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Design to serve

Christopher Mills, technical director, Olive Value Facilities Management (Olive-VFM), discusses the trend between building communities and facilities management, with Becca Wilson.

INTERVIEWS, Facilities Management

In a market where many are claiming to still have to educate developers and building owners on the benefits facilities management can bring at the design stage, there are some who disagree and claim the opposite.

Christopher Mills, a director at Olive-VFM is living proof that some developers have been seeking facilities management input over the past four years.

There are projects out there that have been built and have issues about their operability

It's apparent his determination and enthusiasm for the job is what's enabled him to ensure at least a percentage, albeit a small one, of the buildings constructed in Dubai and its surrounding areas have had an operational input from the start.

I've been working with developers at the design process since I've been here. I hear other facilities managers complain they have not been involved in the design process, but I've been working with developers on doing just that," expresses Mills.

Unlike others, his concerns are not about involving FM at design stage for one, sole building. Mills says one of the main trends he has witnessed since arriving in the Middle East is the change in the size of developments.

Projects are getting bigger. Developers are not just building one tower, now they are building portfolios and communities. There's a question of governance.

Service charges are becoming a big issue, as is amenities and the community services within thatdevelopment's infrastructure," he says.

Based in Bahrain and Dubai, Olive-VFM offers both FM consultancy and operational services, alongside infrastructure co-investment.

Olive-VFM looks at minimising the clients' maintenance and operations costs, how they structure their management, the way they provide services and the different types of approaches and how it all integrates within that environment. There are projects out there that have been built and have issues about their operability. This creates a lot of down time for people and systems," he explains.

Mills admits that with some of the projects he has worked on, it has been too little too late to avoid any unnecessary operational inconveniences. However, he has been able to advise the clients on where faults will occur and prepare them for when they present themselves.

This gives them the knowledge that when they go live, they've got these issues covered. Instead of it being a surprise, they can actually put in some mitigation and contingency plans," says Mills.

One characteristic Mills and the Olive-VFM team are finding is that mega projects require a completely different school of thought. "Most developers are used to building on a single plot of land, surrounded by a supporting public sector. But when you're developing multiple buildings, you need to start thinking about the local infrastructure, services and economies of scale."

There are projects out there that have been built and have issues about their operability

On projects in Bahrain, Mills had the opportunity to work on sustainable community developments, incorporating government services, parks and other residential needs, designed to serve the neighbourhood. Mills describes communities as a place to live, rather than just a place to sleep.

Prior to Dubai's acceleration in the construction world and more importantly, the tourism sector, Mills claims some developers had little FM and/or operational input and support. It was simply build, build, and build. But times are changing.

Some developers are realising that if they are to build a successful project, they need to consider designing to service instead of designing to build.

We're currently working with a client who is looking at integrating the several phases attached to a community and making sure each ones fits with the other. We've got a plan that allows us to integrate each phase as it comes live. To enable us to do this, we look at the design control regulations, the master community declarations, municipality regulations and the governance that is going to go around a development, especially when you start selling things off to investors," he explains.

While we are all aware of theimmense spotlight that has been put on Dubai and its ability to sustain and grow in the region, Mills believes that FMs and the wider property and construction sectors can play a huge part in helping to ensure this happens.

He says developers building these big projects have a chance to create communities that are sustainable, have low carbon footprints and showcase international best practice.

"I think Dubai is a perfect place to be that white sheet of paper and create best practice. It can take advantage of the expertise and hundreds of years of experience, systems, procedures, administration, science and technology from the world.

By doing this, I believe that Dubai and also the region, has the possibility of creating cities, developments and communities that would compete on an international level,he concludes.

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