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Sat 6 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

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Design, build and maintain

Engineers and consultants need to forge a closer working relationship in order to improve the built environment, argued the MEP panel at the Construction Week Conference. By Gerhard Hope

Design, build and maintain
The MEP panel: David Crowder, SS Murali, Imad Eldurubi, Kevin Mitchell and Stephen Oehme.

Engineers and consultants need to forge a closer working relationship
in order to improve the built environment, argued the MEP panel at the Construction

Abu Dhabi’s
adoption of International Code Council documents for building, fire, energy conservation,
mechanical, plumbing, fuel gas, private sewage disposal and property maintenance
is very good news for a sector of the construction cycle that rarely shares the
same limelight as design. This is the MEP sector, often relegated as an add-on,
but which is responsible for the essential ‘veins and arteries’ of any building.

Imad Eldurubi, building code consultant at the Abu Dhabi Department
of Municipal Affairs, said: “As we move forward with the actual adoption and implementation
of these codes, we are going to see some good changes. As you are designing, you
are actually going to be required to submit plumbing drawings, as well as mechanical
and electrical drawings.

“The client will be responsible not only for checking the structural
aspects, but also MEP and even energy use. A single point of contact will be created.
We are going to use one document – which is what the designer will use to design
his building, as well as the building, planning or code official in reviewing the
plan and ensuring it meets the requirements of these codes. I think we are embarking
on an adventure in terms of regulatory extension, and it will be good for the entire
industry,” said Eldurubi.

Buro Happold director Kevin Mitchell said a major challenge at
the moment was the ‘perfect storm’ created by the conflation of the sharp market
downturn combined with additional regulatory requirements. “That is placing a huge
amount of pressure on the market as a whole, all the way from design to delivery,
and including FM as well.”

Al-Futtaim Engineering GM: MEP division SS Murali said: “The
construction industry is inherently inefficient. We cannot ignore that. There are
serious problems, especially in terms of whether the contractor delivers the quality
that is required. I think the downturn has, in many ways, forced us to look at the
way we operate, and look at our cost base and bring efficiency into the way we work.”

Atkins MEP head of department David Crowder believes one of the
advantages, for the client will be having a say in major decision-making.

“They really get a choice through various stages of the project,”
he said. “A criticism of contractors in general is they are there to make money.
Once you have handed everything over to the contractor, your choices are limited.
So I would very much like to see more partnering-type contracts, where the contractor
and consultant work hand in hand to cut costs and achieve maximum efficiencies,
all to the ultimate benefit of the overall project.”

Hyder Consulting’s Stephen Oehme described it absolutely essential
for there to be partnerships to achieve efficiencies and get projects moving.

“This is a good business model that will, in all probability,
be assimilated very quickly,” he said.

Mitchell said that companies who are able to respond positively
to these changes are the ones who are going to survive leading to a healthier marketplace
and industry.

“I am embarrassed to see the long list of failures and problems
attributed to the construction industry,” he said. “We have a terrible reputation
as an industry, and we need to bring engineers and contractors together so we can
effect the necessary changes.”

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