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Crystal Lagoons is a business built around an innovative approach to maintaining and treating large bodies of crystalline water. The company's patented technology is based on pulses and ultra-sonic filtration instead of chlorine to create clear, artificial lagoons within real estate projects. Crystal Lagoons was founded in 2007 by Chilean businessman, biochemist and real estate developer Fernando Fischmann. The company has since expanded globally with its biggest project now under way in Dubai. Carlos Salas, Head of Crystal Lagoons Middle East, talks about the company's plans in the UAE.
- What is the status of Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City – District One and other projects in the UAE?
The lagoon at District One is the first of its kind in the UAE and it will be the largest in the world, becoming a key attraction within the entire project. Surrounded by 14km of boardwalk, the lagoon will offer exclusive access to swimming, paddle boarding, kayaking and other non-motorised aquatic activities to the residents. Phase one of the development is soon to be finished, with the second phase due to start later this year.
We have two other projects in the pipeline in the UAE, both of which are in Dubai. These include Dubai Lagoon in Dubai Investments Park and another project we are close to announcing.
- Are there particular challenges to constructing such lagoons in the UAE's unique climate and soil conditions?
We have developed our patented technology and proven business model to provide the world's top amenity and in the process add significant value to any real estate project, anywhere in the world. This could be a lagoon in the middle of a desert such as the Mohammed Bin Rashid City District lagoon, a safe, wildlife-uninhibited project in Australia, a Caribbean-style beach, a project at the often dangerous Chilean coastline or the development of an urban or inner city project where the coastline is already heavily developed.
We currently have 300 projects worldwide in various stages of development and we have, therefore, learnt the best possible way of adapting to any landscape, climate or water source.
- What type of water are you using for the lagoons in the desert and how is the water quality controlled?
The beauty of Crystal Lagoons' technology is that we can use any type of water — fresh, salt or brackish. By using disinfection pulses, as opposed to high and permanent levels of residual chlorine and other disinfectants used in conventional swimming pools, our unique water treatment technology allows us to produce safe and clean water [that consumes] only 2 per cent of energy compared with a conventional swimming pool with a centralised filtration system.
We have also developed a new film-based evaporation control technology allowing us to reduce water wasted through evaporation by up to 70 per cent. The technology consists of adding a special additive over water and spreading an invisible anti-evaporation layer on the surface of the lagoon.
- Are the construction and maintenance costs for a lagoon in a desert environment like Dubai higher than in other places?
Our unique technology allows us to operate at low cost anywhere in the world. Our lagoons use up to 100 times less chemicals than conventional swimming pools. Obviously, from a construction perspective, the cost varies depending on size. However, energy use is well below anything else on the market, making us more economical andmore sustainable than all our competitors.
The average cost of building a lagoon is $200,000 (Dh734,589.94) to $250,000 per acre, while maintenance costs run $2,000-$2,500 per month per acre. Both sets of costs are much less than the price of building enormous swimming pools.
- The current investment value of Crystal Lagoons' projects in the Middle East and South Asia is $20 billion. Which projects are the most outstanding and most expensive – apart from Dubai's?
We have 15 active projects in the Middle East and India, and although none are as big as the District One lagoon, they are all outstanding and add significant value to the multibillion-dollar developments being created.
Egypt's expanding north coast is proving particularly attractive to investors, for whom the ability to engage in water-based leisure pursuits is a prerequisite for any second-home purchase. We are working with Maxim Real Estate on what will be our biggest project in the region to date: the $1.8-billion, ten-million-sq-m Bo Islands mixed-use community development with lagoons covering a total of 32 hectares.
Others utilising our technology to create traditional beachside living include Hassan Allam Properties, one of Egypt's leading luxury residential developers, for the $200-million Swanlake North Coast project, and the Porto Group's Porto Lagoons, a new phase of the $345-million, 150-hectare Porto Golf Marina mixed-use community.
We also entered the emerging India market last year with the announcement of a 6.5-hectare lagoon for the $2-billion D S Kulkarni Developers' Dream City project in Pune, Maharashtra, with Dubai-based Samir Dauod as the principal architect. Not only will this lagoon become a hub for water-based leisure activities, it will also provide a means of transport with a water taxi service.
- How does a man-made lagoon increase the value of surrounding property developments? Do you have examples?
The very first Crystal Lagoon was built 17 years ago in San Alfonso del Mar, Chile, and quickly became the most successful second home resort in the southern hemisphere, surpassing competition and selling units at much higher prices and at unprecedented rates. Due to this and other success stories, real estate, construction and development leaders are now keen on maximising their projects' demand and profitability by working with us. We can transform any location into an idyllic beach paradise. Who wouldn't want to pay a little extra for this luxurious beach setting?
- Are there plans to deploy floating lagoons in Dubai?
It is certainly an area a number of developers are interested in, and obviously they want to be the first in the region to adopt this technology. However, discussions are at a very early stage at the moment. We do hope to see a floating lagoon in the region soon.
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Source: Arno Maierbrugger, Special to Property Weekly