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Tue 5 Jan 2010 04:00 AM

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Iconic structures are bygones

The world’s tallest building was inaugurated on January 4, 2010. This is indeed an auspicious event. It also marks the end of the iconic era in Dubai, according to Wael Allan, regional MD of Hyder Consulting Middle East – which, ironically, worked on both the Burj Dubai and the accompanying Dubai Fountain, two of the most iconic structures in the Middle East.

The world’s tallest building was inaugurated on January 4, 2010. This is indeed an auspicious event. It also marks the end of the iconic era in Dubai, according to Wael Allan, regional MD of Hyder Consulting Middle East – which, ironically, worked on both the Burj Dubai and the accompanying Dubai Fountain, two of the most iconic structures in the Middle East.

“I guess the last three years has been the era of iconic projects. I think iconic is great, but now that Dubai has gone through that phase, it will not come back very shortly. Projects will now be looked at in terms of meeting their objectives of making money, whether it is a publicly-listed company that wants to give good returns to shareholders, or an infrastructure or healthcare project that needs to give value to locals,” says Allan.

“So I think it is really about bringing value to our shareholders and also to the communities we are working in. I am seeing a lot more maturity in the market – people are talking about the real drivers of a business; how much can they make if they build a mall; how many people will visit that mall; what is the likely return on invested capital, rather than I want the tallest, the biggest – I think all of that is gone for now.”

It sounds eminently practical when spelt out like this, but it is exactly this sort of practicality that has been in such short supply. Interestingly, Allan says the ongoing debate about ‘green’ building and sustainability – which the MEP sector in particular is grappling with, especially with regard to such issues as energy efficiency – could also be faced with the same crisis of credibility.

“Sustainability and ‘green’ building will only become a reality globally if there are financial benefits, and seeing projects becoming more financially viable if they were green. My experience has been that, if there is a value and a return on invested capital shown through ‘green’ sustainable models, then I think people will adopt it naturally. I think it is a challenge for the professional community, companies and the regulatory bodies to ensure these are aligned.

“This is the only thing that can drive sustainability and make it a reality. It is almost parallel with the concept of quality and safety, where cost should not be compromised, and this is an integral part of Hyder’s service offering. If you do a quality product, you are spending more money, but in the long run it gives you more value, and if the client is convinced of this value, they will adopt it.

“If you give them quality and are spending a lot more money, but there is no tangible value, then I think people will question why are they doing this, and the same applies to sustainability. We are developing and adopting methodologies that really look to sustainability being integrated in all aspects of the design, construction and operation of any facility or asset. It is not an add-on; it actually should be an integral part of what you deliver,” says Allan.

These are worthy sentiments from the 2009 winner of the MEP Consultancy of the Year Award, which should serve to fortify the MEP sector as it faces the ‘undiscovered country’ that is 2010. It is unlikely this year will reach the temperature of 2009’s crucible of fire. But it is equally likely that the tough times are not yet over, as companies start to dip into their dwindling order books.

It is clear that those who survive in this tougher environment will be focused on customer needs and delivering maximum value at minimum cost. These are the qualities that distinguish the winners of our 2009 MEP Awards, who are indeed all first among equals.

Gerhard Hope is the editor of Mechanical Electric Plumbing Middle East.

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