In a bid to finish housing developments quickly and at low cost, contractors in Qatar have been cutting corners on the finishings of some new buildings, leading to plumbing problems and issues with cooling systems and the electricity, industry experts have told Doha News.
Complaints about some of Doha’s most exclusive developments, including the Pearl-Qatar and Lagoona Plaza (more commonly known as Zig-Zag Towers), appear to be common, said residents who have spoken to Doha News about recurrent mold, water shortages and long-term air-conditioning breakdowns.
According to a risk consultant who works with the construction industry here, cost-cutting and pressure to finish on schedule sometimes forces companies to rush the interiors of buildings, leading to a drop in quality.
Speaking to Doha News, the expert, who asked to remain anonymous to protect his business relationships, said he doesn’t see a solution in the near future:
“The fit-out is where the problems are, because they (the construction companies) have to finish jobs quickly, or they have to pay penalties. There’s also a pressure on costs, so there’s an obsession with buying sub-standard materials.
Although I see a small bounce in quality now, the situation we have now is the legacy of a few decades where anything went. And it will only get exacerbated in the next few years with so much construction happening here, so many deadlines.”
The analyst added that the blame should be assigned not just to contractors, but also to those who commission the work:
“If you want quality, you have to pay for it. You can’t insist on quality but then decide purely or mainly on price. This is what happens if you force contractors to cut corners.”
Mold at the Pearl
At the Pearl, where one-bedroom apartments rent for upwards of QR12,000 a month, residents are “fighting an all-out war on mold,” according to one resident of Tower 1 at Porto Arabia.
Requesting anonymity to avoid trouble with his landlord, the resident told Doha News:
“Some of my colleagues have entire wardrobes full of moldy clothes. Our building’s management team seems to have too little know-how about how to deal with the problem.”
The Pearl has not responded to requests for comment.
The resident added that when he complains, workmen turn up with paint and decorate over the mold, but it returns a few weeks later. Those living in other towers at the Pearl have reported similar problems.
According to a senior MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineer, issues with mold are usually related to an incorrectly installed or overloaded air conditioning system. Speaking to Doha News, he said that the problem should be taken seriously:
“A dehumidifier would help temporarily, but all sorts of things can grow from the mold. You don’t want kids near it.”
The Scottish engineer added that while construction standards here are high – “much higher than at home” – problems persist at the interior design stage due to “a rush at the end.”
A/C and water issues
Elsewhere in Doha, residents at Zig Zag have been going online to vent their anger about water shortages and leaks.
Reached for comment CBMQatar, which manages Zig Zag, told Doha News that the leak was due to a burst pipe on the 13th floor that reached the basement. Steps were taken to minimize the leak, but it took time for the proper pipe fittings to be delivered, the statement said. It continued:
The pipeline was not shut off to ensure continuity of supply of water to the residents. Cleaning of the affected floors were on-going during this period of rectification. The manual call point in question was isolated immediately to prevent continuous false alarm as well as not to affect the functionality of the entire fire alarm system.
We are glad that the leak was rectified on 17 September 2013.
Plumbing issues are “endemic” in Qatar, according to the risk consultant, because not enough time is allocated to test the building before it is handed over to tenants:
“Contractors are under pressure on the amount of testing they can carry out prior to commissioning. If you have enough time to test, these problems are detected in advance. When things are done in a rush, you end up missing problems.”
Meanwhile, residents of luxury apartment block Al Maha Towers in West Bay have been living without properly functioning centralized air conditioning for some time now, according to resident Alison Powell:
“The AC in tower 2 has been on and off since the summer holidays.The apartment temperature went up to 31C last week. Apparently we have 3 chillers and 6 compressors. All were down!
They fixed 2 chillers and 2 compressors late Thursday night. We had a bit of reprieve at the weekend however, as of yesterday the temperatures have been going up again.”
We spoke to The Doha Group, who manage the towers. A manager there told us that the problems with air conditioning have now been solved. He did not respond to further requests for comment.
How are the finishings in your home? Thoughts?
Credit: Top photo by Osarieme Eweka