The project environment

The Project Environment

The project Environment should be considered as the important aspect. When building a mosque special care should be taken in the environment or surrounding of the site of the project. First of all the surrounding area should be quite as a required by any religious place. When the site was selected there were people who looked for any possibility of various type of natural disaster. Another important point that was kept in mind for the construction of the mosque was that it should be well connected to the city so that many people can visit the mosque easily.

The project analysis can be properly done by pestel analysis.

  • The political environment for the sheikh zayed mosque was not problematic as it was built by and for the first president of United Arab Emirates who was considered as the father of nation. So it is under the control of the UAE government for the construction of the mosque.
  • The economical factor was not of such big concern as UAE has a surplus economy so it can consider making a magnificent mosque for the people of the country. The cost of building is around $545 million.
  • The technology u was not very helpful in the initial stages of the project as there were no good softwares' available at that time but later it greatly helped in the construction. The main aim of the project was to create a natural environment so they took advantage of thermal mass of the sheikh zayed mosque and reduced the need of air conditioning. They used natural ventilation.

Stakeholders and their power and influence

The mosque was made in the memory of the late and the first president of the UAE was buried at the mosque site after his death on November 3, 2004. So we can easily imply that the main stakeholders in the project were the government and the public works Department of Abu Dhabi. The main financer of this project was HighnessSheikh ZayedBin Sultan Al Nahyan himself to whom the mosque was built for. The first president was very popular among the people of the UAE; he himself was responsible for the creation of the seven Emirates states in UAE. His main objective was to develop the country and to make the life of the people more comfortable, since he saw the suffering of the people many times.

Other stakeholders of the construction of the mosque were the hired contractors, consultant Engineers, designer and the construction workers. The detailed information about each of them is given in the below paragraph.

  • Designer: Yusef Abdelki (Yousef Abdelky), a Syrian architect. He is known to be a very famous architect and due to good work he was considered as the main designer of this project.
  • Consulting Engineers:
    1. Tractabel Al Khaleej of Belgium from April 1997 to September 2002.
    2. Halcrow Group for the latter part of the project.
  • Project Manager: Hill International (USA) was the project manager for the latter part of the construction that is from October 2001 till the completion of the project.
  • Main contractor:
    1. The Joint Venture among Impreglio & Rizzani de Eccher of Italy from April 1997 to September 2002.
    2. Joint Venture between Six Construct Company and Arabian Construction Company (ACC) for the latter part of the project
  • Project Director: Khoulah Al Sulaimani for the latter part of the project.

The construction workers also played an important role in the construction of the mosque. More than 3,000 workers and more than 38 renowned contracting companies were there to help in the construction of the Mosque.

The project life cycle

The project Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque was considered much before than it was constructed. The first consideration to build the Mosque was first considered in the late 1980s and in the initial stage much of the emphasis was given to its location and its design over the next decade or so. The preliminary architectural design was agreed upon and then the inaugural cornerstone was laid in the late 1990s.

The construction began in the late 1900s and it seemed to stagnate after the initial work, the main reason was that the there was rumors about the money running out and also due to the disagreement between the hired contractors and the Public Works Department of Abu Dhabi.

Much of time was given in the planning of the Mosque. The design and planning part nearly took half of the time that was taken to build the mosque. The main was divided into two phases:

  1. Phase 1: Civil Works and Structure
  2. The design and tender was given in the period from 1990-1996 which is quite high as compared to other projects. The main part of the project was considered to this part that is why so much time was spending on this project. The construction began as soon as the tender and design part was over, the construction began from 1996-2001. The work was done at a steady pace and the all the planned work was completed in this time span.

  3. Phase 2: Exterior Cladding and Interior Finishing

This was another import aspect of the project. The design and tender was given in the period from 2002-2008. And the execution of this work as soon as the design and planning was being completed thus it took the same time that is from 2002-2008.

The main contractor Halcrow took over the construction management in October 2001 and the other main part that is concrete shell of the mosque was nearly completed by May 2002. Most of the work was finished in the given time period but finally, in August 2007, the mosque's work was all completed. And in 2008 the mosque was finally opened for all Muslim and non-Muslim people.

Project risk

During the construction of the mosque there were many risks that were faced by the construction workers, the contractors and other people that were involved in the project.

In the first stages of the work there was a rumour that money was running out, so this type of risk can be easily seen during construction of such big project. Also due to the magnitude of the project there was constant disagreement between contractors and Public works department.

First of all there was the huge risk factor that was the cost of the construction of the project may exceed the estimated value. So many people were initially in doubt about project. Some even considered to a dream to do so. But somehow due to effort of some people the dream had come true.

Another risk was that the estimated project time was felt to be less. They thought during this time was not considerable enough for the completion of the project. This was mainly agreed because of the unsuitable climate that was inappropriate for the people working on the project. One another argument that supported this point was that much of time was spend on the planning and design of the mosque; it nearly took them nearly 5-7 years to do so. So they thought that it would take another 10-15 for the completion of the project. So the proposed time that was given for the completion of the project was to be 2010.

One of the other risks that were involved in the construction of the mosque was that, since that mosque was huge so there was a constant threat to the life of the construction workers that were working at some considerable height.

Planning, Scheduling and Managing Resources:

Any project's life cycle includes a few critical steps which are the setting up of objectives and defining the goals. The project needs planning which focuses on each and every, however small, part of the whole project. The best way to plan is to divide the project into several stages. This helps in concurrent scheduling and management of these stages effectively.

The Sheikh Zayed Mosque project was launched in the year 1998 and was completed in the November 2009. Such a timeline of 11 years was clearly and effectively partitioned so as to ensure the magnificence of the Structure.

Schedules are central to project planning. There are quite a few project scheduling techniques present such as Gantt charts, Network diagrams, Critical Path Method (CPM), Project Evaluation Review Techniques (PERT), Graphical Evaluation and Review Technique (GERT) etc. The construction of the Mosque started in the late 1990's. Initially the work went swiftly but later it started to stagnate due to many reasons. The possible reasons were lack of money or disagreement between various government officials. But then the problem was sorted out and construction began. This led to the delay in the timelines. This in a way led to Crashing, which is the process of reducing time spans on critical path activities so that the project can be completed in less time. Usually this incurs extra cost as you are using extra resources, for example working overtime, employing extra people, sub-contracting etc.

After this initial delay the work was given to the British infrastructure company, Halcrow. In 2001, Halcrow was given the role of construction supervisor for the project's development which was divided into two phases.

The first phase in which the structural shell was built with the help of the Italian contractor, Impregilo.

In its phase II, Halcrow acted as project consultant up to the building's completion.

The project finally finished in Sep/Oct 2007. The basic resource leveling was done by the team from Halcrow. The aim is to organize the project so as to avoid extreme peaks in using resources (men, machines etc).

Managing the iron triangle

For any project to be successful it must ensure that these three conditions are satisfied:

  • Time
  • Cost
  • Quality

This is called the Iron Triangle.

So it is very important to manage all three aspects of this. Now in the case of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque project, all the three vertices of the triangle were disturbed at a time. But later these were managed efficiently and thus the project became a success. In start the project was delayed due to lack of money or some bad bureaucratic decisions. This led to the stagnant progress of the project in its initial days. Then as the contact was given to the British firm Halcrow, it brought greater stability and efficient planning in the system. The initial end date of the project was estimated September 2009 and even after the initial delay, the project was completed by Sep/Oct 2009. This shows efficiency and a knack for output.

The budget was initially estimated to AED 1.5 billion but it exceeded to AED 2.1 billion. This is basically due to the phenomenon of crashing, which is the process of reducing time spans on critical path activities so that the project can be completed in less time. Usually this incurs extra cost as you are using extra resources, for example working overtime, employing extra people, sub-contracting etc.

Leadership, Teamwork, Commitment

Being a project manager is not a piece of cake. One is on the edge throughout the project. The task of a project manager is varied. A project manager must manage themselves and their workload.

This involves working with project teams - temporary and often complexity due to structure and culture, working with different delegations, co-ordination rather than control, avoiding or refusing excessive demands, dealing only with the most important activities, avoid micro-management, avoid the "ostrich" or rather facing problems as they come, maintain a positive attitude and enthusiasm and above all being fair. So one must need highly focussed individuals with only a single goal in their mind.

Initially in the project the Designer was Yusef Abdelki (Yousef Abdelky) who is a Syrian architect, whereas the Consulting Engineer was Tractabel Al Khaleej of Belgium. When the contract was changed and given to the Halcrow group, the project manager was the Hill International group of USA. This group has highly qualified and proficient managers who are themselves very motivated. The Consulting engineers were from the Halcrow group. They had an insight and stick to timelines. The plans made were very well executed. It was decided to complete the work in two phases, and was seen that the work finished in the given time with a little more budget. The team was culturally and ethnically very varied. People valued each other's ideas. This is what is seen in the perfection and the grandeur of the Mosque. In Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the Tuckman's model was adopted for team development. It basically consisted of four steps Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

Leadership rather than management is seen as one of the keys to a high performance organisation. The site management team was the main channel which streamlined communication between the client, the corresponding project manager and the project contractor, which results in greater understanding and increased engagement.

Learning from the project

Working on a project which is as big as the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque project is a delight for any project manager because it gives you the type of experience and exposure which one could only dream of. The project has its ups and down. Firstly the project was stuck due to the lack of money and a few more issues. This inculcated patience and the ability to tackle projects. Then the work was given to a British firm. This included working under leaders and managers from different cultural backgrounds and beliefs. Inspiring them to work was a difficult yet earning task. A lot of innovativeness and a knack for thinking and implementing new ideas became a habit. We utilized a hands-on approach for doing most of the work which provided us with in-depth understanding of all the major areas. We also utilized various modes of communication between the peers including translators and interpreters. Assessment is equivalent with instruction, i.e; it is basically performance-based. Projects are a good means to promote meaningful learning, connecting new learning to the employees, accessing past performances. We also learnt to utilize the real time data and also to investigate and draw conclusions

The learning process is valued as well as the learning project. Our learning cut across curricular areas and was vey multidisciplinary in nature.


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  2. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al, Abu Dhabhi Retrieved on May 26, 2009 from
  3. Sheikh Zayed Mosque to be open in Ramadan ,Khaleejtimes official site Retrieved on May 26, 2009 from
  4. Hill International ,Success drivers for project management
  5. Awe inspiring: Abu Dhabi's Grand Mosque, Retrieved on May 26, 2009 from's-grand-mosque/3138540.article

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