Keeping the region centre stage

18 November 2021
Creating inspiring and connected urban spaces will be central to the next phase of growth in the GCC, says GHD regional director Bassam Halabi

Click here to watch the video

Over the past two decades, the GCC has enjoyed very high growth driven by huge levels of investment in its built environment. Since 2015, the focus of much of the spending has been on the projects needed to deliver the Fifa World Cup Qatar 2022 and Dubai Expo2020.

But as these projects near completion, the key question for many companies is: What will drive the next phase of development in the region?

In an exclusive interview with MEED, Bassam Halabi, the regional general manager of international professional services firm GHD, says that urbanisation will be one of the most significant drivers of business and investment in the GCC.

The focus of urbanisation is moving, he says, from developing individual assets to building communities; inspiring, connected and productive spaces for people to live and work.

"This region will be a hub for the future," says Halabi. "We are not just talking about buildings anymore. Clients are asking for a sustainable, resilient, global destination."

Governments in the region know exactly what they want. They are not building their cities for today. They are building them for generations to come
Bassam Halabi, GHD

End-user perspective

Understanding the community's needs and how they use the space is the starting point for planners, who are now pursuing a more people-centred, collaborative approach than in the past. Halabi says that GHD involves all stakeholders, particularly end-users, from the early planning stages.

"It is about looking at design through a different lens," says the GHD executive. "We see it from the end-user lens rather than from the technical side."

With connectivity high on the agenda for community development, the focus is shifting from individual transport modes to a whole-journey approach that enables pedestrianism and cycling, with seamless, safe links and facilities.

But while transport infrastructure is important, digital infrastructure is also key to developing modern, future-proofed urban spaces.

As cities around the world pioneer internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and digital twin technology to drive efficiency and productivity, urban spaces need to have the capacity to leverage not just today's innovations, but also the technology of the future.

"Technology is constantly evolving and there is a growing need for data and data processing capability," says Halabi.

In his exclusive interview with MEED, the GHD executive also discusses the need to decouple the region from hydrocarbon dependency to meet the expectations of clients and end-users, as well as the ongoing drive to open the domestic economy to inward investment.

To watch the interview, click here

"I am very positive about where we are going. The governments in the region know exactly what they want. They want to get their people involved," says Halabi. "They are not building their cities for today. They are building them for generations to come. There are more plans, more ideas coming, and the funds are there to support that."

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