Infrastructure projects in the GCC continue to witness unparalleled investment, as government expenditure is expected to hit $288bn by 2020, despite the slump in oil prices, according to project tracker, Ventures Onsite.
The countries of the GCC are each following an established national vision to diversify their economic base, according to Michael Connor, associate director at Faithful+Gould.
He explains: “The link between their targeted economic sustainability and the need for investment in education, healthcare, law and order, culture, and recreational facilities is well recognised in each country. Although we have experienced a significant pull back in terms of contract awards in the last year or so, GCC governments have all prioritised social infrastructure, especially housing, education, and medical programmes.”
Healthcare projects underway are said to be worth $65bn, with more than 700 healthcare projects under construction, according to a BNC Network report. Saudi Arabia holds approximately 53% of all healthcare projects in the GCC, while the UAE has the second highest number of healthcare projects in region at 17%.
Steven Velegrinis, director of cities and sites at Perkins+Will, believes that wellness-related communities are becoming increasingly common in the master-planning and urban design space, such as hospital-aided schools, medical-cluster-aided schools, and resort communities with wellness retreats. “We’re seeing the development of such projects everywhere in the region, and slightly beyond. We are working on many such projects; in Morocco are working on a master-plan for a wellness destination.
“We are currently in the process of building the King’s College Hospital London, Dubai, which is scheduled to complete by Q4 2018. This is one of our most advanced projects in the social infrastructure space, although we’ve done a series of clinics for King’s College and Majid Al Futtaim.”
Health and education remain the overriding key issues today. Prevalence of child obesity and diabetes remain high across the region, and there are also challenges in school-leaver literacy and numeracy.
Connor says: “Government focus on health and education enhancement programmes are required to address these matters, for both treatment in the short-term and prevention in the medium-term.”
The ongoing education project pipeline in the GCC is valued at $50bn. Public and private educational organisations are pouring investments into more than 500 educational projects. The UAE is at the forefront, adding more than 200 schools and 300,000 students by 2020, according to a recent report from Alpen Capital.
Santosh Raj Pillai, sales and export manager for the Middle East and Africa at global education construction consultancy, Hunter Douglas, says: “The UAE demonstrates global best practices in using sustainable architecture methods to renovate existing schools and to build new schools on time and on budget.”
Privately owned educational institutions are also springing up around the region. It was recently announced that Swiss International Scientific School will be opening its first boarding school at its Al Jaddaf campus. The facility is currently under construction and on track for completion before the academic year starts in September, The National reported.