Foundation firms diversify in tighter market

New countries, project types and ideas are helping the most innovative

Piling contractors suffer from a drought in new projects.
Piling contractors suffer from a drought in new projects.

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Gulf foundation contractors have been branching into new types of projects and areas of service to retain business in a tight market, according to executives in the sector.

Early site preparation, piling and foundation work companies have born much of the brunt of the downturn in places such as Dubai which has seen a drought in new projects and a subsequent fall in work.

But Eng. Ramazan, technical manager at Zetas Foundation, the Turkish contractor, said the company has seen more work on bridges in Abu Dhabi as the infrastructure in this area develops in the UAE capital, including work on highways and the bridge to Gargah Island. But it’s not an easy line of business.

“There is an added challenge of doing foundation work for bridges as you are doing just a few piles under each column and then you have to move to the next,” he said this morning. “So there is a big mobilisation challenge where you have to keep moving every two-to-three days; also this is more difficult if you’re working on a highway. There is often a big distance between the columns. So this process takes longer, you are less efficient with your process than when you are working on a tower.”

The process is therefore less efficient, he explained, though it means higher prices can be commanded.

But he added that the market has become tighter in the last two years as contractors often choose the cheapest foundation company rather than those particularly experienced or certified.

Other contractors in this space have seen a few successes bringing new ideas to consultants and clients, despite an overall challenge for decision makers to change their approach to this early stage of building.

Mounir Matraji, managing director at Rapid impact Compaction Contracting, which has a regional base near Al Barsha, Dubai, said the company’s successfully executed the building of two hills in Doha made from the company’s rapid impact machinery, usually used to firm up groundwork prior to construction. These hills – covering 60ha – will see the construction of numerous villas on a project that used to be called Cultural Village.

The technique to be able to press four-metre layers of material at a time compared to the traditional method of 25cm layers, saved the contractor time and money, but it is a constant challenge for the approach to be accepted.

“This came from our proposal, and there have been some people since trying to imitate it. The client was interested in trying something new, though we had to go through many tests and we also brought in an international expert to verify that the plan would work.

“It was not easy but we succeeded.”

Both companies are awaiting the boom in construction projects in Qatar after setting up offices in the capital at the end of the last decade.
 

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PMV Middle East - September 2018

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