A Middle Eastern Adventure

by Sarah Marshall | November 17, 2020 |  5 min read

A Middle Eastern Adventure
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Whilst wrapping up on BIM Academy projects in Hong Kong, I was presented with an opportunity to embark on a new adventure in the Middle East.

I was asked to deliver a BIM Academy project for a Qatar Government Authority, with a potential two-year duration.

This meant moving to a new country. Daunting? Naturally… so I slept on it, considering the pros and cons of a new country (one I knew very little about), an exciting new project and a new lifestyle. Ultimately, my desire to explore new places and the premise of professional and personal development, convinced me to step forward, wanting the same rewards from the ‘out of my comfort zone’ experiences I had whilst in Hong Kong.

Having accepted the opportunity, I proceeded to see what I could find out about this new place, using the best source of knowledge I knew: the internet! Sifting through forums and expat websites, trying to get a glimpse of what my day-to-day life may be like. Initially I was sceptical about the Middle East, the British media not necessarily portraying this quickly expanding country in a positive light. It presented as a strict Islamic country with certain stigmatism around alcohol, relationships and women’s rights, not to mention covering arms and legs in 50 degree heat! Despite all the research I did, I still had no real idea of what to expect as I stepped off the plane.

And so I arrived in Doha, Qatar in February 2019 to sunshine and palm trees, observing the cleanliness and serenity – a world away from the bustling streets of Hong Kong I’d just left behind.

BIM Academy was successfully awarded project management and coordination services on a multi-million-dollar digital transformation programme for a government authority.

The key focus was on enhancing the existing strategy, developing standards in accordance with international practices, implementing integrated technology solutions and supporting learning and development. My role within the consultant team would be BIM Coordinator for the buildings departments, working alongside a BIM Academy colleague who led the project management. My initial task was to become accustomed with the work already undertaken in the prior phase of the implementation project, which had involved gap analysis surveys and the subsequent development of a BIM Implementation Plan.

I was also introduced to the client team and consultant teams I would be working with for the duration of the project – a diverse group of people from Qatar, Europe, India and the Far East, providing an extensive international knowledge base. Evidently, the key to success on this project would be stakeholder management and client engagement.

A Middle Eastern Adventure

Qatar is quickly expanding, particularly with the announcement of Qatar to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. Construction was on the rise – figuratively and literally. There is a persistent drive from the government ministries, and the countries citizens, for a need to be the best and deliver the best. This had a direct impact on the BIM Implementation project, with client teams receptive and eager to embark on a digital journey, sometimes with a sense of impatience, but ultimately providing a positive influence on project progress. A nice change from the somewhat resistant attitude that can often be observed in other climates, particularly with the implementation of BIM processes and new methods of working.

My main role on this project in the beginning had been the development of BIM Standards and protocols tailored to the government authority, in line with international standards and best practices. So far, this has included developing Exchange Information Requirements (EIR), Modelling Standards, software templates and a BIM object library. This has enabled me to build on my prior project experience in the UK and Hong Kong, where I had been responsible for establishing protocols for project teams, auditing compliance of consultant team models and data through Information Manager roles, as well as delivering specialist 4D construction simulation commissions for major infrastructure projects in Hong Kong. I have pulled on these experiences, best practices and lessons learnt to aid in the successful delivery of the BIM Implementation programme for the government authority.

As this stage of the project drew to a close with the sign-off on the developed standards and protocols, the next phase of the BIM Implementation programme will see the running of pilot projects – using the standards and protocols developed – and providing BIM training for the client teams.

This project provided an invaluable experience, both professionally and personally, and I was excited to continue to be involved throughout the remainder of the implementation programme.

In my free time I have had the opportunity to experience the culture and heritage of the country, visiting a number of the museums and malls, kayaking in the Mangroves in the far north of Qatar and camping in the desert, to name a few. Possibly my highlight was joining the Doha women’s rugby team, where I met an amazing group of people from all across the world. Some of the girls I met there also form part of a team that play at Dubai 7s each year and I was fortunate enough to be invited to join them and play in the International Open Women’s competition at the HSBC Sevens Series in Dubai, something I could have only dreamed of prior to my time in Qatar.

Rugby had a massive impact on my time in Hong Kong, providing ‘home away from home’, and I was thrilled to have been able to find somewhere that has provided the same feeling in Qatar.

Not surprising, but what I found of life in Qatar could not have been anticipated from my internet searches. There is a real sense of community in this country, amongst both Qatari citizens and expats. An overwhelming sense of pride is evident, not only from the vast number of portraits of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, on the buildings and people’s cars, but also in the conversations you have with the people living here.

The project team I have worked with have been extremely welcoming, friendly and accommodating, and I look forward to continuing to work with them to deliver this project successfully through to its sign-off.