Solaiman Abdullah Elkhereiji Consultants (SAK Consult) is a 40-year-old Architecture and Engineering Consultancy firm Head Quartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with branch offices in Riyadh, Madinah, Dammam, Cairo, Istanbul, Beijing, Seoul, Milano and London. Their multi-disciplinary firm provides a complete spectrum of services essential in the field of Architectural and Engineering Design consultancy, Construction Site Supervision and Project Management. SAK Consult is prequalified with various Private and Government Organizations. Their philosophy is to act locally to benefit the communities they serve and by taking this approach, their programme is adjusted to have maximum impact and adapted to suit the environment it sits within.
Abdullah S. Elkhereiji graduated from California State University Long Beach, USA. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture as well as in Construction Engineering Management. He has completed his MBA from Paperdine University in California, USA, majoring in Global Business Management. He is a Member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), American Institute Contractor (AIC), Saudi Council of Engineers (SCE).
He joined the Elkhereiji Group as a Site Architect soon after graduation and later worked as a Procurement Manager. In 2008, he became the Board Member of Elkhereiji Group of Companies and in 2011, he was assigned the role of Business Development Director for SAK Group of Companies, and in 2016 he became the CEO of SAK Group of Companies. His main areas of expertise are Business Intelligence, Client Relationship Management, assessing Sustainable growth opportunities, Financial Forecasting and Budgeting. He is highly recognized for delivering the very highest quality of work to clients, and producing world-class intellectual strategies and solutions for the SAK Group of companies. He is openminded and thoughtful with a deft nature, ensuring strategic delivery of projects from inception to completion; whilst developing the practice’s approach to project delivery through innovative and sustainable design solutions.
Below, Abdullah S. Elkhereiji discusses what brought him to his career, the role that technology plays in architecture, and how SAK Consult conducts its successful business.
What inspired you to pursue a career in architecture?
I have followed the footsteps of my father, Arch. Solaiman A. Elkhereiji. His lifetime achievement as an architect was a true inspiration to pursue a career in the field of architecture, which I have been influenced by from a very young age, and I have grown to love it. He has been a mentor to me since childhood with his passion for Islamic architecture, poetry and calligraphy.
Tell us a bit about SAK Consult’s mission, values and business model?
SAK Consult’s mission is to design innovative, sustainable, functional and economically built environments by introducing interactive design experiences to our clients and enhancing safety and comfort in people’s lives, while incorporating the local culture and contributing to the local community and our natural environment. Our business model is based on the essence of our employees and the company’s identity, its principles, beliefs and philosophy of reflecting our core values, which in turn supports our vision and mission. At SAK Consult, we believe in the direct impact of volunteering our time to benefit local causes.
What role does tradition play in SAK Consult’s projects?
The architecture and the character of our towns and cities are part of our inherited culture. Tradition is renewed but slightly altered by additions like steps through time, which is how change is normally affected, not by grand schemes that break the tradition like contemporary architecture, which may not fit into their surroundings. Tradition plays an important role in our projects. The layout of plans are mostly influenced by its function based on the local culture and tradition. We make every effort to incorporate the traditional facades in a modern and contemporary style into the aesthetics of the buildings. The use of traditional style buildings maintains the town’s core identity and gives local people a definite sense of belonging and well-being.
How has technology changed the architecture sector and SAK Consult’s services in recent years?
Cutting edge technology in architecture and design are often great measuring sticks for the state of technology. Architecture and technology have always intersected at perilous crossroads. In a very real sense, architecture and design are applied sciences that utilize research and development in technology to propel their work to new heights, presenting buildings and products that are not only more interesting, but more responsible and useful as well. Everything we use on day to day basis is being affected by breakthroughs in technology.
At SAK Consult, it’s our responsibility to adapt the latest technology after thoroughly analysing its durability and efficiency, not only during design or construction, but also during the life span of the buildings during the operation phase. We have promoted smart building solutions to our clients using Building Automation and presented it to them using Virtual 3D animated walkthroughs. We have initiated awareness by educating our clients on the added value of introducing Sustainable materials and smart systems to our building designs.
SAK Consult’s mission is to design innovative, sustainable, functional and economically built environments by introducing interactive design experiences to our clients and enhancing safety and comfort in people’s lives
What incentives are in place to encourage foreign participation in the construction sector in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? What else needs to be done?
Our government has always encouraged and supported foreign participation in the construction sector by providing various subsidies and incentives. SAGIA was established a few years ago to support them. SAK Consult, since its inception, has collaborated with international strategic partners through Joint Venture Agreements. Foreign Embassies and consulates need to take a stronger initiative by arranging visits of delegations of various interested companies, from their respective countries through the Kingdom’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
What are the top three achievements since becoming the CEO of SAK Consult that you are most proud of?
1. Completing the World’s tallest flagpole project in Jeddah, being part of the World’s tallest building ‘Jeddah Tower’ Project, which is 1km tall and the Haramain High-Speed Railway Project which connects the Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
2. Winning Strategic Local and International Architecture and Engineering Awards, including the best Architecture and Engineering firm in GCC Award.
3. Winning LEED certification for the State of the Art Headquarter Building for SAK Consult to earn 100% of the US Green Building Council’s credits.
What does your role as a CEO encompass? What are your key responsibilities?
I am responsible for leading the development and execution of long-term strategies and ensuring that the company maintains high social responsibility wherever it does business, also to ensure that the organization’s leadership maintains constant awareness of both the external and internal competitive landscape, opportunities for expansion, customer base, markets, and new industry developments and standards. Additionally, creating a learning organization that will continue to grow and flourish and enhancing the skills and abilities of employees. My aim is to foster good internal working relationships and encourage our staff for further education, knowledge transfer to fresh graduates and to realize their own individual and collective potential. I am primarily responsible for ensuring that all projects run smoothly, guiding the team in the delivery of schemes that exceeds client’s aspirations.
What motivates you about your role?
We are seeing a high demand increase for affordable housing and better mixed-use integrated developments. The market in the region is maturing. Local developers and investors are picking and choosing the type of development based on location as well as the lifestyle offerings. End-user satisfaction has become a primary target in current market conditions. What motivates me the most is to face these challenges on a regular basis and accommodate the end user requirements in our designs by introducing innovative and sustainable solutions to our infrastructure and buildings.
Can you detail any exciting large-scale projects that SAK Consult is currently working on?
The Jeddah Development & Urban Regeneration Company (JDURC) Affordable Housing Project is a proposed suburban township 60kms north of Jeddah. JDURC initiated the Salman Bay Housing Project as part of the planned expansion of Jeddah. The area of the development covers approximately 3.2 million square metres. The project site was divided into three phases, and the scope of the scheme proposed an integrated, mixed-use development of 25,000-housing units in 1,250 residential buildings, 24 mosques, 14 schools, a hospital and two polyclinics, the Red Crescent station and a police station. JDURC commissioned SAK Consult for the design of individual apartment buildings and construction supervision services for all the apartment buildings and the related infrastructure. The apartment buildings are a typical prototype with ground floor parking and in some cases few retail shops on the ground floor and residential apartments on the upper four floors. The execution of the infrastructure is nearly completed and phase one of the apartment buildings are under construction.
What is your vision for the future of the company?
As an Architect, I have various responsibilities which require continuous contributions towards the Socio-Economic needs and development of our country, hence we are supporting and working with Saudi Vision 2030 in mind. In parallel, my Vision is to promote SAK Consult as a pioneering Innovative Architectural and Sustainable Engineering Consultancy firm in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East Region.
“At SAK Consult, it’s our responsibility to adapt the latest
technology after thoroughly analysing its durability and
efficiency, not only during design or construction, but also during
the life span of the buildings during the operation phase.”
SAK Supports Vision 2030 of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is blessed with many rich assets. Its geographic, cultural, social, demographic and economic advantages have enabled it to take a leading position in the world. SAK’s key goal is to support the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030 and help improve the knowledge, skills, competence and expertise of people in the industry of built environment; to help students & professionals across the region to grow their design talent & widen their knowledge base. SAK’s foundation is its team of expert professionals who convey the wealth of knowledge they have gained from strong international & local experience.
Our commitment to the Kingdom is not new, we have been operating in the kingdom since 1978 and our contribution to key development projects such as The Jeddah Tower Masterplan in Jeddah, the Tallest Flagpole in the World, ALJ – Toyota Prototype Showroom design for all over the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, JDURC Salman Bay Apartment Buildings design for affordable housing and Construction Supervision, Al Ra’idah Investment Company Complete Suburban City Development to accommodate 50,000 people for Jeddah Housing complex for 2.5 million sq. m., Emaar Economic City Rabigh design and construction supervision for various Industrial Developments, King Abdullah City for Science and Technology (KACST) Residential Master Plan and Building designs for 600 residential units, KACST Biomedical facility and KACST Solar farm and large scale project for Royal Guard facilities Master planning, Ewaan Alfareeda Community Centre, Mosque and Retail and various other sustainably designed projects is a step that reaffirms our commitment to the Kingdom, in alignment with Saudi Vision 2030’s directions. We view Saudi Vision 2030 as more than a national one; it is ours to deliver as well. We are part of the transformation process and proud to have been since the last 40 years that we have been in business within the Kingdom.
The steps we have taken to grow our business locally & globally, to embed a culture of innovation and collaboration both within SAK and with our clients, would simply not be possible without such a commitment. Our initiatives touch upon the key pillars within Saudi Vision 2030, focusing on transforming the nation into a global leader and geographic hub achieved through upscaling of local skills and capabilities. The access to different international experiences alongside our focus on Islamic design based on principles of sustainability has been the driving force behind SAK’s growth and we hope to keep building on this strong foundation in line with the Vision 2030.
What is your advice for other CEOs?
Understand your customer, do your research and build business intelligence. Don’t give up, be patient, have faith in what you do and say a big yes with a smile!