Preparing for issues ahead

There is no question that there is years of work ahead for those in the Middle East's MEP sector.

COMMENT, MEP

There is no question that there is years of work ahead for those in the Middle East's MEP sector.

In the June MEP Middle East we reported a figure of US $14.5 billion (AED53 billion) for the MEP contracting sector in 2008 alone. And there are contracts worth billions more for both contractors and MEP consultants that will stretch for several years into the future.

How the firms in these sectors will cope with the ever increasing amount of work available is another question. As our special report this month on MEP contractors and consultants demonstrates the major players have begun preparations to deal with this demand and ensure the long-term future of their firms.

Expansions, acquisitions, moves into other countries and/or specialist areas of the MEP sector are all listed as planned strategies by the firms quoted. But the challenges already being faced and those anticipated also make for interesting reading.

Recruiting and retaining qualified professionals remains top of the agenda in the region. Staff poaching is still a problem and the reasons for this are obvious, as all firms are vying for the same candidates in an ever smaller pool of suitable resources.

The fact that this issue is being faced by firms worldwide is of little or no comfort when decisions about whether it's feasible to bid for a major project may depend on having the right staff available to carry out the work.

Many firms are now seeing training as a necessary effort, but the results won't be immediate and the market should be prepared for a shortfall in professionals for some time to come.

The speed of construction was also cited by both contractors and consultants as a major concern. The available design time is becoming shorter as projects are becoming bigger, which is causing concern over the both the quality and ingenuity of the final designs. What is the point of employing the best staff in the industry if they then do not have time to carry out their work to their highest ability?

The lack of time given to the design stage means that often designs from previous jobs are being carried forward as a matter of course. But although this saves time it may result in a final design that is not the most efficient for a project.

More time would mean that the latest technologies and engineering practice could be more easily incorporated. It would also eradicate complaints from MEP contractors about having to begin work on projects without full designs being available.

In addition, it should help counteract one of the growing concerns in the industry: how to incorporate and ensure that the latest green building standards are adhered to - a subject that is set to grow in importance.

Alison Luke is the editor of MEP Middle East.

RELATED LINKS: Servicing the building boom,  MEP Consultants and contractors: Special report

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