Laying the Foundations

As Qatar commits itself to infrastructure projects worth US $571 million, The Big Project speaks to Hyder Consulting’s chief executive Ivor Catto and regional managing director, Wael Allan, as the firm undertakes its biggest project to date   On November 23 2011 an historic document was signed at the ministry of public works in Doha. […]

As Qatar commits itself to infrastructure projects worth US $571 million, The Big Project speaks to Hyder Consulting’s chief executive Ivor Catto and regional managing director, Wael Allan, as the firm undertakes its biggest project to date


On November 23 2011 an historic document was signed at the ministry of public works in Doha. Ashghal, the public works authority, set the ball rolling for the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in the tiny Gulf state, as preparations for the 2022 World Cup gathered pace.

The signing also marks the largest contract to date for Hyder Consulting, a multinational, multi-disciplinary firm with extensive experience in general engineering consultancy (GEC) and design consultancy for infrastructure and mega projects around the world. Valued at QAR 459 Hyder’s own record breaking stake in the project will see it taking charge of the GEC and design supervision for Doha North.

“We see this contract as a sort of trust in our abilities and one that we really want to rise to,” says chief executive Ivor Catto in an interview after the signing.

“Yes these are very much the sorts of contracts that we focus on, that are core to us as a company,” he adds.

Selected over 32 others in a competition that began over a year ago, Hyder will call on its best people from around the world to work on the next step; the execution of the project.

“We are very different to other consultants and engineering and design firms, in that our focus on our key clients generates great trust between us and the committees we work with,” comments Catto.

“The size of the contract today is proof of the trust Ashghal has in Hyder. We were awarded the largest contract today and that is really because of our focus on our clients and understanding of their needs and their opportunities,” he adds, highlighting that the presence of the firm’s CE, regional MD and country director, also demonstrated commitment to the client.

All hands on deck

Hyder has already mobilised its Qatar team, with 22 experts brought in from projects and offices around the world, to be supported remotely by a further 150. In total, regional MD Wael Allan says Hyder has 240 people in Qatar and will double that over the next year.

“Because we grew up as a multinational, rather than striving to be one, we are already multinational,” explains Catto, adding that the executive board includes six nationalities – a fact that: “makes working across the group on these important projects much easier.”

“Engineers love sharing their ideas, which is good. In some professions people really guard their intellectual property, but engineers want to tell everybody when they have had a brilliant idea. And that is great because not only is it interesting but there’s the impact they have on society – they’re interested in the contribution they can make that will enhance a community.

There’s a lot of personal reward for that,” he adds.

Allan says that since the bidding process began there has been a tangible atmosphere of excitement in Hyder’s offices around the world, which he interprets as indicative of a “great year” in 2012 for Qatar and for Hyder.

With operations in Australia, China, the Middle East and Europe, the firm will be pooling its dream team from a number of projects in these areas to join the assembled team and employ their best practice models.

It’s all part of ‘understand the client’s vision’ – a core principle among the companies employees.

“We have to understand the priorities of the client in terms of their objectives and align ourselves with that. We are putting a plan together to achieve those priorities and highlight all the critical issues they need to be aware of, working in conjunction with the authorities,” says Allan, with Catto adding:

“It’s very important that we always recognize there is a greater meaning for any construction project.

“Yes, maybe a bridge or new road needs to be built but what is that trying to achieve?

Therefore, we always want to know, what are we trying to achieve here? If we understand that we can optimise the design and that is crucial to what we do and is demonstrable of why we have repeat clients,” he continues, saying there is a need to always “view the project through the eyes of the client.”

“That is critical throughout this whole project so we can bring innovation and ideas and recognise what is wanting to be achieved, rather than ‘what sort of tarmac do you want?’” he asks.


Deadline 2019

Although divided into five geographical zones, Qatar’s existing infrastructure is interconnected, complicating the country-wide

upgrade works. The scope of the works is huge and one GEC contract has been awarded for each of the five geographical zones. Hyder has been awarded the largest of these contracts, valued at QAR 459 billion; a sum reflective of the complexity of the programme.

The other contracts awarded for GEC in design supervision were to WS Atkins and Partners Overseas, Parsons International and a joint venture between Khatib and Alami and WSP. CH2M Hill Has been awarded the contract for programme management services in the QAR10 bn IDRIS wastewater programme.

“There is a uniqueness required, but we are working for clients in other territories and we can bring ideas because we are innovating in each of our geographies and no other competitor is so equally spread,” Catto asserts.

“There will be a number of construction programmes operating in the run up to the World Cup and we are making sure you are planning not just for what is here but for what will be here so that will be an important consideration for the design team – to be able to interface with other designs that are going on and to make sure that the future that we are recognising will affect current designs,” he comments on the challenges of executing such an enormous project.

The total project for the road infrastructure totals QAR 30bn over a 5 year timeframe and IDRIS, the Inner Doha Re-sewerage Implementation Strategy to be completed by 2019, rounds off the investment demanding an investment of QAR 10bn.

“The key part for us is to be proactive. Where we see potential points of clash, to not only raise those and let it be somebody else’s problem, but to raise it with a proactive solution. Because we buy into the vision of 2022 we think in that way. We are very well placed in understanding how systems operate in reality and being able to work with that system in what will be a large project,” Catto pledges, adding: “We don’t just sit in silence, but we work with the wider design team and we say to each other that we need to connect and work together to make this successful and contribute,” while Allan also adds that minimising disruption to the local communities will be key, too.

Hyder’s approach to the problem solving and coordination of the project has been to call on the likes of John Mills, John Spier and Fraiser Davidson from such previous work as Burj Khalifa and the UK’s M25 upgrade.

“I think Ashghal ran a very good appointment process and has shown skills and attention to what they want to achieve. One of the key things for me to say is that it’s a great privilege for use to be working for them in this role,” Catto says.


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