International Hospitals Construction Company (IHCC), a member of the U.S.-Saudi Business Council, is one of the Middle East’s fastest growing turnkey solution providers, and one of its most innovative. Frequently ranked as one of the top 50 construction companies in the region, IHCC offers construction solutions, “high performance buildings” solutions, and other services to clients in various sectors across the MENA region. The Council recently spoke with Mr. Sultan Sobhi Batterjee, Chairman and CEO of IHCC, to learn more about the company’s scope of services, its roadmap to success, and what opportunities lie ahead for potential U.S. partners.
IHCC provides turnkey solutions for healthcare, education, and other mixed-use projects. What other sectors do you operate in and what are some of your most notable projects?
IHCC is a class (A) contractor that provides turnkey engineering and construction solutions for buildings, with an emphasis on social infrastructure including healthcare, education, mixed-use developments (including hospitality, residential, commercial, cultural, and entertainment), and other facilities requiring sophisticated structures and installations across the MENA region.
In addition to engineering and construction services, IHCC has become a leading player with a wide range of in-house services covering MEP (mechanical, engineering, and plumbing), finishing and fit-out, energy efficiency, sustainable building solutions, facilities management, and modular construction. The company’s experience and capabilities are provided through various schemes including EPC (engineering, procurement, and construction) contracts, public-private partnerships (PPP), and EPC financing solutions.
Our list of ongoing projects includes many unique projects in healthcare, residential, hospitality, industrial, and other facilities. Examples include medical cities in Makkah, Dammam, and Alexandria. The scope of work for each city includes hospitals, residential complexes, educational buildings, recreational facilities, commercial buildings, infrastructure, and utilities.
Do you operate exclusively in Saudi Arabia and do you have plans to expand outside of the Kingdom in the near future?
IHCC is a leading contracting company in the MENA Region with ongoing operations and regional offices in different countries. Regionally, the company has ongoing operations to execute three projects in the United Arab Emirates, two projects in Egypt, and one in Morocco. Within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, our business territories cover all parts of the country including the Central, Western, Eastern, Northern, and Southern regions. Our expansion plans support the government’s Vision 2030, whereby major Saudi contracting entities and local producers are encouraged to operate in foreign countries.
Greener, an IHCC company, recently partnered with Schneider Electric to help develop the Kingdom’s EV sector. What role will IHCC play within this partnership?
Greener by IHCC is our energy efficiency and sustainable building solutions arm. As one of IHCC’s business units, Greener has expanded its services to become a leader in the fields in which it operates. At present, Greener by IHCC provides consultancy services for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), WELL, energy auditing and sustainability solutions, and retrofitting execution projects. Greener has also become a major player in providing total and customized energy efficiency and sustainability solutions to its clients including diagnosis, auditing, consultancy, design, execution, and monitoring services. Additionally, Greener’s services include design, installation, testing, and commissioning of Solar PV for building complexes and facilities. The partnership between Greener by IHCC and Schneider Electric has helped position it as the leading solutions provider in the e-mobility and EV sectors.
Construction Week recently ranked IHCC as the 7th top construction firm in the Kingdom, up seven spots from its 2020 ranking. What do you believe led to this jump, and how does IHCC plan to continue its momentum to the top of the rankings?
As a leading design and build contractor operating since the 1980s, we have gained the necessary experience and knowledge of how to act in full agility during fluctuations, challenges, and uncertainties in the construction industry. With our experience successfully delivering projects under these conditions over the past few decades, we have positioned ourselves as pioneers in providing design and build services.
We have now identified the gap in the market in terms of integrated contracting solutions and realized that a change is required. Therefore, we transformed our business model from being a design and build contractor to being a leader in providing “High Performance Buildings” solutions. As a result of this transition, we are able to provide total solutions for delivering buildings that are integrated and optimized on a life cycle basis by monitoring all major high performance attributes including energy conservation, environment, sustainability, safety, security, durability, accessibility, cost-benefit, and productivity.
Therefore, and in order to maintain our leadership position in this field and to keep our steady growth, we have enhanced our internal digitization processes and tools to ensure all services are well connected and delivered to our clients’ expectations. Through capitalizing on our in-house capabilities of the design, construction, energy efficiency, sustainability, MEP, fit-outs, and facilities management, our strategy is to keep up our growth and maintain our position as a leading solution provider of “High Performance Buildings.”
IHCC developed its BMS+ solution to maximize building performance. Could you speak more to this concept?
By understanding the region’s regulatory environment and offering end-to-end expertise that is best suited for the market’s unique requirements, we continuously develop solutions to improve our business and services.
While implementing the latest technologies in providing our services, we have developed solutions that support the integration and “High Performance Buildings” concept by creating a new concept from the Building Management System (BMS) named BMS+ for maximizing buildings performance. As a result, proactive measures can be taken to keep buildings and facilities more sustainable, cost efficient, reliable, healthy, and safe through monitoring building energy, water, air, maintenance, sustainability, people, solar, occupancy, and security.
This concept will have a great impact on the performance of facilities management services, building operational expenses, and facility life cycle.
How has IHCC responded/adapted to the challenges in the Kingdom’s construction sector brought on by the pandemic?
The pandemic has affected multiple industries and people at different levels, including the construction sector. However, we have utilized that period to re-align ourselves internally and transformed the issues brought on by the pandemic into opportunities by developing the CP3 Exercise and Digital Transportation initiatives.
The CP3 (Corona Projects Portfolio Planning) exercise was implemented by revisiting our projects’ progress with a thorough analysis of our projects and processes. Accordingly, we reshaped ourselves to the future and transformed the CP3 into a permanent EP3MO (Enterprise Projects Portfolio Planning & Management Office) to manage our operations through dashboards and command control centers.
Hence, we identified the necessary fields to tap into and developed a 10-year strategy: establishing new business units, expanding current business units to match our 2030 strategy, and creating an integrated cycle between our services and business units to align with this new approach.
The Digital Transformation initiative was also an important response and adaptation to the pandemic. We realized the need to invest in building-centric technologies, while many others invested in the front-end of the technology. Through this service, we now ensure that buildings are integrated through command centers and technological software that are connected to our clients’ software.
Saudi Arabia has remained committed to the expansion of its healthcare and education sectors. How is IHCC capitalizing on this growth? What current and future opportunities exist for potential U.S. partners within these sectors?
The Kingdom is now moving forward with Vision 2030, including its Quality of Life program, and is covering the anticipated increase in demand within the building sector. Because the majority of the Saudi demographic is young, and the general population continues to grow, the demand for building social infrastructure such as healthcare facilities, schools, and universities will increase.
During the pandemic, people realized the value of healthcare and the availability of wellbeing services as well as the technologies required for education. As one of the largest healthcare and educational groups in the Middle East, we felt that it was our responsibility to cope with the increased demand due to the pandemic in Saudi Arabia and MENA region. As an example, we are currently working on designing and constructing more than 15 relevant contracts in the Kingdom and other MENA countries that include new hospitals, educational buildings, and medical cities as well as expanding existing hospitals.
We have also realized that the private sector and the government are collaborating to address the increased demand for hospitals and other social infrastructure projects through PPP schemes. This has led us to incorporate PPPs as part of our strategy to adapt to the market’s needs. An example of this is a project we are bidding on which utilizes the PPP approach: the Saudi healthcare sector’s first green field hospital for the Ministry of Health, Al Ansar Hospital in Madinah. Moreover, we are looking forward to working with leading international players on offering more valuable services and introducing new and innovative services to the country at various levels.
IHCC participated in the USSBC’s first virtual trade mission and spoke to a number of U.S. companies. What takeaways did IHCC have from this trade mission, and what opportunities opened up for IHCC from these conversations?
As a leading Saudi company with diversified business interests, IHCC was pleased to be a part of the successful virtual business development trade mission organized by the USSBC. The successful event translated into very productive virtual meetings for IHCC with various U.S. companies in different disciplines and has set a solid basis for long-term business collaborations in the Saudi market. Various opportunities have been discussed with potential partners in different fields, including healthcare services, design and engineering, energy efficiency, construction technologies, and many others. We will continue our business collaboration with the U.S. companies we met and look forward to other USSBC business events in the near future.