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Sat 23 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Insight into the state of play in the industry

Pierre Fayed, general manager, Edrafor Emirates, on the issues affecting the piling and foundations industry in the UAE

Pierre Fayed, general manager, Edrafor Emirates, on the issues affecting the piling and foundations industry in the UAE.

Can you tell me about Edrafor?

Edrafor is a Lebanese company which expanded into Syria in 2003 and the UAEin 2006.

Like all good companies we have experienced very fast and successful growth in the UAE. We have around 250 workers at the moment and we have worked on some prestigious projects in the region.

It is getting more and more contractual every week and a very close follow-up of all the documentation and letters is needed now.

These include Churchill Towers in Business Bay and Symphony Towers in Dubai Sports City.

Have you been affected by the labour shortages in the region?

I think most construction companies are suffering with this at the moment.The main problem we have is the scarcity of qualified personnel. This is a huge problem for us.

We are quite lucky because at the core of the company are the people who have been working with us for a long time and who are extremely experienced.

But because of the expansion we have to find new staff and finding qualified people is extremely difficult.

How are you dealing with the shortage of trained workers?

Recruiting in Dubai is not having good results so we are having to look in other countries.

We've place announcements in the countries where there is an excess of labour to find local contacts there.

Are there any other issues affecting your industry?

Well the main one affecting all of us is the escalation of prices.

You price a project but by the time you get round to starting it, sometimes there has been a big escalation in prices of materials and labour.

For excavation, which is the one big part of the project we subcontract, the price has increased 20% in less than six months.

What is causing this?

Tougher regulations for things such as environmental consciousness has put pressure on subcontractors to put prices up.

There was an event in Business Bay which epitomises this. At one point all subcontractors were excavating materials into the bay.

But now there are regulations where each contractor has to show where he is dumping material.

This will obviously have an impact on the way some subcontractors work.

Is there an issue with finding new machinery?

We have our own machinery, but there is a shortage of new machinery, so you have to make orders well ahead of time.

What is Edrafor doing to improve the safety for its workers?

Safety is definitely a big issue.
The good thing is we have not had any accidents since we started here and we try to keep safety as our top priority.

Safety is about providing proper training, reminding everyone of the basic safety instructions and reminding everyone of the importance of taking care.

We have a safety officer who makes sure that all the safety instructions are followed.

The biggest accidents in foundation building are crane-related.

When a crane is operated incorrectly, it causes accidents - either in the crane itself or in the operation area.

One of our competitors had an accident a few weeks ago where the crane fell over, so this is a big problem.

You are working in tough conditions so you have to make sure that the machine is being operated in the correct way.

Does the extreme heat during the summer affect your workers?

In our case, overheating is not a big problem because all our machines have air-conditioning and the work is not very labour intensive.

You have two or three helpers; it's not like a big contractor which will have hundreds of workers.

Most of the work is done by equipment and machines that are equipped with air-conditioning.

What new innovations are you bringing into piling and foundations?

We recently carried out a test, which we think is unique for Dubai.

We tested a pile to 4,200 tonnes. The load is big, but it is not exceptional for Dubai.

The reason why it is exceptional is that it was done with reaction anchors.

It has a high level of tonicity and it was quite a complicated job to do.

I think we are the first company to execute such a piling test in Dubai.
What are the advantages of this system?

The traditional way for this kind of testing is to use concrete blocks.

The testing is done with these so you have a big pile of concrete blocks piled on top of each other.

The reaction anchor takes much less space than the concrete blocks so it's a much bigger saving of space and time.

To test the foundation of a building, you have to test it and make sure it carries the load it is designed for.

So to execute the test, the traditional way is simulating the weight using concrete blocks and the new reaction anchor method.

What is your view of the contract system in the UAE?

On each project you need to have a quantity surveyor to track down all the correspondence.

It is getting more and more contractual every week and a very close follow-up of all the documentation and letters is needed now.

It's not a problem, it is just an extra cost for us.

Is it difficult to find new work in Dubai?

The competition in Dubai is getting more aggressive but there is a big need for quality work and when you are talking about quality you have less competition.

You have competition, but there are jobs for everyone.

As long as you have a good product you can do well.

We have a backlog of work for the next six months so we are doing well.

Will Edrafor be able to sustain its current work rate?

Based on our orders and the new products we have coming out, I think that the situation will remain like this for the next five to seven years.

There has definitely been a big shift to Abu Dhabi - a lot of projects are being tendered there.

I think that soon we will be doing more and more of our work in Abu Dhabi as it begins to catch up with Dubai.

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