A Strong Foundation – Design Middle East
Francis Alfred, managing director and CEO of Sobha Realty, talks about Sobha Hartland, the importance of sustainability, region’s real estate market, backward integration concept, and more
Established in 1976, as an interior decoration firm in Oman by PNC Menon – a visionary entrepreneur, Sobha Realty has grown its presence with developments and investments in the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Brunei, and India. Over the last four decades, the company has grown into an international luxury developer committed to redefining the art of living. With such a strong foundation and brand value, comes great responsibility; the responsibility to maintain the reputation, the responsibility to deliver excellence, the responsibility to offer great customer service, and much more! These are the goals of Sobha Realty and Francis Alfred, managing director and CEO of the company swears by it. Alfred oversees the geographical expansion and diversification of the company’s real estate development business. Alfred has over 19 years of experience and expertise in real estate development, design management, project management, construction management, and manufacturing. Alfred is a go-getter and understands the significance of corporate reputation, which gives the brand a competitive edge over others in the market. Alfred explains: “What sets us apart is our intuitive design philosophy that combines great craftsmanship and introduces innovative ideas within each of its developments. At Sobha Realty, we understand the importance of time and plan accordingly. We have a philosophy where we pay attention to detail and after four decades in the field, the company has inverted the luxury paradigm by offering the simplicity of design and generosity of space.”
Sobha Realty is not just building the apartments or villas, the aim to build healthy and prosperous communities that improve people’s lives today and shape a more sustainable future for their families. Alfred believes that their task is to offer an experience that enhances their lifestyle. He shares: “The real estate market no longer entails the simple provision of empty space but is all about providing a living experience. Residents want to enjoy an ideal living experience characterised by comfort and convenience, with schools, dining, and retail outlets incorporated into the community. At the Sobha Hartland development, we value the importance of enhancing the overall living experience and have designed the amenities and spaces to offer the best of community lifestyle. At Sobha Hartland, we already have the convenience of two established international schools, and going forward, plan to have a selection of retail and F&B amenities, and a boardwalk along the canal.” Sobha Hartland is one of the most prestigious residential projects from the brand and a benchmark for others. Villas at Sobha Hartland are all uniquely designed around private courtyards found in the local culture. “Space is luxury” so the design of the Forest Villas places these courtyards adjacent to ordinary interior spaces and transforms them into spacious indoor-outdoor living areas by the use of lift and slide glass units.
“Another unique aspect of the design in the Forest Villas is the use of double-height volumes that permits natural light in making each room seem even larger. In addition, we have built a clear storey skylight into the master bedroom ceiling to bring additional light into internal space,” says Alfred. Further design elements include a private elevator, all double glazing, and acoustic insulated pipes. Additionally, acoustic padding is placed between floors to offer soundproof within the rooms and the exterior of the houses resulting in 80% noise reduction, thus adding to the feeling of calm serenity. Through this project, Sobha Realty has redefined community living that offers enough space for residents to build a home dedicated to creating serene spaces that shape human lives. Apart from the amazing design elements, the brand takes pride and keeps sustainability at the core of its main objectives. Sobha Realty is committed to planning, constructing, and managing communities that conform to global sustainability guidelines. Alfred is a great advisor of sustainability, he discusses: “At Sobha Hartland, we have more than 8000 trees being planted, as an effective strategy, to reduce overall heat island effect, thereby creating better ambience to living habitats and contributing to optimise the energy, in turn reducing the carbon footprint of the development. We have ensured the usage of only the most energy-efficient and long-lasting light fixtures available in the market, which are LED fixtures, which use 75% less energy. We also use advanced energy-efficient VRF AC technology and chillers, and solar hot water system.”
Not just this, furthermore, Sobha Hartland also carries eco-friendly features within its buildings from natural stone cladding to recycled rubber insulation, water-saving plumbing fixtures. Significantly, the doubleglazed thermal and acoustically insulated windows and Rockwool insulated walls ensure a minimum of 60% reduction in solar heat gain. These environmentally-friendly features offer users optimised comfort and superior quality of life, making Sobha Hartland a truly large-scale sustainable urban district. This project is getting such an overwhelming response and Alfred couldn’t be happier. He says: “Post our successful handover of Greens Phase-I (Nov 2018) which has set a new benchmark of quality in the industry, we have witnessed a remarkable success, surpassing the total sales target of AED2bn, with more than 1500 units sold in our flagship Sobha Hartland development. This is a very strong testimony for the signature Sobha quality and the success of our flagship project – Sobha Hartland.”
The region is going through an economic slowdown. While there have been concerns about an oversupply of residential and commercial properties in the market, affecting investor sentiment and real estate prices, there have been numerous initiatives implemented by the government to uplift the momentum. Alfred has full faith in the UAE government legislation. He strongly feels: “The UAE leadership has been actively executing government legislations and initiatives that are established to help create an economic environment that is conducive to business and encouraging international investment. As far as international interest is concerned, we have witnessed an impressive number of keen investors coming from Asia, India, and Saudi Arabia and we are confident that this will continue to remain in the long term. The high uptake from investors across the portfolio has supported the launch of more projects within the masterplan, further consolidating the company’s position and driving Dubai’s perception as a popular global real estate market.” The visionary leadership of the country has always proactively intervened to ensure that the industry isn’t largely affected by any global or regional challenges. “We believe the UAE is placed in an attractive position, encouraging investments into the real estate, with multiple factors contributing to its leadership position as one of the global real estate hubs. Whether it comes from proactive government legislation or the versatility of the offerings in the market, in our perspective there is an optimistic sentiment among our investors and a positive trend being witnessed,” says Alfred.
Another remarkable aspect of Sobha Realty is that it works on the concept of backward integration. Backward integration in real estate is a one-its-kind model in the world, pioneered by Sobha Realty for the past 25 years, with a track record of delivering more than 100mnsqft of construction globally. At Sobha Realty all aspects of real estate including design, construction, manufacturing, landscape, and facility management are done with inhouse companies. Alfred ensures that Sobha’s unique backward integrated real estate model is seamlessly functioning by delivering the signature Sobha quality to our customers across all our developments.
He explains: “In Dubai Sobha’s Design studio (PNC architects) there is more than 70 employees including master planners, architects, MEP design engineers, structural design engineers, and interior designers who have been designing all Sobha projects from concept to detailed engineering. Sobha Construction has more than 3500 employees who do all the construction for Sobha Realty projects and have specialist teams for civil, MEP, and interior work. Sobha’s manufacturing facilities include in-house companies for façade works and Joinery works. We bring the expertise of all our in-house companies to focus on every single aspect of the development. “This further allows the brand to have a stringent control on the quality, which in turn gives their customers a fine combination of precision and aesthetics. “It is how we ensure quality at every stage and add value to our product,” adds Alfred.
Some of the projects that have been launched by the company so far in Sobha Hartland are apartments including Hartland Greens, Creek Vistas, One Park Avenue, Creek Vistas Reservè, and Villa clusters including Forest Villas, Gardenia Villas, Garden Houses, which provide a variety of options for end-users to choose from. Sobha Hartland also has to offer an array of luxury apartments, fully loaded with lifestyle amenities and breath-taking city views, which are scheduled to be launched during Q2 2020. Alfred decodes the realty trends. He says: “Mixed-used developments are a growing trend in the real estate market, with projects offering residents a compelling and comfortable living experience with easy access to amenities. We have also seen that today’s customers are more informed and conscious than ever before in choosing the right real estate developers with a track record of delivering high-quality buildings and developments when it comes to one of their biggest investments in life.” Alfred is positive as he anticipates a strong resurgence in the real estate market. “Our plan is to focus all our energy and resources towards advancing Sobha Hartland, and all the projects within the master development, which is set for completion in 2025,” signs off Alfred.