INTERVIEW Glenn Platt, MD, KEO

Glenn Platt, MD for infrastructure at KEO International Consultants, says the GCC’s infrastructure markets will grow at their own pace and in their own unique way.
Glenn Platt, managing director for infrastructure at KEO International Consultants.
Glenn Platt, managing director for infrastructure at KEO International Consultants.

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by Neha Bhatia

“No-one would’ve thought we’d be standing amidst this 20 years ago,” Glenn Platt, managing director of KEO International Consultants’ infrastructure division, emphatically states.

Platt is sitting at Construction Week’s offices in the heart of Dubai’s Sufouh district, an area peppered with skyscrapers and just five minutes’ drive from Burj Al Arab. He’s discussing the growth pattern charted out by the GCC’s tightly-knit – albeit vastly different – construction markets.

“I’m not sure whether it [the difference between each market] is a discrepancy, or is a case of how people view it.

“It depends on each of the markets’ subjective visions, and where they would like to be.

“Some are a little bit more aggressive, so naturally, people think that they’re outperforming, when in fact, they’re probably just performing as much as anyone else,” Platt opines.

“From an infrastructure point of view, it’s an interesting mix in the Middle East, because some markets are more aggressive and risk-averse than the others. Dubai, for instance, has grown tremendously in the last 20 years, and it’s been an inspiration for a lot of people.

“Other markets have been a bit slower in comparison because they’re not planning the great large buildings and big developments [that Dubai has].”

Platt’s opinion leads neatly to the topic of Kuwait, KEO’s home turf, and an infrastructure market that has traditionally stayed quieter than its larger GCC cousins, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

This is despite Kuwait’s significant dependence on oil and gas, which according to Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) figures, accounts for up to 95% of its export revenues.

“We’ve been operational in the Middle East for around 50 years now, so we understand the markets here quite clearly.

“It comes back to what Kuwait’s vision is, versus the UAE or Qatar, for instance. Each of the regional markets have different priorities, different visions, and different sources of income. The UAE is not so much focused on oil anymore, for instance.”

Platt is quick to point out the impact – or lack thereof – made by fluctuating oil prices on construction markets in the region. KEO’s infrastructure chief says diversification has, to a great degree, protected regional economies from crumbling under the pressures of plummeting oil prices.

“No-one would’ve thought we’d be standing amidst this 20 years ago,” Glenn Platt, managing director of KEO International Consultants’ infrastructure division, emphatically states.

Platt is sitting at Construction Week’s offices in the heart of Dubai’s Sufouh district, an area peppered with skyscrapers and just five minutes’ drive from Burj Al Arab. He’s discussing the growth pattern charted out by the GCC’s tightly-knit – albeit vastly different – construction markets.

“I’m not sure whether it [the difference between each market] is a discrepancy, or is a case of how people view it.

“It depends on each of the markets’ subjective visions, and where they would like to be.

“Some are a little bit more aggressive, so naturally, people think that they’re outperforming, when in fact, they’re probably just performing as much as anyone else,” Platt opines.

“From an infrastructure point of view, it’s an interesting mix in the Middle East, because some markets are more aggressive and risk-averse than the others. Dubai, for instance, has grown tremendously in the last 20 years, and it’s been an inspiration for a lot of people.

“Other markets have been a bit slower in comparison because they’re not planning the great large buildings and big developments [that Dubai has].”

Platt’s opinion leads neatly to the topic of Kuwait, KEO’s home turf, and an infrastructure market that has traditionally stayed quieter than its larger GCC cousins, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

This is despite Kuwait’s significant dependence on oil and gas, which according to Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) figures, accounts for up to 95% of its export revenues.

“We’ve been operational in the Middle East for around 50 years now, so we understand the markets here quite clearly.

“It comes back to what Kuwait’s vision is, versus the UAE or Qatar, for instance. Each of the regional markets have different priorities, different visions, and different sources of income. The UAE is not so much focused on oil anymore, for instance.”

Platt is quick to point out the impact – or lack thereof – made by fluctuating oil prices on construction markets in the region. KEO’s infrastructure chief says diversification has, to a great degree, protected regional economies from crumbling under the pressures of plummeting oil prices.

“We need to consider traffic studies at an early stage,” Platt continues.

“Sometimes, it can take months to get approvals for traffic impact studies, without which you can’t get the other approvals. But it’s a process, and you just have to adapt to it,” he explains.

The advent of international firms to the GCC’s construction markets has made a considerable difference, Platt says, with infrastructure details now given more significance during a project’s planning stage, than was the case in the past.

“Infrastructure, unfortunately, isn’t attractive; we’re underground or we’re just expected to be there.

“So we see a lot of beautiful buildings being pulled out of the ground – and they look wonderful – but the infrastructure, unfortunately, sometimes takes a backseat,” Platt rues.

“That’s because we’re not thinking about it until the last minute, but that’s changing now. We’re seeing the change. [The industry has] learnt some lessons in the past about not having infrastructure ready for large developments.”

As someone who’s previously been KEO’s regional environment manager and senior project manager for environmental waste management, Platt has seen the benefits of sustainable construction practices on overall infrastructure development.

“With sustainability becoming a key interest in the Gulf, we have a new breed of planners and engineers, and sustainability and environmental specialists. All those people are now focusing on how to deliver our finite resources to the communities we’re about to build.

“These sorts of things are now being considered at an earlier stage; during the planning stage itself.”

Platt signs off optimistically: “There’s now a grasp of the concept that infrastructure is important. Eventually, it’s down in the ground and no-one sees it, but it’s becoming more important during the planning stage to ensure we provide a sustainable community for the people who live there.”

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