Real Estate & Construction

Abu Dhabi’s Construction Sector


Abu Dhabi continues to pursue a massive infrastructure and construction program to ensure that all facets of its core industries are poised and ready for future growth.


During 3Q2013, the average estimated cost of construction by building area ranged between AED3,273 and AED4,255 depending on the total size, and project sophistication. The higher construction cost of AED4,255 per sqm was for buildings with a total construction area in excess of 1,200 sqm. The lower figure, at AED3,273 per sqm was for buildings with a total construction area of between 900-1200 sqm.


In 3Q2013, new-build and extensions added up to 1,531, of which 1,402 were residential. The average construction cost per sqm for the period was at AED3,535.0 ($962.4). The use of precast concrete—a sub-sector in which 20 firms operate—is rising across the UAE, being 10% cheaper than readymix and on-site casting. Indeed, precast concrete currently accounts for 30% of the UAE’s entire construction market. Worth AED6 billion, it comprises roughly 30% of the UAE construction market.

The costs of selected key products as of November 2013 were as follows. The cement group decreased by 0.9% in November 2013, where the white cement price stood at AED700 per ton. The average prices of aggregates and sand rose by 17.4% in November 2013 YoY. The price per meter cubed of AED60 for November was up 33.3% YoY, from AED45. The average prices of the natural stone group climbed by 14% in November 2013 YoY costing AED75 per 25 cm x 3 cm slab during the month. The average steel group price saw declines ranging between 1.1% in January of 2013 and 7.8% in November 2013, when compared with the respective months of 2012. Meanwhile, in terms of employment, average wages decreased by 5.9% in November 2013 compared with October 2012. The cost of an electrician declined 11.1%, while that of a carpenter and metalworker both saw decreases of 8.3%.


Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030 has at its heart sustainability, regardless of the sector. It continues to implement eye-popping sustainable construction solutions that garner awards and international acclaim alike. The Building Sustainability into the Middle East 2012 conference showcased leading figures and projects being rolled out by urban planners, state bodies, organizations, and construction companies confidently in pursuit of LEED targets and energy efficiency ratios. US-based Green Building Council LEED certification is the internationally accepted standard measurement of building sustainability and a truly “green” streak. It is awarded for meeting such strict criteria as reduced environmental impact of buildings and the wellbeing of occupants. Certification also entitles project developers to certain incentives.


Another prestigious prize—The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) 2013 Awards—went to the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) for Best Program in recognition of its Urban Street Design Manual (USDM). The UPC has been recognized for combining rapid implementation with sensitive city planning in step with international best practices. The Abu Dhabi Urban Master Plan is synonymous with sustainability. Moreover, indigenous culture is not ignored in pursuit of this goal. Estidama, being the Arabic word for sustainability, is an initiative that the UPC has developed and fostered to take into consideration local perspectives on sustainable design that responsibly incorporate cultural, climatic, and economic realities. All of this green sensibility continues to win admiration and professional recognition. The Middle East Business Intelligence (MEED) GCC Quality Awards for Projects 2013 shone favorably on the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The accolade of Sustainable Project of the Year, UAE went to the Siemens Head Office of the Al-Faraa Group, where the project contractor was Al-Faraa General Contracting, and the architect Sheppard Robson. The scheme is located in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City development, which in itself has set the bar higher for sustainable office construction by becoming the world’s pioneering ultra low-carbon, zero-waste city powered wholly by renewable energy. The project also received a nod for maximum utilization of natural light to reduce the mechanical load, while successfully ensuring that the structure remains cool. Of note, the project was the first in the UAE to receive LEED Platinum certification for energy efficiency, and was earmarked for an Estidama 3-Pearl rating for its water conservation component.

The UAE Building Project of the Year award went to the remarkable Etihad Towers Project. The mixed-use development spanning a gigantic 0.5 million sqm amounts to prime beachfront property in the Ras Al Akhdar district of Abu Dhabi. The five towers scheme boasts three residential towers with around 880 apartments, plus penthouse suites and an office tower. The project is also home to Abu Dhabi’s first Jumeirah hotel, the elite Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. According to the SCAD, the average office space per employee is at approximately 15 sqm as of 2013. Etihad Towers’ cutting edge office building provides Abu Dhabi with a fresh commercial center that also contains a retail zone. It is in fact the first standalone luxury-shopping destination in the Emirate. Situated in the Shams Abu Dhabi development on Al-Reem Island is The Gate District Towers 3, 4, and 5, voted UAE Leisure Project of the Year. The Gate District Towers have yielded another landmark scheme for the UAE, where in an impressive engineering feat towers are roofed by a sky bridge housing 21 penthouse duplex apartments gazing over the Arabian Gulf. Upon completion, the scheme, which is a dramatic gateway to Shams Abu Dhabi, will bring the Emirate an alternative premier entertainment and commercial zone. Along with the yet-to-be-built Tower 8, the project’s sustainability as much as its design wizardry has won plaudits.


Guy Mehula is the President of Parsons Middle East & North Africa, responsible for vast public schemes that among hospitals, universities, rail and transit include the infrastructure of Saadiyat and the drafting of its entire master plan. “Crucially too, we built the bridge that connects the island to the mainland,” he explained to TBY. Meanwhile, John N. Helou, CEO of Al Nasr Contracting Company talked of having provided “…the full infrastructure for the Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad) within just seven months.”

The issue of workplace safety is ever prevalent in the UAE. This is particularly the case in vast infrastructure undertakings such as the Etihad Rail project, part of a future GCC rail network, and at peak times employing 8,000 workers. The brutal reality of desert conditions has resulted in Parsons’ “Safety in Heat” project jointly undertaken with the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi (HAAD), and responsible for reducing the incidence of related illnesses on the job.