Keeping technical aspects in mind while doing fit-outs
Experts in fit-out, mechanical, electrical and plumbing deliberate on the seamless fusion of these disciplines during the refurbishments
There is an ongoing upswing of refurbishment projects in hotels, commercial buildings, and residential areas. However, retail spaces in shopping centres form another important vertical that’s taking shape in the region’s fit-out and refurbishment industry. There is a constant requirement to refurbish malls both on the front-of-house and back–of-house side of things according to Unicorn Electromechanical director Mohammed Rashid Ali.
Ali tells fmME that the purpose of refurbishment projects is no different from other sectors and will always be two fold — to keep up with latest trends and general wear-and-tear caused by a facilities’ usage.
Meanwhile, Govind Shelpy works as a senior design manager with design, branding, and project management agency Creneau International Middle East. Shelpy gives an aesthetic overview of refurbishments and fit outs. He says: “Those considering buying or leasing real-estate are looking for an experience, especially a guest staying at a hotel. Aesthetics might be the first thing that people notice, but it takes more than good design.” He elucidates that these “spaces” within a building need to have well-developed facilities.
Ali says: “The latest trend in MEP refurbishment is to make the premise more vibrant and energy efficient. Most clients are aware of optimal usage of electricity and chilled water. This can be achieved either by shifting to energy efficient lamps or by maintaining the appropriate air conditioners.
“Meanwhile, food and beverage outlets focus on installing energy recovery units which are soon becoming a ‘must-have’ piece of equipment insisted upon by retail zone developers,” Ali reveals.
Time plays a crucial factor during the fit-out and refurbishment process, and an MEP contractor has to be wary of procurement durations. “We won’t get a second chance to procure any long lead items if we miss out on timing the project right — which delays the entire project. Hence, it’s important for MEP contractors and FM companies who enter the refurbishment space to take each and every aspect of the plan into account from the get go,” Ali adds.
MECHANICAL, ELECTRICAL AND SKILLED LABOUR
From an MEP perspective, Ali says refurbishment projects are generally straightforward. “The issues arise when we are faced with a shortage of resources such as power or chilled water. In such case, the refurbishment contractors will have to start from scratch after obtaining all the authority approvals for the upgrades and replacing the provisions — either cables or pipelines — to higher capacities.”
Skilled labour is as important in executing tasks and Ali says it could play a pivotal role in lifespan of installations.
“The availability of adequate highly skilled labour in the MEP team is most vital for the on-time completion of projects as MEP will be the first service to enter and complete in the fit out process. MEP installations in the fit-out work need a highly skilled work force as we won’t get a second chance to rectify anything. Hence, micro planning is the foremost element in fit out,” Ali notes.
FROM MEP TO FM — THE HANDOVER
MEP, FF&E providers do not always immediately involve facilities management service providers on projects, but the trend is changing. “Over the last decade Unicorn has completed more than 2,000 fit out projects across Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Umm Al Quwain, armed with a team of 250 skilled professionals,” Ali says adding the need to maintain the facilities led to the company opening its own dedicated facilities management arm. “Understanding the client’s need for the MEP service and maintenance after the defect liability period, an FM team has been operational under the group since 2010 and is called Safe Hands Facilities Management.”
The subsidiary business division provides its services to office blocks and the retail sector. “Since our skill lies in the MEP space, we operate using the AMC (annual maintenance contract) model which includes MEP maintenance, cleaning, civil works maintenance, and duct cleaning,” he adds.
Ali clarifies that the focus on MEP works has not reduced, and the endeavour continues to remain on offering strong services. “The effort is to ensure our clients get continued service even after the defect liability period. As we all know, MEP equipment requires frequent servicing and maintenance as time wears on. Appointing the FM team which can closely work with the contractors always makes it easier.”
Regional fit-out specialists Zenith Furniture Industry, a Dubai-founded company, lists maintenance as one of the major concerns faced by its clients. Senior partner Bobby Cherian tells fmME: “Maintenance of furniture, floor and wall coverings, good indoor air quality, and security of the equipment is high on our clients’ list of priorities. Zenith uses the ‘made in UAE’ tag, and this is one of the reasons that allows us to offer extended warranty on our products. Around 50% of our clients are from the hospitality industry, which tend to be the most demanding because works have to be carried and delivered in a very short period of time.”
Cherian adds: “[What makes it easier is] we have our own design, project management, HVAC and production team. We cover ourselves in all aspects of contractual agreements to avoid any midway complications. This also ensures that the technical know-how is well and truly in place, making it easier for the FM company that will take over maintenance — mostly the cleaning and housekeeping teams in this particular case.