Without a doubt, Qatar needs international expertise to achieve its goals. The rail network alone will require substantial international influence.

There will be so many opportunities over the next 10 years and there has to be an influx of international and professional skills. But Qatar will demand that these professionals have the right mindset and are respectful towards the local culture and heritage. Opportunities for local firms will be plentiful.

IMAJ: Local firms on the ground cannot cope with the amount of work that is needed. International firms are coming in and there are tons of opportunities for practices of all sizes. At the moment, there are only a handful of local firms that are capable of making an impact. This is a wonderful opportunity for local firms to emerge and develop.

Do Qatari developers have an appetite for good design?
IMAJ: Yes, absolutely. Qatar is looking at quality design and bringing in big international names, such as IM Pei and Jean Nouvel. The private sector is also looking at smaller firms that offer unique design.

PDV: There is a very strong appetite for good design, coming from both large and small developers. Qatari clients know that markets are slow in other areas of the Middle East and they are taking the opportunity to get the best service that is currently available.

Clients place a heavy emphasis on design quality. This is because most of the development in Qatar is not speculative. Obviously, projects must be commercially feasible, but return on investment is not the only priority – there is a focus on long-term economic and social viability.

Qatar is not just building iconic towers – there’s a lot of depth to development.

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