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Saturday, April 14, 2012
From Print Edition
 
 

 

ISLAMABAD: The United States embassy in Islamabad Friday launched construction work on its new eight-storey multipurpose compound spread over 43 acres of land in the federal capital, sources confirm.

 

“The work has been started. The construction machinery has already landed there at the site,” US embassy spokesperson Mark Stroh told APP.The Capital Development Authority (CDA) had approved the layout plan of the new embassy complex in mid-November, giving the go-ahead for construction work to begin.

 

Once completed, the new US embassy compound will be one of the biggest in the world, a senior CDA official said.The layout plan was approved during a meeting of the Design Vetting Committee chaired by Tahir Shamshad. Under the plan, the existing US embassy will be demolished in phases as the new building is constructed. Interestingly, under the newly approved Floor Area Ratio (FAR) the CDA has allowed construction over an area of 1.73 million square feet while the allowable FAR area is 5.627 square feet.

 

The new compound is expected to be equipped with the latest technology and solar heating system, and the project also consists of a sewage treatment plant as well as a water treatment facility.

 

The contract for the construction of the compound has been awarded to BL Harbert International of Birmingham, Alabama on a design-and-build basis, while the design partner of the BLHI is the architectural engineering firm of Page Southerland Page of Arlington, Virginia.

 

The project comprises of two phases and will be completed by June 2017. According to a fact-sheet issued by the US embassy on the project, the new compound will replace all existing facilities and infrastructure on the current embassy ground.

 

The new US embassy will maintain all operations throughout the six-year period during which the project will be executed.“The NEC will provide an attractive, functional and secure facility for embassy employees and for US, Pakistani and third country citizens who use embassy services including visa applicants,” the fact-sheet states.

 

Furthermore, the two-phased construction program will also provide construction-related jobs to thousands of Pakistani workers.On the embassy’s request, the CDA has also allowed for a road to link the embassy with the Kashmir Highway; however the construction cost is expected to be borne by the beneficiary.

 

Regarding the height of the compound, an embassy spokesman said that they had yet to receive any objection on the height of the project; earlier this week, security agencies had expressed apprehension that surveillance devices installed in the compound may be used to observe activities in nearby high profile buildings on Constitution Avenue.

 

“The CDA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already given [the] go-head to us for the project. No one has ever approached us in this regard,” Stroh maintained.

 

Following objections raised by security agencies, the CDA was confused as to how it should deal with the issue since the embassy could drag the body to the International Court of Justice if the CDA called for reducing the height of the compound after having already given their approval.

 

According to the spokesman, the CDA is also planning to construct a ìMedia Cityî just opposite the under-construction US embassy that will comprise of two ten-storey towers to house print and electronic media organisations. Moreover, a 25-storey Grand Hyatt Hotel is also under-construction near the Convention Centre.