The Ras Al Hamra Residential Development Project (RAHDP) will be completed on schedule in 2022. Ongoing work includes an ambitious retail development in addition to a redesign of the popular Ras Al Hamra Club, says Ahmed Al Lawati, Development Manager, in an interview with Oommen John P
The Sultanate’s first sustainable residential development project at Ras Al Hamra (RAH) is entering a significant stage with all future phases of construction proceeding at a frenetic pace. In a span of one year, two phases have been completed while four construction phases have been awarded totalling more than 700 units. This exceptional progress has been made while the project team made continuous improvements in multiple areas in the urban design, such as on solar energy, smart city technology and community connectivity to turn the estate into a showpiece of sustainability.
Spread across a 281-hectare site in Qurum Valley, the multi-million dollar RAH residential development project will boast 1,067 residential units, including apartments, villas and townhouses for PDO employees and their families from 70 different nationalities. As the national oil and gas company in Oman and one of the country’s largest companies, PDO has been determined to provide state-of-the-art accommodation and facilities for its people while making a lasting statement about the importance of sustainable living. The RAHDP masterplan has been divided into five phases to provide high-quality, low-density homes and amenities in an environmentally sustainable community. An additional Phase 6 retail development is also being pursued as part of a plan to make it an integrated community township development.
The Phase 1 residential and infrastructure package, which included 280 residential units, an international school, mosque and a golf course, was completed in 2015. It incorporates many sustainable “green” features in its design and construction and is in sync with the local culture. Ahmed said, “We have awarded contracts for Phases 2A and B and 72 apartments in Phase 2A have been completed.”
“Currently, all the 280 residential units in Phase 1 and 72 units in Phase 2A have been handed over to residents. The first of the three buildings in Phase 2B comprising 115 units has been completed, while the second building will be completed in November and the third in January 2020.
“We have also awarded contracts for 80 villas in Phase 2C, 212 villas in Phase 3, 134 villas in Phase 4 and 163 villas in Phase 5. In Phase 2C, the design is similar, but not the same. The RAHDP has a number of house types catering to the different needs of families: terrace houses, town houses, detached villas, directors’ villas and executive villas.”
The project masterplan is envisaged to be completed in the next three years and features a stunning residential and leisure complex including villas, apartments, a golf clubhouse, a retail/commercial area and a wellness centre. The masterplan will include nodes which will act as community gathering points featuring landscaping, play equipment and sporting activities.
Ahmed explains, “We are currently embarking on the Phase 6 retail development. The idea is to have retail and offices for use by residents and neighbouring communities. In addition, we are redesigning the Ras Al Hamra Club. The club will sport a new look and feel. We are also working on the Marjan beach development for use by the residents and public.”
The RAHDP is on schedule for completion in 2022 as it was accelerated by one year. The handover of properties in Phase 2A has been completed, Phase 2C, comprising 80 villas, will be handed over in June/July 2020, while the completion of Phases 3, 4, 5 will take place in the first half of 2022.
While Phase 1 was funded by shareholders, Phases 2 to 5 are being financed externally. Ahmed says, “A total of 700-plus units are expected to be completed in three years’ time, which is a challenging task but we are confident of achieving it.
“One of the key elements of the development is to ensure that there is a limited and controlled change to the topography of the area, and to maintain the look and feel of RAH as well as to create harmony with nature.”
Employee value proposition
The RAHDP is a fully fledged community comprising a comprehensive range of facilities, including a school, mosque and other amenities. “We are implementing the “smart city” concept for the RAHDP comprising parking control, way finder technology, energy control, and many other features enhancing the living experience. We are also bringing in experts to enhance the entire masterplan.”
One focus is on connectivity between the various phases of the development project and solar energy is also being given increased attention. Ahmed says: “The project is characterised by a fully-fledged concept design for solar energy generation, which is estimated to produce 35-40 per cent of the power consumption per household. Over 500 villas will have solar panels.” Ahmed emphasises that reducing energy consumption is also among the objectives of the project and there are a number of initiatives that have been introduced to help achieve this goal, adding: “We have partnered with local SMEs for the solar project in our implementation strategy.”
At least 30 per cent of the integrated community will comprise Omanis and, once complete, the residential estate will house a population of 4,000 to 5,000 people. “We want to create a real value proposition for our employees,” says Ahmed.
The RAHDP is a gigantic project and there are a lot of challenges. One of the biggest pertains to logistics. At any point during the peak building period, around 4,500 construction workers will be on site. Considering the undulating topography of the area, it’s a difficult proposition with workers and equipment being moved around to and from work. Ahmed says, “Additionally, we have to manage multiple contractors and need to rely on a lot of interfaces between the various phases as regards utilities, use of treated water and so on. For example, we have to complete utility work on Phase 5 before we embark on Phase 4.”
ICV and Omanisation
In-Country Value is ingrained across all the phases. “We have come a long way on ICV. We have made it mandatory to involve Omani workers in all contracts. In some contracts, Omanis make up 50 to 60 per cent of the professionals involved, such as engineers and supervisors, while the Omanisation rate is 60 to 70 per cent in terms of services. “We are achieving our targets on most of the contracts.”
Ahmed says multiple SMEs are undertaking contracts, commenting: “Contracts are designed in such a way that 10 per cent of the contract value is given to SMEs, which is significant considering the scale of this development. All construction contracts have been awarded to local contractors and SMEs with a majority of the materials used in the project being local products.
“We have ensured that a significant number of Omanis are employed in the RAHDP. We are continuously looking for local suppliers. For Phase 2C, we opted for rapid walls (precast) and hollow cores (ready-made slabs). This is the first instance that such materials have been used in residential projects, which has an added advantage of speeding up construction. All the supplies have been made by local companies in Sohar.
“Currently, four SMEs are engaged in different types of work. SMEs are chosen using stringent criteria. The RAHDP is a high-end residential development and our priority is to ensure optimal quality. We are achieving cost savings of around 10 per cent but quality is a given in the RAHDP and will not be compromised.”
The RAHDP is a high-end real estate development and is unique in Oman. It has gained recognition both at home and abroad, winning many accolades, including Dossier Construction’s Infrastructure Award and Shell Award for HSE Training. And recently, it added another feather to its cap by scooping the Sustainable Residential Development Award at the International Property Awards in London. Such acclaim is testament to its innovative design, commitment to sustainable living, integrated teamwork, excellence in execution and endeavour to support local businesses – all hallmarks of this outstanding project.