Big interview: Chris Brookes

Haydon MEP is capitalising on new gaps in the market, says general manager Chris Brookes

Chris Brookes, general manager, Haydon MEP.
Chris Brookes, general manager, Haydon MEP.

Haydon MEP spotted a gap in the market when it moved to the Middle East five years ago. General manager Chris Brookes says the company, which has strong links to the UK, was invited to the UAE by a number of tier one main contractors who felt there was a lack of good MEP builders in the region.

Brookes says: “Off the back of these relationships Haydon continues to support and deliver clients with a simple view of providing a quality and professional service.”

Five years in the region and Haydon MEP has gained a reputation as a reliable contractor. In that time, a number of contractors such as Hastie Group, for example, have fallen by the wayside and some of the larger players have struggled. Brookes says such developments have created a gap in the market for medium-sized MEP contractors like Haydon MEP.

“Some of the companies when I first came to the region were the market leaders in MEP,” says Brookes. “There seems to be a little bit of a shift now.”

One of the first projects Brookes picked up at Haydon MEP was Omniyat’s Opus Tower in Business Bay in 2012. The Zaha Hadid designed project is a 23-storey twin tower with six basement car parking, six floors of hotel at ground level and above, 19 floors of commercial offices and four floors of residential on the top.

The MEP scope included design and build of shell and core of plant rooms, basement areas and riser installation of MEP services. Brookes says he expects the job to be handed over shortly.

Following on from the Opus Tower, Haydon MEP picked up a contract on the Four Seasons Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The project is a 34-storey tower with 10 hotel floors (levels 4-13, 200 keys) and 19 residential floors (levels 15-33, 125 apartments, including duplex apartments – two-bed duplex apartments, one per floor, from level 20-29, and at levels 30-31 – and two duplex penthouse apartments at levels 33- 34). There are plant and equipment floors at levels 14 and 32. There will be a spa with treatment and experience rooms at levels 2-3, and a gym and pool deck at level 3.

The MEP scope included full design and build and installation of MEP services to hotel, serviced apartments, restaurants, pool areas, back of house and plant room areas.

Brookes says: “The Opus Tower and the Four Seasons Hotel gave us a really strong foundation and we have built from there.” In 2015 Haydon MEP delivered $54m of projects in the UAE. Revenue for 2016, which is still be finalised, will be circa $68m – and “in 2017 we should be exceeding that”, states Brookes.

He says the Middle East is a tough market for MEP contractors to operate in and it can be even tougher when clients and main contractors fail to properly understand MEP work.

“MEP is the heart of the building. Without MEP you’ve got a concrete structure with glass on it,” says Brookes. “If people start to understand the true value of MEP and what we actually do and not try to drive down our price then it just makes it a lot easier to deliver a very successful project.”

Brookes has diversified the business over the past 12 months including launching divisions in facilities management, electrical low voltage (ELV), home maintenance and repairs, and modular.

He says: “Our parent company in the UK – Mears Group – is an FM company so there’s a lot of built-up knowledge for us to have an FM operation in the UAE, for example.”

Haydon MEP has tied up a deal with Better Homes to be the preferred maintenance and repairs operator for its Dubai properties.

“Having that infrastructure and market trust in place as Haydon MEP is making the diversification process a lot easier,” says Brookes. “By diversifying away from core MEP we can be a bit more selective with the MEP projects.”

He says he is keen to increase the volume of UK Export Finance (UKEF) projects the company is involved in because “they are good projects for us and less risky”. In addition, he is in talks to partner with more companies where natural synergies exist and is in the process of securing a number of new contract awards.

Brookes says: “I’m very optimistic about the region. Everywhere I go I see opportunity. We are getting more clients approaching us which is opening up even more windows of opportunity.”

He says that for now Haydon MEP will continue to focus its business solely in the UAE.

“We have got a lot of interest from outside but at the moment we’re not looking to take that step.”

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