Atkins has designs on the region’s education scene

well known for constructing the burj, atkins has launched its ‘professorship of the built environment’ at buid

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By  Conrad Egbert Published  April 13, 2005

Atkins has designs on the region’s education scene |~|Ed-Wallis2.jpg|~|Ed Wallis|~|Atkins, one of the largest engineering consultancies in the UK, recently awarded the ‘Atkins Professorship of the Built Environment’ to the British University in Dubai (BUiD). Ed Wallis joined the board of Atkins as a non-executive director on 8th September 2004 and became chairman on 1st January 2005. He also held the roles of chairman and chief executive at Powergen and has more than 30 years of experience working for the Central Electricity Generating Board. Construction Week caught up with him to ask why education in the UAE is the next move for Atkins, and to find out the latest news on the company’s largest project in the Middle East — the Durat Al Bahrain.

How long has Atkins been in the Gulf?

Atkins has been in the Gulf since 1967 and we now have extensive operations throughout the UAE and the region. Atkins is one of the largest consulting engineering and architecture groups in the world.

Why has Atkins ventured into education in the Gulf?

Atkins has been part of education before; it’s not new to the industry. But yes, this is the first time we’ve done something like this in the UAE. We just felt that we wanted to give back something to this country that has given us so much in terms of work and experience.
The study and improvement of the ‘Built Environment’ are central to the quality of life for citizens and expatriates alike. We hope that our support for the BUiD will create the next generation of business and technical leaders to serve this region in the engineering and construction sectors. These endowments serve to show Atkins’ commitment to developing Dubai into a true Middle Eastern centre for academic excellence.

What does the new professorship involve?

The new Atkins Professor will be the head of the University’s Institute of the Built Environment. Their role will be to take this important discipline to new intellectual and technical levels, for the benefit of the UAE and the GCC. Atkins will sponsor the professorship completely and pay 50% of the tuition fees for the postgraduate scholarships as well. The University has appointed Cardiff University as its academic partner for its new institute of the Built Environment, which will open in September 2005. It will be research-led, and a Masters programme in the Environmental Design of Buildings is being submitted to the Ministry of Education for accreditation eligibility.

Has the Emiratisation policy in the UAE influenced the introduction of these scholarships?

We didn’t even know about the Emiratisation policy until you just mentioned it. The scholarships have not been triggered off by the Emiratisation policy. We want to develop the students from this country and, in that way, give back to the country. We’ve always believed that investing in people is the most important thing for the success of a company. Of course, the good thing about it all is that we can create our own staff from the Emiratis. We’d obviously like
to hire qualified people from here, instead of going through the trouble of flying out people from abroad and relocating them here.

Moving on to some of your projects in the Gulf, can you tell us about the Durat Al Bahrain?

The Durat Al Bahrain is our most recent project in the Gulf. We’ve previously built the Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Taj Palace Hotel and some other developments in Dubai. The Durat Al Bahrain is due to be completed in 2009 and is ourbiggest project in the Gulf so far.
The project consists of six atolls, each comprising 172
villas, five ‘petal’ islands of 52-90 villas each, an 18-hole golf course surrounded by 258 villas, a five-star hotel, and a 400-boat marina. The ‘Crescent Islands’ will feature retail, food and
beverage and leisure facilities, and a site for 2000 apartments. The total area for the project is 20 km2. Atkins has been appointed to design the master plan and provide complete design consultancy services for this ambitious project, which is currently in its design phase.

No one really wants to talk about the environmental issues here in the Gulf — are you staying tight-lipped about them as well?

No, not really. I think our buildings are quite environment-friendly. For example, if you take the Durat Al Bahrain as an example, we’re creating an exotic marine life and submerged reefs that will enhance the existing seabed.
We do value nature and the environment, and are taking all the steps that we can to enhance our surroundings.

This is the first time you’ve visited Dubai. What do you think of the place?

I’m very impressed by how innovative and well done everything is here. There is a lot happening in Dubai — you don’t really realise it until you actually come over here and see it for yourself. What’s really interesting about Dubai is that it’s got all the buildings here in one place that you would otherwise find in different cities of the world. There are so many different types of buildings that span a variety of colours, architectural styles, locations and uses, that there is something for everybody; no one can go away from Dubai feeling that they didn’t find something that they were looking for. I’m hugely impressed by the place. ||**||

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