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Sun 28 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

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Building matters

Wasl is rapidly growing and plans to take on 665 units in the coming months but what other future projects does the company have in store?

Building matters
Mohammed Khoory.

It has been two years since Dubai Real Estate Corporation (DREC)
launched Wasl Asset Management Group in May 2008, but the company is already looking
to expand its services on a global scale, increase the number of units it manages
and become more environmentally friendly.

“We are the biggest single portfolio owner in Dubai,” said Mohammed Khoory,
general manager of the Facilities Management Department at Wasl.

“Previously, the company had a mix of models which was 30% in-house
and 70% outsourcing and sub contracting. Since Wasl was established, all management
services are outsourced.”

The group currently employs eight facility management service
providers; BK Gulf, Operon Middle East, Imdaad, EMCOR, MMG, Khansaheb, Dubai Asset
Management and EMCO.

The services they provide vary from contract management, technical
and commercial services, building snagging, surveys and energy management to technical
upgrades of systems, document management and new project handover.

According to Khoory, the most
important aspect of the job is that of quality management.

“As an asset management group the one thing that is essential
to this business is quality of service,” he said.

“At the end of day, you have to meet customer satisfaction, which
includes implementing legal requirements, compliance monitoring, property and service
audits, service delivery performance and evaluation.

“We distinguish between facility management and asset management.
‘We manage the asset on behalf of a client. You hire me to manage all the services
on the ground including all the tendering, monitoring, execution etc.

“I make sure your asset
meets its lifecycle and you get value for money for what you pay for. If we fail
in our jobs, then there is no confidence in this market and people feel disappointed
in the level of service they are getting from us.

“For me, to deliver good service means I am doing a good job.”

According to Khoory, when Wasl was created it was a new concept
in the market and it was the first company set up to deliver these kind of services.
He said there are more now but at the time, it was one of the first.

“As a new company we want to make sure we are delivering the
best market practice locally.

“Eventually we want to expand this service and take it to a global
level, offering our services all over the world.

“My first goal is to make this the best asset management group
in the UAE but my vision is not to be a local player but one that performs on a
global scale. We have already established a good name for ourselves and we intend
to continue investing in our reputation.”

Green awareness

The Asset Management Group is currently trying to become more
environmentally aware. It has explored ways of conserving energy including installing
a BSM system (building management system) to control and utilise its energy saving
through automated on/off controls.

Khoory said his staff work from 7-4pm therefore there is no need
to have the air conditioning on after working hours, whereas previously, it was
on for 24 hours a day.

Wasl has a green building management programme and in March this
year, it installed water pressure taps and filters, light sensors, energy-efficient
light bulbs, as well as other energy and water saving schemes to reduce overall
electricity consumption by up to 20% and water intake by 30% at its headquarters
in the Mankhool area.

It has also started to roll out the initiative to its service
centres in Umm Hurair, Jumeirah and Al Muhaisanah, and select buildings, offices
and commercial towers in Dubai.

Other green initiatives
include a waterless car cleaning service at some of its buildings in Dubai and recycling bins at
select locations.

Khoory said it was important to be environmentally conscious
and he was looking for more facility managers who operate in this way. If not, he
encourages them to implement green energy
saving measures.

“We want to improve the services we deliver and part of that
is to encourage facility managers to work with us with the assurance that our green
standards are of a high quality,” he said.

“We want to be the best in the market in terms of our standard
of customer care and we are currently reviewing our processes and procedures to
see how we can continually improve them. We are looking to introduce an asset management
computer system through SAP to automate our processes and make things more transparent
and easier to manage.”

He said Wasl currently manages 30,000 units in Dubai and next year it is
going to add 665 units to the business.

“We currently manage residential and commerical businesses but
I am planning to extend these services to hospitals and hotel resorts because each
of these has different service level requirements focusing on a different type of
management which we can provide. It will take time but in the future we can apply
ourselves, reaching out to more customers,” added Khoory.

The best thing about my job is customer satisfaction. It makes
my day when I speak to someone who doesn’t know me and they say good things about
our services. We make sure people’s assets are protected. Making sure a client is
looked after is paramount to us.”

Summer training programme

Wasl recently inducted 24 students from various universities,
colleges and schools in the UAE into a summer training programme.

The pupils were selected via a screening and interview process
from institutions such as the American
University of Sharjah (AUS), American University
of Dubai (AUD), Canadian University of Dubai, Dubai
Men’s College, Dubai Women’s College, the University
of Sharjah and the Institute of Applied Technology
in Dubai.

As part of the programme, students were rotated across the different
departments of the company including human resources, property management, project
management, land, finance, procurement and facilities management. On completion,
they received a certificate
of commendation.

“When we take interns we educate them about the business and
help them to understand how it works.

“Usually people from school or college don’t know what it is
they want to do in terms of starting a career and most don’t know what a facilities
manager is,” Khoory explained.

“Even people that work in the industry don’t know what the title
means a lot of the time because 95% of the work is similar to a general contractors
job not that of a facilities manager. They call themselves facility managers because
it sounds more professional but in fact they are contractors.

“The training schemes are important because we don’t see many
UAE nationals in this industry so we try to educate people on how to get into the
business then when they graduate they can decide whether to take this route.

“It’s not easy because it can be a ‘dirty’ job meaning you need
to have a lot of patience. There is a lot of field work and you always have to take
the blame and may not be appreciated at times. It was the first time we took on
students from various schools and universities in the summer and it is one we hope
to continue.

“Trainees who come into our department can learn about soft facilities
management which includes cleaning, landscaping, pest control, security, water testing,
looking after a swimming pool, gym and health desk or hard facilities management
which is HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning), fire systems, MEP (mechanical,
electrical and plumbing) or elevators.”

The company currently
supports further training through its ‘Graduate Training Programme’ and the ‘Ajial’
UAE National Development programme. It has also created 10 scholarships for UAE
nationals to study at the American
University in Dubai.

Khoory’s tips for someone wanting to enter the profession are;
learn as much as you can about the industry beforehand, understand the pluses and
minuses and try to have a passion for what you do.

“FM is not purely soft or hard services there are many aspects
to the job including helpdesk planning, contract management and quality management.
It has a very broad perspective,” he said.

“People only associate
facilities management with being a technician like a mechanic, plumber or electrician
but there is more to it than that. Perhaps the perception of the business is not

FM is all about management. You manage the services, you don’t
do the services but you have to have the
technical knowledge to do it.”

For Khoory, every day is different.

“For me, that’s what’s good about working at Wasl. I treat it
as my baby because I have created the business and I look after it every day, nurturing
it and helping it to grow.

“Every day is a new challenge. It could be a complaint from a
customer who is not satisfied with a job or it could be a conflict with a service
provider. When I deal with a challenging issue, I call the customer direct because
there are no boundaries between me and the client.

“I also have to organise internal meetings within my business
divisions and find ways to improve the processes in the various departments. New
software and technology is coming out all the time and we have to be on top of that.

“We are always looking at ways to improve the quality of delivering
our services and to make things efficient.”

Strata Law

Dubai Strata Law was originally published more than two years
ago to govern how owners in developments or those with multiple owners pay for the
upkeep of jointly owned property.

But the regulations to adhere to the law were only issued six
months ago. The deadline has been hailed as a critical moment in Dubai, where power over maintenance
fees and the upkeep of buildings shifted from developers
to homeowners.

“Our business is leasehold not freehold so it doesn’t really
affect us,”
said Khoory.

“However, the law is great in the sense that it had to happen
because countries in Europe already have something
in place. It was only natural that we should follow suit.

“The law has to protect the interest of the owners and I wish
it had happened over here a lot sooner before the construction boom happened because
then we would not have this crisis but it does need more improvement in terms of
its flexibility and it needs to be efficient.”

He added the Dubai Strata Law helps asset management companies
like Wasl because the law says the owner or elect manager has to appoint an asset
manager to manage its services or deal with individual contractors. The developer
cannot deal with FM companies because they lose their control over the maintenance
of a building.

“It gives us a huge potential in the market,” said Khoory. “But,
the law still needs updating as it is new to Dubai. Some of the things are not clear and a
lot of the clauses don’t make sense. It requires some major improvements because
an asset manager owner does not have time to manage sub contractors.

“This law can only help asset management companies. They will
increase in Dubai
now and hopefully we will be the first to benefit.”

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