Build for the end user – not for the developer

by Alan Millin

It’s not so long ago that buyers clamoured for properties in certain locations. Rumours abound of heated exchanges in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi as buyers tried to book properties off-plan.Times have changed though. Buyers are looking more at what they are going to get for their money, and rightly so.

They want more for their Dirham today. In the past, people have bought villas in prestigious locations around Dubai only to find their dreams turn to nightmares. Imagine their disappointment when, after parting with a few million Dirhams and enjoying a year of sun, it rains in Dubai. They discover, for example, that conduits provide a direct path for rainwater to enter their luxury villas from the roof.
It doesn’t matter which contractor actually built the villa, it’s the main developer that takes the reputation hit. For the contractor, maybe this would be his last contract with this developer.

On a project of one major Dubai developer, apartments have been handed over with defects such as a large hole in the wall, hidden from view above the kitchen false ceiling for instance.

Fire system cables enter the same apartment above the main bathroom false ceiling from the common corridor. Perhaps these cables might have been better used if they were actually connected to anything. The access hole knocked through the wall is left just as it was the day the contractor created it.

Bathtubs with handles on each side of the bath present an appealing scene. But how would you, as a construction professional, feel if this was your home and you found that those nice bathtub handles had not been fixed correctly and water could run straight through the holes, creating the potential for future damage not just to your own apartment, but to those beneath you too?

And then there are the windows, so pleasant to look through on a sunny day. Small operable windows, large arch shaped door-type windows, vast areas of glass everywhere we look; such a difference from the windows that were being installed in the 1960s in the UK, for instance. Those windows were single-glazed, metal framed with no special aesthetic features. Yet they shut out all draughts. Horizontal blizzards were held back. Torrential downpours posed no threat; the windows held everything back and kept the occupants comfortable.

Why then, more than forty years later, do we find brand new window units in the UAE that allow sand to blow into homes at the first sign of a breeze. Why do occupants have to put towels at the base of the windows to soak up water that runs in when it rains? The double-glazed units are not properly sealed in the frames. The frames themselves are not sealed.

All this paints a dismal picture of construction quality in the UAE. And yes, if you are in the construction industry it is your problem, not just someone else’s. If we want to attract buyers in the future we need to improve the quality of our products. That quality has to be designed in and built in, not just hoped for. There has to be a commitment to improve and create properties that reflect well on everyone, from the smallest sub-contractor through to the master developer and ultimately on the region.

We have Buildsafe, we have Greenbuild and probably many other ‘build’ initiatives. Perhaps the time has come to launch a Build-It-Right-First-Time-Every-Time campaign.

The choice of whether to commit to higher quality is yours, but the real question is whether you want your business to thrive as the economic climate recovers, or whether you are going to try to continue as before, delivering low quality homes, alienating end-users and watching your business fail.


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