The state of construction projects in the MENA

The state of construction projects in the MENA

New figures from GlobalData shed light on the state of construction projects in the Middle East and North Africa and around the world. Here they are as per Investment Monitor.

The state of construction projects in the Middle East and North Africa

By Ben van der Merwe

New figures from GlobalData show that the construction sector in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is healthier than in most other regions and is continuing to improve.

The MENA region has received an overall score of 0.87 in GlobalData’s January 2022 Construction Project Momentum Index, which provides an assessment of the health of the construction project pipeline at all stages of development from announcement through to completion.

Every construction project in GlobalData’s database is assigned a score of between 5 and -5 based on its current progress, a score that is continually updated over time. These are then weighted by the value of each project in order to arrive at overall scores for countries, regions and sectors.

That score puts the MENA region in third place out of 11 regions, and is an increase on its score from December 2021 (0.62) when it ranked in seventh place.

One reason for the region’s relatively good performance in the index is its energy and utilities sector, which scores 1.21, putting it in first place out of 11 regions worldwide.

The MENA region’s institutional sector, by contrast, has performed somewhat worse, with a score of 0.48 (putting it in ninth place globally).

Within the MENA region, construction projects are proceeding with fewest obstacles in Qatar, which scores 2.15 in the index. The situation in Oman, however, is somewhat less positive, with a score of -0.02.

The improving health of the construction pipeline in the MENA region is partly due to the resolution of issues in the region’s energy and utilities sector, which has seen its score in GlobalData’s Construction Project Momentum Index move from 0.51 in December 2021 to 1.21 in January 2022.

The construction sector is also seeing fewer and fewer problems in Qatar, which has seen its score on the index go from 1.07 in December 2021 to 2.15 in January 2022.

The Construction Project Momentum Index

GlobalData’s Construction Project Momentum Index is based on analysis of thousands of individual construction projects around the world.

Each project is continually monitored for updates, with updates indicating progress increasing the project’s score, while updates indicating delays or cancellations reduce the score. The score always sits between 5, the best possible score, and -5, the worst.

The scores for individual projects are then weighted based on their significance in order to create combined indices for each region or sector.

Events that can reduce a project’s score include the project being cancelled or put on hold, delays, the rejection of applications or tender bids, or the reduction of the project’s scope.

Events that can increase a project’s score in the index, by contrast, include the completion or commencement of construction, the awarding of major contracts, or the approval of applications.

Ben van der Merwe is a data journalist at GlobalData Media, specialising in FDI. He joined from the Reach Data Unit, where he was a fellow of the Google News Initiative. His investigative journalism has previously appeared in the Observer, VICE, Private Eye and New Statesman.

The top featured image is for illustration and is credit to InvestorMonitor

How Urban Planning is being Weaponised against Palestinians

How Urban Planning is being Weaponised against Palestinians

Jerusalem: evictions show how urban planning is being weaponised against Palestinians

How Urban Planning is being Weaponised against Palestinians
Palestinian residents protest evictions in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Haim Yacobi, Author provided

Haim Yacobi, UCL and Irit Katz, University of Cambridge

One olive in my garden is better than anything material in the whole world.

These sad words were uttered by Mahmoud Salhiya after his home in Sheikh Jarrah was recently demolished by Israeli forces.

Sheikh Jarrah is a Palestinian neighbourhood of 3,000 inhabitants at the eastern part of Road 1 that runs north to south through Jerusalem and separates Israeli and Palestinian sectors. The neighbourhood has two distinctive sections: the north is the part inhabited by wealthier Palestinians while the poorer, southern part is populated by hundreds of Palestinian refugees from 1948.

The Salhiya family house is in Sheikh Jarrah’s southern area on land designated by an old urban scheme authorised in the 1980s for the construction of a public building. But part of the house already existed, along with some other structures, when the plan was being prepared. In fact, the house and the other buildings on the plot are already visible on maps of Jerusalem from the 1930s.

Importantly, according to the Jerusalem Municipality itself, Palestinian houses built in East Jerusalem before 1967 are considered legal and therefore cannot be demolished. But zoning the Salhiya plot for public use – which ignored the fact of the existing residential property already on the site – is indicative of a common practice that has characterised Israeli planning of East Jerusalem since 1967.

The Israeli authorities argued that the Salhiya property had been expropriated to establish a “special needs” school for the benefit of the neighbourhood’s residents. But this “top-down” planning did not include any consultation with the family or the community.

Demolition as a tool of control

The police are reported to have arrived at the property in the early hours of what was one of the coldest nights so far this winter, and forcibly removed 15 members of the Salhiya family before bulldozing the house. They arrested Mahmoud Salhiya and five members of his family, as well as some of their supporters, both Palestinian and Israeli activists.

This traumatic event is part of an ongoing attempt of displacing Palestinians from their homes – not only in Sheikh Jarrah but also in other neighbourhoods such as Silwan, on the outskirts of the Old City, which is the subject of the continuing conflict between Jewish settlers and the local Palestinian community over archaeology, tourism development and housing.

Housing demolitions have become an all-too-regular occurrence. According to a report by B’tselem (the Israeli information centre for human rights in the occupied territories) between 2006 and November 2021, Israeli authorities demolished at least 1,176 Palestinian housing units in East Jerusalem. At least 3,769 people lost their homes – including 1,996 children. Housing demolition serves Israel’s attempt to control the city’s “demographic balance” – keeping a Jewish majority within Jerusalem’s municipal territory back to the 70:30 ratio that has driven Israeli policy since 1967.

Emerging urban geopolitics

The Salhiya family’s case should be understood within a wider context of the political processes taking place in Jerusalem since June 1967 and the declaration of the city as Israel’s unified capital. The expropriation of Palestinian land by the state through legal measures was central to the colonisation of East Jerusalem at this stage.

Planning further contributed to the colonisation of the city and was characterised by the construction of settlements (“satellite neighbourhoods”). Since 1967, Israel has expropriated over one-third of the Palestinian land that was annexed to Jerusalem’s municipality new boundaries – 24.5 square kilometres – most of it privately owned by Palestinians. Some 11 neighbourhoods have been erected for Jewish inhabitants only.

Under international law, the status of these neighbourhoods is the same as the Israeli illegal settlements throughout the West Bank. As a complementary step, a series of masterplans were drawn that have effectively limited the growth of Palestinian neighbourhoods by limiting construction rights and defining most Palestinian land as not eligible for housing construction.

The beginning of the 21st century marked a shift into a more radical policy in Jerusalem with the construction of the separation barrier. This has allowed Israel to de facto annex another 160 square kilometres of the Occupied Territories.

The route of the barrier creates a sharp division between the walled city of Jerusalem and the Palestinian hinterland. The concrete barrier deliberately disrupts the functional integration of Palestinian neighbourhoods and isolates them from their hinterland in the West Bank.

2013 Map of Jerusalem showing the route of the Barrier and current and planned Israeli developments.
Separation: how the barrier has affected Jerusalem’s Palestinian communities. ir-amin, Author provided

The construction of the separation barrier has placed the vast majority of territory and resources in the Jerusalem metropolitan under Jewish control. Palestinians are confined to disjointed enclaves, without sovereignty, freedom of movement, control over natural resources, or contiguous territory.

Micro colonisation

Recent events in Sheikh Jarrah clearly mark the current phase in colonising Jerusalem. This is a micro-scale appropriation of Palestinian territory accompanied by evictions and displacements of Palestinians who remain in the city. Palestinian homes are demolished or colonised by settlers such as in the case of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah while agricultural land is confiscated from its Palestinian owners – as in the case of Walajeh where the separation barrier surrounds the village and cuts it off from most of its inhabitants’ land.

This is a new phase in which Palestinian space is appropriated not solely through military acts or large-scale urban planning (such as described above) but rather on small-scale urban spaces and the use of planning policies. These include land-use changes, planning for the apparent “public good” (such as the attempt to build a school on Salhiya’s plot in Sheikh Jarrah), infrastructure development and touristic development. There is also clear discrimination in the distribution of building permits. While 38% of the city’s residents are Palestinians, only 16.5% of the building permits were given for construction in Palestinian neighbourhoods.

In this way, Jerusalem has become a model for using “banal” apparatuses such as urban planning to reinforce Israeli domination of this divided and contested city.


We are grateful to Dr Mandy Turner for providing the translation of Mahmoud Salhiya’s words at the opening of this article and the linked video.

Haim Yacobi, Professor of Development Planning, UCL and Irit Katz, Assistant Professor in Architecture and Urban Studies, University of Cambridge

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

The featured image at the top is for illustration and is of The Times of Israel.

The Conversation

A stadium that is the first built in World Cup history meant to be torn down

A stadium that is the first built in World Cup history meant to be torn down

Posted by Zeena Saifi, CNN on 18 July 2021, is the story of Qatar’s Ras Abu Aboud stadium that is the first built-in World Cup history meant to be torn down after the games. Would the same authorities, at this conjecture, have second thoughts?

Qatar’s Ras Abu Aboud stadium is the first built in World Cup history that was meant to be torn down  after the games

It was once a quiet waterfront, only enjoying the occasional sounds from the nearby Gulf shores. Now, it’s a dizzying burst of color and life — soon to be filled with up to 40,000 screaming fans.

It is Qatar’s Ras Abu Aboud stadium — the first built in World Cup history that was meant to be torn down.

Molded out of 974 shipping containers atop Doha’s port, the Ras Abu Aboud will host seven matches up to the quarterfinals of the 2022 World Cup.

All the containers are made from recycled steel, and the number — 974 — symbolizes Qatar’s dialing code.

It’s both a symbol of the country’s sustainability pledge and a reflection of its identity.

After the tournament is over, many parts of the arena — including all the removable seats, containers and even the roof — will be dismantled and repurposed for use in other sporting or non-sporting events, either inside or outside of Qatar.

“The 40,000-seater venue can be dismantled in full and transported to be built again in a different country; or you could build two 20,000-seater venues,” Mohammed Al Atwan, project manager for Ras Abu Aboud told CNN.

“Really, all parts can be donated to countries in need of sporting infrastructure. This is the beauty of the stadium — the legacy opportunities are endless.”

Along with the opportunities he says it offers, Qatar is hoping the stadium will be a trailblazer for future football tournaments.

Sustainability challenge

FIFA report in June estimated the 2022 World Cup to produce up to 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, that’s 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 more than the 2018 tournament in Russia created.

Nonetheless, the Gulf state is committed to delivering a carbon-neutral World Cup through offsetting emissions — before, during and after the event.

Organizers have promised sustainable building methods during the construction of the tournament’s infrastructure, such as the Ras Abu Abboud stadium, adding that they have procured “building materials that maximize resource efficiency and reduce emissions, waste and impacts on biodiversity.”

The SC says it is committed to keeping sustainability a main focus throughout the tournament — an example of this is planting trees and plants around the World Cup’s infrastructure to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

The onus, however, isn’t just on the organizers. Qatar says it will give recommendations to attendees and participants of the tournament on how they can reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, including from travel, accommodation and food and beverage.

Once the spectacle is over, Qatar says it will offset any emissions generated during the tournament through building two mega solar power plants over the following 10-15 years, and by proactively supporting sustainable and low-carbon events in Qatar and the region

The reusability of the stadium’s parts is a reflection of that effort.

“Sustainability and legacy have always been at the forefront of Qatar’s planning and preparations for the World Cup,’ said Al Atwan.

When coming up with the stadium’s design, Al Atwan said movability was the main consideration for choosing shipping containers as the building blocks.

Containers are designed to be transported, either by air or sea, but when joined together to form a whole, they transform into a sturdy structure.

That ended up reducing the waste created on site during construction, says Al Atwan, adding that the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium has set a benchmark for sustainable and green mega-sporting event infrastructure.

Unlike the other seven Qatar 2022 venues, Ras Abu Aboud’s temporary nature meant that fewer building materials were required, keeping construction costs down and shortening the time needed to complete it.

Construction on the 4.8 million square feet (450,000 square meters) site commenced in late 2017 and is scheduled for completion by the end of this year, according to organizers.

Cooling sea breeze

When a fan steps outside Ras Abu Aboud, they’re met by Doha’s West Bay skyline. So when the sun goes down, a symphony of color — exchanged between the shimmering skyscrapers on one side and the stadium on the other — reflects off the shores and lights up the city.

And that proximity to the water doesn’t only offer attractive views.

All of Qatar’s World Cup stadiums are equipped with highly efficient cooling systems that maintain a comfortable atmosphere regardless of the hot temperatures outside.

But Ras Abu Aboud doesn’t need one because it gets a natural cool breeze from the sea nearby.

“Post-2022, the redevelopment of the site could take many forms and its legacy plans are still being finalized. It could be redeveloped into a public green space or used for a mix of commercial and residential projects,” said Al Atwan.

“It’s prime location means it’s suited to many projects and has an exciting future,” he added.

That future is not only physical, Al Atawan tells CNN. “Mega-sporting events like the FIFA World Cup have the power to inspire, prompt innovation and push existing boundaries to achieve new levels of success.”

Read: World Cup 2022: Qatar is ready as it strongly contests accusations of workers’ rights abuses

Most buildings were designed for an earlier climate

Most buildings were designed for an earlier climate

Most buildings were designed for an earlier climate – here’s what will happen as global warming accelerates

By Ran Boydell, Heriot-Watt University

Climate change will affect every aspect of our lives – including the buildings we live and work in. Most people in the US, for example, spend about 90% of their time indoors. Climate change is fundamentally altering the environmental conditions in which these buildings are designed to function.

Architects and engineers design buildings and other structures, like bridges, to operate within the parameters of the local climate. They’re built using materials and following design standards that can withstand the range of temperatures, rainfall, snow and wind that are expected, plus any geological issues such as earthquakes, subsidence and ground water levels.

When any of those parameters are exceeded, chances are some aspect of the building will fail. If there are high winds, some roof tiles may be ripped off. If, after days of heavy rain, the water table rises, the basement might flood. This is normal, and these problems cannot be designed out entirely. After the event has passed, the damage can be repaired and additional measures can reduce the risk of it happening again.

But climate change will breed conditions where these parameters are exceeded more often and to a far greater degree. Some changes, like higher average air temperatures and humidity, will become permanent. What were previously considered once in a century floods may become a regular occurrence.

Some of these impacts are fairly obvious. Houses will be more prone to overheating, putting the lives of residents at risk, which is what has happened during the recent “heat dome” over North America. Flooding will happen more often and inundate greater areas, to the point that some places might have to be abandoned. The village of Fairbourne in Wales has already been identified as a likely candidate. Failure to act on both of these threats in the UK was highlighted in a recent report by the Climate Change Committee.

To some extent, these impacts will be localised and containable, with fairly simple remedies. For example, overheating can be reduced by shading windows with awnings or blinds, good insulation, and ample ventilation. Perhaps more worrying are the insidious effects of climate change which gradually undermine the core functions of a building in less obvious ways.

Termites and melting asphalt

More intense wind and rain will cause external cladding to deteriorate more rapidly and leak more often. Higher temperatures will expand the regions where some insects can live. That includes timber-eating termites that can cause major structural damage, or malaria-carrying mosquitoes which living spaces must be redesigned to protect us from.

Most buildings were designed for an earlier climate
A wooden window frame being decomposed by termites.
Termite damage on a wooden window frame. Attapon Thana/Shutterstock

Materials expand as they get hotter, especially metals, which can cause them to buckle once their designed tolerance is exceeded. For one skyscraper in Shenzhen, China, high temperatures were partially blamed for causing the structure to shake, forcing its evacuation, as the steel frame stretched in the heat. Extreme temperatures can even cause materials to melt, resulting in roads “bleeding” as the surface layer of bitumen softens.

Subsidence – when the ground below a structure gives way, causing it to crack or collapse – is also expected to happen more often in a warmer world. Buildings with foundations in clay soils are particularly vulnerable, as the soils swell when they absorb water, then harden and shrink as they dry out. Changing rainfall patterns will exacerbate this. Over the next 50 years, for example, more than 10% of properties in Britain will be affected by subsidence.

Concrete cancer

Perhaps the biggest concern is how climate change will affect reinforced concrete, one of the most widely used materials on Earth. Used in everything from skyscrapers and bridges to the lintels above windows in homes, reinforced concrete is made by placing steel rods within a mould and pouring wet concrete in. Once dry, this produces incredibly strong structures.

But a warmer wetter climate will play havoc with the durability of this material. When the steel inside the concrete gets wet it rusts and expands, cracking the concrete and weakening the structure in a process sometimes referred to as “concrete cancer”.

Most buildings were designed for an earlier climate
Crumbling reinforced concrete exposing rusted steel grid.
Once rust sets in, reinforced concrete can disintegrate. Arayan Rattanaphan/Shutterstock

Buildings in coastal areas are especially susceptible as the chloride in salt water accelerates rusting. Rising sea levels will raise the water table and make it saltier, affecting building foundations, while salt-spray will spread further on stronger winds.

At the same time, the concrete is affected by carbonation, a process where carbon dioxide from the air reacts with the cement to form a different chemical element, calcium carbonate. This lowers the pH of the concrete, making the steel even more prone to corrosion. Since the 1950s, global CO₂ levels have increased from about 300 parts per million in the atmosphere to well over 400. More CO₂ means more carbonation.

The tragic recent collapse of an apartment building in Miami in the US may be an early warning of this process gaining speed. While the exact cause of the collapse is still being investigated, some are suggesting it might be linked to climate change.

The local mayor, Charles Burkett, summed up the bewilderment many felt:

It just doesn’t happen. You don’t see buildings falling down in America.

Whether or not the link to climate change proves to be true, it is nevertheless a wake up call to the fragility of our buildings. It should also be seen as a clear demonstration of a critical point: wealth does not protect against the effects of climate change. Rich nations have the financial clout to adapt more rapidly and to mitigate these impacts, but they can’t stop them at the border. Climate change is indiscriminate. Buildings are vulnerable to these impacts no matter where in the world they are, and if anything, the modern buildings of developed countries have more things in them that can go wrong than simpler traditional structures.

The only option is to begin adapting buildings to meet the changing parameters in which they are operating. The sooner we begin retrofitting existing buildings and constructing new ones that can withstand climate change, the better.

Ran Boydell, Visiting Lecturer in Sustainable Development, Heriot-Watt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Construction is feeding a global sand crisis, says new study

Construction is feeding a global sand crisis, says new study

A growing global population increasingly living in cities has led to a spiralling rise in the extraction of sand and aggregates, with serious environmental, political and social consequences.

Sand and coarse aggregates form the backbone of the modern world and, through land reclamation, the ground on which we live, of the materials we take for granted: concrete, glass and asphalt. A point in case, Archinect News looking at Construction is feeding a global sand crisis, per a new study confirms it.

Construction is feeding a global sand crisis, says new study

By Niall Patrick Walsh 

Photo by Vlad Chețan from Pexels

A new scientific paper has warned of the looming environmental and social consequences of the world’s appetite for sand. The study, headed by Aurora Torres at Michigan State University’s fisheries and wildlife school, notes that the global demand for sand and gravel is set to double by 2060, driven by the construction and expansion of cities and infrastructure.

The study, published in the journal One Earth, notes that “sand, gravel, and crushed rock, together referred to as construction aggregates, are the [world’s] most extracted solid materials. Growing demand is damaging ecosystems, triggering social conflicts, and fueling concerns over sand scarcity. Balancing protection efforts and extraction to meet society’s needs requires designing sustainable pathways at a system level.”

In total, around 50 billion tons of sand, gravel, and crushed rock are used by humankind each year. As a key ingredient in the production of concrete and glass, sand plays an important role in the construction of almost every component of the built environment, from buildings and walls to bridges and tunnels.

Construction is feeding a global sand crisis, says new study
Extract from study: Global annual material extraction in 2011 and projected extraction for 2060. Adapted from OECD.

As a global shift from rural to urban areas continues, it is expected to that eight cities the size of New York will be built each year for the next thirty years. As a result, global use of sand, gravel, and crushed rock is set to dwarf the use of all other solid materials on Earth, hitting over 50 gigatons per year by 2060. Torres’ study also makes the ironic point that coastal responses to climate change, which will involve significant construction and upgrading of sea walls and flood defenses, will also contribute to an increased demand for sand mining.

Despite our reliance on sand, the global supply network is poorly regulated and managed, leading to a lack of data and understanding over the quantities and impact of the network on both the environment and social fabrics. To overcome this, the latest paper departs from its predecessors, which tended only to focus on excavation sites, and instead undertook a broader overview of the network. “We take a broad look at the physical and socio-environmental dimensions of sand supply networks,” Torres told Gizmodo, “linking extraction, logistics, distribution, economics, policy, to gain an understanding of the stresses on both nature and people.”

Construction is feeding a global sand crisis, says new study
Extract from study: The global construction aggregates system represented as a generalized qualitative material flow analysis system

The paper sets out some of the environmental and social hazards associated with the sand supply network as it exists today. For example, sand mining can lead to riverbed collapse and increased erosion along coastal settlements. In parts of India and Vietnam, this phenomenon has forced coastal populations to move inland to larger urban areas, which only adds further to sand supply needs. The paper also describes the risk of conflict associated with sand mining, which has already triggered conflict and displacement in Singapore, and a dangerous black market in Southeast Asia. Gizmodo notes that sand mining gangs have also depleted enough sand to cause 24 Indonesian islands to disappear from erosion.

To combat these issues, the paper calls for more regulated, monitored networks to manage global sand resources. The authors also note the need to decrease our reliance on sand, whether through crushing rocks to create more a sustainable alternative to sand, or a requirement by governments that the rubble from demolished buildings is recycled as a replacement to new concrete. The authors also point to the need to embrace alternatives to concrete, such as hempcrete and timber, and call for the construction of buildings with a longer operating life.