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Bust the fakes

Has value engineering been misused as an excuse for cheap knock-offs?

Stuart Matthews.
Stuart Matthews.

I get to talk to many parts of the construction industry and some are more talkative than others. Interior designers are a case in point.

Back in the glory days, they enjoyed massive budgets and considerable creative freedom. Since the industry started to feel the pinch things have changed.

Naturally, coming at the very end of the build, they are engaged at a time when the client is likely to be most cash strapped, or looking for a budgetary quick fix. This might explain why interior designers are cursing the name of value engineers up and down the Gulf.

Now, they may be taking this name in vain. Value engineers can make a ‘valuable’ contribution, so before any of you feel outraged and slighted, put your pens away. A sensible review of a project can produce financial gains, streamline processes, and help contractors see the wood for the trees on a job they may simply have got too close to.

However, interior designers are concerned, rightly, at an erosion of quality that has resulted, especially in commercial fit-outs. The biggest sign of this is the use of fakes. Knock-off design pieces are being used instead of the real thing.

Where once a hotel might have been full of genuine pieces, designers now report that you will have seen the last of the real thing by the time you reach the lifts in the lobby.

A certain amount of fakery is to be expected and, let’s be honest, a knock-off coffee table is unlikely to cause a business-critical operational failure. But if people are faking the things we can see, what about the stuff we can’t?

While value engineers are bearing the brunt of the interior design ire, they are not to blame.

Sometimes those procuring supplies are genuinely scammed by unscrupulous dealers, flogging counterfeit goods. But that’s not always the case. If something seems like an amazing bargain, that’s probably a clue to a product’s origins.

Someone is still making the conscious decision to use fakes, which, in its most serious form, can at best damage legitimate businesses and at worst endanger lives.

Clients, or project developers, have to bear the responsibility for creating a business environment where fakes are deemed to be acceptable. Denying knowledge after the fact will not wash.

While high-profile busts of the fakers occasionally make the regional papers – the emirate of Sharjah is especially active, but also seems to be used as a centre for considerable quantities of commercial fraud – the punishments just aren’t tough enough: the fakes keep coming back.

This frustrates the real, well-known manufacturers of everything from pumps, parts, sofas and light fittings. It turns out it frustrates designers too, especially when their name is associated with a fit-out that has strayed from their original design intent.

Frustrations aside, it continues to be tough to do anything about it. Until more severe punishments are in place, throughout the Gulf, for supplying outright counterfeits, fakes will continue to infiltrate the good work of designers and value engineers alike.

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