TRADITIONAL & MODERN SOUQ PRACTICES
By Megha S Anthony
Come 3.30 pm, following the Asr Prayers, Souq Al Jubail (SQAJ) comes alive with a traditional fish auction held every day under the dome in the main building entrance, where fishermen display their fresh catch for sale to its buyers with the bright colours of the fresh produce adorning the auction arena against the backdrop of the market’s traditional architecture. If one has ever visited SQAJ, located in the Emirate of Sharjah, then you would know that there’s certainly more to this Souq than fish, meat, fruits and vegetables. Creating a perfect balance between the traditional and modern practices, the property has certainly set high standards when it comes to Souqs.
As part of Sharjah Asset Management Holding (SAMH) portfolio of developments, SQAJ was opened in December 2015 and is managed by a dedicated SQAJ management operations team strongly supported by their service provider SANED FM –a Joint Venture between SAMH and multi award winning International FM firm Apelona (formerly known as Bilfinger Facility Man agement and Building Services) who deliver world class total facilities management services.
Under the vision of HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah - SQAJ comprises three dedicated sections for fresh fish, meat, and fruits and vegetables within the building. Having opened in December 2015, one of the most striking features that keep attracting people to return is the cleanliness’s of the Souq.
Along with their stakeholders, the SQAJ operation team keenly supported by SANED FM ensures that the Souq is meticulously maintained from hard to soft services, SANED FM works very closely with SQAJ operations team to ensure the highest quality output and meeting the stringent key performance indicators set by SQAJ management. Speaking to FM today about the scope of services, Saeed Al Suwaidi, Section Head- Facility Management, SAMH outlined that, “Being a fresh produce Souq means there is opportunity for the building areas to become dirtied by the constant movement of produce being delivered combined by the constant movement of our tenants, customers and tourists throughout the day and night. Cleanliness and hygiene standards are critical to us in such a public domain and together with our client SAMH and its stakeholders we seek to achieve an optimum level in our standards including the safety of our customers and tenants.”
While cleaning is a continual process at the Souq, during busy days such as Fridays or during special events when the frequency of visitation increases significantly there is a need to provide more attention to the Souq. Consequently a strong focus is required to the high traffic areas such as the fish cleaning zones and walkways. “The complex design is such that it is lined with grills to ensure proper disposal of all mopped material, the drainage systems have also been installed across the market and all the traders have been equipped with cleaning and cutting tools by the operational team,” adds Al Suwaidi. Every two months, the Souq also undergoes a deep cleaning and pest control during off peak evenings.
The Souq has also adopted many innovative technologies that aids in better maintenance and in-turn conserves the building’s energy. Sultan Al Ketbi, Chief Operating Officer for SANED, explains, “That the periodic preventive maintenance programmes are critical to maintain the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and air-quality equipment installed in the Souq. A case in point is the special attention paid to the chilled water systems which regulate the indoor climate for their tenants, the health of their produce, customers and tourists. “These carrier chillers are controlled by zones throughout the Souq’s via a sophisticated Building Management System (BMS) customised and managed by SANED. We also use operation timings to optimize the equipment in use. For instance, we switch off the fresh air at night as it is unnecessary and allows us to conserve energy and undertake our maintenance programmes. We also typically start fresh air handling in the building between 2 pm and 6 pm because that’s the fish auction operation timing, but after this time we do not require 100 percent fresh air and thereafter we regulate the climate. This allows us to also minimize the exchange of humidity and heat, especially in the summer.”
This method also aids in the odour control management. “We usually turn the ventilation to 100 percent fresh air, especially during the fish auction timings, which assists to disperse the odour. This practice has worked well and we have had many customers providing positive feedback on how the Souq really doesn’t smell like other fish markets,” explains Al Ketbi.
When it comes to waste management, SQAJ has imbibed a culture of raising awareness among the tenants. “We have instigated a detailed waste control procedure throughout the Souq which both SANED and our tenants adhere to said Al Suwaidi. We also ensure that waste is segregated at the collect point to ensure the optimization of our on site storage and assist in the later distribution and reuse of the waste in particular organic. We have several compaction centers outside the Souq and at the end of the day, it is segregated into four types of waste: Organic fish waste, Vegetables and Fruit and Meat waste. This provides a hygienic and sustainable way of maintaining the cleanliness of the Souq and the waste ,” says Al Suwaidi. Suwaidi goes on to add that the SQAJ plans soon to implement a lighting control system that will aid in conserving more energy in the Souq.
Health and Safety Initiatives
Being a fresh produce Souq it is of utmost importance that regard is given to the health and safety of its users. Vendors are strictly instructed to ensure that their products are cleaned before it enters the Souq so that the stalls are hygienic. Refrigerators are provided in all the stalls to help the produce last longer. Regular inspections are conducted at the meat and fish section by the Municipality to ensure that the quality of meat and fish is maintained. “We use all food safe products while cleaning those areas and we change the ice every day in the fish area so that they remain fresh,” says Al Suwaidi.
Customer feedback is critical and the management listens. “The image of Souq Al Jubail is of key importance as it is the word of mouth that people will hear about this place and pay a visit,” says Al Suwaidi. SQAJ operation team is also planning on expanding the food and beverages on offer including cafes and play area for children in the coming year, which SANED will support in its delivery.