Main Photo: JAMIL JADALLAH, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL ENGINEERING BUREAU
First opening its doors for business back in 1984, National Engineering Bureau (NEB) has become a pioneer In delivering architectural, Engineering, supervision and management solutions.
With every project, NEB follows a process that begins with a thorough understanding of the context within which it will be working (the physical, cultural, and programmatic), which allows it to build strength and depth into the undertaking, complementing the firm’s excellence in design and sensitivity to place and the environment.
At the present time, NEB is working on a variety of projects, from healthcare and education through to residential and commercial, with Jamil Jadallah, Managing Director of NEB, explaining: “That’s the beauty of what we do; we always have projects in sectors that are fast moving. We are building the tallest residential building in the world currently, in Dubai Marina. In fact, out of the 100 tallest buildings in the world, three of them belong to us. We are ranked as number six in the world for skyscraper buildings.”
Furthermore, NEB is ranked number 40 in the world overall and, as the largest architectural practice in the region, number one in the Middle East in 2019, a year, despite its challenges, that will see NEB continue to thrive and prosper. “This early in 2019, it seems a little challenging for NEB, but it’s still going good for us,” says Jadallah. “We still remain a competitor in the construction industry, as far as the projects that are moving. And up to now things are good, we are relaxed and comfortable. We don’t have any problems. We expect to continue to do well.”
Of course, when the market cools down it does not mean that everything will stop, with Jadallah continuing: “Things do not simply come to a halt. That will never happen. We cannot stop building schools and hospitals. People will still require these services. So the economy will not suddenly cease, but perhaps the rate will slow down.
“I have been in Dubai for around 30 years now, and in my
The Legacy of Expo 2020
Expo 2020 is now just around the corner, and excitement is building. But what will be its legacy; will things change in Dubai when it is all over? “Following Expo 2020, I believe even more events like this will happen in the Emirates, and Dubai specifically,”
Jadallah says. “Once we have experienced an event such as Expo 2020, it will encourage people to promote Dubai for other events, which will be on a bigger scale than the Expo. This will create a fabulous impression on the world about Dubai. It’s estimated around 25 million visitors will flock to the Expo, some 70% of which will come in from overseas.
“This will provide us with more and more opportunities for tourism and general growth. If there’s a good economy and jobs in tourism, these things will create more development. More projects will be built. Dubai is a cosmopolitan and modern city, a unique city where you can meet most, if not all, of the nationalities of the world. This has created the right place for people to build and improve their lives.”
Jadallah does not think that the industry will slow down after Expo 2020: “The economy goes in cycles. Sometimes up, sometimes down. This is healthy, because during the good times you’ll notice there is a continuous increase in prices, and sometimes there will be a shortage in materials. This shortage will be when the market will come down a little bit, where the prices will return closer to where they were, and this will open a new door for the economy to improve again. It’s considered a period of reconsideration, restructuring, rethinking.
“Before 2008, the increase in prices was unbelievable. This is not normal or good.The market sometimes has to slow down in order to become stable again.”
Expansion into the GCC
The Expo has driven growth in Dubai, that much is certain. And with the number of projects NEB has recently completed, or is still involved in, there is no doubt the Expo has improved the firm’s bottom line. This is particularly true within the hospitality sector. But where will growth come from over the next five to 10 years? “I believe that the services and facilities in healthcare, sport, and education will continue to improve. These are the sectors where there are always projects and the market is never less than healthy, and this will never stop,” Jadallah says.
The belief at NEB is that there will be steady progress up to Expo 2020, which the firm will follow with expansion into the various GCC markets. “We have completed projects in India, Sri Lanka, and other countries, and we have built up a strong reputation in the UAE, which will help us when we begin to work on projects in other GCC countries,” explains Jadallah.
We are looking to build in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman so far. Also, countries that are experiencing civil war, specifically Libya, Syria, and Iraq. I think there is big potential. We are just waiting for the right time, when the situation and climate becomes more stable. There is even potential to start building from scratch, in terms of buildings and infrastructure, in the coming 50 years, in these three countries in particular. Our role as architects and designers goes beyond the current challenges faced by society – anticipating future needs in the increasingly challenging world we live in.”
A Global Culture
NEB has the know-how and it has the experience to succeed in whichever markets it chooses to operate in. In fact, working in Dubai gives the firm a unique advantage because of all of the different nationalities living in the emirate, as Jadallah explains: “When we carry out projects in other countries, we are already fairly familiar with their culture because of the relationships we have built up with people in Dubai from all over the world – it’s hard to find a country not represented in Dubai! However, we still recognise that every country has its own standards and requirements.”
The simplicity and fast-track culture found in the UAE is difficult to find elsewhere, so when NEB tackles projects in other countries, it frequently performs the planning and outlining at its headquarters in Dubai before sending it overseas, in order to preserve the quality of workmanship.
“The beauty of Dubai is that all these different nationalities, cultures, languages and religions work together, with respect and understanding. So when we do take our projects to other countries, we don’t feel like strangers with absolutely no knowledge of the country, its traditions, and people.”
Enhancing the Human Experience
The future looks bright for NEB, with its experience, expertise and creativity driving expansion in the years ahead, as it moves into new territories and takes on even more complex and stimulating projects. Naturally, to carry on growing it must continue to attract and retain the very best people, whilst looking out for new talent that will inspire and encourage on-going success.
Jadallah is very aware of this fact, and enjoys nothing more than giving a helping hand to those who are new to the industry, or are considering joining it. “It is important that young people should always focus on the requirements of the end user, including how buildings change and evolve. The lives we lead now simply did not exist 10 or 15 years ago, certainly with regards to technology and the importance of safety and the desire to reside in a close-knit community.
“These factors must be implemented in the design.Young people must think of architecture and buildings as not merely a place to live, but a place to enjoy and relax. It is vital to consider all of the facilities in a building; facilities that will allow residents to genuinely enjoy their time, especially when it comes to children. Facilities must allow them to leave the house and enjoy a safe space where they can play and build relationships with other children. Communities are at the forefront when it comes to architectural planning. A children’s play area, gym, a space to build relationships and connect with other people; not be isolated in a house or apartment.”
What will the future of architecture look like? No-one can say with any certainty, but there are exciting trends that give plenty of reasons to get excited about the future of the built environment. The current generation of architects has the opportunity to tap into the potential for discovery and drive fundamental changes in the industry, fuelled by the seemingly exponential development of technology. NEB will continue to be at the forefront of this evolving revolution, bringing transcendent environments to real world situations and creating places that enhance the human experience.
NATIONAL ENGINEERING BUREAU
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T: +971 4 3 242020