Construction Week Newsletter 29th January 2005

It was a foul evening. It was raining, and to make matters worse, my family and I were in the car at the tail end of what seemed to be a mile-long traffic jam in the middle of nowhere. We were on our way to the newly built Global Village at its permanent home in Dubailand.

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By  Eudore Chand Published  January 29, 2005

Editorial Leader|~||~||~|

Doesn’t everybody just love construction?

It was a foul evening. It was raining, and to make matters worse, my family and I were in the car at the tail end of what seemed to be a mile-long traffic jam in the middle of nowhere. We were on our way to the newly built Global Village at its permanent home in Dubailand. Popular belief is that Global Village is the centre of the action at Dubai’s Shopping Festival. By the end of the first ten days of the DSF, some one million people had visited the site. Though it is one of the first facilities to be built at the sprawling Dubailand site, the difference that proper planning makes was evident right from the start; there are several access points and parking is much closer to the entry gates. I only wish that the planners had included a three-lane exit from the Emirates Road. The circular construction layout of the complex is designed for ease of access to the national pavilions. I had to walk around the entire vast circle to reach the intended pavilion that was just to the left of the entrance. My excuse to my irritable family – being right-handed, I have a natural tendency to go in that direction. As a start-up project at an uncluttered site outside the city, the planners had plenty of opportunities to include solutions to previous design issues. From a user’s point of view it appears many have been incorporated, and I am sure that anything else that crops up will be dealt with. After all, the Global Village is destined to become a star attraction of Dubailand and will welcome visitors for some two-thirds of the year. While the unprecedented foul weather tried its best to dampen my spirits, the Global Village won in the end. What especially caught my eye was Diggerland, a huge section where kids of more mature years can live out their macho fantasies of trundling enormous machines across a difficult terrain. An array of diggers, excavators, forklifts, bulldozers and other earthmoving equipment in various shapes and sizes abounded in a vast hollow in the ground. Most were fixed and had their safe areas of operation marked out, but you could see all-terrain vehicles transporting motley groups of construction-happy public and delivering them to their paid-for choice of machines. What a change from the Meccano days. Some earthmovers were adapted with safety seats; people were strapped in and the machines then set off at a fantastic pace. The first time I saw Diggerland and its whirling machines, I thought it was simply a normal construction site and that one of the usually staid operators had gone berserk. I was about to raise the alarm when my nephew (a much younger and therefore keener-eyed individual) brought to my attention the whoops of joy from the thrilled riders. What amazed and made me feel like raising a cheer was that – as in many other previously male-dominated spheres – ladies were present and were having fun. That set me thinking: normal, ordinary people can indeed love construction. Various aspects of it can be appealing to those individuals that may be classified as ‘office types’. The Meccano days in all of us are just waiting to be rediscovered. But how can the construction industry benefit from this public goodwill? While the sector is not usually known for its public relations skills, massive construction projects across the Gulf continue to attract investor attention and funds. And, now I find that next door’s assistant office administration executive is displaying a fascination for all things construction-based. The Gulf is dotted with large family-held construction conglomerates. Perhaps it is time for them to increase public goodwill by raising interest-free funds through share offers. Facing demanding shareholders once a year and having professional minority directors on the board is, I feel, a small price to pay for exposure to professional management of funds, technology transfer and administration. Al Dar Real Estate and Arabtec have shown the way. Isn’t it time for others to get a piece of the action?||**||

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