Dubai stole the spotlight last month with the opening of the Burj Khalifa. We caught up with Xpand Advisory managing director, Dr Fouad Al-Rumaihi to discuss the future of Bahrain’s cityscape
Time Out Bahrain staff
Xpand Advisory is all about developing smart buildings. What is a smart building? A human being operates because of his mind, and we realised that a building should have a mind as well that operates it and controls all of the facilities in that building. So you have a small community and you have a lot of services all interconnected with the whole. Before it was fragmented, you’d sit in your office but you didn’t know anything about what was happening in the rest of the building. There are so many services in a building and what’s interesting is how you link them to the community within that building, so it is like a small village.
Are there many smart buildings in Bahrain? We have a very few smart buildings in Bahrain; Bahrain World Trade Centre and Arcapita building are good examples of intelligent buildings.
Opinion is divided about Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, a wonder or a folly. Where do you stand? In a building you spend 20 percent on constructing it and 80 percent on maintaining it. We have 25 percent of the world’s construction in the region, which is very good. But the challenges come after the construction, in the operation of our buildings. A boom in construction happened in the last 25 years, but a question that could be raised is, have we built enough capability so that we can manage our developments? But they didn’t build the Burj Khalifa because they needed the office space, they built it because they wanted a masterpiece of a building. It will attract a lot of people and industry to Dubai.
In terms of iconic buildings, Bahrain is lagging behind is neighbours. Would you agree? Bahrain needs to move fast, take opportunities, not hesitate. I’m not saying take risks, but Bahrain was traditionally a think tank, there were a lot of great ideas, but sometimes you need to move forward fast. But we are not competing with the other GCC countries, we are complimenting them. Bahrain has always pioneered in so many things, but in the past 20-30 years it has been lagging behind. Bahrainis need to be risk takers. Bahrain could be a key player in the whole of the Middle East, but we need to act fast. What does Bahrain need most to move forward? Today there is more emphasis on education and training, and this is what we must focus on. We are a very open place, but every country needs to have a core of locals. It is not a matter of offering services, it is the knowledge behind them that counts. But you cannot have those kinds of capabilities if you don’t have people graduating with a certain kind of specialisation. Look at Singapore, which is smaller than Bahrain, but with four million people. Everyone knows about that nation.
Why? In the 1960s they had human capital. They educated them and then pushed them back into society. After a while you find that big multi-national companies decide to build their headquarters in that nation because there is a lot of good human capital.
How do you think Bahrain will look in 30 years time? We have a good vision for the future. We need to consolidate our efforts and look at the future and see what we need. We have to look at the overall master plan and all development should be integrated in this plan. If it is fragmented then I’m not sure it is going to help. Bahrain should be a model nation from which people can learn.