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When they said ‘Qatar—at least it’s not Saudi’, they kind of missed the point. Sure, it’s an infrastructure project and yes, my parochial triggers were tweaked. After all, it shares the same acronyms as my hometown provider (QR). Most importantly yes, I needed the gig—but flog me, what a tough visual.

Imagine if you will…

…life in a box stuck in the middle of a stony dessert where getting hold of a cleansing ale to wash away the tears can require use of the ‘I’m an alcoholic’ card—which oddly enough, takes some effort to get hold of. Or else, you must slink off, either to a rather expensive 5-star hotel with passport in hand or, in my case, you find a semi-independent expensive ‘pub’ within walking distance of the apartment.

The term ‘pub’ is a little loose in this instance, as they have stuck the hallmarks of a pub on the second floor of a less than salubrious hotel. Said pub does have a name, one which presumably lends it some air of quaint British vibe. We just call it ‘The Rat’—an expensive rat I grant you, but ‘The Rat’ nonetheless.

So why Qatar?

Well, the Qatari government—in their infrastructure foresight, laden with the heavy pocket weight of USD $280 billion GDP over a population density of 2.4 million—decided to invest some of their hard-sourced gas revenue into infrastructure projects of significance: roads, freeways, bridges, stadiums (World Cup 2020 is just around the corner) and in my case rail—the Doha Metro rail project, to be precise.

The metro system encompasses a series of underground (which is good, as 70°C solar temps can be a little harsh on the systems) and elevated stations, creating 61 stations in total, all air conditioned and all architectural marvels; quite impressive to say the least. Obviously, the façades are ‘out there’, but then that’s why they have me, the ‘out there façade guy’. Although I do prefer the moniker ‘Mr Cellophane’, mostly for the musical accompaniments, though.

Interestingly enough, the construction mentality/techniques vary across the different project sectors. Qatar Rail has divided the project, based on the various lines, and then down to a number of stations on each line; presumably to provide an average contract package value across the development. This principal has ensured that a variety of main contractors are afforded the works, be they Spanish conquistadors, Italian wide boys, Qataris, Greeks and Koreans, all pursuing the same function-balanced form design.

There are, however, a number of key sectors that are ‘employed’ directly by QR across the project—who have the guise of contracting immortals. It helps to understand that this is in a place where terminating main contractors over perceived flaws is not unheard of—you are annoying us, leave now—that sort of stuff, and it would appear that there are many ways to skin the same cat.

All up they have had 19 tunnel boring machines working simultaneously. I expect that they would have 8 or 9 left over at the end of the gig if you are looking for a ‘slightly used’ sand unit. The elevated stations are my preferred aspect, obviously, there is more façade work in those than that of the shelters—which are quite cool in their own right. However, they do lack the imposing nature of multi-storey 3D architecture. The intent, it would seem, is to create a modern/Jetsons version of a stone tent.

The architectural delivery is managed via a BIM modelling strategy; where there is a central design model with the various sub-contractors/providers amending aspects of the work packages and resubmitting for approval and integration into the parent model.

‘Clash detection’ is a way of life.

So too is playing ‘put the square peg in the round hole’. Either way, the process allows for advanced fabrication based on theoretical models to proceed in parallel with onsite early trades works. It is all fast-track down at Doha. The process is effected reasonably well.

The essential aspect is always integrating the as-built scan survey models into the theoretical, and ensuring that there is not too much deviation from the steel frame concept; certainly, not so much that cannot be catered for during installation. Obviously, when the wheels for all this part of the train journey get turning, The Rat gets a bit of a workout.

The overall construction techniques are quite in-tune with world’s best practice, and certainly, the plant and equipment is of a higher standard than you would find in most commercial developments around the world. Tower cranes were brand new on the gig, which you would expect—not coming from the PRC was a bit of a surprise, as was that boom lifts and mobiles could not be more than 3yrs old. It may be possible to push this out to 5 years if you can prove service records and necessity.

Site safety is good… mostly.

Overall, the project site safety is more akin to Singapore/Brisvegas than the ‘life is cheap’ mentality you could expect in this region over the last 10 years. That said, you do not have to go too far afield to see some smaller scale ‘developments’ utilising zero consideration for worker-longevity construction practices.

This mentality can take the form of using what are effectively ‘twigs’ for the back propping; recently-poured decks; and, oddly enough for the propping of landing platforms, over three stories of landing platforms, precariously leveled out with bits of bricks, offcuts and twigs.

Terrifying stuff really, better not to watch and focus on something else. Hey look over there, is that a sixty-storey tower shaped like a giant condom? How the hell did they get away with that, I asked? They lopped off the giant balls, was their response. Sure, of course they did. Nice façade though.

This week is all about finalising design for our bespoke vacuum lifter. It needs to be semi-articulating with a constant vacuum provision, mainly for moving the oversized, textured finish panels around. Ironically, we’ve made one before, one that some occipital moron decided to scrap as she hadn’t been used in a few years and was apparently taking up space, at 16m x 5m with a 2.5tonne lifting capacity. Resplendent in 70’s colour scheme, ole ‘Suckula’ was awesome, albeit a little chunky. I think this version will be treated to the same paint job—the Qatari’s will love it. Although, the Spanish may be more problematic, but then that seems to be their way.

About the Author: Construction Specialist, Peter Carter

Based in Verrierdale, QLD, Peter has been actively engaged in Commercial construction for the past 20yrs—predominantly infrastructure and commercial developments (ranging from one hundred thousand dollar refurbishments to six billion dollar mega projects). Architectural steel, Glazing, Ballistic systems, Metallic cladding and thermally inert systems are his specialty. Peter has a flair for contract interpretation, design and onsite delivery and, most importantly, he loves to write.

Life in Qatar: New Cranes, Old Sticks & Condom-Shaped Buildings
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Life in Qatar: New Cranes, Old Sticks & Condom-Shaped Buildings
Peter Carter—"the facade guy"—walks us through his fascinating life as a construction contractor in Doha, Qatar, working on the Doha Metro Rail Project.
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