MEP Conference 2016: Long term thinking

How can the region’s construction industry can put long-term interests ahead of short-term ones?


How the region’s construction industry can put long-term interests ahead of short-term ones was the conundrum put to panellists on a discussion about opportunities for change.

Nicholas Lander, regional sustainability lead at CH2M, said that the way projects are tendered needs to change in order to encourage a longer term approach to project development. He said that it would be preferable for design teams to work upfront with contractors rather than designing in isolation as happens with design-bid-build contracts.

“The project needs to be considered holistically and if you do that then you will get savings relatively in the short term,” he said. “Also having that better design will have a better result in the long term. You wind up with more efficient design, you wind up with just overall better products that are going to be more resilient to risk.”

The current climate of record low oil prices also provides an opportunity for different funding models to be explored, argued Chris Seymour, regional development director at Mott McDonald, who said a lowering of liquidity has made clients consider packages such use PPP (public-private-partnership).

“That design is shifting the contractor and potentially the provider over the long term,” he said. “From the client’s, side it’s going over to the provider’s side – all designing to output rather than input.”

The panel said it is important that clients understand exactly what their goals are when it comes to endangering a more longer-term approach to project procurement.

“We do lifecycle costing to try and open their eyes and educate them,” said Nathan Cartwright, MEP head and partner at Godwin Austen Johnson. “Ultimately clients have the final budget and we should design to that final budget. But we should be doing the best that we can to make sure the client knows what they are going to get at the end.”

The panel agreed that advances in technology will provide more efficient ways for working. Dubai’s recent unveiling of its first 3D printed office – Office of the Future – which only took 17 days to print and two days to install was highlighted as an example of how innovation is driving new construction methods.

“The way we see it, it’s going to be linked to a design automation as well,” said Seymour. “Not only is the building going to be assembled in an unconventional manner, you will find the design going into those modular components is also automated.

“This is going to speed up building construction massively. I think that what we are going to see by 2030 is designs undertaken in a matter of hours than months.”

Cartwright said virtual reality would be another innovation whereby clients would be able to immerse themselves in a building prior to construction.

“It may lead to choices of interior design finish or MEP finish,” he said. “That’s probably possible now but it will become easier over time.”

The panel said it was not unrealistic to expect to see every project working in BIM in the next three to four years.

“Unfortunately you can’t do that as a standalone element of MEP,” said Reid Donavan, regional Middle East director of MEP at Arcadis. “Everybody has to come forward as one.”

Lander said: “To me as an MEP guy, sustainability in MEP is largely about good efficient design.

“You don’t do it because it has a payback but you do it because it gives you the required standard you need.”

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