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Great Expectations

fmME talks with the leaders of the facilities management industry

Together for Dubai: Jamal Abdulla Lootah, Ben Churchill and Ali Al Suwaidi
Together for Dubai: Jamal Abdulla Lootah, Ben Churchill and Ali Al Suwaidi

As the world waits to see if Dubai will win its bid to host Expo 2020, fmME talks with the leaders of the facilities management industry in the UAE to see what a win would mean for the sector

The countdown has begun. On November 27, 2013, the 167 member nations of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) will vote to decide which of the four candidate cities—Dubai, UAE; Izmir, Turkey; Yekaterinburg, Russia and São Paulo, Brazil—will get to host World Expo 2020.

Dubai’s bid, which is based on the theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,’ is said to be the frontrunner in the contest right now, and the emirate is gearing itself up in anticipation of the win. Besides having a huge impact on the economy, hosting Expo 2020 will is expected to bring to Dubai an estimated 25 million visitors.

It’s also worth noting that winning the bid to host Expo 2020 will be a defining moment not just for Dubai and the UAE, but the entire region as well, since the World Expo has a history of never being held in the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia regions.

Various analysts have predicted a major boom in the property market if Dubai wins its bid to host Expo 2020. But what will this increased pace of development mean for the facilities management sector in the country? To find out, fmME asked three leaders from the UAE’s FM industry—Jamal Abdulla Lootah, CEO, Imdaad; Ben Churchill, managing director, Emrill and Ali Al Suwaidi, MEFMA board member and vice president, Idama—to talk about the impact Dubai winning the Expo 2020 bid would have on the sector.

While Lootah sees Expo 2020 as a chance for Dubai to showcase its world-class FM solutions, Churchill foresees more innovation and advanced technology to come to the sector in the run-up to and during the event.

On the other hand, Al Suwaidi noted the need for standardization and adherence to best practices in the FM industry to make sure that Dubai’s hosting of Expo 2020 is a successful enterprise. Read on to learn more about what these three professionals (who, incidentally, were the top 3 in fmME’s Power 50 list last year) have to say on the topic.

The road to Expo 2020 is creating quite a buzz in Dubai, currently the leading candidate to host the iconic global exposition. In a recent survey of 1,000 executives from around the world, almost 60 per cent of respondents cited Dubai as the most capable among the four remaining competing cities – Izmir, Turkey; Yekaterinburg, Russia; and São Paulo, Brazil included – to fill in the precious hosting job.

Expo 2020’s theme itself, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,’ perfectly fits Dubai’s profile as a multi-cultural, multi-sectoral bridge to growth and as the Middle East’s undisputed hub for commercial activity.

With Dubai at the cusps of bagging the hosting slot, the city and the emirate along with the entire country is already gearing up for the business and investment windfall that the Expo – which normally lasts anywhere from three weeks up to six months – represents. But what will a win mean for the facility management field?

Dubai Expo 2020 spells big business for our practice, for one. Several supporting facilities will be erected at the massive complex in Dubai’s Jebel Ali area being proposed as the expo venue. These will require our expertise to ensure that exhibits and activities run smoothly, services are delivered efficiently, and participants and guests feel productive and comfortable.

This major event will also be a welcome opportunity for the FM community to showcase its advanced sustainability solutions. Dubai has made great strides in establishing itself as a champion of ‘green’ development and will definitely leverage the expo as a platform to present itself as an eco-friendly emirate.

As the FM sector assists with preparations in the lead up to the expo, Imdaad will contribute its own cutting-edge ‘green’ solutions ranging from our recycling programs to our power monitoring and saving systems to make a strong sustainability statement.

The influence of our industry will extend beyond the duration of Dubai Expo 2020 as well. Part of the selection criteria for hosting the event is a good reuse plan for the site. For this purpose, Dubai intends to convert the expo area into the Dubai Trade Centre Jebel Ali.

Residential facilities constructed specifically for the event will also be turned into additional housing options for Dubai-passing commuters and Jebel Ali –based workers. FM technologies, techniques and talents will be absolutely essential to the continuous functionality and productivity of these and other related facilities.

If Dubai wins its Expo 2020 bid, then it will mark the first time that a Middle Eastern venue has ever been selected in the event’s 160 years of existence. Such a historic achievement poses numerous logistical, infrastructural, security and operational issues for Dubai and the entire country.

For our part, Imdaad and the FM sector as a whole is prepared to meet all issues with a positive, forward-thinking attitude. For our company, it means leveraging all our 25 years of experience and expertise delivering hard and soft FM services and business support to ensure that Dubai successfully hosts a memorable expo and sustains the usefulness of most of the event’s legacy structures.

Dubai Expo 2020’s supporting facilities will require the highest levels of resource optimization, cost-effectiveness and occupant well-being – areas that fall under the expert domain of FM practitioners. Our industry will thus play a crucial role on ensuring that Dubai becomes one of the most memorable hosts of this iconic event and maintains its global image of excellence.

Whether it is the venue itself, or the infrastructure to safely and efficiently support 25 million visitors, facilities management plays a critical role in ensuring that Dubai shows to the world how it can connect minds and create the future.

25 million visitors require hotel rooms, recreation and transportation, all in an interconnecting urban environment - an environment that is carefully designed. This environment and all its aspects require efficient and effective facilities management that includes soft and hard services to manage the operation and maintenance of the various facilities and buildings.

An extra 25 million visitors—which is the number of people expected to come to Dubai if it hosts Expo 2020—is an immense amount of people travelling to the United Arab Emirates. It is more than the population of Australia, and is, in fact, the population of the Netherlands and Sweden combined.

That many visitors bring a significant economic impact, as they need accommodation, places to eat and shop, and infrastructure to move around the city. It equates to 2.5 times the total number of visitors in 2011 in a sector that contributed 31% to total GDP.

As for the role of FM in design, construction and infrastructure for the event, this will vary project to project. But early contractor involvement from an FM perspective is certainly something that is important and creates an advantage in ensuring that buildings are easy and cost effective to operate.

Sustainability is one of the key themes of Dubai’s expo bid with the main pavillion being designed to generate electricity from the sun. Current technologies such as remote energy monitoring and smart cooling can be used to keep energy demand low however; one eye has to be on the future.

The Expo being seven years away means that it is important to keep abreast of new developments in efficient cooling, lighting and sustainable generation. The world of technology changes quickly and adopting those innovations will be an exciting part of the Expo.

Quality, sustainability and health & safety are all intimately linked. Dubai has made huge strides towards these, particularly driven by clients who demand world-class standards and companies that take best practice from around the world. These standards have been maturing over the last five years putting Dubai in a great position to deliver the Expo.

Buildings and infrastructure will last longer and are more efficient to maintain and run, with a strong focus on health & safety and welfare that drives the right behaviours with respect to quality.

By operating the buildings with a holistic view of the asset life-cycle, and by including the biggest building operating cost - energy - as part of the equation, Dubai can show the world that, not only can it create engineering marvels, but that they have a place in the world as a paragon of a safe, sustainable and modern city.

Before the Expo arrives, and after it leaves, the FM industry has a big role to play. A significant part of the Expo, in history and in ethos, is legacy. Whether it is sustainably keeping the elements built for the Expo maintained and vibrant for generations to come or helping re-focus the more transient elements.

The industry will have many touch points throughout and after the event. Hopefully, such an event will help inspire the industry to continue to innovate, create and bring to bear new technologies and ways of working that materially impact the operation of the built environment.

Dubai has always been leading the UAE and the GCC when it comes to building flagship projects, buildings and facilities. We, at MEFMA, are aware that the facilities management industry has to evolve and go to the next level to cater for the boom that will take place once we announce Dubai as the winner of the Expo 2020.

But given the amount of development that will happen as a result of the event, it’s critical that we as FM professionals communicate with government bodies to establish measures that will improve the service delivery part of it. Basically, we need to have legislation that enforces compliance to internationally recognised standards and regulations.

The main challenge we have right now is that the different governmental bodies, like the municipality, the electricity department, the land department, etc., are not talking in an integral manner. While each of them have their own set of rules, they need to get together and think about the big picture, which is where effective facilities management strategies can be put to good use.

I think we need to step forward and standardize. We need to step forward and integrate. It is now critical for Dubai, and the GCC as well, to ensure that there is a clear strategy for handover. When I talk about handover, I’m not talking about handover to the end user, but the handover from the construction team to a facility management team.

And that is a big challenge, since the facilities management team is today often created rather late in the overall process. We need to keep the ownership of facilities from design to construction to handover. Having FM input into the design will save us a lot of investment during the operation phase, since 80% of the costs of the lifecycle of a building comes from that stage.

We must remember that when it comes to facility management, it is not just the GCC that has challenges, even Europe and America still have issues to overcome. So what we need to do is to work closely with our governmental bodies to further enhance and standardize our services.

We don’t want to be reactive; we want to be proactive in the next stage. Hosting such a flagship event like Expo 2020 in Dubai will therefore help people to see the important role of facility management, and thereby help it get more attention and support from the requisite government authorities.

Winning the bid to host Expo 2020 will therefore be a win not just for Dubai, but the UAE and the GCC as well, because everyone will be watching this part of the world to see how we do business, exchange culture and connect.

So it is very important for all of us to be up to the challenge and incorporate best FM practices into our organisational visions. After all, if we prove our mettle with Expo 2020, Dubai and the UAE has the potential to be recognised as a global role model in the field of facilities management.

About the World Expo
• World Expos occur every five years and last for six months.
• These expos attract millions of visitors who explore and discover pavilions, exhibitions and cultural events staged by hundreds of participants including nations, international organisations and businesses.
• The Bureau International des Expositions is an intergovernmental organisation created to supervise the Expo events.
• If Dubai wins its bid to host Expo 2020, it will mark the first time a Middle East venue has been chosen for the event.

Fast Fact
1851 Year the World Expo was held

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