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GCC cost consultants are calling for early involvement and tech adoption

by Neha Bhatia on Nov 5, 2017

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Early involvement and tech adoption are allowing the Gulf’s cost consultancy and management experts to meet the growing demand for their services.

It wouldn’t be entirely unfair to assume that cost-management services have undergone a marked evolution in the Gulf’s construction sector this year. The regional industry’s focus has extended beyond the theoretical study of technology and value-added tax (VAT), and  now also includes their practical applications. The Gulf’s cost managers have had to contend with these changes this year, and will have to continue to do so in 2018, as well.

Ensuring that these economic changes do not affect future construction schemes will require the early involvement of experts related to both the project’s building and management aspects. As Zander Muego, director at Thomas & Adamson, points out, engaging a cost consultancy at an early stage ensures that “there is an alignment between the brief and the budget” of the project.

“Any misalignment will likely result in a multitude of issues later on in the project,” Muego tells Construction Week.

Services offered by Thomas & Adamson include cost consultancy, which is typically activated from the initial feasibility stage and extends to handover.

The consultancy also offers project management and strategic advisory services, the latter of which sees Thomas & Adamson deliver advice related to claims and contracts management, as well as dispute resolution, from both a strategic and quantum perspective.

It is this extensive portfolio of lifecycle-focussed services that motivates Muego to call for the early involvement of cost-management experts. Indeed, this approach could also help clients avoid unnecessary costs, he explains: “Engagement from the off effectively gives clients the opportunity to run a full health check to ensure that appropriate commercial due diligence is carried out before investing substantial time and money into the project.

“Our job is to make sure all of the pieces of the development jigsaw fit well before the project team begins putting it all together,” Muego adds.

For those still questioning the practical  and onsite benefits of such proactive  pre-construction engagement, Khaled Ismail, principal structural engineer at Dubai-based firm, E.Construct, has the answers.

Speaking to Construction Week this July, Ismail said the lack of collaboration in the Gulf’s construction community was leading to high project costs and construction delays.

Ismail said structural engineers were usually brought in after the developer and architect had completed the design of the project, and were then left to devise solutions for design-related structural problems. However, based on Ismail’s experience, if structural engineers were brought in early, savings worth as much as 35% could be achieved on materials alone.

Rob Jackson, the director of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) operation of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), is also a supporter of the early involvement of cost-consulting experts in a project’s lifecycle.

“Effective cost consultancy needs to be utilised from the design stage and then, throughout the construction and operational stages of a built asset’s lifecycle,” Jackson tells Construction Week.

“The role of the cost consultant needs to be more advisory, and we are already seeing many cost consultants being trained in negotiation, commercial mediation, and project management.