For nearly a decade, members of the design and construction community have been exploring opportunities to expand business into the Middle East. Although many have pursued work in locations such as Dubai, one innovative tilt-up contractor, SiteCast Construction Corp., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, chose another location—Amman, Jordan. Home to more than 2 million residents and the capital city of Jordan, Amman is a center for culture, politics, and commerce.
At an industry event, Steve Kaminski, president of SiteCast, spoke with someone pursuing work in the Middle East. He gained information about the experience and developed an action plan for how to seek out opportunities. A chance encounter led to meeting an individual performing work in Jordan. After learning more about the country and the strong relationship between Canada and Jordan, Kaminski decided this would be a good opportunity for his firm and embarked on a test project with the Jordanian military.
First, he set up an international construction division for Middle East projects. “We learned that nearly everything in the city is made of load-bearing masonry,” says Shawn Hickey, vice president of construction at SiteCast. “Site-cast tilt-up seemed a natural fit for this geographic area and would provide the durability and low maintenance that owners desired.”
Embarking on a tilt-up project in Amman was a challenge because it was the first tilt-up project in the country. SiteCast elected to do a prototype housing project to show the benefits of tilt-up. The 1765-square-foot structure was built in the Military Medical City as part of the military’s plans to complete housing requirements for their personnel.
“The entire structure was built out of 22 tilt-up panels, including the roof,” says Hickey. “We were able to demonstrate speed of construction, security, and durability—hallmarks of tilt-up construction. We used reinforced insulating concrete panels that were load-bearing structural components for the exterior, interior, and roof panels of the structure.”
For this project, SiteCast used J.W. Lindsay Enterprises Ltd., Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, for the engineering. “One key to a successful project is having technical assistance available from the design office at all times while work is progressing onsite,” says Laurence Smith, PE, and vice president of engineering at J.W. Lindsay. “As with any project whether near or far, proper planning is the essential ingredient for success.”
Although the project was a success, SiteCast did encounter challenges. For one, because tilt-up was entirely new to the area, all employees had to be trained on the method. Another was all lifting hardware had to be shipped, and some took nearly four weeks to arrive.
Unlike North America, there is no apparent apprenticeship program for trade members to pass along their skills to the next generation. Unskilled labor is plentiful and safety standards are different than those in the U.S. or Canada.
“One of the most surprising things to me is the leadership structure on projects in the region,” says Hickey. “In Jordan, engineers are primarily the project leaders, while in Canada and the U.S., the superintendent is the primary contact and leads the onsite construction of the project.”
Although Jordan is one of the most progressive countries in the region, some cultural challenges exist. The technology infrastructure is not as robust as in North America, so Internet connections were intermittent at times. Unlike in some Western nations, armed soldiers are everywhere, which can be uncommon at first glance, but quickly becomes commonplace and reassuring. Friday and Saturday constitute the weekend, while Sunday commences the work week.
The project generated such tremendous feedback, SiteCast has received interest from other Middle Eastern countries about constructing tilt-up projects in their nations. To learn more about SiteCast’s projects, visit www.sitecast.ca.