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Polytechnic to be expanded

WORK on a massive BD100 million expansion of the Bahrain Polytechnic is expected to start in January 2012, it was revealed yesterday.

The development involves taking over and rebuilding the entire former Bahrain University campus at Isa Town - to cater for thousands more students.

It is backed by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Economic Board chairman, under the Bahrain's Economic Vision 2030 masterplan for the country's future.

Bahrain Polytechnic chief executive officer John Scott told the GDN yesterday that the expansion was vital to continue the remarkable growth of the institution, since its opening in September 2008.

"We are looking at an expected growth of five to seven thousand students over the next decade and land is already at a premium," he said during a Press conference at the campus.

The polytechnic currently has 931 students and expects this to increase to around 1,600 next semester.

"It has always been required by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Economic Development Board chairman, that the Bahrain Polytechnic be a state-of-the-art institution, so this is about the educational philosophy as much as the design," said Mr Scott.

"This institution exists for one reason, to educate the emerging young Bahrainis who will become the future leaders of this nation."

Currently, the institution occupies a small precinct within the 23 hectare university site.

Plans to take over, redesign and rebuild the whole sire follow almost a year's talks with the Works Ministry.

Initially, all the funding for the project will be provided by the government, although the polytechnic does have a brief to engage with industry and acquire income for various aspects of the development.

Initial investigations by the polytechnic revealed three options that any expansion could follow.

Either completely redevelop the current campus in Isa Town, renovate the existing buildings or build on an entirely new site in Sakhir, alongside Bahrain University.

Mr Scott also said that location and space were not the only concerns; with accessibility and transport; proximity to the city and industry leaders and a local community, which could engage with the polytechnic, all key to their decision to remain in Isa Town.

He said that the decision was made to demolish the campus' current buildings as the majority were aging and would be more costly to renovate.

"We presented all the proposals to the Crown Prince and he took a real interest in them, even coming to the same decision as us," said Mr Scott.

"After it became clear that redevelopment was the favoured option, we then examined how a phased-building plan would work, so that students attending the polytechnic during the reconstruction would not be disrupted.

"Central to this is building on the campus' extensive car parks, which we will compensate for by constructing multi-storey car parks."

Mr Scott said some of the ideas currently being explored included the construction of an 'iconic tower' near the main entrance of the polytechnic, which would link the institution's different departments.

In addition, the polytechnic is keen to remove the obtrusive walls that surround the campus and build parks, which Isa Town residents may also enjoy, he added.

Plans are currently only in the 'masterplan and concept design' stage, which means no formal designs have yet been examined or approved.

This stage of design is expected to take around 26 weeks to complete and will be handled by international architecture firm Aedas, which was appointed on January 11, in a deal worth BD300,581.

Aedas will make up part of a team which will also include construction advisory firm Mohamed Salahuddin Consulting Engineering Bureau and global construction consultants Davis Langdon.

Works Ministry representative Ghazi Saleh explained that the decision to grant Aedas the contract followed communication with 10 different architecture firms and consideration of four separate bids.

Mr Saleh stressed that the estimated figure of BD100m for the entire scheme was subject to change and, in the grand scheme of things, was quite small for a project this size.

He also dismissed the suggestion that the money would be better spent on addressing more pressing issues elsewhere.

"BD100m for a long-term development is not a lot," he told the GDN.

"For example, the Khalifa bin Salman Port's total cost was somewhere around BD170m and took almost 14 years of development.

"Education facilities along with health are all part of Bahrain's Economic Vision 2030 and it is a long-term investment in the country's future.

"There may not be any immediate return, but if you look at infrastructure such as roads and sewage treatment, there are no returns from these, but they are still incredibly important."

The Press conference followed an awards ceremony in which Mr Scott presented plaques and scrolls to leading media officials and journalists. danm@gdn.com.bh



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