Home / ANALYSIS / Design, build and maintain

Design, build and maintain

by Gerhard Hope on Dec 5, 2010

The MEP panel at the Construction Week Conference in Abu Dhabi debated the need for closer co-operation between engineers and designers as a key strategy to maximise opportunities in today’s constrained business environment in the construction industry.

Hyder Consulting Middle East regional director: value management and sustainability Stephen Oehme, who moderated the panel discussion, said the challenges facing engineering delivery, particularly MEP, in 2011 and 2012 will be “markedly different” from the challenges of 2008 to 2009. “We are going to see a considerable dialogue with respect to building codes, not only in relation to rules and regulations, but also in relation to enforcement of these,” which Oehme said was a problem endemic to the Middle East.

Buro Happold director Kevin Mitchell said a major challenge at the moment was the ‘perfect storm’ created by the conflation of the sharp market downturn combined with additional regulatory requirements. “That is placing a huge amount of pressure on the market as a whole, all the way from design to delivery, and including FM as well. We are all looking to find the sector of the market we are ideally suited to in terms of service delivery, and this differs from company to company.”

Atkins MEP head of department David Crowder pointed out that “one of the things about construction is that it is really a team activity, involving thousands of people on infrastructure projects, for example. A major change that has come about is the need for all professionals to work much closer together. I think BIM is certainly one of the ways that this can happen. We embraced BIM several years ago, in fact, on the Dubai Metro project, and we carried that forward on our metro work in Makkah and Calcutta, using the same methodology.

“I think not only will that bring design professionals closer together, it allows clients to see what is happening, and it also allows contractors to do a much more efficient job.” Fast-track and highly complex infrastructure projects like metros require a much higher level of co-ordination and co-operation. “We have seen that philosophy proved on the Makkah project, which was two years from design to operating one-third of capacity by November 2010. From the perspective of starting at ground zero, this was a pretty impressive achievement, with very few RFIs.”

Building services
Crowder said this was because Atkins, in working for the main contractor, provided a BIM design for construction and installation. “In fact, all the construction work started before the MEP contractor was even onboard, so all the building services provisions were undertaken from our design. It all worked out pretty well in the end, with the services having all gone where they should have done, with very few problems on-site.

“I think that is one of the things that should happen much more in future, and really trickle down to some of the other jobs rather than just the big infrastructure ones, so as to boost efficiencies in the overall construction industry. I think that is one of the ways to really get through the recession and carry on forward,” said Crowder.

Al-Futtaim Engineering GM: MEP division S.S. Murali was the contractor who executed Atkins’ design for the Dubai Metro. “The construction industry is inherently inefficient. We cannot ignore that. There are serious problems, especially in terms of whether the contractor delivers the quality that is required. I think the downturn has, in many ways, forced us to look at the way we operate, and look at our cost base and bring efficiency into the way we work.

“I think it is time for most of us contractors, particularly in MEP, to look at the way we work, and particularly material and time costs. It is a great opportunity now to drive those costs down. In terms of the new building codes and regulations, there has been a problem with the way in which the standards are interpreted and executed, with consultants and contractors interpreting them differently, for example.” Murali called for the regulatory process to be better managed and monitored, so that the inherent cost and efficiency benefits can be exponentially greater.