Building landmarks

BAHRAIN-BASED GPZ, which takes its initials from the company’s late founder George P Zachariades, has been involved in some of the most prestigious developments in the country ranging from the Gudaibiya Guest Palace to The Ritz-Carlton hotel.

The leading contracting firm is currently in the final stages of completing works at the multi-million-dollar sewage treatment plant and deep gravity sewer system in Muharraq, which forms part of the Ministry of Works’ ambitious sewerage plan for the country.

The project has entailed the civil works for the plant and construction of 51 underground shafts for the conveyance system.

“The key challenges of this project were the dewatering works for the impressively large shafts (diameters up to 9 m and depths ranging from 16 to 26 m), interfacing with the micro-tunnelling works and the traffic management at the 51 shaft locations along busy routes including the Khalifa Al Khabeer Highway,” says Stefanos Zachariades, managing director for GP Zachariades Overseas.

GPZ is also constructing the $80-million Banader Rotana hotel project in Manama. The 29-storey five-star hotel, which will boast 230 rooms, is targeted for completion in early 2015. GPZ has already completed the full structure and is proceeding with the fit-out works.

The key challenges on this project, as Stefanos outlines, are “the completion to a tight deadline and the location of the restrictive city centre site”.

These projects are among the latest landmark projects that GPZ has added to its impressive portfolio over close to four decades in the country. The company has maintained a competitive edge in the market throughout the decades through its dedication to quality, efficiency and professionalism, thanks to its strong management coupled with a handpicked workforce of highly skilled, qualified, and well-trained staff.

George P Zachariades began his contracting activities in Cyprus in the early 1950s, and in 1956 he established G P Zachariades Overseas, says Stefanos. The company was registered in Bahrain in 1976 and in more recent years in Saudi Arabia and Oman.

The Grade AA civil engineering and building contractor specialises in three major areas of the construction sector – building construction, civil/industrial works, and interior design, for a wide range of projects from luxury hotels and fully-equipped hospitals to power and desalination stations, and water treatment plants.

The company’s comprehensive Manufacturing and Logistics (M&L) unit, which handles resource distribution and operates five support factories (structural steel, aluminium, reinforcement, woodworks and sheet metal/duct fabrication) as well as an electro-mechanical division, reinforces its core operations and enhances the ability to exercise control on quality and time.

“GPZ’s all-rounded capability, technical proficiency, consistently high level of quality and vertically integrated functions give the company the competitive edge to successfully undertake all types of complex construction projects and meet the most stringent time schedules,” says Stefanos.

The company has played a leading role in the construction of high quality and specialised buildings, as well as landmark and fast-track projects. Its extensive portfolio includes projects for the royal family and government of Bahrain, as well as for international firms such as Siemens, Bechtel, Sidem, Hyundai, Samsung Engineering, Sumitomo, Bapco, Aluminium Bahrain (Alba), Ritz-Carlton, Mövenpick, Regency InterContinental, BNP Paribas, Investcorp, Trust International Insurance, Arab Bank, Bahrain National Holding, Batelco and DHL.

Rotana’s Banader ... an artist’s impression.

Rotana’s Banader ... an artist’s impression.

Some of its landmark projects in Bahrain include the Meridien hotel (now Ritz-Carlton), Mövenpick hotel, Gudaibiya Palace, BDF Hospital, Bahrain Specialist Hospital, Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) Medical University of Bahrain, Royal University for Women, Al Aali Shopping Complex, Survey and Land Registration Bureau (SLRB) headquarters, Durrat Al Bahrain Atolls Three and Four, Hidd desalination plant and the Al Dur and Al Ezzel power plants.

Stefanos ranks the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Bahrain among the most complex and striking projects undertaken by GPZ to date. “The resort was a turnkey project from its foundations with SOE (support of excavation) to its intricate building structures, vast external landscaping works, sophisticated services systems, detailed interior finishes, and all FF&E (furniture, fixtures and equipment). The hotel had to be completed to the strictest deadline, with all its modifications and extensions – to be carried out when operations had already started – in time to host the GCC conference,” recalls Stefanos.

Other challenging projects have been medical buildings such as the BDF Hospital, Bahrain Specialist Hospital and the RCSI Medical University of Bahrain.

Stefanos says all such hotel and hospital projects are of extremely high specifications, have very stringent schedules and require a lot of expertise.

“GPZ was and is able to tackle such projects through professional management, good coordination and planning, and specialised teams. By allocating experienced personnel and departments to deal with all requirements and difficult aspects at early stages, as well as having a vast network of international suppliers to source specialised materials, GPZ was able to ensure the highest quality and timely deliveries. In certain cases, it has also proposed solutions and designs, supplementary to those of the client’s consultants, for areas that needed fast-tracking,” he says.

The company has witnessed phenomenal growth, with its overall manpower having increased from 1,000 to more than 5,000, and annual turnover rising from $25 million to $100 million, peaking at $130 million in 2008-2009.

“GPZ currently employs around 300 highly qualified and motivated managerial, administrative, engineering, technical and supervisory staff from across the globe. The size of the total workforce varies according to the projects and their needs at any one time, but on average the company employs around 4,000 people,” he adds.

In terms of business in Bahrain, Stefanos says it has been slower over the past couple of years, due to fluctuating dynamics of the market and a shortage of construction projects. However, he says the prospects are looking promising, as the construction industry is gradually picking up.

“The GCC countries are beginning to finance new projects in Bahrain that will, in turn, generate more business for all the key industries of the kingdom. This revitalisation will lead to economic diversification and growth allowing businesses to flourish,” he comments.

“To reinstate confidence in this sector, it will be important that financing is properly ensured so that projects can follow through to the end and that real estate projects are better regulated,” he adds.

GPZ is also focusing on other regional markets, having successfully expanded its operations to Saudi Arabia and Oman. Stefanos says growth opportunities will mostly be coming from Saudi Arabia.

“Based on its long experience in Bahrain, GPZ is uniquely positioned to successfully meet the increasing demands for heavy industry and infrastructure projects in the new markets, as well as the emerging need for hospitality and commercial building projects which require highly specialised works and high quality finishing.”

GPZ also keeps abreast of market trends such as the global demand for green and sustainable buildings and has responded through keeping its engineering teams at the forefront of new construction methods and the very latest green materials available in the industry.

“Overall, the board has always been keen to investigate opportunities for innovation and improvement, entering joint ventures to undertake challenging projects requiring new expertise and ensuring that all member of the organisation are involved in the collaborative generation of new ideas,” he adds.

The company has implemented an integrated management system (IMS) meeting the requirements of ISO 9001:2008 for quality management, ISO 14001:2004 for environmental management and Ohsas 18001:2007 for occupational health and safety management. Another major initiative to enhance its competitiveness is the purchase of a high-end enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

“Through these systems, GPZ was able to experience further growth, exercising tighter control over quality, time and environmental sustainability, as well as ensuring the welfare of its employees and achieving high safety performances,” says Stefanos.

Today, with more than 50 years of commitment to excellence, GPZ is an established and mature family business, operating in four countries, with a work ethic and name synonymous with consistency, quality and trust.