Gudissa Legesse (right), chief executive officer (CEO) of Awash Insurance, Tabor Wami (left), former board chairperson, and Tsehaye Shiferaw (centre), president of Awash Bank, during the design award ceremony at Elilly Hotel last week.

Awash Insurance has begun a process to erect a 30-storey headquarters in Addis Abeba's fast-growing financial district with a selection of architectural designs.

The headquarters is to sprawl on 3,870sqm of land in Senga Tera, Lideta District. It will serve as a corporate office when completed, incorporating five basements. Construction is projected to cost three billion Birr. However, the projected cost may escalate with the rapid price hikes observed in the construction materials and inputs market. Non-food inflation registered at 22.9pc last month, according to the Ethiopian Statistics Service. Retail prices for a quintal of cement hit 1,000 Br last week.

A growing workforce led the insurance firm to decide to finance a new headquarters, disclosed Gudissa Legesse, chief executive officer (CEO) of Awash Insurance. The insurer has been sharing an 18-storey twin-tower in the financial district with Awash Bank for the past 12 years. Over 200 employees work at its head office, which also houses its main branch. The 25-year-old Awash Insurance operates through 51 branches and eight contact offices.

Developed by S7 Architects & Engineers, a local firm in business for 16 years, the design was chosen from 13 submitted for a contest. Gudissa announced the decision last week at Elilly Hotel, in the Kazanchis area. Twenty-one architecture firms responded to Awash Insurance's call for the design competition. A jury of five reviewed the submission for a month and selected six finalists before putting the final decision down to a vote.

"The selection process was fair," said Adugna Degefa, a member of the jury and an architect and urban planner with 30 years of experience.

The evaluation and selection method used was quality-based selection (QBS). It contrasts the price-based selection methodology most often employed in Ethiopia while evaluating an architectural design. It entailed selecting an architectural design and developing the final design and engineering works, including cost estimates and preparing bid documents for construction, contract administration, and on-site supervision.

Although cost is an important consideration, experts say it is only one of many measures.

Haben Abraha, a construction engineer with over a decade of experience, believes quality-based evaluation and selection methods allow for a transparent process and ensure that no undue influences have occurred in the selection process.

“However, quality-based selection methods might escalate the construction cost if the materials are expensive and elegant,” warns the expert.

For a company with 754.9 million Br in paid-up capital, Awash Insurance considered the design's structural, economic, and aesthetic value. Health and environmental safety issues matter when making the decision, according to Wondemagegne Zewdu, the building project manager.

The selected firm will negotiate with Awash Insurance executives before signing a contract.

“The company will negotiate with the selected company to proceed with the second phase,” said Wondemagegne. “If we can't agree, we'll work it out with the others.”

Designs submitted by MAE Consulting Architects & Engineers and JDAW Architects & Consultants were ranked second and third. JDAW designed Zemen Bank's 32-storey headquarters on Ras Abebe Aregay Street, a.k.a "the Wall Street of Addis Abeba." The building is nearing completion with an investment of 1.2 billion Br. The building design was delivered within a month, according to Fasil Gugesa, a representative of the 15-year-old JDAW.

MAE Consulting & Engineers was incorporated seven years ago with 250,000 Br in capital. Its design for Oromia International Bank's planned convention centre placed in the top-six a couple of months ago.

All six competitors in Awash Insurance's latest contest were awarded between 50,000 Br and 250,000 Br for their submissions.

S7 Architects & Engineers is a grade-one consultant incorporated by three architects, with Zelalem Girma serving as a senior architect and a major shareholder.

The firm has carried out design works for others in the financial sector, including a 14-storey office under construction for Awash Bank, in the Nifas Silk-Lafto District. It is projected to cost 700 million Br. It was commissioned by the Industrial Parks Development Corporation (IPDC) to design a structure to house employees working at Bole Lemi Industrial Park, on the outskirts of the capital. It has also designed and supervised the construction of the recently-inaugurated headquarters of the incumbent Prosperity Party (PP) on Niger Street in the Arat Kilo area, near Parliament. The project cost 855 million Br.

Awash Insurance, which has over one billion Birr in written premiums, is the latest to have a presence in the financial district. Several other institutions, such as the Bank of Abyssinia and Bunna Bank, are expected to erect their headquarters in the area over the coming years. Hibret and Nib banks inaugurated their towers on Ras Abeba Aregay Street earlier this year; they invested close to five billion Birr.

Zemen Bank is expected to follow suit. The state-owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia inaugurated its 48-storey skyscraper in the area two months ago. The design for the building, the tallest in the country, was developed by Henn GmbH, an architectural firm based in Germany.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 09,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1145]

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