Dubai World Trade Centre has appointed the team of US-based CH2M Hill and UK-based Mace Group for the programme management of the Dubai Trade Centre Jebel Ali development that includes the site that will be used for the 2020 Expo.

The appointment is the most significant step yet in Dubai’s preparations for the 2020 Expo. The announcement on 27 November 2013 by Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) that Dubai had been selected to host the World Expo 2020 provided an immediate confidence boost to the emirate’s economy and since then firms have been eagerly waiting for work on the preparations, including construction projects, for the event to start.

It is estimated that the Dubai Expo 2020 event will require €6.45bn ($8.8bn) of investment for the development and operational costs until the end of the event.

Both CH2M Hill and Mace, together with UK-based Laing O’Rourke were part of the programme management team for the preparation of the 2012 London Olympics.

For Dubai Trade Centre Jebel Ali the role will involve managing the development of the 4.4-square-kilometre site that includes a 1.68 sq km ticketed area for the Expo event. At the heart of the Expo site will be an open plaza called Al-Wasl, meaning ‘the connection’ and which is also a historical name for Dubai. Branching out from the plaza, there will be three main zones that symbolise the bid’s sub-themes of Sustainability – Intelligent Sources of Energy and Water; Mobility – New Systems of Logistics and Transportation; and Opportunity – New Paths to Economic Development. The country pavilions will reflect these schemes. These structures will be temporary and are not expected to be built until the months ahead of the start of the event in 2020.

The centrepiece will be a huge photovoltaic fabric structure that will shade the plaza and capture solar energy, providing 50 per cent of the Expo’s power requirements.

The masterplan is being developed by a team of US-based HOK and the UK’s Arup, which was appointed in August 2014 to further development the preliminary masterplan that the team worked on for the Expo bid.

The programme management role also involves coordinating with other major developments in the Jebel Ali area and other projects in Dubai that will support the Expo and the new exhibition centre.

The most significant project close to Dubai Trade Centre Jebel Ali is the expansion of Al-Maktoum International airport. The estimated cost of building the first phase of that project is AED120bn ($33bn), making it the largest airport construction scheme ever undertaken in the world.

Covering an area of 56 square kilometres, it will take the airport’s capacity to 130 million passengers a year, and a second phase will increase the capacity further to 255 million with five runways, another terminal building and more concourses. The entire development will cover an area of 56 square kilometres and it is due to be completed by the end of 2021.

Other firms have started work preparing plans for new transport infrastructure for the Expo, including a new metro line that will link to the Dubai Marina area on Sheikh Zayed road. In July, Dubai’s Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) awarded a joint venture of the US’ Parsons International and France’s Systra the contract to complete the preliminary engineering for the new metro line. Work on the study began in August.

Away from the Jebel Ali area there will be private investment in housing, offices, hotels and other commercial buildings. Although there is no definite quantification of how much is coming, the number of hotel rooms in Dubai, already the largest in the Middle East, is expected at least to double by 2020. The main investment opportunity in the sector, however, is in high-quality three and four-star hotels to meet the growing demand from tourists.