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Sat 16 Aug 2008 04:00 AM

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Let's all work together

Already proven in Europe, the use of collaborative working is now rising in the Middle East. Gary Turner, general manager of UK-based Fagerhult Lighting Group, gives us a manufacturer’s perspective of the benefits of partnering.

Already proven in Europe, the use of collaborative working is now rising in the Middle East. Gary Turner, general manager of UK-based Fagerhult Lighting Group, gives us a manufacturer’s perspective of the benefits of partnering.

The road to change

We knew we had to change, but not in isolation, the (UK) construction industry also had to change. The ultimate client was getting a raw deal with cost and time overruns being the norm and so many errors at both design and installation phases of a project.

It was difficult for anyone in the construction chain to retain a client for a second job because the atmosphere was so adversarial.

Culturally, we were as aggressive as anyone else (in the UK construction sector).

We spent a small fortune doing estimates and designs for so-called customers who didn't value what we did.

Partnering: from the supplier's perspective

Specialist suppliers, by their very nature, live and breathe their subject matter and can contribute significantly to the professional team when it comes to the selection of the very latest technology.

In our experience, the cost of the total installation always comes down [when using a partnering arrangement]. The DTI model of pricing allows us always to offer a client a below average price for the item it is buying. If you then add to this the fact that by being smart in design less products are being utilised, then partnering is a sure-fire way of the whole construction chain remaining competitive.

If ever there was a market with a need for a structured approach to partnering in construction it is here in the Gulf.

Partnering reduces costs, project complexity and increases the speed with which design and installation can be completed, and in our world where quality management time is at a premium, surely partnering is a must?

Now clients are realising that the initial cost of a scheme is only one issue. Clients are beginning to understand that the true cost of a building is measured through its whole life cycle and with energy costs rising and an acceptance that through smart design we can achieve our design goals in an energy efficient way, clients are rightly demanding more from their construction teams.

Smart designing

One of the first major projects we became involved in with Charles Lever at Taylor Woodrow was a general hospital in South London. As usual there was a severe problem with the budget and seemingly nowhere to go. Because we were part of the team we worked alongside the consultants, architect and MEP contractor and looked into the detail of the lighting design.

We managed, mainly by utilising the latest lamp and reflector technology, to reduce the number of luminaires by 30%. What's more, the projects aesthetics were also improved, so it really was a win-win situation. No-one was blamed but everyone took the plaudits when the job was named PFI Hospital of the year in 2002.

Re-evaluating a design can be a contentious issue if the construction chain is in its classic vertical hierarchy, with the specialist supplier at the foot of the supply chain.

However, in a partnering arrangement the supplier is expected to contribute in ensuring that the optimum design is used, because invariably it will save initial costs, installed costs and running costs. In the fast moving technological world we live in it is no surprise that even a six-month-old design can often be improved upon.

Partnering in the Middle East

There are several individuals and firms now leading the way in the Middle East to a more enlightened way of securing best value from their supply chain.

Cedric Carr is actively promoting the utilisation of specialist suppliers who will sign framework agreements with [Al Futtaim Carrillion]. In his view whatever happens [the firm has] to directly or indirectly supply the majority of MEP equipment installed in its projects.

Gary Turner is the general manager of Fagerhult Group.

If you would like to write for Construction Week in this column, please email rob.wagner@itp.com.

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