Aima Construction Pvt Ltd is a company with a three-decade long history and some of the Maldives’ most iconic tourist projects in its portfolio. These include the country’s first integrated tourism development Crossroads Maldives, and most recently the luxurious Patina Maldives in the Fari Islands archipelago in North Male’ Atoll.
We have a chat with Raidah Ibrahim, an Executive Director at Aima, about what sets her company apart from other contractors, the challenges they faced in developing a resort during a pandemic, and what developers can expect when they work with Aima plus more in this edition of Conversation.
Hotel Insider: Aima worked on some of the most iconic resort projects in the Maldives including Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, Crossroads, Patina. What can developers expect when they partner with Aima on resort projects?
Raidah: One of the key competitive advantages we offer developers is our local knowhow. We’ve worked in construction for a long time now and we know that each project comes with its own set of challenges.
Each island is different. For instance, the geographical location of the island can create challenges if the island lies on the edge of an atoll. Then it could be exposed to waves during the monsoons and so this needs to be taken into account during the planning stage of the project, in deciding where to place storage, temporary facilities and so on.
The point being, a native’s knowledge of the island is key here. Of course, there are great contractors abroad but they won’t have a local contractor’s familiarity with our environment or our knowhow. These include knowing the most appropriate construction methods and approaches to use, and facing the logistical challenges of working in an island nation. Plus, a key advantage we have over foreign contractors is that we will always have our team ready to be deployed as needed during the maintenance period.
Another thing I’d like to mention is that in building Crossroads and Patina and we’ve dealt with many challenges. Patina, for instance, was a design & build project and we learned a lot from that.
Hotel Insider: Could you tell our readers what a design & build project is?
Raidah: So, it’s basically fleshing out a concept. We get a concept design and we develop it with structural and architectural detail drawings. We make the concept ready for construction. It’s very different from conventional contracts where all detail drawings are provided. Most projects just involve execution.
Design & build projects benefit the client in several ways. It can lead to savings in cost and time, which are agreed on at the start, during the tender stage. Also, the risk is passed on to the contractor. And as the concept developer, the contractor has a deeper understanding of the design, allowing for a seamless transition from design to construction and this can help save time.
One more thing – when overseas architects and engineers design resorts here, they often don’t understand the local environment on a deep level. This results in overdesigning – structural designs may be over reinforced for example. This is unnecessary and wasteful but we, as a local contractor and concept developer, can help avoid this leading to cost savings for the client.
Hotel Insider: How would you compare yourself with other Maldives contractors?
Raidah: It might be very difficult to find local companies that match Aima’s scale and range of projects in terms of resort construction.
Aima has a well-designed financial structure, specifically geared for major resort projects and we use enterprise resource planning software for streamlined administration.
We also have a reliable supplier pool, which enables us to deliver high-quality products on time and have a fleet of vessels, vehicles, and machinery to start work on short notice. As we are constantly working on projects, we keep a stock of materials that can be mobilised very quickly as well.
Aima also has a large, experienced workforce, and a highly experienced site team. We prioritise their safety and wellbeing and this has helped us avoid major incidents and achieve a high rate of progress.
We are also environment conscious, and incorporate green technology into our products and services with a view to go zero-carbon in the future.
I suppose the strongest indication that we are at the top of our game comes from our partners – we’ve had a long and fruitful relationship with Hotel Properties Limited (HPL), having worked with Four Seasons from the early 2000s. I’d like to add that our most recent client, the DAMAC Group of Dubai, is quoted in the media as stating that we had exceeded their expectations in a highly competitive selection process.
Hotel Insider: Let’s talk about Crossroads – it was a huge undertaking, a unique, integrated tourism project. What were some of the things you took home from this?
Raidah: At Crossroads, we had to deal with two methods of construction. One is precast concrete which is a method where concrete components are produced in a reusable mould and then brought to site. The investors brought in concrete beams from Thailand and about 30 percent of these were damaged in transportation.
It affected our work as we had to make a hybrid system – combining the two methods of precast structures and cast in-situ and this proved a considerable challenge.
Also, we were given the very short timeframe of 14 months and this was a great challenge. It was the first project where we worked on a reclaimed island. So, we had to put up with high temperatures as there was no shade and this proved difficult as well.
Hotel Insider: Could you tell us about your experience with Patina Maldives? You were working on the project during the pandemic.
Raidah: You’ve seen Patina, it’s a big island of over 44 hectares – it’s like a tiny city. And in many aspects, it’s better than the vast majority of cities – you have so many environmentally friendly features in place like heat recovery from generators to warm up hot water in the bathrooms and solar PV systems to generate power. We proposed and used new building materials like cross-laminated timber (CLT) in the construction of the resort. It’s a type of engineered wood that’s environmentally friendly, well-insulated, strong and a lot lighter than traditional building materials.
However, the pandemic struck when the project was more than half complete. It was devastating to us – it ran up the costs and time. We required a lot of specialised items and the people who carry such are few. They were under full lockdown as well so sourcing was very challenging – we had to find new suppliers.
In constructing Patina, we had to be keenly aware of how they were positioning themselves – a room that sold for $30,000 a night must be perfect. We can only achieve such perfection with very skilled people and excellent materials and products, it is impossible otherwise.
I’d also like to add that because of its environmentally friendly design and construction, the Fari Islands Archipelago received EDGE buildings advanced certifications. And this let the owning company Pontiac Land Group convert their bank loans for the project into very low interest green loans.
Hotel Insider: Let’s talk about your project with DAMAC. When do you think it will be done? It’s a huge project.
Raidah: It’s our biggest project so far, built again on a reclaimed island. There will be one large hotel, The Mandarin Oriental, spread across three islands connected by bridges. The resort will have 120 rooms, extremely spacious units. At peak work time, there’ll be 2000 workers on site. It’s expected to take just a little over two years. We’re very happy with the pace of work, it seems to be going very well.
Hotel Insider: We wish you the best of luck. Thank you very much for sitting down with us.