Thousands of piles dot the Middle Eastern desert, spreading out in a T-shaped formation. They are the foundations of what will become a 700,000- square-meter airport terminal—and one of the foundations of Abu Dhabi’s ambitious 21st-Century infrastructure plan. The emirate’s long-term goal, to become a top destination for world trade and a cultural crossroads for the East and West—is getting an upgrade. The project now includes green-building and sustainability goals, as well as a growing number of western engineers and consultants brought in to help manage the $2.5-billion Abu Dhabi International Airport expansion and a slew of other projects.
“There is a vibrant market here,” says James Bennett, chief executive officer with the Abu Dhabi Airports Co. (ADAC), the authority overseeing the project. He arrived in Abu Dhabi a year ago from Washington, D.C., where he oversaw the $3-billion expansion of Dulles Airport. “The [U.A.E.] region is experiencing phenomenal growth,” he says. Bennett would know. The veteran builder has watched a steady stream of his American colleagues join the effort—more than 50 at last count on a 200-member team. The imported expertise “speaks to the international nature of the aviation business,” he says.