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For the construction specialist

Paving the Way Gary Adams shares insights into Parsons’ business and the future of transportation ON TOPIC

Technology led sustainability in the construction industry


Patrick Parsons on adding environmental services


Women in Construction profile: Katherine Bruce


November 2019 Licensed by Dubai Development Authority

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06 aNaLySIS

JLL comments on the supply and performance of Dubai’s residential, office and hotel sectors in Q3 10 NEWS

KSA invests $23bn into Riyadh wellness projects; SNC-Lavalin appoints new regional Resources SVP 14 OpINION

Facilio founder and CEO Prabhu Ramachandran discusses BIM and beyond, as well as pre- and post-construction automation for building and facilities management





Middle East Consultant talks to Parsons’ Gary Adams about the firm’s operations and projects in the region, his views on the recent IPO, and bringing new technology to the region




Jason Saundalkar talks to Patrick Parsons’ Steven Holden and Cameron Martin about the firm’s push into environmental consulting and the opportunities and challenges that they foresee





Angitha Pradeep covers the inaugural Retail & Hospitality Construction Summit organised by CPI Trade Media 36 pROfILE

We talk to AESG’s Katherine Bruce about her influences, career and gender diversity in the construction industry 40 ThE BaCk pagE

Rob Matheson on how technology can help firms better manage risk






Don’t Forget to Strategise First Last month I found myself in the beautiful city-state of Singapore, as a guest of the 2019 edition of Bentley Systems’ Year in Infrastructure event. For those not in the know, the annual event comprises keynotes, industry forums, digital advancement academies, technology demonstrations and much more. The event was a treasure trove of information and although there was so much going on simultaneously that it’s impossible for any one person to experience it all, the event was a thoroughly enlightening experience. The highlight of the event was listening to the keynote presentations delivered by Greg Bentley, Dr. Ayesha Khanna, Keith Bentley and Keith Clarke. Greg and Keith Bentley shared fantastic insights into current and future trends and, perhaps more importantly, how their technology is having a measurable impact on the delivery of projects of all sizes today, as well as what will be possible in the future with Digital Twins etc. As a tech-nut, I love seeing technology making a difference in the real world and, conversely, one of my pet peeves is witnessing cases of ‘technology for technology’s sake’. What does that mean? Simply put, it’s when firms do not have a clear strategy that defines what they expect to gain from the use of technology, how it will be used or what they will build with the technology. Cloud computing, as an example, is frequently embraced without proper planning. It is, in most cases, the first step on a firm’s digital transformation journey but many make the mistake of moving into the cloud without defining what they plan to do or how the cloud can help them achieve measurable business results. In cases like this what then happens (apart from the people leading the transformation project being pulled up) is decision makers lose faith in technology, and will then likely look at future technology investments with disdain. That’s a real shame because the technology itself is generally sound, it just has to be implemented properly, so it can deliver tangible results from cost and time savings to better designs and more.

Jason Saundalkar Editor, Middle East Consultant 2 NOVEMBER 2019

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Arabtec Construction CEO Boyd Merrett resigns


As someone who moved to Dubai without a driving licence but has subsequently realised that owning one is essential if you want to make the most of


the city, I have had

Master plan for 7.1m sqm mega project in KSA revealed

to learn the power of mobility the hard way. Thankfully, I have now passed and am Insight: Why you should be moving to a cloud-based platform

considering my first vehicle and I would love it to be a new Tesla!


Well, that probably

Abu Dhabi Ports breaks ground on Marsa Mina waterfront project

isn’t going to happen any time soon but this (read ‘Masdar City now

offering Teslas for carsharing’ on MECN) could be the next best thing. Car-sharing, and the cloud-based tech CONSULTANT

that powers it, really

Savills adds Building and Consultancy services to its portfolio

is a great idea. In fact, in an ideal world we wouldn’t need to own a car, we could just hop into the next one that is available. It also seems like a good way to encourage people to try electric vehicles for


Emirates RDF breaks ground on UAQ waste-toenergy treatment plant


Righting the Balance: Industry reacts to dubai’s real estate reforms

themselves. Plug me in! Name withheld by request



Dubai Market Review Q3 2019

JLL comments on the supply and performance of Dubai’s residential, office and hotel sectors in Q3


ollowing several initiatives announced to boost demand, the Dubai government has taken steps to limit future supply through a new Real Estate Planning Committee. Developers are also launching fewer new projects, with activity at this year’s Cityscape Global exhibition focusing on the sale of existing inventories. Despite these trends, the market is still expected to see a high level of deliveries in the short term, with potential residential completions in 2019 (36,000 units) likely to be the highest in the last 10 years. The growth of flexible offices and e-commerce continue to disrupt the office and retail sectors, with the latter also creating opportunities for further logistics facilities in Dubai. All sectors except residential, which has reached the bottom, currently remain in the late downturn stage of their cycle, with further declines in rents and sale prices likely over the next 12 months.


Residential Supply & Performance

More than 6,500 units were completed in Q3, bringing completions for 2019 to around 23,000 and total residential stock to around 542,000. Major completions in Q3 included Sparkle Towers in Dubai Marina, Sidra villas in Dubai Hills Estate and BLVD Crescent in Downtown Dubai. An additional 33,000 units are expected to enter the market by the end of the year. We remain cautious on the timely delivery of all these projects. The first initiative addressing future supply was launched in Q3 2019, with the announcement of a new Real Estate Planning Committee. The aim of this committee is to introduce measures to improve the balance between supply and demand. The committee will also develop a comprehensive strategic vision for all major real estate projects in Dubai for the next 10 years. Developers are also responding to the need for lower levels of future supply, with the number of projects launched in 2019 to date (7,800


Dubai apartment rent and sale prices

Dubai residential supply, thousand units Stock Annual supply 700




Rent Y-o-Y

Sales Y-o-Y



Dubai villa rent and sale prices 300





Rent Y-o-Y

Sales Y-o-Y








units) the lowest for the past three years. The Dubai residential market is at the bottom of the cycle, with marginal declines of around 1% in both apartment and villa rents and sale prices, while apartment sale prices increased slightly (by 1%) over the quarter. This brings the total decline over the past 12 months to between 9% (for villa sale prices) and 6% (for villa rents). During Q3, Dubai Land Department (DLD) announced the launch of the first official house price index for Dubai. The index will be called Mo’asher and will publish data related to sales prices and rents in Dubai. It is due to be launched by the end of October. DLD is now responsible for registering all rental contracts in Dubai, taking over from Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA). While DLD will regulate the relationship between landlords and tenants, along with

rental contracts, RERA will be responsible for regulation, overseeing real estate development escrow accounts and accrediting the financial institutions qualified to manage them. RERA also remains responsible for regulating the development, brokerage and management of real estate projects in Dubai.

Dubai office vacancy rates

Dubai office supply, million sqm of GLA Stock Annual supply



Q3 2018

Q3 2019

Office Supply & Performance

Around 80,000sqm of GLA was added in Q3 2019 with the completion of The Offices 4 and 5 in Trade Centre District and the Mastercard building in Dubai Media City. This brings the total office stock to around 8.7m sqm of GLA. Assuming no further delays, an additional 410,000sqm of quality office space is expected to enter the market by the end of 2019. Notable projects include ICD Brookfield Place in DIFC and Amesco Tower in JLT.

9 8 7 6

Dubai office rents, AED / sqm / annum

5 4



Q3 2018

Q3 2019

3 2 1 2015









Dubai hotel supply, thousands of keys Stock Annual supply

Dubai hotel occupancy, YT August

160 140





120 100

Dubai hotel ADR (USD), YT August

80 60 40 20









Demand for office space remained weak in Q3 2019, on the back of slow business activity. The majority of demand is for small units (less than 1,000sqm), with a preference for CAT A fit-out. Several new initiatives have been launched to boost demand. These include the One Free Zone Passport and further moves to allow free zone companies to extend their operations to mainland Dubai. DIFC, DWTC DAFZA and DMCC are among the free zones to have signed agreements with the Department of Economic Development to offer dual licences. Vacancies in the Central Business District (CBD) remained stable over the quarter at 13%. Average grade A rents declined by 6% in Q3 to $385, a 13% decline over the past year. With more quality office supply expected to enter the market, further downward pressure on rents and occupancies is expected over the next 12 months. The market remains positive for tenants and landlords that continue to offer favourable renewal terms to retain existing tenants in the face of increased competition from new ‘best-in-class’ supply entering the market. Landlords are also offering lower rentals, extended rent-free periods, fitout contributions and other concessions to attract new tenants.

“The market is expected to see a high level of deliveries in the short term, with residential completions in 2019 (36,000 units) likely to be the highest in the last 10 years” 8 NOVEMBER 2019


With increased interest in co-working and co-living spaces, developers are offering more flexible workspaces to attract both established corporates and SMEs. District 2020 is one example of a project seeking to accommodate the increased demand for co-working and co-living spaces. Hotel Supply & Performance

Around 800 keys were added during Q3 2019, bringing the total number of hotel and serviced apartment keys to around 124,000 in Dubai. Major projects completed during the quarter include Radisson Blu in Sufouh Gardens and Waldorf Astoria in DIFC. An additional 14,000 keys are expected to enter the market by the end of the year, with major projects including The Address Fountain View in Downtown and Artesia in Damac Hills. While developers are bringing some strategic projects forward to complete ahead of Expo 2020, we remain cautious on the ability of many projects to complete on schedule. Since the relaxation of regulations on short-term rentals in Dubai, holiday homes have been increasing in popularity. Seeing this opportunity, IBC Group recently announced plans to acquire 10,000 properties to furnish and manage as holiday homes in Dubai. Emaar has also entered this market with its own digital platform, Ease by Emaar, which will allow owners in its developments to list their properties for short-term rental. The hotel market in Dubai continued to record decreases in performance in the year to August 2019. Average daily rates (ADRs) fell 13% to $148 compared to the same period last year. Similarly, revenue per available room (RevPAR) fell 15% to $108, and occupancy levels decreased to 73% in the year to August 2019. ADRs and RevPAR are currently at their lowest levels since 2006. Multiple initiatives have been launched to support the hotel market, and although further declines in performance are expected over the next 12 months, the hotel market can be expected to recover on the back of strong visitor arrival growth associated with Expo 2020.

Source: JLL, STR Global, REIDIN



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SNC-Lavalin appoints new regional Resources SVP SNC-Lavalin has promoted Michael Dunn to SVP Resources, Middle East and Africa and Asia Pacific. Based in the UAE, Dunn joins the company’s Resources senior leadership team, leading the business’s oil & gas and mining & metallurgy activities in these regions. “As we continue to grow our Resources business in the Middle East and Africa and Asia Pacific regions, the appointment of Michael Dunn will further strengthen our capabilities and market offering by delivering world-class end-to-end engineering and consultancy, project delivery and asset management services,” said Craig Muir, president, Resources at SNC-Lavalin. Dunn first joined the company in May 2019 as MD, Resources, Arabian Gulf Countries, “ensuring their development strategies and operational capabilities are aligned with the new strategic focus of SNCLavalin’s Resources sector”. For 20 years he has had operations and management roles, building businesses and delivering project roles in the oil & gas and mining & metallurgy markets in the UK, Middle East and Australia, SNC-Lavalin said.

10 NOVEMBER 2019

KSA invests $23bn into Riyadh wellness projects Four major well-being projects have been initiated in Riyadh as part of an urban planning and civil engineering programme to transform the city into one of the most livable in the world. According to the Royal Commission for Riyadh City (RCRC), King Salman Park, Sports Boulevard, Green Riyadh and Riyadh Art are being developed at an investment of $23bn. Once complete, the projects will help enhance the lives of the seven million residents of the city, stated the RCRC, formerly known as the Riyadh Development Authority. The four projects are being managed by the RCRC. They complement the Saudi Vision 2030 ‘Quality of Life’ Programme and are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to create sustainable cities and communities while driving urgent action against climate change, the statement said. “Life is changing for the residents of Riyadh. In line with government reforms in education, healthcare and tourism, we are pushing forward with the diversification and development plans for the city. The goals of Vision 2030 are coming to fruition and massive infrastructure projects such as these will have significant positive implications for our social tapestry and cultural well-being,” said a spokesman for the RCRC. The projects are expected to deliver a number of social, economic and environmental benefits to the city, and create many jobs. Construction of King Salman Park alone will generate around 50,000 jobs, followed by thousands more service jobs on an ongoing basis, stated the RCRC.


DCW committed to being technology agnostic Digital Construction Works (DCW) is dedicated to being technology agnostic when working to simplify digital transformation for its customers in the construction industry, the firm’s CEO told Middle East Consultant in an exclusive interview. The firm is a JV between two vendors, Bentley Systems and Topcon Positioning Group, and was unveiled at Bentley Systems’ Year in Infrastructure Conference. DCW’s solutions are said to span every phase of a project and create a digital thread that connects technologies and workflows. Ted Lamboo, CEO of Digital Construction Works, explained, “It’s important to say that even though we are financed by two vendors, we are an independent company. Greg Bentley said that we have to be agnostic to technology, so in practice we’re going to run into situations where clients have Autodesk/Revit, Esri, Leica, Hexagon – but whatever they have doesn’t matter to us.”



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NOVEMBER 2019 11


RICS launches new retail measurement standard

1,354 solar PVfitted buildings connected by DEWA to its grid As part of its Shams Dubai initiative, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) announced that it has connected 1,354 photovoltaic (PV) installations on residential, commercial and industrial buildings across Dubai. The total capacity of the installations is said to be 125MW. Shams Dubai encourages customers to install solar PV panels on their premises to generate electricity from solar power and export any excess to the power grid. “The first customer to connect solar photovoltaic systems to DEWA’s grid was the rooftop of the employees’ building at Dubai World Central – Al Maktoum International Airport. After that, several ambitious projects were completed, including the 1MW at peak load (MWp) carport installation at Emirates Engine Maintenance Centre in Warsan, a number of Dubai Municipality buildings, including the 260kWp carport at the Khawaneej park, the 1,210kWp plant at the Engineer’s Office’s water pumping station at Al Qudra, the 126kWp canopy at ENOC petrol station near Dubai Internet City, and 426 villas at the Sustainable City,” said Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of DEWA. 12 NOVEMBER 2019

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has launched a new global retail measurement standard that addresses global benchmarks on measuring retail buildings. The standard was drafted by the International Property Measurement Standards (IPMS) Coalition and is said to establish consistent measuring practices for property assets. IPMS: Retail Buildings is the fourth in a series of measurement standards that include IPMS: Office Buildings, IPMS: Residential Buildings and IPMS: Industrial Buildings, RICS noted. The new standard is expected to provide clarity for those purchasing or leasing retail property, and to enable comparisons of differing measurement standards by interfacing to IPMS. Since IPMS was introduced in 2014, professional bodies, governments, property owners, investors and corporate occupiers have begun to realise the benefits, the statement said. “Professionalising measurement practices across all specialisms is paramount for RICS. IPMS has been crucial to supporting our efforts to cultivate a more transparent marketplace with stronger investor confidence and to reducing risk through improving the quality and consistency of data across global markets,” said Alexander Aronsohn, RICS director Technical Standards.


EmiratesGBC appoints eight Emiratis to its Board of Directors

ISG appointed for fit-out of UOW Dubai’s new campus ISG has been appointed to fit out the University of Wollongong in Dubai’s (UOWD) new campus in Dubai Knowledge Park. ISG is expected to mobilise to site this month and hand over the 200,000sqft project by mid-2020. The firm’s scope of work includes design validation, completion of the base build, fit-out of the ground and six floors of the building from a shell and core finish, delivery of infrastructure required for the IT systems and data rooms, and management of services providers and supply chain partners. The interior of the campus is designed by Woods Bagot, while Alexander Mac is the project manager. “University of Wollongong in Dubai is one of the most established educational institutions in the region, and we are delighted to be working alongside such a forward-thinking organisation to deliver its campus of the future and give its students quality space that fosters creativity and innovation, and allows them to thrive,” said Scott McCulloch, GM, ISG, Middle East. Professor Mohamed Salem, president of the University of Wollongong in Dubai, added, “We are proud to be working with ISG to fit out our innovative new campus located in the heart of Dubai. This new campus culminates in 26 years of growth in Dubai as the first international university in the region. From humble beginnings in our first building in 1993, we have grown significantly to our new, purpose-built campus of the future that has been designed from the ground up for our students.”

The Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC) has added eight new members to its Board of Directors to support the UAE’s vision for sustainable development. As noncorporate members of the Board, the new board members will serve for two years and are eligible for re-election after the end of the term. The new members are Abdulla Aljefri, Afra Majid Alowais, HE Ali Al Jassim, Faisal Rashid, Madiha Salem, Mohamed Al-Dah, Noura Al Hammadi and Sara Alzarouni. The addition of the Emirati board members aims to achieve a balance among several key parameters, such as gender diversity, representation across all emirates, youth representation and their commitment to promoting sustainable built environments. “I’m delighted to welcome the new board members. At this critical juncture for sustainable development, these appointments enrich the leadership of the Council as we continue forward on our mission of positioning the UAE as a global leader in green buildings and achieving the sustainable development goals outlined by the UAE Vision 2021,” said Saeed Al Abbar, chairman of EmiratesGBC.

NOVEMBER 2019 13


OPINION 01 Prabhu Ramachandran is founder & CEO of Facilio.

Technology-Driven Sustainability in Construction Facilio’s Prabhu Ramachandran discusses BIM and beyond, as well as pre- and post-construction automation for building and facilities management



ntil recently, one of the factors that had somewhat restrained the growth of ecological building practices was the notion that developers had to choose between sustainability and performance. Far too often, this presumption has resulted in the commercial aspects taking precedence over environmental concerns. However, emerging technologies are paving the way for an empowered new approach which delivers buildings with exceptional performance and occupant experiences that are also eco-friendly across their entire lifecycle. At the turn of the millennium, institutions around the world developed showcase buildings that delivered unprecedented efficiency in resource and energy consumption. Often linked 14 NOVEMBER 2019

to prestigious architecture schools and industry bodies, these ‘green buildings’ had limited impact beyond demonstrating possibilities that would be commercialised at an undefined future date. In the meantime, commercial priorities relegated these efforts to interesting on-campus features while developers around the world continued to incorporate an ever-expanding array of conveniences and luxury features in their offerings, often at the cost of sustainability. Added to that was the humongous task of maintaining those properties post-construction, a huge drain on environmental, human and capital resources, given the propensity for waste and inefficient consumption. So, is the answer to this conundrum a radical return to a more frugal life? Unless you are a hermit or an extreme minimalist, this is not a strategy you are likely to condone. Fortunately, the latest iteration of construction and FM technologies brings with it the promise to reconcile sustainability with the highest standards of services and building performance. Starting Early and Modelling Outcomes

How does one go about ensuring exceptional sustainability for built assets? What is the strategy most likely to create an impact?

Across several industries – be it transport, manufacturing, mining, agriculture or another input-intensive activity – the consensus is that systemic synergy results in more substantial sustainability than does looking for a magic bullet solution. Connectivity, IoT, AI and machine learning are making it possible for us to create systems that are transparent down to their granular detail, as well as responsive in real time. Together with recruiting such fine and specific command and control, incorporating it early in the lifecycle of an asset plays a primary role in ensuring optimal sustainability. So what drove the emphasis on efficiency in construction? Was it sustainability alone? The fact is that had the ecological impact of human activity not come into question due to the climate change debate, the construction industry would still need to make changes. According to the 2017 McKinsey ‘Reinventing Construction: A Route to Higher Productivity’ report, while retail, agriculture and manufacturing industries have increased in productivity by 1,500% since 1945, the construction industry’s annual productivity growth was a pedestrian 1% in the two decades preceding the report. This means sustainability is not a disruptive constraint added to an otherwise effective


model. Rather, it is an outcome that can be included as a priority in an already inevitable reinvention. In recent years, BIM has established itself as a best practice in the construction industry, and it makes perfect sense to include sustainability as one of the outcomes for it to model. The adoption of a BIM-centred approach ensures transparency and controllable outcomes in design, optimal efficiency during fabrication and predictive operations once the asset is in use. Unlocking all available untapped opportunities to enhance sustainability is the key to achieving unprecedented outcomes. Digitised, Agile, Sustainable

Where BIM has so far revolutionised the preconstruction stage by identifying opportunities for off-site prefabrication, reducing wastage, eliminating overstocking and more, digitisation also plays an important part in making existing built assets more sustainable. The leap from 5D BIM to 7D BIM will now add sustainability and facilities management to the modelling

considerations. Bringing the entire lifecycle of a building under the purview of a data-driven and predictive operational model, with the ability to be responsive by leveraging insights derived from IoT, AI and machine learning, introduces unprecedented end-to-end optimisation. Enterprise-wide software platforms are able to leverage IoT and AI technology to create numerous benefits and enhanced capacities for both automation and humans. Empowering data-driven decision-making is the key to a predictive model of managing built assets. Both the pre- and post-construction phase can be optimised to an extent never possible in the past, by giving stakeholders an insight-rich means to anticipate, troubleshoot and manage assets. Not only does this approach enable smarter operations, it also embeds sustainability into the ongoing everyday processes. Optimising Sustainability by SystemWide Technology Deployment

Solutions such as digital retrofits and enterprise-

wide software platforms are an additional layer of real-time command and control that can add to the sustainability of a built asset. The same underlying technologies are also being used for the creation of smart cities. This consistency of deployment will enable the unification of all activities and processes related to buildings into a coherent and optimal ‘design to demolition’ lifecycle. For a system to perform to exacting specifications, it requires complete consistency across every element included within it. Together, digital modelling, IoT and AI real-time analysis deliver complete transparency and responsiveness, as well as the flexibility to be customised for desired outcomes on an ongoing basis. Throughout history, innovation and ingenuity have allowed humanity to constantly derive better and more efficient performance from assets. Rather than settling for a compromise between competing priorities or looking for a single magic bullet solution, the future of sustainable construction lies in coherent and responsive digitised systems.

“Connectivity, IoT, AI and machine learning are making it possible for us to create systems that are transparent down to their granular detail, as well as responsive in real time”

NOVEMBER 2019 15



Paving the Way Middle East Consultant talks to Parsons’ Gary Adams about the firm’s regional operations and projects, his views on the recent IPO, and bringing new technology to the Middle East stablished in 1944 in the United States, Parsons has made a name for itself as a digitally enabled solution provider primarily serving the defence, security and infrastructure markets. Within the Middle East, the firm’s history dates back 60 years, working on a variety of infrastructure projects including roads and bridges, rail and transit systems, airports and ports. Today, the company’s influence can be seen on several large-scale projects including the Riyadh Metro, Expo 2020 Dubai (Infrastructure and Expo Metro Extension), the Abu Dhabi International Airport Expansion and the Dubai ITS2020 Project and Traffic Control Centre. “This year we are seeing improvements in our most challenging markets with respect to cash flow. The first half of 2019 has been solid, and we were well positioned. I’m not sure if the markets are really driving that or if it’s due to the prudent decisions we’ve made within our business over the last few years that has led to our stronger position, but I think those decisions are starting to pay off,” explains Gary Adams, president at Parsons Middle East and Africa (MEA). He adds, “If we take Saudi Arabia, for example, our growth there is mainly coming from both existing and new customers, most of which is from the Industrial City of Yanbu, one of our oldest programmes. We developed the city 40 years ago and we have since provided services akin to the department of public works. Yanbu is growing and transforming, and it’s been an old stalwart part of our business that we’re working to re-energise. “We’ve been in Oman for many years and are working on probably one of the most significant highway projects there; however, the cash flow situation is a concern that we hope will improve. We continue to look for opportunities on the built environment side, but the traditional infrastructure work hasn’t been as rewarding. There have been talks of investing in Oman’s infrastructure but we’re waiting to see what happens. If the investment moves ahead, we’ll evaluate and weigh it against other opportunities within our markets. Kuwait is similar, it’s a great market on paper but it takes time to get projects off the ground. We are there and we are ready, but we are not seeing the pipeline yet. Parsons was a major player 16 NOVEMBER 2019

in Kuwait before the war, and when I came here five years ago, one of my goals was to re-establish a business there. I think there is a huge pent-up demand for infrastructure in the market.” Adams says Qatar is one of the firm’s strongest performing markets and has contributed significantly to its business in 2018. “We are well positioned there, especially in the highway sector. Saudi is also a growth market for us, we had double-digit performance in 2018 and even in the first two periods of 2019, we saw continued strong performance.” That said, Adams points out that the Saudi market is not without its challenges. “With the growth we are experiencing, we have a lot of job requisitions right now, probably well over 500, and approximately half of them are in Saudi. The Kingdom presents a challenge in terms of attracting expats to work there, but I think we have been very successful in staffing there.” Asked to elaborate on staffing in the Kingdom, he explains that Parsons brings in technical expertise from the larger worldwide organisation, as well as locally. He then highlights another challenge in KSA. “One thing that’s been a little frustrating in the Kingdom is the delay of the Enterprise Programme Management Office (PMO) programme. When it began, I believe more than 40 of those programmes were anticipated, but it has been a slow start. There have been starts and restarts to some of the big ones, for instance the Ministry of Transport, which we obviously have our eye on. Hopefully, when that gets sorted, we will see that sector pick up. There have been other opportunities, and I think it’s such a large market that we can still make our growth expectation there with or without the EPMOs.”

“With the growth we are experiencing, we have a lot of job requisitions right now, probably well over 500, and approximately half of them are in Saudi”


NOVEMBER 2019 17

IN PRACTICE 01 Parsons worked extensively on Phase 1 and Phase 2 of Dubai City Walk. 02 Riyadh Metro is an infrastructure mega project set to transform the way people travel in Saudi Arabia’s capital. 03 Parsons is the programme manager on the Abu Dhabi International Airport Expansion Project.


Commenting on the state of the regional construction industry, Adams believes the way forward is to be nimble and adaptive to the current market. “Market conditions are always fluid, but we have made some organisational changes and are always looking to recruit top talent – that’s what it’s all about in our business. I’m blessed to have an exceptional team of people working here for me, from project directors to those who do the production work – all are lending their own individual expertise to make Parsons a leader in our industry.” Focusing on the UAE specifically, he comments, “Dubai has levelled off for us and development work in the built environment market has slowed, but Abu Dhabi is improving and really picking up. So for now, most of our business development work is taking place in the capital.” Parsons has been working in the UAE for more than 40 years, with the start of its transport programme in Abu Dhabi. Adams says the firm still has the contract and has been expanding in other areas. “Our brand is primarily known for heavy civil infrastructure work, but over the last four years or so we have been steadily growing our built environment business. What most people would be surprised to learn is that in terms of our architecture practice and 02 public realm expertise, we have become a major player in the region.” He elaborates, “ We have a talented team of engineers, designers and architects working in our Urban Design Studio in Dubai, and they are developing eye-catching, sustainable solutions for our clients across the region. As we all wait for the business environment work in Dubai to recover, we have picked up development work in Abu Dhabi, notably with Modon, which is exciting.” Modon Properties is a master developer mandated by the Abu Dhabi government to build vibrant and sustainable communities and mixed-use projects in the emirate. 18 NOVEMBER 2019

Summarising 2018, Adams notes, “We performed well, and like most of our competitors in this region we continued to experience margin pressure and our cash flow was somewhat a challenge. But overall, it was a decent year. Thankfully the cash flow issue is not uniform throughout all our markets in the Middle East.” A PPP Future?

While there’s certainly an appetite for infrastructure projects in the region, Adams believes the market and mentalities need to evolve first. He explains, “Private-public partnerships (P3), in my view, would be great because, number one, from our perspective they would probably ensure decent cash flow. However, I don’t think the markets here are sufficiently aligned for P3s. The customers here want to be involved and have a certain degree of control, but P3s require turnover to a consortium, and you must let them run with it. “In North America, Parsons is a big player in design-build and P3, and I came out of that business, so I have always looked at this market for similar opportunities. I think design-build has been successful in some segments of our business, mostly rail, but I’m a little dubious about its application to the traditional highway work here, as it’s been done in North America.”



“We have a talented team of engineers, designers and architects working in our Urban Design Studio in Dubai, and they are developing eye-catching, sustainable solutions for our clients across the region” Discussing the company’s recent IPO, which saw the firm raise more than $500m, Adams believes it will enable the firm to continue delivering cutting-edge solutions going forward. “The company’s continued growth will result in increased efficiencies, technological collaboration and invariably value for our new and existing customers, especially in the MEA region. Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), for example, is at the forefront of applying technology throughout their operations. Parsons was heavily in involved in the Dubai Metro project, which was one of the first driverless metros in the world.” He adds that these efforts are made possible by the company’s shift into the public space. “Our goal is to design smart, linked systems that protect connected buildings and their critical assets, using technology the company is already developing. Parsons also supported the ongoing technological revolution in Abu Dhabi, where smart parking, smart lighting and autonomous security monitoring are already being implemented.” Transportation Technology

Asked about his plans for Dubai, Adams says he’s committed to focusing on transportation technology, centred around smart city development.

He remarks, “The technology that’s coming out of Parsons is primarily coming from our federal business unit in the US. We have made a lot of acquisitions in technology, and one of our strategies is to incorporate that technology into our traditional infrastructural work. That’s been one of our major focuses here. We are looking at some of those technologies and applying them in design and construction, and elsewhere. “Parsons is researching ideas and developing the framework for RTA for new forms of transportation which will be part of a larger solution. In terms of autonomous vehicles, it’s really exciting that Dubai has taken a forward position in that area. My feeling, though, is that autonomous vehicles will be an emerging part of the vehicle fleet, but it’s probably not going to be something where in a couple of years we are going to see driverless cars take over the roads. It’s going to take a while.” Discussing infrastructure security, Adams recalls the firm’s work on the Dubai Metro. “One of our success stories in the region is the Dubai Metro. One of the requirements of the consortia was to provide cybersecurity, which the RTA did not initially see as something that Parsons could address. But cybersecurity is one of our sweet spots, so we were able to include that as part of our programme management services that we could NOVEMBER 2019 19


04 Parsons is responsible for infrastructure design and construction supervision within the Expo 2020 Dubai site.

provide directly, rather than by engaging a third-party consultant.” Talking about protecting smart infrastructure, Adams says the firm has a comprehensive solution in Domain6 – a converged physical and cybersecurity system that boosts an organisation’s ability to collect information from multiple sensors. Having studied transportation engineering and practised as a transportation planner and 04 engineer for many years, this is something Adams has great interest in. “We’re eager to see our UAE customers adopt this technology. Like with any new technology, we know it will take some time, but we are educating our customers and slowly gaining traction. We’re tweaking some of the elements, but the core part of Domain6 is ready to be deployed. Again, it’s rewarding to see our technology integrated on several projects in the region already.” Discussing the technology that the firm integrates into transportation projects, Adams notes that Parsons’ work on federal projects in the US has led to many innovations, and that the firm will be bringing some of those solutions to the region. “One of our key solutions is iNET, an advanced transportation management system we’ve developed that is valuable for both our customers and the people they serve, because it generates meaningful, actionable information. Our recent acquisitions have provided the resources to help us refine and deliver that solution regionally within the next few years.” Adams is cautiously optimistic about the infrastructure required to make electric cars and fleets viable in the region. He notes that there are a lot of good reasons for those modes of transport to become prevalent in the coming years. Looking ahead, he is keen for Parsons to continue playing an integral role in the growth of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“Market conditions are always fluid, but we have made some organisational changes and are always looking to recruit top talent – that’s what it’s all about in our business” 20 NOVEMBER 2019

“Though we can’t speculate on future growth, the company is continuing to execute on its three-tiered enhance-grow-transform strategy. The first part is enhancing organic operations through strategic leadership additions, technology research and development efforts, and focusing our sales on higher margin, lower working capital markets. “Secondly, we’ve entered the geospatial intelligence, cloud computing and small satellite integration markets, while expanding our revenue in cyber intelligence and intelligent transportation systems. And finally, we’re focused on building our technology and transactional revenue streams, which has enabled us to accelerate revenue growth, increase margins, generate strong free cash flow and bring new capabilities to our customers.” Touching on the importance of sustainability across Parsons’ operations and projects in the GCC, Adams states, “We have a dedicated team of sustainability and environmental professionals working in project teams to identify smart solutions to improve marine water quality, manage waste, reduce noise and air pollution, enhance outdoor lifestyles and improve the overall health and liveability of cities. We also run active programmes to reduce waste and resource consumption in our offices. We remain focused on driving sustainability in all areas of our work.” Diversity and Future Talent

Discussing diversity and talent in the region, Adams is quick to point out that Parsons is committed to retaining and promoting more female engineers and professionals across the GCC market. He puts Saud Khawaja forward as an example – she leads the infrastructure business for Parsons in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. He also notes that Parsons is investing in young professionals through its Early Career Development programme, which includes diverse, talented and motivated women. He concludes, “We have a relationship with the American University of Sharjah’s School of Engineering, and I’m fortunate to sit on the advisory board. The Memorandum of Understanding that we signed last year in the areas of education and research is bearing fruit. We’ve since employed several female graduates who will grow and hopefully choose to have lasting careers with us.”

R I T Z C A R LT O N J B R / D U B A I / U A E

The awards that celebrates the best consultants in the Middle East 10 December 2019
















Environmental Opportunities Jason Saundalkar speaks to Patrick Parsons’ Steven Holden and Cameron Martin about the firm’s environmental services and the opportunities and challenges that they foresee atrick Parsons established its presence in Dubai in 2014, with the opening of its office in Dubai South. Since then, the firm has worked on projects across the GCC and says it is committed to nurturing relationships and delivering excellence and value to its clients. Although the firm focused primarily on delivering engineering services within the region, Patrick Parsons has kept an eye on prevailing trends to ensure that it is aligned with market requirements. This has led the company to broaden its service capabilities in recent months. “In the past 12 months Patrick Parsons has grown from delivering engineering-only service lines to broadening market capability with the addition of a Middle East environmental consulting division. With this expansion, the team brings over 30 years of regional experience and covers nine additional key service lines for both the terrestrial and marine environment – ecology, noise, hydro modelling, contaminated land (soil and groundwater), waste, air quality, asbestos, EIA and audit, and environmental due diligence,” says Steven Holden, regional director – Middle East at Patrick Parsons. Asked about the thinking behind the move, Holden notes, “The current market is, as we all know, a challenging one. In order for Patrick Parsons to succeed, we aim to deliver practically compliant solutions for our clients, focusing on our existing core markets of KSA, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. These practicalities, be it cost or technical driven, will be our true focus point and key to success.” Discussing key challenges in 2018 up to Q3 2019, Holden says, “There has definitely been a shift during this period, with a focus on reduced fees and value for money, which is often required just to have a project get off the ground. Thankfully, based on Patrick Parsons’ size and scale in the region, we have been able to offer our clients real value and continue to focus our business on developing close relationships with our clients and providing the key services required for a successful project.” 22 NOVEMBER 2019

Holden says the consultancy has focused on building relationships with clients and providing a design fee that meets the commercial pressures while ensuring all design deliverables are met. “I believe, due to our size in the region, we often have an advantage in this regard over the larger international consultancies.” A New Focus

Earlier in the year the firm appointed Cameron Martin as its principal environmental consultant. He is charged with driving the company’s new division forward. Martin explains, “This increase in capability over the past 12 months allows us to deliver a multidisciplined environmental consultancy while remaining technically compliant at a cost-effective price. Despite the growth in numbers (both service line and people), our team remains agile enough to deliver broad scopes of work across the region, such as EIAs, while also having niche technical excellence in areas such as protected species relocation. I’m of the belief that Patrick Parsons Middle East is one of the only Middle East consultancies offering up such diversity in the region at such a competitive price point.” Asked about Martin’s appointment and the other moves the firm has made in order to address requirements, Holden explains, “We appointed Cameron to lead and grow our environmental consultancy due to the growing demand in the market for the specialist services at affordable prices. In the past 12 months, we’ve diversified capability from a more land-locked environmental consultancy to one that covers both land and sea. This has come via a strategic partnership agreement with Nautica Environmental Associates, based in Abu Dhabi. From an environmental consulting view, there is very little we cannot cover and with the average age of our team being 30, our appetite to make a difference is tangible.” The firm obviously sees environmental consultancy as a viable option for business growth. Martin notes that while the drivers for these services have not changed (legal compliance, etc), there is increased awareness of environmental protection among the general public.


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“We have been able to offer our clients real value and continue providing the key services required for a successful project” He elaborates, “This increased awareness has driven international and regional authorities to come back to known procedures and establish if anything needs to change, to implement and ensure the practical day-to-day compliance is being adhered to and driven in a sustainable manner. This global awareness has also impacted the private sector, who in a difficult market are looking for efficiencies and how to be seen as leaders rather than followers. On a relatively macro level (client projects), this is where Patrick Parsons sees the major shift in sector trend.” Asked how the region has changed and how the firm aims to deal with new realities, Martin responds, “I’ve had the pleasure of working in the UAE for the past five years and have witnessed the growth and contraction in not just regional markets but also client/sector spending. We aim to grow in a sustainably ambitious manner, making sure we evolve with the market – listening to what our clients need and adapting accordingly are by default our focus points that will ultimately drive our success. “The increase in our service lines has allowed the team to offer the vast majority of associated deliverables on large-scale infrastructure projects both on land and sea. We recognise that the UAE infrastructure will see increased investment in the countdown to 2020 and beyond.” 24 NOVEMBER 2019

Elaborating on client requirements in relation to new market realities, Holden explains, “Clients across the board are seeking efficiencies in price, more so than ever. This is driven by the market, competition and increasing internal scrutiny on what services offer up true value for money. Additional scrutiny from international investment in the region brings added challenges in meeting these standards – Patrick Parsons has the international experience and expertise to educate and upskill our clients where required.” Martin adds, “Clients are more and more proactively seeking environmental input to ensure compliance, prior to project initiation, to an international standard, often because they want to be seen as industry leaders on either a project-specific basis or as a company. The evolution of priorities is the key factor, the main one being project efficiencies due to increased scrutiny.” Discussing the opportunities and challenges of the firm’s new service offering in the Middle East, Martin asserts, “There are opportunities opening up surrounding new and evolving environmental regulations in our key markets. For example, Dubai Municipality has recently issued the first of many new guidance documents for environmental compliance, and our clients are looking to us to help navigate and understand the changes and challenges ahead. This is where our wealth of experience and established stakeholder engagement really comes into play, because we can offer truly expert insight into what the changes mean

01 The firm provided structural,


civil, MEP and geoenvironmental services on D3 Block Park in Dubai. 02 Working on the Jubail Landfill in KSA, the firm is providing geo-environmental services. 03 Patrick Parsons was appointed to deliver environmental services on a fast-tracked key stone project in the Sharma Bay area of the Neom Development.

and how clients need to adapt and plan for the future. “Although this is an opportunity, it is also a challenge because requirements are constantly evolving and we have to be able to adapt quickly and always be on the front foot when it comes to any changes. Fortunately, because the regulations are being brought into line with international best practice, which we are well versed on, we are able to advise our clients accordingly. Outside of the current challenging market, our focus is to prove ourselves to our clients, delivering the goods within project costs and timeline, something we know we can do.” 2020 and Beyond

Less than two months before the calendars roll over to 2020, the industry is abuzz with questions about the new year. Asked about their predictions

for sectors that show promise, Holden and Martin anticipate opportunities as the focus on healthy living grows. “Going forward, we’re seeing a huge opportunity in the sports and recreation market. Across the region, a general focus can be felt in participating and maintaining an active, healthy and balanced lifestyle. This provides a great opportunity to design and be part of some great projects and experiences. With Patrick Parsons being involved in a number of Olympic Games sites across the world, this provides us with a great opportunity, and we are already involved in some exciting opportunities locally,” 02 Holden explains. Martin adds, “We’re also focused on legacy projects and large-scale infrastructure in the UAE, supporting regional giga-projects. As a team, we’re also keen to remain true to our R&D capability, developing areas of technical excellence in the environmental consulting field.” Holden also reckons refurbishments will be among the key market drivers post-Expo 2020. “We’ve noticed a shift towards the refurbishment of existing buildings, and we believe this will continue to grow. We are currently involved with a number of large refurbishment projects for both corporate and residential properties.” Asked about the firm’s operations in Saudi Arabia and the potential that market 03 shows, Holden confirms, “We’ve been fortunate enough to have already undertaken work on most of the key projects in KSA, so from that perspective we will continue to build on these relationships and will continue to support that market. In recent months we’ve had a team of four based permanently, working on some of the big coastal projects.” Cameron concludes, “We expect to see more specialist projects that require international technical excellence, and to be upskilling clients in addressing the changes in local authority directives. Broadly speaking, our focus will be on infrastructure, the KSA market and renewables.” NOVEMBER 2019 25



Retail and Hospitality Construction Summit 2019 Angitha Pradeep covers the inaugural Retail and Hospitality Construction Summit, which discussed how regional developers, consultants and contractors are coping with evolving trends in the retail and hospitality sectors


he Retail and Hospitality Construction summit (RHCS), organised by Big Project ME (BPME) and Middle East Consultant (MEC), was held on September 30 at the Oberoi Hotel Business Bay in Dubai. The event welcomed over 180 delegates from the top developers, consultants and contractors. The Summit began with opening remarks from Dr Russell Brainard, chief sustainability officer at The Red Sea Development Company, who briefed delegates on the mega project and how it is engaging with stakeholders to achieve the highest levels of sustainability. Dr Brainard said that the challenge is to provide opportunities to see these pristine natural environments without destroying them, which has often not been the case.

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“If we are going to change the community, then we need to reach out to the people who are doing the development – the construction, the hospitality, the retail sectors. So these types of forums are important to energise that community to do things differently or to get their guidance on how to do it,” he explained. The RHCS featured three panel discussions on topics surrounding the retail and hospitality industry, as well as an interactive discussion on the relationship between hotel operators and owners. First Panel

Seven panellists – Ahmed Salem from Hill International, Ali Hossain from


Select Group, Anita Manoj from AMPM Project Delivery Professionals, Joe Tabet from JT+Partners, Kieran Duckworth from Omnium International, Martin Mclean from Compass Project Management and Prabhanjan Kambadur from RSP – discussed how the industry is keeping pace with changing retail and hospitality (R&H) trends. CBRE’s Gabriella De La Torre moderated the 45-minute panel, which began with Tabet noting that each market has unique demands, and the main concern is each market being flexible enough to suit its situation. “Adjustment and flexibility in the market are very important. If you go to the hospitality sector, there is another debate on if we have enough hotels or enough rooms – here is where we felt that demands from the clients are changing and there is a strong focus on feasibility nowadays,” he explained. Hossain and Kambadur had similar thoughts - that successful mixeduse projects are those that allow for flexibility as the market evolves. When MEC caught up with Kambadur to elaborate, he said, “While retail destinations thrive on positioning and good location, it’s equally important to cater to the local community, making it more meaningful for the users and also maximising the usage of the space.”

He gave the example of a shopping mall RSP recently refurbished in Singapore, which incorporated flexible gathering spaces, cycling and skateboard tracks, and spaces for local artists that allow them to express themselves. All these have elements are said to have produced a positive effect on the community, resulting in a distinct feel and lively spaces. Hossain pointed out that his firm designed projects with amenities that will save money for tenants, by implementing additional services that can bring value to them. Here, Duckworth noted that developers are now looking at cost consultants to take centre stage and work collaboratively with architects and developers to set boundaries early and allow feasibility studies to be done right from the onset, which saves time and cost. Duckworth stated, “The creation of the real estate committee is a positive step towards a collaborative work environment, I think there’s a strong message that they are looking for diverse and quality projects.” Manoj pointed out that there is a new trend catching on – community malls that cater to local requirements – though she added that flexibility is required even here. Synergy between malls and hotels is required, where lots of facilities are shared and the footfall draws them together, she said.

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Mclean felt the same: “We are doing a lot of work in Saudi Arabia, there is a huge demand for quality F&B, cinemas and other leisure projects, and that’s not just in mega malls but is also spread largely throughout community malls.” De La Torre then directed the conversation to co-working spaces. Panellists discussed a range of reasons as to why space utilisation and mid-market range assets are gaining popularity in the GCC. Salem said, “Millennials represent a bigger part of the global traveller demographics, which is giving rise to the mid-market brands. Here, it is better to focus on the operation cost by engaging the operator and FM consultants at the design stage, where we can reduce the operation cost, which is five to seven times the construction cost in the R&H sectors.”

“While retail destinations thrive on positioning and good location, it’s equally important to cater to the local community, making it more meaningful for the users and also maximising the usage of the space”

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Panellists also provided views on the challenges around refurbishing or modernising existing assets to meet current market demands. De La Torre summarised: “As consumer preferences change and adapt across generations, real estate must follow. Flexibility allows stakeholders to be that much more responsive and effective in managing the future unknown, and due diligence must be given in the hospitality and retail sector to focus on feasibility and proper planning, to ensure that new projects are not only delivered properly but are well received.” Second Panel

For the second discussion, the panellists were Jason Black from Omnium International, Krishna Murthy from ESC, Majd Fayyad from Emirates Green Building Council, Phillipa Grant from AESG and Russell Brainard from The Red Sea Development Company. The topic was building sustainable retail and hospitality projects in the GCC. NV5’s Nathan Cartwright moderated the panel, which focused on two key issues: the sustainability measures being implemented in regional retail and hospitality projects; and the challenges around green buildings. Kicking things off, Grant pointed out that with regard to market awareness in the hospitality sector, clients are aware of sustainability and of the issues. She said there is an interest in considering health and wellness, more transparency and having third-party certification for verification. The market awareness side is really starting to impact design and construction, especially with high-end developers, she said. Additionally, from a cost consultancy perspective, Black agreed with Grant’s view but added that even though certain practices might benefit a


“The key challenge in driving green buildings in the region is that they are perceived to be more expensive in their construction and maintenance” project in the long run, people are often still interested in tangible savings – but there has been a shift and people are considering long-term savings. Fayyad made a point about adopting a holistic approach towards sustainability, in addition to energy and water conservation, such as working with the supply chain, using eco-friendly products, engaging with guests through campaigns and focusing on waste segregation. “The key challenge in driving green buildings is that they are perceived to be more expensive in their construction and maintenance, even though, globally, they have proved more cost-efficient on operational and lifecycle costs. The additional cost of design and construction of a green building has been reported to be less than 12% of the cost of design and construction of a regular building project,” he explained to MEC. Brainard then gave an example of how The Red Sea Project addresses some of the challenges it faces. “We are going to be establishing an ecoscience centre where we are going to get people involved in helping with the conservation themselves, and we will try and design opportunities for them, so that they feel like they are contributing.” Murthy added, “For consultants and contractors sourcing green materials locally, the lack of incentives, lack of regulations and absence of local green building standards (except the UAE) are bottlenecks.

However, creating awareness to the owners, making them understand that investment towards green buildings would pay back quickly and bring profit for the rest of the building life, providing incentives to all stakeholders, and introducing green building regulations are some solutions to address these challenges.” Cartwright concluded, “At some point there will be ROI on the lifecycle cost of introducing sustainable solutions. It may not be within the first three to eight years; however, unless the long-term view is taken, there will be no long term at the current rate of climate change,” he remarked. Third Panel

The challenges with R&H projects lie in cost and maintenance, bringing awareness to clients, and lack of proper green building regulations. Panellists Abdoullah Albizreh from Depa Interiors, Carla Conte from Brand Creative, Dana Salbak from JLL, Mohammad Hammoud from Khatib & Alami, Prabhu Ramachandran from Facilio and Warren Krawchuk from Paragon Mall debated the use of technology to create intelligent, responsive retail and hospitality environments. AECOM’s Vladimir Jovanovic moderated the 42-minute panel, which discussed the applications of technology in R&H spaces, and how

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the construction and real estate development industries can best prepare to address the demands of the modern consumer. Jovanovic began by asking speakers for their ideal scenario of responsive and intelligent R&H environments. Albizreh and Salbak highlighted how technology has enabled a variety of functions and benefits. From a research and advisory standpoint, Salbak said that big data allows retail destinations to make intelligent decisions on how to personalise the experience for their customers. Conte agreed with the other panellists, stating, “Any technology that ties back to the brand story and customer journey and makes meaningful touchpoints is ideal, but any technology that we integrate must resonate with the customer.” She stressed that her firm’s studies have found that people still want to deal with people, and technology is the right thing only when it can provide meaningful experiences. From an operational perspective, Krawchuk added that even though things are working perfectly at the moment, there is still more that can be done, particularly with regard to AI and other aspects of technology. MEC followed up with Ramachandran on how he thinks technology will progress in the future. He said, “The next major leap will be to unify

“The next major leap will be to unify systems and create multi-fold value. For instance, people could empower security or adjust HVAC systems for occupant comfort” 30 NOVEMBER 2019

systems and create multi-fold value. For instance, people could empower security or dynamically adjust HVAC systems for occupant comfort. Technology can also bring physically distributed facilities together as a single entity, to deliver data-driven operations and maintenance.” Panellists then discussed how, nowadays, everything is done on a mobile device, while operations and maintenance are becoming more mainstream. Jovanovic then posed a vital question: What more can we do, and how can we improve or use software that benefits us to deliver what is expected of us? Hammoud responded by saying that BIM and other technologies have enabled the industry to write scenarios and look into the future, where we can do clash analysis and scenarios of how a space works. “The full sequencing of events in a place, and to be able to visualise that in 3D, gives us an enormous power to create spaces that 20 years ago were beyond our imagination and are now a reality,” he stressed. This led the panellists to debate the risks and challenges of deploying technology, and how the challenges can be addressed. Salbak and Krawchuk had similar thoughts – to understand what the client wants, and that e-commerce and brick and mortar should embrace each other, while technology should be incorporated to make the experience better. “Talking about consumer experience, culturally there is a difference. Technology is a tool that helps people make quick, convenient decisions in the R&H realm in other parts of the world, but as long as we have the climate conditions that we have here, retail spaces are going to have to entertain us. Meanwhile, from a client’s point of view operationally, small brands and homegrown labels look at technology as a hindrance, since they don’t have the budget to integrate technology as of yet,” said Conte. Jovanovic concluded: “The construction industry will continue to utilise technology to ensure efficient design delivery and to satisfy clients’ budgets. Likewise, the amount of data gathered from projects will increase. This will enhance our ability to determine and evaluate the demands of consumers while creating future project visions.”










25 - 28 NOVEMBER 2019 Dubai World Trade Centre #BIG5EXHIBITION






Visit The Big 5 to attend essential workshops delivered and accredited by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).









The Big 5 2019

Leading brands and dedicated workshops will shed light on one of the fastest-growing and most promising building solutions


ith rapid and efficient construction delivery becoming key to business success, The Big 5 will introduce the brand new Offsite & Modular Construction sector this year. From 25 to 28 November at the Dubai World Trade Centre, the Middle East’s largest construction event will showcase state-of-the-art off-site and modular construction solutions. Leading brands including BK Gulf, MACS and Katerra will be presenting their modular solutions for the first time ever. A dedicated educational agenda, the Offsite & Modular Talks, will shed light on advances in off-site and modular construction, analysing new challenges and opportunities in the region. “The Big 5 has always been at the forefront of showcasing new construction ideas, and it’s great that there’s a dedicated space for off-site construction. The construction industry globally needs transformational change to keep up with the growing demand for timely delivered, costcontrolled and quality infrastructure,” says Nejeeb Khan, Katerra’s head of Design & Business Strategy. Off-site construction responds to this demand as it optimises material and resource use, creating minimum waste and disruption on-site, all the while increasing the construction’s sustainability. According to Khan, the acceptance of off-site construction is growing and more new technologies will be deployed going forward. 32 NOVEMBER 2019

Off-site manufacturing allows rooms, bathrooms and other construction elements to be fully manufactured and finished at the factory, then assembled on-site for maximum efficiency. Modular and off-site construction factories act as an extension to job-sites, delivering better productivity, quality and precision. “At Katerra, we are focused on achieving this through end-to-end design and construction services, all connected through robust technology. We design buildings for off-site manufacturing and assembly, converting building types like commercial offices, hospitals, hotels and homes into products that are all assembly-line, factory manufactured,” Khan adds. The Offsite & Modular Construction is one of the six product sectors featured at The Big 5. Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the exhibition will run alongside The Big 5 Heavy, Middle East Concrete, HVAC R Expo, Middle East Stone, The Big 5 Solar, and the Urban Design & Landscape Expo, providing innovative solutions across the entire construction lifecycle. Beyond bringing to Dubai over 20,000 innovative products under one roof, the seven events will offer more than 220 complimentary highlevel summits, practical seminars and CPD-certified workshops, to foster collaboration, support best practices and provide effective solutions to today’s industry challenges. To find out more about The Big 5, visit www.thebig5.ae.



Urban Design & Landscape Expo $20bn to be invested in greening the GCC over the next decade


ver the next decade, investment in landscaping and associated facilities in the GCC will near $20bn, a report released by the Middle East’s premier trade event for green urban spaces, the Urban Design & Landscape Expo (UDLE), reveals. Just under half of this will be required in Saudi Arabia, while more than $6bn is destined for the UAE market. According to the report, the lack of natural greenery is pushing developers to increasingly consider the aesthetic of their projects, as well as the well-being and health of their users. “Being mostly desert and arid, the requirement for green landscaping around residential, commercial and mixed-use projects is high in the GCC region,” says Josine Heijmans, Portfolio director at dmg events. “With long-term government visions driving investment in new projects, massive opportunities are coming up for landscape industry players. This clearly reflects in the outstanding success of a show like the Urban Design & Landscape Expo, where the growing regional demand can meet both the local and international offer,” she adds. The expanding landscape investment requirements come against a backdrop of the almost $1.5 trillion of planned and unawarded construction and civil infrastructure projects expected to be awarded over the next 5-15 years in the GCC. The largest single future projects market

will be Saudi Arabia, followed by the UAE. Other GCC states will also offer opportunities, the report states. From 25 to 28 November, 2019 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, the Urban Design & Landscape Expo will host over 90 local and international exhibitors, showcasing the latest solutions in hard landscaping, irrigation & drainage, machinery & equipment, sports & playgrounds, materials & components, specialist sectors, and design, planning & consulting. After last year’s success, the must-attend event for landscape and urban design professionals will further increase its educational offer. Beyond running the second edition of the Urban Design & Landscape Summit, UDLE will introduce three days of CPD (Continuing Professional Development) certified workshops alongside the exhibition this year. The Urban Design & Landscape Expo will run alongside The Big 5, the Middle East’s largest construction event, in co-location with The Big 5 Heavy, Middle East Concrete, Middle East Stone, HVAC R Expo and The Big 5 Solar. On its debut last year, the UDLE gathered over 90 exhibiting companies from around the globe, attracting more than 3,400 visitors. It also won the Best Marketing Campaign award for a trade event at the AEO Excellence Awards. To find out more, visit www.udlexpo.com.

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One-day summit on November 26, 2019 brings together HVAC R industry leaders from across the region


VAC R Expo, the Middle East’s leading platform for connecting the HVAC R industry, returns to Dubai World Trade Centre for a second edition from 25-28 November 2019, featuring the all-new HVAC R Pioneers’ Summit. Josine Heijmans, Portfolio director at dmg events, announces the new feature: “After the successful launch edition of HVAC R Expo, we are delighted to announce that the event will this year feature the HVAC R Pioneers’ Summit. The summit responds to the HVAC R community’s needs to find energy-efficient and cost-effective solutions for the region. “According to recent research, $70bn worth of HVAC R systems are planned to be installed in the Middle East over the next decade. 90% remains to be awarded, and this presents a huge drive for the HVAC R sector, reflecting growing opportunities for global industry stakeholders.” While the HVAC R sector is one of the most important in the Middle East due to the climate, which makes it a pivotal element of all building projects, it is also the largest consumer of electricity in the region’s cities. According to Ronak Monga, segment development manager of Building Services at Grundfos and a speaker at the summit, this is leading to a big appetite for innovation in the market. The agenda for the HVAC Pioneers’ Summit not only covers an overall market outlook on the Middle East’s HVAC R sector, but also features both individual and panel discussions on the significance of indoor air quality, 34 NOVEMBER 2019

the growing demand for district cooling, and cooling of super tall buildings, as well as a master class in ‘BIM + HVAC = Smarter Buildings of the Future’. Suhas Inamdar, head of Technical Support and Planning at Wasl Properties, reveals what a smart city’s HVAC R system might look like: “Just one example of innovation is that smart thermostats shall increasingly use artificial intelligence and machine learning to study the user behavioural pattern and optimise the power consumed by HVAC systems in the buildings. Moreover, we shall witness a new range of eco-friendly DeVAP HVAC systems in the coming decade, which consumes significantly less energy and does not use any harmful refrigerant to achieve cooling.” HVAC R Expo also brings back the free-to-attend CPD-certified HVAC R Talks, presenting a unique opportunity for visiting professionals to gain career development points and providing them with a chance to stay updated on trends in the sector. Aside from educational content, visitors to HVAC R Expo can expect to see the latest products on display at the event, relating to climate control, air quality and ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and heating, HVAC equipment and services, and building automation. HVAC R Expo is co-located with The Big 5, The Big 5 Heavy, Middle East Concrete, Middle East Stone, The Big 5 Solar, and Urban Design & Landscape Expo this year – transforming Dubai World Trade Centre into the global hub for the construction industry from 25-28 November 2019.


Siddharth Mathur PARTNER

p: +971 4 3385806 e: sm@studiolumen.ae



WIC Profile: Katherine Bruce Jason Saundalkar talks to AESG’s Katherine Bruce about her influences, career and gender diversity in the industry ollowing our special edition dedicated to women in the construction industry, Middle East Consultant continues to share the inspiration and experiences of women working in the male-dominated construction industry across the GCC. Here, we catch up with Katherine Bruce, sustainability consultant at AESG.

strategy consulting for projects in the built environment, researching innovation in the sustainability field and sharing knowledge with others through presentations and publications. I actively work on construction projects that lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and improvements to occupant well-being. Some of my key projects include work on Dubai’s Demand Side Management programme, sustainability strategies for master plans in the region, and occupant health and wellness assessments.

What drove you to get into construction and your very first role

Besides fairness and being the right thing to do, diversity in the

in the industry?

construction industry is important because of the value women

I decided I wanted to study engineering when I was around 16 years old. Science and Math were two of my favourite subjects at school, but I wasn’t sure what job role would allow me to apply them in a working environment. A teacher recommended that I consider pursuing a career in engineering. I was fortunate to grow up in an environment where my gender posed no restriction to the career choice I made.

can bring to employers, clients and customers. How have you

Share a brief about your career, mentioning key achievements with regard to your role.

I began my career in the oil & gas industry, where I spent time in Abu Dhabi and South Korea. In Korea, I worked at the construction site of a floating liquified natural gas facility (FLNG). It was an amazing opportunity to see the translation of drawings on paper into a fully functioning facility. However, during this period I learned about the environmental damage the sector was causing to fragile ecosystems. I became passionate about sustainability and wanted to channel my career towards creating positive impacts. I was awarded a scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge, where I completed a Masters in Engineering for Sustainable Development. During that year, I met some incredibly talented and driven people who further increased my ambition to improve the sustainability of the construction sector. I then returned to the UAE to join AESG in my current role as a sustainability consultant. My role involves providing technical and 36 NOVEMBER 2019

made your mark in the industry working on specific projects?

Some of the best moments I have had in the industry are influencing clients about sustainable development and leading them to make better decisions about their projects. Whether it’s improving the thermal performance of the building envelope or installing a greywater recycling system, I find it rewarding to know these changes will reduce the longterm environmental footprint of the development. At city scale, I have also helped to develop a building energy and water rating scheme for Dubai. The scheme will be used to benchmark building performance and help drive down consumption of utilities in the city. What are some of the barriers to women entering the construction industry? What was your personal experience?

I have been particularly fortunate in that my gender has not been a significant barrier to entering the construction industry; however, this is not true for all my female colleagues. I do believe there is workplace discrimination across the world that contributes to women’s lower socio-economic status. Barriers that woman face in industry are tied to the organisation’s decision-makers, who are open to personal biases. Such personal discrimination against females by decision-makers (male or female) can occur at various stages of work – recruitment, salary, assignments, training opportunities, performance evaluation,


“Females are now widely represented in UAE government positions due to conscious investment in recruiting females and offering programmes. The private sector needs to follow this example by supporting their female employees through leadership and management skills training� NOVEMBER 2019 37


promotion and termination. There are also barriers for new mothers who return to the workplace, often having to accept lower pay or less responsibility just to get back on the career ladder. The GCC construction sector is still male-dominated; however, diversity is beginning to increase. If you agree with this, comment on what is driving this trend and how you see the GCC markets changing in the coming years. If you do not agree, please share your thoughts/views of the market.

The GCC construction sector is still very much a male-dominated environment; however, across the industry the presence of female engineers has dramatically increased over the past couple of decades. Universities are playing an important role in encouraging woman to choose STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects by collaborating with schools and promoting scholarships specifically for females. When I started my engineering course in 2009, about 20% of my classmates were female. In my brother’s year group, five years later, this percentage had increased to around 40%. However, despite the increased number of junior female engineers entering the sector, females in leadership positions are significantly under-represented. Everyone has a part to play in diversity and equal pay. What would you like to see government authorities and construction firms do to increase diversity and make pay a level playing field?

I think if governments or companies had a policy to ensure parental leave was offered equally for both new mothers and fathers, this would reduce the number of women leaving the industry or falling behind in their careers and missing out on leadership opportunities. Some governments are now offering such schemes. In Iceland, for example, parents are given nine months of leave – three months for the mother, three months for the father and the remaining three months to be shared. Diageo, a major beverage company, recently announced a new policy to offer 26 weeks paid parental leave to both males and females. Such polices afford mothers better support when they return to the workforce, but at the same time also give fathers precious time to bond with their newborns. 38 NOVEMBER 2019

Firms also need to work on the progression of females into leadership positions. Females are now widely represented in UAE government positions due to conscious investment in recruiting females and offering programmes. The private sector needs to follow this example by supporting their female employees through leadership and management skills training. For construction firms in particular, facilities that accommodate woman should also be offered. I have conducted site audits in construction sites in the Middle East and have often been given an oversized vest or shoes that are too big, because they don’t have resources that suit women’s sizes. Besides authorities and construction firms, who else can play a part in increasing diversity and balancing pay scales?

Increasing diversity in the construction industry needs to begin during childhood years. Teachers and parents play an important role in encouraging females to select STEM subjects. Also, the toy industry


“Some of the best moments I have had in the industry are influencing clients about sustainable development and leading them to make better decisions about their projects. I find it rewarding to know these changes will reduce the longterm environmental footprint of the development”

eye contact is avoided and all questions are directed at a male colleague – such experiences are not so comfortable, but they are fortunately few and far between. Sadly, stereotyping of females in the industry exists across the world. I’ve had sexist comments from people of all backgrounds. One of the first days I put my hard hat on to go to a construction site, someone turned in surprise, exclaiming he thought I “only worked in the admin team”. Fortunately, I’ve learned to be quite thick-skinned over the years. In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge women in the construction sector face in GCC countries? How can these challenges be addressed?

I believe developing core leadership skills is particularly challenging for woman in the GCC construction sector, as the culture is in disaccord on whether women should apply authority. Woman leaders in the sector have an opportunity to be role models to younger generations, since climbing the career ladder in a male-dominated environment is not a straightforward task. Do you feel there’s a limit to how far you can progress within your organisation?

I don’t believe my gender poses any limit for me progressing in my current company. At AESG we have five departments servicing the built environment, and two of our department heads are female. They are both inspiring role models who have made big impacts in the construction sector to date. How does the firm you currently work for approach diversity in the workplace? What more can it do to increase diversity?

has a major influence. Having two younger brothers, I remember playing and creating with LEGO blocks. I read that LEGO launched a Woman in NASA range which showcased some of the space sector’s top female talents as LEGO models. Young females need to be exposed to role models in the industry to give them inspiration. As a woman in the industry, what has your experience been working in the GCC construction sector? If you have worked

AESG recognises the importance of a gender-equal workplace. We focus on equal rights, promotions and pay, as well as a fair hiring process. We also want to attract the best talent to join our team, and adhere to strict policies and procedures when recruiting to ensure that there is fair and equal opportunity for all. AESG encourages female employees to engage with youth in order to demonstrate the opportunities that exist for women within the industry and to promote the uptake of historically male-dominated courses such as engineering. We also encourage talented woman in the company to regularly participate in industry events and share their knowledge through presentations and publications.

in markets outside the GCC, how does your experience here compare with what you’ve experienced and observed in those

What advice would you give to a woman entering the GCC

other markets?

construction industry today?

When I first started working in the GCC, I remember going to meetings and maybe a male client wouldn’t reach out to shake my hand. Initially I felt embarrassed, especially if I had offered a handshake. Now I am more knowledgeable about the cultural differences in the region compared to the UK. Although I have experienced meetings where

I’d ask the person to first look for the right opportunities and apply for companies that align with their values on diversity. Second, network with other females in the industry to build a strong support base. And third, but most important, be passionate about what they do, as this will shine through regardless of gender. NOVEMBER 2019 39


LAST WORD 01 Rob Matheson is GM of CCS (Construction Computer Software) – Gulf.

The Tech Behind Successful Projects Rob Matheson on how technology can help firms better manage risk related to long payment cycles



here’s no two ways about it: nonpayment remains a key barrier to a healthy construction industry. In a recent survey gauging opinion on some of the risks and challenges facing the region, participants offered their views on subjects such as financial risk, performance bonds, VAT and HSE. Asked about the biggest financial risk facing UAE construction companies, more than 60% of respondents highlighted the issue of late payments leading to cash flow problems as one of the most significant challenges. A further 14% cited eroding margins due to tough competition as a pertinent financial risk. MENA construction companies have endured a difficult few years, facing near40 NOVEMBER 2019

insurmountable problems because of late or slow payment by clients in the public and private sectors. This situation is partially to blame for the string of poor results and business rescues we have seen among several construction groups. In the construction industry, a late payment to one supplier or by one customer can have a ripple effect throughout the value chain. Given how thin margins are in the industry, variances in cost and scheduling can compromise cash flow and profitability and have a major impact on the viability of a project. Therefore, it is imperative that construction firms use technology to ensure better real-time visibility into their businesses and projects. An integrated costing, project control and enterprise accounting suite designed for the industry can help them manage costs and risks across the entire project lifecycle. Such solutions make it possible to accurately compare actual costs with anticipated costs, allowing timely management interventions. Tried and tested solutions enable construction companies to stay on top of their procurement requirements, payments to sub-

consultants and contractors and others. When paired with a robust forecasting solution, such solutions give construction companies a full analytical breakdown of every project, based on past performance and the potential impact of future events. With the right level of insight, a construction company can understand how project financing, payment terms and late payments may affect the profitability of a project. This gives it the ability to make informed business decisions about the projects it takes on, as well as the costs it should quote on, to ensure profitability. We are hopeful the environment for the construction industry is improving, but late payment is likely to remain a challenge for major groups and smaller firms alike. Equipped with the right technology solutions, however, construction companies can better manage the risks attached to long payment cycles, protecting their margins. In addition, implementing the right technology today will give a construction company the competitive edge it needs to endure challenging times and thrive during prosperous times.

“It is imperative that construction firms use technology to ensure better real-time visibility into their businesses and projects”


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