Consultants typically drive the material standards and quality in Qatar
In an interview with QCN, George Xydas, director and partner of Drywall Qatar, talks about specialist building products in Qatar; latest trends and challenges in the market, along with details of some recent projects of Drywall Qatar.
What are some specialist building products that are in high demand in Qatar?
Drywall Qatar’s product range includes dry-lining systems, suspended ceilings, raised access flooring, demountable partitions, acoustic and vibration control systems, fire protection systems, marble and joinery. As the Qatar construction market is booming, all our products are in high demand, but recently, the attention has turned to fire protection systems as well as environmentally-friendly building materials. Given the government’s attention to safety, most of the projects require tested systems to offer fire protection. Qatar Civil Defence is doing a great job at certifying high-quality materials and systems that offer fire protection in a wide variety of public and non-public areas.
What are some emerging trends in terms of flooring, ceilings and interior panels in Qatar?
The trend in all three areas is one of higher quality products being specified by the consultants and architects with attention to acoustic quality as well as environmental-friendliness. Qatar is proving to the world that it is a country where businesses can come to flourish. The infrastructure that is being developed for the education, sports, medical, services, and oil and gas industry are of world-class quality.
When talking about these building products, what is the level of Qatar’s reliance on foreign market?
There is a heavy reliance on the foreign market as the local manufacturing industry is still quite young. There are quite a few local manufacturers of building products. However, most of our products are imported. Many international manufacturers have actually set up plants in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to service the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. Hence, one of the biggest suppliers to Qatar is the UAE.
In terms of the quality of products and their installation, are there any minimum standards adhered to in Qatar?
The installation standards are often driven by the main contractors and the reputation they carry in the market with guidance from the consultants as to the level of experience required for a main or sub-contractor to be prequalified. In this area, the market is classified into two categories: the large high-profile projects (either private of government sponsored), and the small-to medium-sized residential or commercial projects. For the former, there is strict adherence to the material specifications and the preferred product manufacturer or vendor. Materials must meet specific requirements regarding their physical properties and their suitability for the project properties as well as meeting LEED requirements. For the latter, typically, we see a deviation from the specification as project owners strive to achieve lower costs to maximise project value and profitability.
Tell us about some major projects you have done in Qatar, what are some current projects you are working on?
For material procurement, we have serviced and are servicing projects such as the new Hamad International Airport, for which we provided acoustic floor insulation for the VIP lounges and ceiling acoustic barriers. For the Naufar Rehabilitation Center, we have been involved in providing dry-lining systems, acoustic seamless ceilings, and acoustic ceiling tiles. In Qatar’s New College of Engineering, Drywall provided dry-lining systems, which we are also providing for Tawar Mall and Qatar Foundation Research and Development Complex. For Qatar Petroleum District located in West Bay, we are behind the supply and installation of metal ceiling systems.
What is the usual practice in Qatar’s market – purchase with or without installation services?
The market is segmented in this area and the decision depends on the strategy of each main contractor. There are companies that have in-house workforce, who purchase materials and install them internally. For many contractors, the strategy is to sub-contract specific scopes. This allows them to negotiate better terms and have more capacity to take on projects as their core team concentrates on project and construction management. The overall trend, however, is in the direction of sub-contracting, given the market dynamics and rise in construction projects. This trend is not without challenges, as the main contractor needs to ensure that the subcontractor’s quality is compliant with project requirements, and that they are not selected purely on price criteria.
What are some challenges of dealing in the Qatari market?
The Qatari construction market is growing at a very fast pace and this growth comes with challenges that market participants are called to face and manage. Given the fact that most of the materials are imported, all entry points into the country are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of products that need to be transported and delivered to construction sites. Currently, there are severe delays at Doha port as well as at the borders with Saudi Arabia for road transport. These delays have knock-on effects on project timelines, and the situation is not expected to get any better as the market picks up pace. Hopefully, with the operation of the temporary terminal at the Hamad Port, the situation will get better. Other challenges in the market are typical of any market that is growing fast, such as scarcity of qualified personnel and the restrictions that exist in their mobility as well as companies stretching themselves too thin on human and financial resources, which in some cases may lead to challenges in project completion.