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Kazakhstan’s Most Prestigious Project: $3.3bn Expo 2017

23 Jan 2017 5:02 PM | Anonymous, 19.01.2017

Accounting for nearly 20% of Kazakhstan’s GDP and 60% of total export earnings, crude oil prices are remaining stubbornly low. Few will disagree that it has taken a toll on Kazakhstan’s construction activities, as well as those of other Caspian countries. Work on the International Exposition, more popularly known as Expo 2017, is progressing in full swing  in  the  capital  city  of  Astana.  More  than  100  countries  and  over  20  major  international organizations are expected to participate in the event, which will be held from July to September 2017. It is estimated that the Expo will attract approximately 3 million visitors to the pavilions and the exhibition.

Kazakhstan – Emerging Nation

Expo 2017 is at the heart of Kazakhstan’s drive to showcase itself as an emerging nation in Central Asia, on the back of its huge hydrocarbon wealth. “There is absolutely no doubt that the mega event will put Kazakhstan in a different league,” said Serdar Gucar, managing director of Turkey and CIS for Hill International. “This is an internationally important project. Despite the low oil prices that resulted in governmental budget cuts, funding for the project is still being maintained.” Hill International has been playing a major role in the ongoing development that is estimated to have a price tag of $3.3 billion. Working closely with the main contractor, Sembol Corp, Hill has been assigned as the project manager for the core components of the Expo compound, including iconic buildings like the sphere.

The Astana Expo City 2017 is primarily divided into two phases:

Phase 1 – Expo Mode

Expo  Mode  entails  the  construction  of  the  exposition  buildings.  This  includes  the  central Kazakhstan pavilion, theme, corporate and international pavilions, as well as the hotel, retail, art and performance areas.  It will also include the construction of a series of buildings that will act as a “covered city”. They will provide residential, retail and office spaces. Phase 1 will primarily serve the Expo and it’s visitors, keeping in mind the theme of the expo, “Future Energy”. The buildings are also being constructed to take advantage of their site location. “Everything  in  the  residential  development,  from  the  street  grid  rotation,  the  block  size  and  the distribution  of  building  mass,  was  developed  through  a  series  of  studies  to  reduce  energy  use, improve comfort levels for indoors and outdoors and increase energy harvesting for each unit,” said the website of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, the design consultant for Expo.

Phase 2 – Legacy Mode

The second phase is for buildings that will be converted into an office and research park, attracting international companies and entrepreneurs. The Expo parking and service zones will be converted into integrated neighbourhoods. There will also  be an  additional 700 residential units, as well as offices, hotels, local markets and civic and educational institutions. “The sphere, which contains 12,000 tons of steel, is by itself an innovation. The curved facade is made  in  Italy,  and  the  sphere  includes  solar  photovoltaic  panels,”  Gucar  said.  He  noted  that  the whole project came with it’s share of challenges that are being tackled. “The facilities being built are extremely complex, and special construction techniques are required. Also, the severe winter and the tight time schedule were other challenges.” The 800kg panes of glass for the sphere, for instance, required speciality lifting equipment to be put in place.

Kazakhstan’s Most Prestigious Project

New building regulations that combined the old Soviet styles with modern Western standards were also a challenge. Typically for a project like the Expo 2017, it involves multi-national contractors, architects and design consultants. Co-ordination is also difficult, Gucar says – approximately 250 local companies are at work on the site.  Hill International is on track to commission the project in June.  “It  will  be  a  great  accomplishment  for  us.  Expo  2017  is  the  most  prestigious  project  of Kazakhstan, and it was awarded to us,” he said. Hill’s  success  through  Expo  2017  will  open  the  doors  for  the  company  to  pursue  other  major opportunities in Western Europe. Evidence of that is already in hand, with the company providing project  and  construction  management  services  for  the  St  Regis  Hotel  and  Residences  project  in Astana.  They  will  provide  the  120-room  luxury  upscale  hotel,  complemented  by  restaurants,  a signature  spa  and  winter  garden.  The  project  will  also  include  the  construction  of  50  St  Regis-branded residences, with a significant volume of commercial, retail and office space. The hotel and residences project will be the first of its kind in Astana. The launch has been timed to coincide with Expo 2017. “For Hill, our work to build the major facilities for Expo 2017 will be a great reference,” Gucar said.