M.E. speaks to Arif Amiri and Greg Sang, two men responsible for shaping the Dubai skyline. First up is Arid Amiri, Senior Director, Investor Relations and Corporate Governance at Emaar Properties PJSC. He describes for us the driving forces behind the success of Emaar.
As a company, Emaar represent an intensely goal driven group. At times, a group thinking outside of conventional restraints. What kind of environment encourages such bold thinking and planning?
Emaar Properties was founded as a direct response to the development potential that Dubai offered in the late 90s. Under the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the city has now established itself as a regional hub for trade and enterprise. The emirate's economy is led by the traditional growth sectors of tourism and retail; transportation and logistics; manufacturing; the free zones and the business hubs for IT, media, financial services, education and healthcare. These sectors drive the demand for property, and Emaar Properties stepped in to meet this need by pioneering the concept of master-planned communities. Today, Emaar has established four communities - Emirates Living, Arabian Ranches, Dubai Marina and Downtown Burj Dubai - with several thousand homes handed over to customers. Emaar derives its growth inspiration from the visionary leadership of Dubai. For example, Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building being developed by Emaar, was initially envisaged as a 90-storey structure. It was His Highness Sheikh Mohammed who inspired Emaar's management to push the boundaries and build the world's tallest building. The forward-looking environment of Dubai is indeed the biggest driving force of Emaar, a public joint stock company that is committed to adding value to all its stakeholders.
What are the key factors in creating and maintaining this kind of environment?
The leadership of Dubai is committed to shaping the emirate as a destination of choice for people from all over the world. Today, the city is already home to about 200 nationalities. This multicultural environment promotes creative thinking. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has always underscored the need to "dream, dare and do." Thus, ideation backed by execution continues to make Dubai a competitive environment.
Could you outline a little Vision 2010. What is the significance of such a goal?
EmaarÕs Vision 2010 is to become one of the most valuable companies in the world. This is being accomplished through geographic expansion and business segmentation. Emaar, today, has a significant presence in 36 markets globally and has built core competencies in property development, education, healthcare, financial services, shopping malls and hospitality & leisure. Vision 2010 is our roadmap, which helps us to describe our organisational goals in tangible terms.
To what can you attribute the incredible growth of Emaar over the last 11 years?
The growth of Emaar can be attributed to our track-record of delivering world-class property. By delivering on our promises, we build trust from our stakeholders.
Naturally the speed of Dubai's huge growth has resulted in extremes - both positive and negative. Whilst creating some of the world's most incredible skyline, drawbacks discussed in the international press have included a lack of an overall masterplan, and a workforce lacking the necessary infrastructures and in some cases basic human rights. Do you have an opinion on these discussions? What are Emaar's actions and recommendations?
As an integrated lifestyle developer, Emaar is aligned to the growth goals set by the Dubai Government, which is investing heavily in infrastructure development. The evolution of Dubai as a world-class hub is one without parallels.
Emaar has expanded into a major global force. What challenges come about with such market expansion?
Emaar has expanded to developed and emerging markets, and as with all geographic expansion, the challenge is to identify strategic partnerships in the new markets. Emaar addresses this by elaborate research and market studies.
Could there be such a thing as a Middle Eastern business philosophy? If so how would you define this, and what can established Western business practices learn?
Businesses across the world have several commonalities. However, what is particularly relevant in the Middle East business philosophy is the effective integration of governmental regulations with the freedom of private enterprise. This allows businesses to grow and prosper, while the government can continue to uphold the interests of the larger public.
Fast-forward 15 years. Can you imagine what attributes will define the future Dubai resident?
A future Dubai resident will be living in a global, multicultural city with strongly evolved infrastructure facilities and offering tremendous growth opportunities in varied economic sectors.
What's next for Emaar?
Emaar will continue to strengthen its core competencies in property development through master-planned communities in the UAE and other key markets globally. Simultaneously, Emaar will also strengthen its strengths in education, healthcare, financial services, shopping malls and hospitality & leisure.
Greg Sang goes into detail on the construction of the worlds tallest building...
Was it always an intention to build the world's tallest structure?
Yes, however when initially planned it was just a 90-storey structure. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed inspired us to push the scale further and to develop Burj Dubai as the world's tallest building by a large margin. The design and construction of Burj Dubai is a leap in scale for buildings and is the first of the next generation of tall buildings to be built around the world.
What is the importance of such a goal?
Burj Dubai is already the world's tallest building and the world's tallest free-standing structure. The tower forms the centerpiece of Downtown Burj Dubai, a US$20 billion mega-project comprising 30,000 homes, 19 residential towers and nine world-class hotels adding a total of 2,000 keys including the Armani Hotel Dubai - one of the world's first hotels developed by the world's acknowledged fashion maestro Giorgio Armani. Burj Dubai pushes the frontiers of architectural, engineering and construction expertise, and it not only adds to the civic pride of the city but also places Dubai in the global spotlight. For many years to come, Burj Dubai will become a referral point for future high-rise design and construction. It is a human achievement without equal as it has broken the existing boundaries of human achievement, and will inspire future generations to think beyond the ordinary and challenge their mind and spirit.
What have been or will be the most challenging aspects of this project?
The primary concern in the engineering of tall buildings is the effect of the wind on the building's structure. The shape of the Burj Dubai is the result of deliberate cooperation between the architects and engineers to vary the shape of the building along its height, thereby minimizing wind effects on the building. The modular, Y-shaped structure, with setbacks along each of the three wings, was part of the original concept design entered in an invited design competition at the beginning of the project. From this starting point, the SOM team refined the tower's shape over several months of extensive wind tunnel tests. Through these tests, the team determined the harmonic frequency of wind gusts and eddies under various wind conditions. This information was to tune the building's natural frequencies to ensure comfort for all the building's occupants. Concurrent with the wind tunnel studies, the team performed a detailed climatic study which considered the unique meteorological conditions of the Dubai wind climate. Together, the wind tunnel testing and climatic studies resulted in a highly engineered solution that is appropriate for the Dubai wind climate. With respect to construction, high strength, high density concrete composed of Portland cement in combination with silica fume, fly ash, and ground granulated slag was used resulting in a highly efficient structure which is stiff, strong and highly constructible. The Burj Dubai structure represents the state-of-the-art in super tall buildings. It capitalizes on the latest advances in wind engineering, structural engineering, structural systems, construction materials and construction methods to result in a structure that goes beyond anything that has been achieved before. As construction progresses, the biggest challenge on ground is to co-ordinate man and material movement, which takes a lot of team effort. In addition the fast-track nature of the project meant that constant co-ordination of the projects specialist consultants, who are spread all over the globe, was required to ensure construction documentation was available on site on time in order not to delay any works.
Is there an aspect of Burj Dubai that Emaar are most proud of?
Burj Dubai, in its entirety, is an awe-inspiring project for Emaar.
There is a lot of speculation surrounding skyscrapers linking them to periods of economic downturn, and even questioning the ability of these structures to recoup costs. How would you address these doubts, and what measures has Emaar put in place to guarantee the success of the Burj Dubai tower?
The current global financial crisis is not the result of skyscraper development. Burj Dubai has already received overwhelming investor response with all units offered for sale being sold out.
Can you give us an insight on what opening day will consist of at Burj Dubai tower, I'm guessing excitement will be running high at Emaar headquarters?
A diverse array of events is being planned for the opening of Burj Dubai, which will be announced in due course.