From the CMA Tower in Riyadh to the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, the newly-formed Syska Hennessy Group MENA is targeting mission-critical facilities.
The Syska Hennessy Group has been involved in the region for 30 years, says critical facilities VP Gregory Jasmin. "Some of our key projects have included King Saud University, still Syska's largest square-footage project in its history.
We have done work with Riyadh Bank in the early 1980s, as well as in Kuwait and Iran. In the recent past we have done projects here in the UAE, which was more on the consulting side, especially in terms of sustainabiliy, and then about one-and-a-half years ago we started collaborating with Bassem [Hariri]."
Hariri is managing partner of LZ Technologies Middle East. "Our main capabilities revolve around commissioning and FM. We have been in the region almost two years. The reason we entered into the JV was because we saw a gap in the critical facilities space to provide an end-to-end solution, not only from a feasibility and design point of view, but throughout construction and operation, which is also key."
Hariri says that LZ Technologies turned to the Syska Hennessy Group as its partner of choice. The new company is called Syska Hennessy Group MENA.
"We took the decision to move forward and establish a JV to tackle the region, not only in terms of critical facilities, but also other key sectors like healthcare, aviation and government, mainly defence and law enforcement, basically anything that requires niche expertise and a criticality from an engineering perspective."
Jasmin says the new company has established its mark with relative ease, vindicating the founders' belief in this particular market segment.
"We have had good success working with some key platinum-type clients, Aramco being one, for whom we did a feasibility study. We have also have been working with the Capital Market Authority of Saudi Arabia on its CMA Tower project in Riyadh, and with the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, for whom we are working on their new data centre, as well as doing work for Mubadala.
Jasmin attributes this initial success to the synergy between the JV partners. "We have been able to gel and really present a clear message and vision to the region. We have various vertical markets we focus on, mission critical facilities being the largest.
Then we have services that go across those markets, such as ICT (information communications technology). We have our own lighting design team, and again that goes across all those markets; we have AV (audio-visual) and security, as well as commissioning and FM consulting."
Jasmin says it is not by chance that all these sectors are high-growth areas in the construction industry at present.
"When we conducted our initial market study and looked at where the dollars are being spent, these sectors fit right up our alley in terms of the markets we serve and the services we provide, which is why it made perfect sense for us to make the commitment to have a local team and office that can understand the local market and deliver the expertise we have in the US, but localised for the region."
Hariri comments that the new venture has been established at an opportune time to take advantage of the trend towards infrastructure development in the region.
"There are some key sectors that are still greenfield and under-invested, from the government specifically. This includes the critical facilities sector, which is just maturing in MENA."
This is because many companies grew so fast in the boom period "that they did not pay attention and invest in their infrastructure. They are still growing, but have found that they have under-invested in these critical facilities, and now it is time to invest over the next 15 years."
Healthcare and education are also a major focus. "There is a still a great need for good hospitals and healthcare across the whole MENA. Education is the key challenge for all GCC countries to get their nationals into these markets that are growing," says Hariri.
A consequence of the Arab Spring is that the defense and law enforcement segments are growing as well." In addition, Greenfield markets like Qatar and Iraq present major opportunities.
Jasmin explains that the downturn has not had much of an impact on the new venture or its business plan, as it is focusing on infrastructure mainly. "If you look at the type of projects companies focused on during the boom, it is not that market we are pursuing.
We are focused on the core needs of the region in terms of development and betterment of the nationals. These countries have to spend those dollars, and we are coming right along to provide the expertise to help them spend it in the right way."
Hariri says the new venture is markedly different from other engineering firms in that it is not opportunistic.
"We are here to build real partnerships with key clients, and these partnerships are not going to be as a result of a potential project in the pipeline. We want to be with the owner from the initial stages. With the clients we have currently, we are with the owner directly, directing vision, budget and timeline, so at every stage we are giving guidance and providing expertise."