A decade of Achievements

Lots of progress in GCC FM sector

Linda Engstrom-Condon
Linda Engstrom-Condon

It is almost impossible to work in the facilities management industry and not champion the importance of involving FM as early as possible in the design process of a new project.

We constantly tell our employers, clients and partners that incorporating FM early in the design stage of a new project leads to improved operational efficiency, reduced resource requirements, and therefore, lower costs as well.

In the Middle East, we have a unique opportunity to really deliver on this. The region is full of new developments seemingly asking for FM to help make the project operationally efficient. But does this really happen? Is the region full of completed developments where best practice FM has been implemented as part of the design?

Based on my experience in the region of almost seven years, working with clients in almost every country in the Middle East, this hasn’t been the case.

During the region’s most explosive phase of construction a few years ago, it seemed that there simply wasn’t time to include FM in the design and planning process. Buildings and entire mini-cities were constructed in the blink of an eye.

In one memorable development, the newly appointed facilities manager arrived on site during handover and found that the access hatch to the pump rooms was located behind large bushes where nobody could see it.

Only a small child could have fit through the hatch, who would then have to scale the three-meter drop to the floor on the inside. The manager had to then seek approval to spend hundreds of thousands of dirhams to put it right.

I’m sure most FM professionals have similar stories to tell. And I’m also sure that developers and those responsible for the design never intended for any of these operational issues to occur.

During my years as a consultant in FM in the Middle East, I have probably scared many clients with stories of how others got it wrong. I have also used statistics and data to help inform clients about the importance of FM, such as the cost of operating a facility significantly outweighing the initial capital cost over the life of the project.

I have watched the client’s business and finance experts’ faces go white as ghosts once they’ve realised the true cost of operating a building or community. And then the blood would rush back as I helped them develop cost reduction initiatives to make their financial spreadsheets more palatable.

Encouragingly, the Middle East is an incredibly fast-paced region where things change rapidly. I’m amazed at how quickly developers and investors have understood the real value that FM can offer, if part of the design process as early as possible.

One client recently decided to engage AECOM as FM consultants to their project during concept master planning stage. As the shape and nature of their development is being drawn up, we are developing options for FM service delivery and ensuring facilities are incorporated into the design to appropriately support the operation of the development.

It is beyond encouraging to listen to the client taking FM seriously, understand the repercussions of good vs. bad FM and seek to implement strategic and operational best practice years before construction even commences on the project.

As professionals in the region, I think a collective pat on the back is due. Well done to all of us for managing to propel the impact of our expertise this far. We still have a long way to go, but we have also done far more in just a few years than what has been achieved elsewhere in the world during a much longer period. Here’s to the next decade of achievements!

About the author
Linda Engstrom-Condon is associate, consulting, at AECOM Middle East

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