Within the UAE construction sector, Australia is a strong exporter of products and services, says Elizabeth Gordon, Counsellor Commercial and Austrade Trade Commissioner at the Australian Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

"Statistics indicate that in the year to June 2009, Australia exported A$60.6 million (Dh204.73 million) of construction-related products to the UAE," she says. "The total number of Australian offices of building-related companies numbers more than 100."

It is hardly surprising that several Australian companies have been able to capitalise on the opportunities the construction industry has offered.

Aconex was established in 2000 to manage the large volume of information on construction and engineering projects, by allowing all the companies engaged on a project to access, distribute and track their documents and correspondence using a single, web-based platform. "Our Dubai office was established in early 2006 after the CEO had a stopover in Dubai and saw first-hand the volume of construction," says Peter Hedlund, General Manager, Middle East. "Since we established our first office in Dubai, we have grown from two employees in 2006 to about 130 currently."

The Middle East market is also a very good fit for the Aconex product and has enabled the company to grow, as Hedlund explains. "Most construction projects in the Middle East involve companies from around the world — architects from the UK, project managers from the US, engineers from Asia — so they need a system like ours to link all the parties together," he says. "Outside of our head office in Australia, Dubai > and Abu Dhabi are two of our largest operations. Our solid base in the UAE has enabled us to establish businesses in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia."

In the past, the company's core market was servicing the residential and commercial construction sector, but recently a lot of business has been on infrastructure projects. "Some of the most well-known projects using our system include the Dubai Metro, Dubai Sports City, the Index Building and The Lagoons in Dubai, as well as the Al Zorah development in Ajman," says Hedlund.

"Some of our largest projects are with Aldar in Abu Dhabi — including the landmark Yas Island and Al Raha Beach developments. To date on Yas Island, 5,700 people from 380 companies, located in 29 countries, have used the Aconex system to manage more than eight million documents and correspondence items."

Construction contractors

The Al Habtoor Leighton Group was established on September 1, 2007, following the merger of Al Habtoor Engineering — a company with more than 30 years of experience in the UAE — and the Leighton Group, which celebrates its 60th birthday this year and first entered theUAE market in 2004.

"We are one of the largest construction contractors in the UAE," says David Savage, Managing Director, Al Habtoor LeightonGroup. "We currently employ about 30,000 people in the UAE."

According to Savage, the UAE is by far the most important market for the group and it has been involved in several noteworthy projects. "We are currently working on more than 30 building and civil infrastructure projects throughout Abu Dhabi and Dubai and our complementary associated businesses also undertake environmental services, facilities management, piling, MEP work and steel fabrication and erection," he says.

"To date, the group is responsible for the construction of Executive Towers in Business Bay in Dubai, Dubai Airport's new terminaland concourse which opened this year, the expansion of Abu Dhabi airport, the Sorbonne and Zayed universities in Abu Dhabi, and numerous projects on Saadiyat Island, while Al Habtoor Engineering is perhaps best known for building the world-famous Burj Al Arab in Dubai."

Savage hopes the group will continue to grow. "Our workload has increased significantly since the group was established," he says. "As well as growing in the UAE, we also intend to expand our operations in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and longer term into new markets in north Africa such as Libya."

Founded in 1999, Bovis Lend Lease is one of the world's leading project and construction management companies. It employs about 8,500 people worldwide in more than 30 countries, including the UAE. "The company has worked in the Middle East since the late 1970s, but the business took on a new focus in 2003 with the establishment of a regional office in the UAE and the subsequent opening of offices in Bahrain and Oman," says Paul J. Redstone, Regional Director, Middle East. "Our UAE office has grown from 25 to more than 330 staff over a five-year period to the end of 2008."

The company has performed several diverse roles in many of the UAE's most significant projects. "The Dubai Government Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) appointed Bovis Lend Lease in 2006 to provide strategic project management organisation support services for its flagship project Dubai Metro," says Redstone. "We have supported the RTA through planning, monitoring, auditing, reviewing and reporting on all facets of railway works associated with the Dubai Metro. We have also provided support for the planning of new railway lines such as the RTA's Purple Line and have been appointed project manager of the Al Sufouh tram."

In September 2005, Limitless LLC appointed the company to project manage its Downtown Jebel Ali project. "We are involved in development management, management of the master planning and initial pre-construction activities," says Redstone. "We were then appointed project manager for the design, procurement and construction of the development's first eight buildings and the entire infrastructure works."

Growth plans

According to Redstone, the company hopes to grow in the UAE, particularly in Abu Dhabi, where it has been appointed project and construction manager for the new landmark Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB).

In addition to its project management work, Bovis Lend Lease has been involved in many ground-breaking initiatives, as Redstone explains. "We were a founding member and administrator of Build Safe UAE, a construction stakeholder group set up to identify and promote agreed minimum health and safety standards for the benefit of all workers in the construction industry in the UAE," he says. "We are also a corporate member of the Emirates Green Building Council and we sit on the technical committee that drafted the new LEED rating tool for the region."

Founded in 1992, Trantek Pty Ltd is a systems integrator specialising in computer control systems and monitoring for transport and security projects.

In 2005 Trantek designed a fully digital public address system specifically to address the issues of maintainability and reliable message delivery in public transport public address systems.

Unique design and adaptability

Although Trantek is not based in the UAE, it became involved in the Dubai Metro project in early 2006. "Trantek supplied the public address system, emergency call devices and LED displays aboard the 79 trains of the Red and Green Lines," says Lionel Ascone, Managing Director, Trantek.

"Trantek was chosen for its unique design, which gives real-time performance feedback to operators about the success or otherwise of audio message delivery, adapts the volume according to the background noise in a more precise way than competing systems and provides a real-time status of the operational condition of all elements of the system. These are important safety considerations for the fully automated and driverless Dubai Metro."

The Dubai project is a very significant project for Trantek. "The Dubai Metro is Trantek's only project in the UAE but easily the company's most important project to date," says Ascone.

"It is Trantek's first implementation of its fully digital PA design. It provided Trantek with a very important reference and our plans are to expand based on the success of the Metro installation."