Last edited 07 Apr 2021

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Architectural technology in the Middle East



[edit] Introduction

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai closely followed by Abu Dhabi is leading the way with the implementation of technology within architecture. CIAT and architectural technology professionals are ideally placed to push the boundaries and implement excellence in the field for the benefit of society as a whole.

Architectural technology is an organic discipline, which has to be reactive to changes in the industry and advances in technology We are seeing the development of infrastructure development and innovative megastructures in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region, which could not be built without today’s technologies, including the BIM process which is a key area of knowledge for our members.

A plethora of new awe inspiring projects are currently on site within the UAE construction sector, and will drive the sector towards World Expo 2020. The UAE Pavilion will be one of the leading attractions of World Expo 2020, drawing in many millions to witness its futuristic design. It will be designed in the shape of a flying falcon, symbolising the country’s leadership and pride. The design’s components will reflect the values of openness, communication and tolerance, aligning with the main theme of the exhibition, which calls for cooperation with the international community to improve quality of life through sustainable development. The Expo 2020 Dubai will be the main attraction for millions of visitors across the globe.

The introduction of value-added tax (VAT) in the UAE at the beginning of 2018 is having a huge impact in the construction sector. The 5% VAT has seen a moderate increase in project costs including building materials. The latter part of 2017 saw a surge in activity on construction sites in the UAE before VAT was implemented.

CIAT sees opportunities to promote its membersskills and the profession of Architectural Technology, which is a growing, creative and innovative discipline and is vital to the design of buildings to achieve optimum performance in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and functionality. With Dubai hosting the World Expo 2020, the theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future - Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity fits perfectly with CIAT’s objectives outlined within the Strategic Plan 2013-2018.

Development and growth of the Centres as well as enhancing the Institute’s international reputation and profile is a key strategic objective.

It was important for the delegation to continue to develop and nurture the relations made from previous visits and look to form new associations by meeting with universities, like minded bodies and practices.

The External Engagement pilot scheme is a new initiative being developed to enhance our business to business relationships with practices and the delegation took the opportunity to glean and consolidate information from multiple practices. The initiative is still in its formative stages and relevant details of the scheme will be promoted accordingly once the project is completed.

[edit] Delegation

The delegation to the UAE consisted of Professor Sam Allwinkle PPBIAT MCIAT, Chair of the Education Board, James Banks, Membership Director and Amina Khanum, Assistant International Director who led the programme.


The delegation met with a number of practices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, many of whom already employ members of CIAT. Fruitful discussions were held about enhancing engagement between the practices and the Institute through joining and qualifying guidance, current and future provisions for staff training/CPD, global expansion, collaborative promotional activities and exploring placement opportunities for students studying on Accredited Programmes. Practices visited include:

Atkins, one of the world’s most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies and which is 2017 had been acquired by the Canadian company SNC-Lavalin.

BSBG, a multi-disciplinary practice which already employs a number of CIAT members and has a reputation for delivering excellence in the MENA Region. With offices in Athens, London and Vietnam, BSBG proactively promotes Architectural Technology and works closely with the Institute.

Bluehaus Group, a leading consultancy firm in UAE, with consultants in Architectural Design, Interior Design and Engineering. The practice had just won an award (October 2017) for Public Space Design at the Society of British Interior Designers International Design Awards in London. The project was the Orbi in Dubai, which offers an all-encompassing digital experience, with the entire space revolving around interactive technology. Orbi Dubai fuses BBC Earth’s world-renowned natural history content with SEGA innovation and plunges visitors into the heart of the natural world. Amid the heat of the Dubai desert, visitors can experience the chilling temperatures of Mount Kenya at -25°C and explore freezing Polar environments to experience the sensation of Antarctic cold and blizzard conditions.

Perkins and Will, an interdisciplinary, research-based architecture and design firm. Their Dubai studio has been pursuing design excellence, sustainability and research-driven solutions.

Design Worldwide Partnership (DWP), provides architectural and interior design services across Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

HLM Architects, offer a range of Architecture, Urban Design and Masterplanning, Landscape and Specialist Interior Design services. Their knowledge and expertise of mixed-use development incorporates schemes of higher and lower density, combining design flair with technical excellence, whilst also recognising the need to optimise land assets alongside creating well balanced communities.

Gensler is widely recognised as the world’s leading collaborative design firm. A Professional Interview Board was held at their Abu Dhabi office and Joe Healey MCIAT, Middle East & Africa Centre Councillor is employed as a project lead.

Building Design Partnership (BDP), is a major international practice of architects, designers, engineers, technologists and urbanists.

Stantec, provides professional consulting services in planning, engineering, architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, surveying, environmental sciences, project management, and project economics for infrastructure and facilities projects. The Company provides services on projects around the world through over 22,000 employees operating out of more than 400 locations in North America and 7 locations internationally.

CIAT meeting with educational establishments Sam and Amina also met with several universities, where discussions took place on the value of student membership and there was keen interest in finding out more about the Accreditation process for undergraduate and Masters degree level programmes. The universities were encouraged to apply for Accreditation and have requested assistance from the Institute in developing their programme and/or gaining Accreditation. Universities that were visited:

Manipal University, Dubai is a branch campus of Manipal University, India, one of the largest private universities in India. It was established in 2000, and is now a leading multidisciplinary university in the Middle East.

Ajman University, was founded in 1988 as a non-conventional private institution of higher education in the UAE and in the Arab world. They have an existing Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering programme and are looking to establish a Building Engineering and Construction Management programme.

Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus, is a satellite campus of Heriot-Watt University, UAE. Established in 2005, it was the first campus of an overseas university to open in Dubai International Academic City. It is a leading university with an established reputation for world-class teaching and pioneering research.

Al Ghurair University is a private university founded in 1999. It offers a Bachelor of Architecture programme which has been running since 2015 and its Bachelor of Interior Design has been running since 2006.

Canadian University of Dubai, is a leading teaching and research university in the UAE offering undergraduate and graduate programmes.


[edit] Other meetings and activities

Emirates Green Building Council (Emirates GBC), was formed in 2006, with the goal of advancing green building principles that help protect the environment and foster sustainability in the United Arab Emirates. The Emirates GBC works with the Government and holds regular events to provide information to its members, as well as holding training, seminars and technical workshops.

[edit] CIAT Middle East & Africa (MEA) Centre Event

CIAT hosted two Centre knowledge sharing and networking events in Abu Dhabi and Dubai which were well attended by members and industry contacts. Joe Healey MCIAT, Centre Councillor welcomed everyone and gave a presentation on the Institute, his MEA vision and work being undertaken to develop a global presence, followed by information on the Centre and exciting projects worked on by the members in the UAE.

Professor Allwinkle, member of the Grenfell Tower Industry Advisory Group, gave an insightful presentation and provided an update on how the UK construction industry was planning to respond to the key issues and how the discipline can assist to evolve improvements and future proof and retrofit similar developments.

[edit] Professional Interview Assessor Training and Professional Assessments

Chris Brown, MCIAT from BSBG and Garry Leacy MCIAT from Faithful & Gould undertook Professional Interview Assessor training and can now assess for CIAT in the UAE. A Professional Interview Board in Dubai took place where four members attained Chartered Architectural Technologist status, which included the first Chartered Member to qualify from Uganda — Andrew Kumakama MCIAT (see below).

Awareness and recognition in Africa A meeting was held with Andrew Kumakama to investigate areas of growth for the Institute and development of the discipline in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda; all of which offer architectural technology education programmes at a Higher National level.

[edit] Looking forward

Dubai is seen as the trailblazer in the MENA Region for architectural, construction and development excellence. The technological advancements and demands from industry are pushing the boundaries of Architectural Technology and evolving the discipline. The visit was well received and very productive, with practices appreciating the need for competent AT professionals, and graduate Technologists to meet the ever-complex demands of industry and implementing and evolving Architectural Technology as a key discipline within the built environment.

Members were actively promoting the discipline and we will continue to work with and support the Centre Committee members to continually raise awareness and strengthening the Centre activities, profile and recognition.

[edit] Africa’s first MCIAT

Andrew Kamukama MCIAT is a trailblazer in his profession — he is the first Ugandan to become a Chartered Architectural Technologist. Another milestone in the Institute’s illustrious history.

Andrew works for FBW Group, a growing multidisciplinary planning, design architecture and engineering group delivering high value construction and development projects across East Africa.

His combined love of numbers and architecture led him to begin a career in Architectural Technology. He would like to see more people following him, saying ‘there is a shortage of Architectural Technologists in Africa.’

‘There is the South African Institute of Architectural Technologists NPC (SAIAT)’, he continues ‘Kenya has also recently started offering a diploma course in Architectural Technology, but that does not scratch the surface of the need here for people in the AT profession here.’

Paul Moores, Managing Director FBW Group, says Andrew’s role is an important one for the practice as it looks to broaden its offering to clients and expand its horizons, ‘Andrew was the first Architectural Technologist that ever approached us for a job, and we were impressed with his qualifications acquired from the University of Westminster. It was certainly a bonus for us to have him as a part of our team, because that broadened the range of services we could offer our clients.’

‘We sent out communications in Ugandan media looking for a qualified Architectural Technologist’ Paul continues, ‘and asked Andrew to do a search in universities in Uganda, as well as to look at any Ugandans with qualifications from aboard. We failed to find anyone.’

Paul and Andrew both believe that having more qualified Architectural Technologists in Uganda will improve the quality of architecture in the country. Andrew says, ‘it will allow us to have more complicated designs and take us away from building the usual box, four walled structures.’

FBW has taken an active role in training and developing talent. It runs a successful graduate programme and an in-house continued professional development programme to enhance the skills of its team. With a philosophy based on commitment to training and knowledge transfer, the company has been successful at bringing in international senior staff to pass on knowledge and skills.

Now the hope is that more Africans will follow in Andrew’s footsteps, with qualified Architectural Technologists playing their part in raising construction and design standards across the continent.

This article was originally published in AT Journal issue 125. It was written by Amina Khanum, Assistant International Director, CIAT.


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