Consultancy’s five-decade association with the region puts it in good standing with the construction industry
The panoramic view from the office of Gerhard Reichert, CEO, Kling Consult Middle East, on the 33rd floor of the prominent I-Rise Commercial Tower, presents an imposing skyline. One can also see frenzied construction activity across the horizon with impressive tall towers and giant construction cranes atop unfinished buildings dotting the landscape. That all-too-familiar scene in Dubai and the UAE holds both promise and potential for Reichert, whose company has worked on several big-ticket, prestigious projects across the region.
“Construction activity in Dubai and the UAE is still robust and ongoing despite the headwinds. The government’s continued commitment and investment in infrastructural development and the private sector’s initiatives are the catalysts for momentum in the construction sector,” he says, pointing towards the horizon during an exclusive interview with Middle East Consultant. “Competition is intense but there is room for growth and for a share of the construction pie, so we continue to maintain our position as one of the companies at the top of the league. Our long-established association with this region, reputation and proven track record both in terms of prowess and provenance provides us the competitive edge.”
A well-credentialled consultancy for design and civil engineering with a 47-year presence in the region, Kling Consult has worked on numerous developments in the Middle East and North Africa since its first projects in Saudi Arabia and Tobruk, Libya in 1970.
The origins of Kling Consult go back to 1954 when Karl Kling, an enterprising German engineer, founded his eponymous company in his hometown of Krumbach in the industrial state of Bavaria. Now, over 62 years on, Kling Consult is one of Germany’s foremost multifaceted consulting companies, offering a comprehensive portfolio of engineering and consulting services with dedicated departments and teams for architecture, subsoil analysis and structural engineering, among several other operational competencies.
Reichert’s tenure with Kling Consult spans over 21 years. He joined the company in 1995 as a project engineer after starting his professional career in 1988, which included a four-year stint in Yemen.
In 2004, given his commendable performance, Reichert, a civil engineer with a master’s degree in environmental engineering who also holds the additional portfolio of partner, Kling International, was handpicked and tasked with setting up the company’s regional presence in the Middle East with the opening of an office in in Dubai.
He has successfully led the regional affiliate since then. It was a modest start, with just four employees. Over the past 12 years, the company has made inroads in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Kling Consult ME has since grown rapidly in turnover, and current employee numbers, drawn from over 20 nationalities, now exceed 250.
“It has never been easy to find ready talent and even more difficult to keep talent that matches our high standards, but we have invested considerably in resources to build a solid capable team, and to retain it by creating a conducive and harmonious work environment and build a culture based on rewards and meritocracy. We are also known for our employee loyalty, and one of our oldest current employees, Johann Hartmann, has worked with Kling Consult for 60 years, a feat even recognised by the German Government,” he affirms.
“The Middle East office works closely with our German parent company in the administrative and operations areas. A majority of our standards and policies are developed by our German office and we adhere to the strict guidelines,” he says, lauding the synergy and symbiosis between the two entities.
“There are projects we work on in cooperation with Kling Consult head offices in Germany. Principles are enunciated and developed by our head office which are then internalised and customised for local and regional requirements. That clearly bodes well for our entity, as expertise and experience obtained by our German team can be harnessed and put to use in this region.”
Complete suite of services
According to Reichert, Kling Consult ME’s ongoing success is attributable in part to the company providing a diverse range of functions, from architectural design to project management and effective site supervision, and a range of other specialist services. “The present projects portfolio is a mix of high-rise office and residential towers and leisure properties which demands creativity and multi-tasking – coordinating, overseeing and monitoring progress on a periodic basis and working with other service providers on a given project,” he says.
However, with its expertise and performance, he says that recently Kling Consult ME has been more focused on the hospitality and recreational sectors, due to increased market demand. “Delivering quality services for a residential building is entirely different from services provided to an amusement park, but we have made our mark in various segments and now have projects in the pipeline that reflect our forays in this arena.”
The Middle East is indeed significant for Kling Consult, which now works with top-tier bellwether master developers such as Wasl Asset Management, Deyaar, DIRE (Dubai International Real Estate), Dubai Properties and Meraas. Reichert is also currently examining new potential markets, with planned expansion into Kuwait and Iraq in the foreseeable future, and specifically exploring business prospects in India.
He predicts that business will spurt in the second half of 2017, and is hopeful momentum will come into the market and counter the largely subdued performance during 2016. “I foresee the construction sector to be fairly flat during most of the first half of the year 2017, but the second half looks more promising following recent announcements of infusion of investment by GCC governments, particularly the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.”
Technologies and trends
New technologies are reshaping the construction consulting industry, which is currently undergoing a rapid and long overdue technological change. In the modern world, there are both architectural minimalists and those who go for the jugular and the unconventional. In the Middle East, creativity and ambition are pushed to the limits, which manifests in architectural designs that are exotic, exquisite and even complex creations such as lakes, canals and lush green parks in the desert.
“Another substantial advantage given by technology is acceleration of all the processes in project development. From feasibility studies to concept designs and construction delivery, from structural engineering to interior design, our portfolio of services is comprehensive and we do it much faster now than before, keeping abreast with the latest technologies.”
Concern for the environment and sustainability are now global issues, and the Middle East is no exception. “This consciousness has now translated into the design and engineering sectors as well. Sustainability in buildings is now more of an obligation than an option,” he notes.
An increasing number of projects and developments are aiming for LEED certification or are at least designed to have energy- and water-efficient systems and waste segregation. “As designers and consultants, Kling Consult ME is conscious of ecological concerns and endeavouring to incorporate as much of the green components into project specifications as possible,” he says.
“BIM – Building Information Modelling – software also helps us create more precise drawings while modelling a project. Our professionals have undergone extensive training and now successfully implement BIM knowledge in practice.”
He believes the Middle East is not only keeping up, but even surpassing Europe, the US and other regions in the development of iconic construction projects. The tallest buildings, artificial islands and skiing centres are all being constructed in the middle of the desert, where extreme climatic conditions pose one of the biggest challenges in terms of construction and maintenance.
Consultancy on the upswing
Reichert says the role of the consultant is indispensable. “The consultant’s importance is growing as a result of the increased degree of complexity and demands of developments. Recently the industry has started comprehending the need for specialist consultants in the industry with proficiency and skills in niche industry sectors.”
Unfazed by the increased competition in the industry, he regards it as the driver of progress. He acknowledges competition leads to improvement and develops aspirations to excel. “The Middle East construction market is progressive enough, and fiercely competitive. Our resolve is to offer high-calibre and consistently good consultancy services – the hallmark of Kling Consult. For this market, with high demands and expectations, this adds up to the challenge in terms of creativity, efficiency and added-value deliverables,” he says.
Meanwhile, Kling Consult ME aims to consolidate strategic partnerships with clients, sub-consultants and specialists to reinforce the available collective proficiencies and capabilities. The company also plans to expand its portfolio by focusing more on areas such as healthcare, urban and infrastructure development, due to increased demand and the involvement of government in terms of planned investments in these public-sector projects.
The present situation in general is still positive despite the slow-down compared to previous years. Reichert believes the region is still in development mode and anticipates increased business opportunities in the future, citing mega projects such as Expo 2020 and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and also the distinct possibility of the UAE hosting the Olympics in the foreseeable future.
Despite the current downslide, which he characterises as temporary, Reichert is upbeat and bullish about the future and prospects in the region. “Although it has developed at a frenzied pace, the Middle East has not exhausted its potential and yet has much more to offer on the construction front. Opportunities far outweigh the risks and it is still worthwhile to invest in the region. With our strong roots in the construction consulting community, reputation and healthy order book, Kling Consult ME is committed to staying the course. We are devoted to and well on track to enhancing our footprint in the region,” he concludes.
Some current projects
• Jewel of the Creek (JoC) Mixed-use development by DIRE: 17 buildings, man-made island, waterfront promenade with marina, foot and vehicular bridges
• Legoland Theme park with six themed areas, 40 rides and attractions, first indoor Miniland in the world
• Rajmahal Theatre A theatre dedicated to Bollywood culture, designed in traditional Rajasthani (western Indian) style
• Dubai Design District (DDD) A block of 11 office buildings for designers and representatives of the art and fashion industry
Some completed projects
• Six-star Lusail Katara Hotel with floating island in Qatar
• The Galleria and King Road Tower in Jeddah, KSA
• Riyadh TV station, KSA
• Steel plant in Jubail, KSA
• Desalination plant in Al Khobar, KSA
• Tower One, Business Bay, Dubai