Mohammed Zaal on bringing the human element back to the real estate industry
“There is an absolute neglect of the human element when it comes to real estate,” says Mohammed Zaal. As the founder of the Dubai-based real estate company KOA that opinion is built half on frustration and half on opportunity.
“Developers tend to be so numbers-driven that, in general, they don’t think about the human beings who will be living and interacting in the spaces that they are creating.”
While real estate has always been the backbone of human society, for Zaal, today’s generational needs of real estate has changed. A more holistic understanding of the human connection between people and their surroundings is something that continues to shape the work he does in small-scale luxury projects including Dubai’s Al Barari development, and now KOA.
“I enjoy creating things that will fill a need in society,” he explains. “Our goal is to create something that is sustainable and blurs the lines between live-work-play, because that is something we believe fits the new generation’s requirements for real estate.”
For Zaal, the personal relationship between an individual and a building is something real estate in the region desperately needs and, more importantly, it is something that the current generation of people across the UAE are ready for.
"There is an absolute neglect of the human element when it comes to real estate. "
We sat down with Zaal as part of Esquire’s 10 for the next 10 issue. You can read the whole interview below.
ESQ: Tell us how your approach to real estate is different to a lot of the market..
I like to think that I do things a little against the grain. A few years ago I changed my perspective on real estate in Dubai and tried to create a more holistic approach to real estate development in general, to one that is more conscious of the environment around us.
I always look at real estate as something that is a backbone of society, something that requires a lot of thought into how we interact with buildings around us and the human element that they have.
What stands KOA apart?
As a development company, we always focus on small-scale projects that have more substance than others. As a team we try to create something that is sustainable and blur the lines between live-work-play, by trying to build something that fits the new generation’s requirements for real estate.
What excites you about the future of your industry?
There is a lot more flexibility and freedom in the region here. That allows us to experiment a bit more with fitting the needs of a new generation. The generational needs of real estate has changed and it is a very interesting time for us to create something new. Real Estate has been the backbone of the world’s economy forever, and this is a very interesting time for us to refocus on what real estate means to society.
What do you feel is the most pressing issue in your industry today?
The absolute neglect of the human element in real estate. Most of real estate is built by developers, and it is predominately a numbers-driven game, and generally people don’t think about the human beings who be living in the spaces, interacting with the spaces and even having feelings towards the space.
Do you feel that this region is ready for the changes you want to implement?
I think the region is in desperate need for this approach to real estate and we are definitely ready for it.
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
I enjoy creating things. I enjoy planning things that believe will fill a need I society that I believe is required. I enjoy seeing projects come to fruition.