Stefano Riccardi interview: Out of Africa

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Stefano Riccardi

Stefano Riccardi

Ever since it was founded more than 25 years ago, CKR Consulting Engineers has strived to be synonymous with excellence in its delivery of high-quality MEP projects. Whether it is the largest of luxury hotels or the smallest of retail retrofits, its company ethos is to treat each project as if it was its own.

A South African owned and operated firm, CKR Consulting began operations in 1983. Since then it has grown into a multi-national company that has offices all across South Africa, in Dubai and in India.

The consultancy recently opened up a second office in India, this time in Kerala, as it seeks to tap into the rapidly growing and lucrative Indian construction market. As that branch of the firm continues to find its feet and grab on to the lucrative contracts available, CKR is in the final steps of finalising plans to open a new office in Doha, which will be operational by March 2012.

Furthermore, having made its name in developing MEP designs for an array of luxury hotels, the consultant plans to spend 2012 delving further into the MEP services sector. As a result, there has been an increased focus by the firm to develop data centres and infrastructure projects.

The man behind this constant evolution is Stefano Riccardi, the committed and driven visionary who helped found, and latterly, overseen the growth of the company since 1995.

An electrical engineer by trade, Riccardi was educated at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.

Within two years of joining CKR as a project engineer, he was made partner before eventually taking over as managing director after a couple of the other partners left the firm in 1998.

Since then, he has helped the firm grow from 15 employees, to almost double that figure by 2000.

“Thereafter, we got an opportunity to come to Dubai. That company was started in 2001 and now Dubai alone boasts more than 60 odd people. In South Africa, we’ve got four branches as well, with a total staff content of around 150,” Riccardi says.

Moving into data centres is not as much of a dramatic switch as it could be construed, he says, because of the previous work CKR has done on luxury hotels.

“Hotels have ELV services that go into them. A large part of the time, you end up creating mini-data centres to manage these ELV and RT environments for the hotel. For instance, the likes of the Madinat Jumeirah has got two large server rooms which fall over and have redundancy between one and the other. So you can call it the start of a major data centre.”

“What you find is that a lot of the data centres that are out there, they don’t have good efficiencies, or have outdated equipment and very large power generators. What we’ve found is that by going to these environments and increasing efficiencies, we’ve found that for a large part of the time we don’t have to apply additional electricity or additional air conditioning for these data centres. Just by making the equipment more efficient, we can save the client a lot of money. In the sense that his payback for the equipment installation is likely to be reduced by four to five years,” Riccardi explains.

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