The major MEP players

Christopher Sell looks at the major players currently working in the MEP field, a key component of any construction project.

Gateway to success: construction on Al-Reem Island started in the summer, and the MEP for the development, named The Gate, is being provided by Arup,
Gateway to success: construction on Al-Reem Island started in the summer, and the MEP for the development, named The Gate, is being provided by Arup,

There are many facets to the construction sector in the Middle East. Building sites do not start and end with the contractor. In between there are varying companies bringing specific skill sets and qualifications to a project before it can be considered complete. With an estimated value of a third of the total building, MEP is a key component of the construction boom and there are now serious players in the region who contribute to this sector. Construction Week casts an eye over some of the key companies in the MEP industry.


WSP Group was established in the UK in the 1970s and has been listed on the London Stock Exchange since 1987. WSP operates as a specialist in the property, environmental, transportation and infrastructure sectors providing a full range of services from planning through to design, implementation and maintenance. The group has extensive international experience in America, UK, Europe, Africa and the Middle East and currently has permanent offices in 30 countries. Its revenue has doubled in the last six years.

The company was recently commissioned by architect Foster & Partners to develop the sustainable infrastructure strategies for a detailed masterplan for the Masdar initiative in Abu Dhabi. The development will be the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste city, setting new global standards in sustainable development. WSP is developing strategies for many aspects of the design to support the zero-carbon, zero-waste ambition of the project.


Arup is a global firm of designers, engineers, planners and business consultants providing a diverse range of professional services to clients around the world. In total, the firm has 9,000 staff working in 86 offices in more than 37 countries. At any one time it has over 10,000 projects running concurrently.

The company has been working in the Middle East since the early 1970s with registered offices in Doha and Dubai. It is involved in a number of key projects in the region; in particular its innovative designs have enabled the construction of a 2,300-space car park beneath Reem Island's landscaped park and canal development. A combination of cold sea water pumped in and channelled through heat exchangers to cool the air and generous shading, limiting the amount of heat reaching the car park, were used to ensure temperatures will remain at a comfortable level. Construction on Al-Reem Island started this summer.

Ian Barnham & associates

Established in 1976, Ian Barnham & Associates (IBA) provides professional mechanical and electrical engineering services throughout the Gulf, and now has offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Bahrain, Bangalore and an associated office in Oman.

Having worked on over 1,300 projects over the years, the company has been involved in high-profile projects such as the Sky Tower in Abu Dhabi (worth $354 million), The Towers in Business Bay (valued at $409 million), and the Emirates Headquarters building in Dubai worth $163 million.


Thermo operates its head office in Dubai, with branches in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Al Ain and Doha. The company has 28 years of experience offering MEP contracting services as a single or multi-service engineering contractor for both small and large projects.

Key projects include the Dubai International Airport Expansion (Phase II), which included Terminal 3, Concourse 2 and a car park. The $463 million expansion of the airport was commissioned by Dubai Civil Aviation to cater for the travel demands of the 21st century. The complete MEP works for this project were awarded to Thermo and is the single largest undertaking in the history of the UAE. Major MEP installations in this project include air handling units, fan coil units, glycol chiller systems, substations, chilled water pipes and several specialist airport systems.

Thermo also secured package three for the Jumeirah Beach Residence, providing the complete MEP, BMS and control systems for seven towers on the beach-front project, which has a total cooling load of 9,500 tonnes and an electrical connected load of 33MW.

Whitby & Bird

Whitby & Bird was formed in the UK back in 1984 and has continued to expand and grow since then, opening offices in Mumbai and Dubai. By March 2006, the Dubai office had grown to 35 staff with the office expanding all the time.

Previous high-profile projects, such as the Almasa Tower in Business Bay, are being complemented by recent contract wins on equally innovative and challenging structures such as Omniyat's Opus building and The Pad.

The company puts an onus on sustainable design and life-cycle costing. Whitby & Bird was named Sustainable Designer of the Year (2006) by Building magazine in recognition of its sustainable strategies and approach to buildings, both of which focus on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. And its work with the British Embassy in Sana'a, Yemen secured a prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) International Award Winner 2007.


India's premier air conditioning and engineering services provider offers solutions for a wide spectrum of industries in areas such as heating, ventilation, refrigeration, electro-mechanical projects and textile machinery, to name but a few.

With projects successfully executed in over 30 countries, Voltas has long been India's largest exporter of MEP projects. It has secured a number of key contracts, most notably on the Burj Dubai, when it was awarded the sub-contract for MEP jointly with Emirates Trading Agency and Hitachi Plant Engineering & Construction Company (Singapore). The overall sub-contract value is $226 million, with Voltas' share being $85 million.

Voltas also won the order for complete electro-mechanical works (HVAC, electrical, plumbing and drainage) on the Wafi Hotel and Mall.

Cansult maunsell

Cansult, one of the most successful and highly regarded consulting firms in the Arabian Gulf, merged last year with AECOM, a leading global provider of design and management services. Cansult has more than $60 million in annual revenue and approximately 700 employees operating out of offices in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Doha and Al Ain. Through the merger, Cansult will be aligned with the Arabian Gulf's operations of AECOM's Maunsell operating company, creating Cansult Maunsell.

Maunsell is among the fastest-growing firms in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East region, with more than 3,000 employees and a project portfolio that includes the $18 billion Al Raha Beach Development, building engineering design for the $108 million Dubai Studio City Sound Stages, and district cooling works for the $3.5 billion Dubai Metro Project, a world first in terms of scale and capacity. Earlier this year, the company was awarded another significant contract in Qatar for the upcoming Ain Khalid commercial project - including the associated infrastructure - by the developer Barwa.

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