ME Consultant September 2020

Page 1

Digital twins and the benefits it can bring to water projects


Making projects more efficient through building sciences


Women in Construction: HKA’s Kelly Whitehead




MEC speaks to Compass’ leadership team about their plans for the firm in light of the new normal

Charting a New Course

Licensed by Dubai Development Authority

Office Location: Millennium Plaza Tower 14th Floor, Sheik Sayed Road P.O.Box 26290, Dubai, UAE

Contents | 01


September 2020 Issue 072

Cover Story

Charting a New Course

Jason Saundalkar speaks to Compass Project Consulting’s leadership team about the impact the pandemic has had on their projects and business, market trends and future opportunities Opinion

Construction Technology


ACCIONA ME’s Julio de la Rosa speaks about the evolution of digital twin technology and the benefits it can bring to infrastructure projects in the water sector



Route 2020’s Impact on Real Estate

JLL discusses the potential impact the recently inaugurated Route 2020 could have on the areas it passes through in Dubai September 2020

02 | Contents



The Science of Buildings

John Downey discusses the value Intertek’s building sciences offering can offer project stakeholders and shares his views on the future of the built environment in the region


Kelly Whitehead

Jason Saundalkar talks to Kelly Whitehead, Human Resources director, Africa, Middle East & Asia at HKA, about her influences, career and gender diversity in the construction industry

26 Interview

Temporary Structures Rising Jason Saundalkar talks to Losberger De Boer Middle East’s Paul Machin about temporary structures and their rising importance to multiple sectors in a world hobbled by COVID-19

8 Update


DEWA credits R&D Centre for boosts in productivity; First Group achieves major milestone on Ciel project; GAJ announces handover of Garden Bay Lucknow project; Azizi breaks ground on Creek Views II residential project; Swicorp opens first cinema in Hafr Al Batin in KSA September 2020



Dress & Sommer is an international enterprise, working with private and public clients from construction bodies to investors on all types of real estate and infra-structure projects. With its pioneering and future-shaping consulting, the company offers solutions for successful buildings, high-return portfolios, powerful infra-structure and livable cities. 3,820 employees in interdisciplinary teams based at 46 locations worldwide support clients across a wide spectrum of sectors. All the services provided by the company take into consideration both economic and ecological concerns, calling this holistic approach ‘the blue way’. Find out more: Drees & Sommer Middle East

04 | Welcome




Equal Paid Time Off On August 30, the government of the UAE announced a new law that made five days of paid paternity leave mandatory for men working in the private sector. The leave must be taken within six months of the child’s birth. The law also outlined that women are eligible for an additional five days of paid maternity leave. Previously, UAE law did not require private sector companies to provide leave to male staff, although companies within the construction sector, and others, did include paternity leave in their employment contracts. The move by the UAE government is said to be a first for a country in the Middle East region. While it is definitely a step in the right direction and it is good to see governments giving thought to this important topic, there is still room for improvement, considering the push towards gender parity in the workplace. As it stands under current laws, women working in the private sector are eligible for significantly more paid leave days compared to men (50 days versus just five days). What this means is women will continue to be at home more than men, which will reinforce the stereotype of women having to put their careers on hold in the interest of family life. At the same time, it will also keep new fathers September 2020

from spending more time with their newborn children during those precious early months. The ideal scenario should be an equal amount of paternity and maternity leave days being made mandatory, so it then falls to the new parents to decide on who will take the time off to care for the newborn. On top of this, there should be enough flexibility offered in terms of how the leave is taken by parents, so that both father and mother have an equal chance to bond with the child in those vital early months. In cases of families with more than one child, older children seeing both parents taking time off work to spend time with, and look after, the newest member of the family, will also ensure that the child doesn’t associate either parent as the one making the sacrifice for the family. Of course, companies operating in the UAE have been free to go beyond what is outlined by the law in terms of maternity and paternity leave, and I doff my hat to those that have in the construction sector. But, it’s important that this become standard practice across sectors and industries, so that we move closer as a whole to equality in the workplace. Until next time, stay safe!

Jason Saundalkar Editor, Middle East Consultant






The publisher of this magazine has made every effort to ensure the content is accurate on the date of publication. The opinions and views expressed in the articles do not necessarily reflect the publisher and editor. The published material, adverts, editorials and all other content are published in good faith. No part of this publication or any part of the contents thereof may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form without the permission of the publisher in writing. Publication licensed by Dubai Development Authority to CPI Trade Publishing FZ LLC. Printed by Al Salam Printing Press LLC. CPI Trade Media. PO Box 13700, Dubai, UAE. +971 4 375 5470 © Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.










Hills Estate, Mohammed Bin Rashid City

aar Properties PJSC


T: +971 4 3434 600





DUBAI HQ: Suite 601, Al Hawai Tower, Sheikh Zayed Road, P.O. Box 62256, Dubai, UAE


2015, 2016, 2018 & 2019


06 | On Topic





Amaala awards marina services contract to Saudi startup


It’s the nature of projects like this that they tend to stretch over many years, and sometimes decades (ENEC: Barakah


nuclear plant now sending

Phase Two work on track for Bahrain’s Water Garden development project

megawatts of power to UAE grid). As such, there is a danger that the original requirement will have been surpassed by events in

Expert Voice Webinar: Ian Williamson and Shaping the Kingdom’s Future

the years that follow the initial green light. However, given the volatility


(socially, economically

Azelio and ALEC Energy to build verification project in Abu Dhabi in Q3 2020

and in the energy market) that we have seen in the intervening decade, this is one infrastructure project that seems more relevant than ever. Obviously, this is only the start of a long phase of testing ahead of commissioning


and then, finally, full

Riyadh’s The District Al Faisaliah redevelopment project starts second phase

operation but I see this as a major milestone for the region’s clean energy ambitions. Major progress, then. We just need to ensure that we continue to explore all the other potential renewable technology out there.


Le Carrousel, the Moroccan capital’s new waterfront development, on course for 2022 completion

September 2020

It’s the environmentally

Webinar: How digitalisation of the rental sphere works for equipment users and owners

responsible thing to do. Name withheld by request

MZ Architects believes in pushing the boundaries of architecture and design.

Our work relates to spatial concepts, form and structure.

Offices Residential Mixed Use Hotel & Furnished Apartments Commercial Buildings Master Planning Sports & Leisure Public Buildings Educational Buildings Religious Medical



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7th st. - Electra - Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

KBC Center - 5th Floor - Kaslik, Lebanon P.O. Box 159 Zouk Mikhael

8 | On Topic


DEWA credits R&D Centre for boosts in productivity



First Group achieves major milestone on Ciel project

The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) says it has developed advanced infrastructure, as well as specialised software in the 3D printing and additive manufacturing fields. The technology enables it to save time and reduce cost and improve efficiency and productivity, it said. In its statement, the firm said it is the first organisation in the GCC to deploy the highly accurate Markforged Metalx 3D printer based on wire/filament. The firm says it uses 3D printers to produce prototypes and spare parts for its generation, transmission, and distribution divisions and to support the digitisation of its inventory. The technical facility supports rapid prototyping and provides technical solutions, training, knowledge sharing, mechanical testing, techno-economic analysis, and R&D in additive manufacturing. “We work on innovating and developing new 3D printing facilities across DEWA’s divisions and draft quality procedure protocols. DEWA’s R&D Centre supports 3D printing of components that can endure high temperatures and harsh weather conditions. It includes the latest 3D printing technologies such as reinforced plastic printers using a mixture of carbon fibre or fibreglass; CYBE printers; and Markforged Metalx metal printers. The Centre strengthens DEWA’s capabilities in 3D printing, through workshops and training sessions,” said Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of DEWA.

02 Once complete, the Ciel hotel will stand 365m tall and will feature 1,042 guestrooms including 150 suites.

September 2020

01 The facility supports rapid prototyping by using 3D printing and provides technical solutions, training, knowledge sharing, mechanical testing and more.

Developer The First Group says it has achieved a major construction milestone for its 365m tall Ciel hotel project in the Dubai Marina. The developer notes that the largest concrete pour of 7,000cu/m was achieved over a 48-hour period in August. According to a statement, more than 11,800cu/m of concrete and in excess of 3,000-tonnes of steel is being used in the foundations, which is said to highlight the scale of the project. The developer notes that it is making rapid progress and says that the hotel is scheduled to open in 2023.


On Topic | 9

“Ciel is The First Group’s 18th project in Dubai and our largest and most complex undertaking to date. This spectacular tower will truly be a jewel in the crown of one of the world’s most dynamic cities. We are proud to mark this important milestone in the development of Ciel, which is set to become one of Dubai’s most iconic buildings and a landmark hotel of global significance,” said The First Group CEO Rob Burns. China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) is the main contractor. The developer says CRCC is recognised as the world’s second largest C&E company by revenue and is bringing globally renowned expertise in mega developments to the building. Architectural firm Norr designed the 365m skyscraper. It will house 1,042 guestrooms including 150 suites, premium guest amenities and facilities, such as the Ciel Observatory & Lounge on the 81st floor and a signature rooftop Sky Terrace featuring an infinity pool, bar and observation deck.


03 The Garden Bay Lucknow aims to engage with the surrounding landscape to create an uplifting environment for its residents.


GAJ announces handover of Garden Bay Lucknow project Dubai-based Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ) has announced the handover of its latest project in northern India. The Garden Bay Lucknow is a new township situated on the Sitapur-Hardoi Link Road in Lucknow and comprises 600 villas. According to a statement from GAJ, the project offers a tranquil living community that responds to the desire for an inviting, contemplative space, where nature, community and healthy living come together to make a positive contribution to the city. Facilities

include a clubhouse and a dedicated community retail space with a fully-equipped gymnasium, as well as numerous recreation activities. The development is the vision of the Shalimar Group and is said to exemplify the group’s vision and values, by engaging with the surrounding green landscape and creating an uplifting and inspiring environment. The villas feature four different typologies. They are spacious and well planned with natural light and ventilation and have been designed as a community living space, with a deliberate lack of boundaries to encourage social interaction yet still maintain a degree of privacy, the statement said. “With this project we wanted to create a lush green community that combines a clean and healthy lifestyle with an appealing range of homes. The scale and grain of this new urban plan regenerates the site in the heart of Lucknow through a combination of villas, apartments and leisure facilities which have been designed to blend seamlessly with their natural surroundings,” said Avinash Kumar, associate partner at Godwin Austen Johnson. Sustainability is billed as a key focus within the township. GAJ notes that a number of energy efficient initiatives have been implemented including the design of the soft scape to help reduce the urban heat island effect and a water harvesting pond network to recharge the ground water. September 2020

10 | On Topic

District Cooling

Emicool to discount bills for certain customers in response to COVID-19 A seven percent discount on declared load for the three-month period from August to October is being offered by Emirates District Cooling (Emicool) to residential, commercial and industrial customers. The move is said to be part of phase two of Emicool’s stimulus package, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, and will apply to customers falling under identified concession areas within its portfolio. “Emicool’s efforts are always directed towards continuous coordination with our partners in the private and public sectors


September 2020

to maintain a safe economic climate and a thriving business sector in Dubai. Our current initiative is a translation of the directives of the government and is re-introduced with the aim of supporting companies, residents and the business sectors, enhance financial liquidity and mitigate the effects of the current economic situation,” said Emicool CEO Dr Adib Moubadder. According to a statement, the firm’s current total operating capacity is 355,000RTs. Dr Moubadder added, “The impending growth in the district cooling sector indicates an increase in demand for efficient cooling services and with district cooling services forming an important aspect of day to day lives, we are positive that this move will help provide a positive environment and reflect on the economic competitiveness.”

04 Emicool says the discounts are part of phase two of its stimulus package, in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.


Azizi breaks ground on Creek Views II residential project Developer Azizi Developments has announced it has broken ground on its $95.2m Creek Views II project. The project is said to focus on enriching lifestyles and is billed as a key development on the shores of the Dubai Creek in Dubai Healthcare City (DHC). The building will comprise 116 studios, 436 one-bedroom and 35 two-bedroom apartments and will feature two swimming pools, a sauna, a steam room, a fully-equipped gym and a children’s play area. The ground-breaking ceremony was led by founder and chairman Mirwais Azizi and CEO Farhad Azizi, in the presence of the senior management team. He stated, “Following the outstanding investor response to Creek Views

On Topic | 11


I and with it being almost entirely sold out, we have now decided to launch Creek Views II, opening the doors for even more families to bask in uninhibited lavishness, modernism and connectivity, as well as enjoy unobstructed views of the stunning surroundings.” He added, “We are proud to continue to catalyse the development of the great city of Dubai, with its unparalleled safety, innovation, and continuous progress, and are honoured to call it our home. We look forward to seeing our valued stakeholders come together to add this prestigious building to our portfolio. With the help of our diligent staff, knowledgeable engineers, hardworking construction site workers, hundreds of accommodating suppliers, supportive government authorities, and a host of other stakeholders, we look forward to turn this project into homes that will enrich the lives of those who would reside in them.”


Swicorp opens first cinema in Hafr Al Batin city in KSA Swicorp has announced the opening of a multi-screen cinema at REIT properties’ Al Makan Mall in Hafr Al Batin city. AMC Cinemas will operate the eight screen, 850 seat cinema. The firm is the fund manager of Swicorp Wabel REIT (the REIT). According to a statement, the REIT plans to open additional cinemas in Riyadh, Dawadmi and Tabouk. “Our new investment in the first multiplex theatre in Hafr Al Batin further diversifies Swicorp Wabel REIT and expands its revenue streams for our investors. We believe there is significant value in the new leisure and entertainment sector which opened up recently in the Kingdom. Equally important is for us to be able to introduce a global brand such as the AMC multiplex cinema, which will present an iconic destination to our Saudi guests,” said Kelvin Kwok, CEO of Swicorp Saudi Arabia. He added, “AMC has been offering inimitable experiences to movie-goers worldwide through continued innovation. Its

90-year track record couldn’t be more important than in our present day, when movie goers are looking for trusted brands that offer best-inclass amenities with premium presentation formats and high quality health and safety assurance. Al Makan Mall will become the goto place for family entertainment in the city.” AMC formed a JV with the Public Investment Fund in Saudi Arabia to open cinemas across the Kingdom. In April 2018, AMC opened its first cinema in Riyadh. Hammad Mughal, head of Asset Management at Swicorp commented, “The REIT is continuously reviewing its tenant mix and portfolio strategy in the interests of its unit-holders. A key part of its portfolio strategy includes expanding entertainment options, increasing footfall whilst reaffirming its commitment to the Saudi Vision 2030. We believe the cinema opening, a first for AMC outside of Riyadh, will do that and more. It will transform Al Makan Mall into a unique destination for family entertainment and will attract visitors not only from the city but also from its surrounding areas.”

06 The REIT plans to open three additional cinemas in the Kingdom in the future, in cities such as Riyadh, Dawadmi and Tabouk.


05 Creek Views II will feature 116 studios, 436 one-bedroom and 35 two-bedroom units and will be developed at a cost of $95.2m.

September 2020

12 | On Topic

Route 2020’s Impact on Real Estate JLL discusses the potential impact the recently inaugurated Route 2020 could have on the areas it passes through in Dubai The connectivity and efficiency of road and transport networks including public transport, are a core pillar of any city’s growth and urbanisation. To this extent, the development of the metro line in Dubai, which was inaugurated on the 9th of September 2009, has transformed the landscape and accessibility of various locations across the city. More significantly, it had a positive impact on the development, pricing and demand of land and real estate within surrounding areas. The same can be expected of the new metro line extension, Route 2020, which was officially inaugurated on the 8th of July 2020, particularly as the city grows further inland and towards the South, as those locations offer more undeveloped land. Impact on Development

A clear increase in development activity can be seen in the areas around Barsha and Barsha Heights along Sheikh Zayed road, when the Dubai metro was inaugurated and one of the first metro stations began operations over a decade ago. The residential stock along Sheikh Zayed road increased from 12,200 units in 2005 to 50,200 units in 2009, as the communities in that area gained popularity due to increased September 2020

accessibility. This has also led to an increase in population density along those same lines, with the population of Barsha First increasing from 2,088 persons in 2005 to 5,284 persons in 2009, according to the Dubai Statistics Center. Route 2020 passes through several mature densely populated communities like Discovery Gardens, The Gardens, Al Furjan, and Dubai Investment Park (DIP), with an aggregate residential stock of around 16,500 units consisting of apartments and villas/ townhouses. In addition, the Route will pass through newer residential and commercial nodes like Dubai South, which has an existing residential stock of just 3,000 units. However, looking at the under construction and announced stock, we observe that an additional 5,500 residential units are expected to enter the market in Dubai South. This compares to only 2,500 units expected in the existing communities mentioned above. This indicates increased developer interest in Dubai South, as the area matures and is supported by Route 2020. Major projects are expected to enter the market in the next two years in these communities including Glamz by Danube in Al Furjan, Emaar South and The Pulse in Dubai South.

On Topic | 13

September 2020

14 | On Topic

Impact on Property Rents & Prices

The development of the metro has also influenced the capital and rental values of buildings, with those in proximity to the metro station commanding premiums, when compared to other similar buildings in the same area. To illustrate the impact of metro on property prices, the chart compares a sample of buildings in proximity to the metro station in JLT with similar quality buildings in the area. According to data from REIDIN, since 2010, buildings in proximity to the metro station September 2020



Route 2020 passes through several mature densely populated communities like Discovery Gardens, The Gardens, Al Furjan, and Dubai Investment Park (DIP), with an aggregate residential stock of around 16,500 units�


















According to the Dubai Statistics Center, the population of Jebal Ali municipality which consists of Discovery Gardens, The Gardens and Al Furjan increased from around 45,900 in 2014 to 75,200 in 2019. This represents a 75% increase in population, which is well above the 44% increase in the total population of Dubai during the same period. While this can primarily be attributed to the lower rental rates in these secondary locations, improved accessibility through the new metro route is expected to increase the popularity of these locations even further. This has also resulted in increased investor demand. According to data from REIDIN, the highest number of residential transactions during the period of 2014 to June 2020 were recorded in Al Furjan, at around 3,600. This was closely followed by Discovery Gardens at 2,800 transactions during the same time period. Dubai South recorded the lowest number of transactions at 200, which is also due to the limited availability of existing stock. When analysing off-plan transactions however, the highest number were recorded in Dubai South at 6,300 over the same period. While this also reflects lower unit prices, it is also an indication of expected growth in demand, as the overall infrastructure in the area improves and more supply is handed over.

JLT other buildings



Impact on Demand

JLT Sale Price Comparison (AED/sq ft) JLT buildings close to metro station


The extension of the metro line is not only expected to encourage the development and impact demand for residential products but is also expected to increase commercial activity and footfall, as a result of the ease in accessibility.

have commanded average premiums of around 12% in sale and rental prices respectively, when compared to similar quality buildings in JLT. A similar trend can be recorded for rental prices, with buildings close to metro stations commanding average premium of around 11% for the same time period. Similarly, buildings close to the metro station in Barsha Heights have registered higher rental prices, by around 6% when compared to similar buildings in the same area since 2011. A similar trend was also recorded along Route 2020 in Dubai Investment Park (DIP), where residential developments in DIP 1 commanded premiums of 18% in sale prices, when compared to residential developments in DIP 2. The new Route 2020 passes through communities which are classified as secondary locations when compared to other premium options available in Dubai. With the market demand shifting more towards end users and affordable housing in the long term, these areas can be expected to gain popularity due to the increase in accessibility. This is consequently expected to reflect positively on the performance of assets within those locations.


Threat & Risk Assessment Gap Analysis Security System Design IT/AV Design Master Planning & Development Operational Requirements


Testing & Commissioning Control Room Design System Integration Policies & Procedures Site Surveys & Audits Crisis Management

16 | On Topic

01 Julio de la Rosa is Business Development director at ACCIONA ME.


September 2020

Julio de la Rosa “Now, in many of the new projects and many of those in operation, cybersecurity and its management are priority at all levels” While the concept of a digital twin has been around since 2002, it is only thanks to Building Information Modeling (BIM) and the Internet of Things (IoT) that it has become cost-effective to implement. A digital twin is a full virtual model of a process, product or service. This pairing of the virtual and physical worlds allows analysis of data and monitoring of systems to head off problems before they even occur, prevent downtime, develop new opportunities and even plan for the future by using simulations. We have leveraged all the innovation processes done by ACCIONA and have implemented a digital twin in our seawater reverse osmosis desalination plant in Al-Khobar 1, located in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, which will have a capacity of almost 210,000 m³ per day. Among the different advantages of getting its exact digital reproduction is the remote management of the plant to analyse and optimise productivity, and avoid failures before startup by providing a comprehensive support for commissioning activities. The development of a digital twin now days have two main elements: • One related to the engineering design with regard to BIM systems, which work directly to create objects that provide valuable information and a collaborative platform for the entire project • The other one is the digital twin related to the control system based on the most advance sensors and instrumentation able to capture in real time all the functionalities

of the system, to be able to check a plant’s response at any given time, as for example the real response of a control system that has been developed in back office. It combines a variety of technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, the Internet of Things or Machine Learning Creating the digital twin of Al-Khobar 1 has been a complex operation that requires the integration of different disciplines with knowhow about the process, mechanical equipment, electrical equipment, instrumentation, control systems and simulation platform. Thanks to our joint work with Siemens, we have been able to use SIMIT software, which allows real-time simulations ranging from devices in the field to processes in a water treatment plant. This creates a collaborative environment in which carrying out a virtual start-up and having a training station for operators can be done in a safe and secure manner. It also allows the comparison of the data created in the digital twin with those contained in the control system. This facilitates the validation of operations, as well as the exploration of operational possibilities in the system and potential optimisation measures. The digital twin is been integrated into ACCIONA’s Water Control Centre (CECOA) with the same standards of cybersecurity and communications channel availability as other plants. This means access to all functionalities is made in a fast and flexible manner. This is a real need in the water sector because we need to be more productive, faster,

On Topic | 17

more efficient and be sure that our systems will arrive to the plants with the maximum efficiency and availability in order to be started up in the shortest possible timescale. Digital systems integration

When we talk about digitisation, the time horizon changes and that’s why we must abstract a little bit of what can come thanks to the speed of change of technology. I believe that artificial intelligence has a lot of field within the desalination industry. Processes can be supported by systems that convert operating year’s data into value information to generate optimisations and intelligent models. All variants of Machine Learning, Deep Learning and uses of neural networks and big data will generate improvements that will interact with the control systems which, maybe, they will be systems to help the operation decisions. Another technology that has a lot of field is the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), a variant of IoT. It will generate a plant-level information ecosystem that will affect the processes in various ways: • One for its ability to generate value information from the data, becoming the process measures into information • Larger systems at the cloud level will be born from its connectivity capacity, which will improve, often online the capabilities of the device itself. We will see an impact on both the operation and the maintenance of the installation itself I would also add here other technologies that are already present in many projects. BIM technologies used in the designs, using digital twins to analyse, check the control system and draw conclusions in the design phase, and of course connectivity technologies with the relevant technical aspects of cybersecurity as a premise. I also leave 5G here as a technology that can be disruptive in this and many sectors but we have to wait a little to face it in closed systems such as industrial desalination-type production facilities. Another technology that is landing is the use of vocal assistants. I see scope to interact in certain cases with our plants using natural language and speech management and

This is a real need in the water sector because we need to be more productive, faster, more efficient and be sure that our systems will arrive to the plants with the maximum efficiency and availability”

recognition systems. It’s not that it’s a plant requirement but that I see an evolution of how humans are interacting with systems. On the technologies that will arrive in the future, I believe that in the desalination sector there will be a lot of journey in the use of technologies such as nanotechnology and biotechnology on processes, (pretreatments, filtration systems, Reverse osmosis, after treatments, use of chemicals). I also see indications of the use of robots or intelligent autonomous systems. Perhaps repetitive, check-up or inspection tasks can be developed by robots designed for industrial environments and systems with hazardous areas. Keeping all this in mind, we cannot forget that people are who can implement and hinder a process of digitisation in desalination and in all industrial sectors. The main obstacle to saving is the fear of change. In fact, we need to beat the fear of connectivity with technology and good practices. Now, in many of the new projects and many of those in operation, cybersecurity and its management are priority at all levels. September 2020

18 | On Topic

01 Samantha Rowles is Growth Operations and Enablement director at Serco Middle East.


There is a big misperception that to succeed in business, women need fixing. The common belief that women need to be mentored to have more confidence, more drive and greater leadership skills to fit into the mold of what ‘good’ looks like; is outdated at best. It’s based on a set of tired old values and ideals that are no longer valid. The world has evolved and moved on, but we have not. This is particularly prevalent when it comes to operational and technical roles – with traditional male leaders dominating positions. These roles come in many forms; with the most common in outsourcing being contract delivery specific such as contract, engineering, asset, commercial and operations roles. September 2020

Samantha Rowles “The impact of a diverse workforce in operations is absolute. It allows for a mixed school of thought, ideas and experience” Our own research has shown that only 20% of roles in operations are currently held by women. Females tend to occupy less technical jobs, assuming more customer facing and soft services roles. This cannot be acceptable - we must do better. There is a strong rationale for why women will thrive in operational roles, and how this can also be an asset on their journey into senior leadership. We as leaders have a responsibility to provide the opportunity and platform to facilitate this. To encourage this and avoid another initiative that is simply a diversity box-ticking exercise, we must first address awareness and culture. We must start with examining the mindset of the business. A shift must take place if women are ultimately able to occupy more positions around the board room table, and this will fundamentally change the makeup of how we work. The case for diversity

The impact of a diverse workforce in operations is absolute. It allows for a mixed school of thought, ideas and experience. Bringing together various leadership styles results in better decision-making and more successful achievements of business objectives. Our aim at Serco is to create a culture that is diverse and inclusive. A role in operations at Serco allows individuals to experience different facets of the organisation to become a well-rounded leader. From managing people on contracts and leading large teams, to solving problems and liaising with multiple

stakeholders; it is real front-line delivery making a difference to governments and their national transformation visions. Opening the dialogue

Ignoring inequality and refusing to believe it exists is the biggest barrier to delivering change. Against this backdrop of the low percentage of women in operations, we have created our ‘Humanising Inclusion’ drive. The objective for our colleagues to educate one another on their experiences of inequality and exclusion and the impact. Only when we reach a tipping point of individuals being aware and understanding the personal impacts of people they know, can we truly start to drive a culture shift. Programmes for growth

So, how else do we accelerate this change? By consciously providing opportunities that women and men benefit fairly from. We operate an annual global leadership development programme run by Oxford University in the UK, which is targeted at high potential leaders. We ensure the intake is fair and inclusive, representing the true diversity we strive for every day. Nationalisation is core to our strategy. Our extremely successful Al Masar Programme for high potential UAE Nationals, is developing a pipeline of future Serco leaders. Al Masar has seen a high volume of successful women, who have received local and global Pulse awards for going above and beyond our Serco values. We work in collaboration with other organisations including the Ministry of Human

On Topic | 19

Resources and Emiratisation (MOHRE) and the Chamber of Dubai, to drive inclusion, share best practices and continuously improve efforts to improve and evolve. Enabling success

For a diverse workforce to thrive however, there is a need to create a nurturing environment. We have seen an accelerated cultural shift during COVID, that has seen the acceptance of a more flexible working model. This is an important move away from the outdated ideal that those who stay in the office longest at the expense of family-time or other leisure activities are most successful. This is a success criterion that no longer works for men or women, as the boundaries of responsibilities blur between genders. If we want to see more women successful and we want to make it acceptable for men to also juggle a more balanced family and career, we must move to a more flexible model. Equality benefits men and women alike. The path ahead

In a post-COVID world, where the working environment has been turned on its head, there is a clear opportunity to use this as a positive to pause, reset, reflect and shift. Our Executive Leadership Team at Serco is made up of 33% women. Whilst I celebrate this, I also recognise we have an enormous way to go do drive real change until we reach a point where ‘this’ is no longer a conversation. There is a need for it to be driven top down and bottom up. My own inflection point really started with the trust invested in me by our CEO, Phil Malem. This was the first time I’d been given a voice and a seat at the leadership table, and it was his openness about making me an equal in what was - at the time - an all-male senior leadership team, that gave me the determination to want to drive change in the business when it comes to gender diversity and inclusion. Phil didn’t tell me I needed mentoring or training, or that I wasn’t quite the right fit [male] as others had in the past when I’d argued for a seat at the table; he simply gave me a platform and allowed me to shine. Other high performing women are also benefiting from our top down commitment to providing opportunities for talent to move across into operational roles

In a post-COVID world, where the working environment has been turned on its head, there is a clear opportunity to use this as a positive to pause, reset, reflect and shift”

from more traditional functional support roles. We recently had a female colleague move from Finance Business partner to head of Business Operations, which would have been a move not previously considered. We need to encourage men to give women a seat at the table because they value what we bring. We need to encourage women to take opportunities in more technical maledominated roles to push them onto their leadership path and be great role models for women in this region. We need to accept that men and women need more flexibility and hours spent in the office does not equal impact and value. We need to shift what success looks like to open opportunities that didn’t exist before. But most importantly, we must accept there is much to do in this space, we must accept that we all have a role to play as leaders in bringing our businesses into a world that has evolved, when we have not. It is not about these words on this page, it is about the actions we take every single day as leaders. Be part of changing the world. When equality wins, we all win.

September 2020

20 | In Practice

Charting a New Course Jason Saundalkar speaks to Compass Project Consulting’s leadership team about the impact the pandemic has had on their projects and business, market trends and opportunities going forward

01 The Compass leadership team comprises Luke Somerville (right), Martin McLean (left), William Hitch (bottom) and Claire Tromp (top).

September 2020

Compass Project Consulting (CPC) is a sixyear old project and cost management firm that has delivered some 350 projects across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Ghana. The consultancy also has remits within the Bahamas and Seychelles and says that existing clients take it into new markets, on the back of quality of services delivered and the strength of its relationships. The firm was set-up by Luke Somerville, Martin McLean and William Hitch, with a view to work closely with clients to bring projects to success. Early in 2019, Claire Tromp joined the firm and now heads its quantity surveying business. 65 professionals work out of the company’s offices in Dubai and Riyadh. Speaking to Martin McLean, director – Business Development at Compass Project Consulting about the impact the pandemic has had on people, the industry and his firm, he notes, “Everyone around the world has felt the strain in one way or another. It is extremely saddening to see and hear how the pandemic has negatively impacted people and companies’ livelihoods. Within certain parts of the Middle East, we have been fortunate that the majority of the construction sector did not grind to a halt, however, did decelerate in progress, largely due to uncertainty, supply-chains knock-on effect, and understandably, hesitation in decision making from project owners. Our

own portfolio has been exposed to project postponements and slowdowns. The good news is that no projects have been cancelled, however forecasting is incredibly challenging now.” Claire Tromp, director – Quantity Surveying at CPC adds, “We are first and foremost happy that our team has been healthy in this respect. While COVID-19 has had a negative impact on business growth, we have identified positive outcomes, which will enable us to better position ourselves once the crisis is over.” Asked about the steps the firm took to safeguard its talent, Luke Somerville, director – KSA Western Region at CPC notes that the firm began the process of readying its team for an extended work-from-home period several weeks before the UAE began its lockdown. He states, “Everyone was provided with equipment necessary to continue their work, and surveys conducted for all home workplaces to ensure appropriate ergonomics and network access was provided. During lockdown, site visits were restricted to limited numbers and meetings were conducted on Microsoft Teams, as the majority continues to be conducted to this day. Still acting within our clients’ best interests, they have appreciated the perimeters we have implemented to enable our team to carry-out their visions, amid the challenges.” William Hitch, director – KSA Eastern & Central region at CPC points out that the firm


September 2020

22 | In Practice

always follows legislation provided by the UAE and KSA Ministries. He explains, “Our offices were closed during the lockdown and have slowly opened as restrictions loosened with care to ensure all steps are taken to maintain a safe working environment. The biggest challenge has been maintaining presence on our active construction sites and making progress whilst ensuring the safety of all people on site.” Tromp says the firm has had to renegotiate contracts on behalf of clients, to ensure continuity of work and success of projects, whilst safeguarding key staff roles on projects. Recent Projects

Over its six years in business, Compass has



September 2020

worked with a variety of clients across multiple sectors. In 2020 alone McLean states that the firm has worked on projects ranging from large masterplans of mixed-use developments in the UAE and KSA, to luxury/boutique hospitality developments in the region and abroad. He jokes, “Our team is delivering the majority of these via Microsoft Teams, however they are keen to travel to these far-flung island paradises once travel becomes safer to do so.” “The pandemic has also accelerated the need to create more food sustainability within the region – our team is glad to be supporting this initiative with various tech-advanced agricultural and aquaculture projects. Within the Saudi Arabian entertainment sector, we

have seen the opening of movie cineplexes and a number reaching completion in the coming months. Our various project and cost management remits within the Dubai Expo 2020 are still ongoing and with the postponement of the Expo 2020 to next year, there are further opportunities coming to fruition. We have also completed a few workplace projects, here in the UAE and the Kingdom including an entire building HQ for a Ministry in the ITCC Compound.” He adds, “Our teams in both countries are also working on landmark regeneration projects, covering districts as well as iconic tower buildings. On the retail and F&B side of business, we have multiple ongoing projects from both new and repeat clientele, and are experiencing major growth in this area, specifically in Riyadh and Jeddah.” Tromp points out that the firm’s has also been busy in the dispute resolution space. “We have experienced a significant increase within our Dispute Resolution services, as well as clients introducing various commercial initiatives to best support the continuity of projects, across most sectors. Such services include benchmarking, more regular cost plans and sanity checks implemented throughout design phases, and pre-tender estimates to avoid value engineering (although value engineering of existing designs is become more common place). Market Challenges and Trends

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, sectors have changed immensely, which has had a knockon effect on client requirements. Hitch points to international and domestic uncertainty driving a lack of investment and short term decision making. “Lack of investment due to lack of confidence is the biggest challenge. We are facing extremely short-term decisions being made due to uncertainty, despite the projects being viable commercial projects in the future. The world currently needs to have the reassurance of a way out of the current pandemic and the threat of further restrictions which a vaccine will only fully bring.” He notes that the pandemic has stripped a lot of cash out of the market and many clients/


developers have lost significant amounts of money due to restrictions, which will take time to recover. Banks and governments have a major role to play moving forward in the recovery of industries, which is currently a major problem in the GCC markets, he says. “Many clients are slashing budgets for projects to compensate for problems caused by the pandemic and to take advantage of the perceived reduction in construction costs. We have been requested by clients, and unfortunately heard of worse requests from other companies, of significant permanent discounts to be provided, for rates which are not sustainable for businesses. Contractors are struggling to make profit as construction is only getting more expensive through the pandemic restrictions and supply items are not getting any cheaper. Such approaches will only result in a reduced quality of product across the board, or significant delays, whilst projects are value engineered away from the design intent,” he warns. Discussing what the new normal looks like as well as trends that are emerging in the current period, Tromp comments, “While the construction industry has weathered the pandemic better than others, such as retail

02 CPC provided project and cost management services on the AIG HQ project in DIFC. 03 The firm is involved in the Al Faisaliah redevelopment project in KSA. 04 The firm is currently engaged on the Muvi Cinemas project in KSA.

The pandemic has also accelerated the need to create more food sustainability within the region – our team is glad to be supporting this initiative with various tech-advanced agricultural and aquaculture projects”

and hospitality, it hasn’t been all rainbows either. There is an overall paradigm shift in both public health and the economic effects of the pandemic. All sites have had to instill a new regime of restrictions and guidelines, to enhance cleanliness and safety – including the mandatory social distancing, mask wearing, and other safety protocols. Onsite organisation and management is more prevalent than ever.” She elaborates, “Contracts are being reconsidered to include pandemic-specific clauses, tackling the liabilities and risks. To be honest, until there’s a safe and widely available vaccine, it is quite impossible to say when things will get back to normal for the construction industry, or what this ‘new normal’ will look like. Until then, there will be evolving changes to the industry, and on a positive note, some of those will be for the better.” McLean reckons one positive to come from the pandemic is the acceptance of construction technology. He states, “Construction tech is, quite frankly, due for advancement. The increased need for tech in order to keep projects moving, or enhance HSE on site, or even the basics such as collaborate with stakeholders via online platforms, is generating better use September 2020

24 | In Practice


05 The Conrad Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road is one of the firm’s many hospitality projects.

of time and cost resources. BIM and VR will be more valued by project owners, architects, designers and engineers to create visionary end-products, without the need for substantial contact and relaying of materials/finishes. Our PM and QS Teams are utilising bidding software tools and collaborative takeoff/ estimating programmes which enables us to work collaboratively, whilst taking control of project pipelines, even remotely.” Industry Lifeline

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, governments have rolled out initiatives to keep people safe, as well as preserve and stimulate business activity. Asked about the steps taken to support the industry thus far, Hitch notes, “Keeping construction sites running in the UAE has been a lifeline to the industry, however this has also put large numbers of the population/workforce at risk.” On the flip side, he cautions, “We have seen government entities retendering or renegotiating projects to gain cheaper costs from their vendors, which is not supporting the industry. The expected approach during a crisis like this is to provide significant stimulus into the industry to ensure jobs and companies survive, which we haven’t seen yet and hope that this will change in the coming months.” Somerville adds, “Ideally, better support for SMEs, such as seen in other countries, would be appreciated, however, we must remember the bonuses of why we choose to live and work in the UAE, as opposed to these other countries.” Asked about whether clients have been using the slow period to begin or complete refurbishments on projects and if the market will see a spike in terms of this work, Hitch comments, “Clients should be taking advantage of the ‘pause’ to ensure that refurbishments are completed, however this is not what we are finding in the market. Budgetary decisions are either being revised or not being made at speed, with the long term in mind. Of course, the travel sector, hotel owners and operators have been majorly impacted by cash flow which September 2020

means that necessary refurbishments are being delayed, which is disappointing considering the opportunity that presents itself currently.” Growth Ambitions

Despite how tumultuous the year has been, Compass’ leadership team is positive about potential in certain markets and is growing its team, as well as promoting existing staff. The firm will soon be opening additional offices in Abu Dhabi and Jeddah, and says that these will enhance current and future project deliveries. Mclean explains, “As owners we continually reassess the business - protecting sustainability and growth – and have identified several areas to focus immediately upon the lifting of travel restrictions. Two of our directors will be spending more time in KSA focusing on expanding the business in Riyadh and Jeddah. A new director will be brought in to spearhead the development of our business in Abu Dhabi, a market which we are very excited about.” “In conjunction with our Talent Development programme, all our business units will be supported by a new managementlevel of associates who will step up to take on several responsibilities. Whilst 2020 has been a challenging year, it has provided us with the time to make the important decisions to ensure

that the business will be best placed to take on a new level of growth in 2021,” he states. Asked about the sectors he envisions growth potential in, he comments, “We have noticed an increased demand for agri- and aqua-culture initiates, mixed-use masterplans, large scale residential and regeneration programmes, along with the enrichment of entertainment and healthcare in both the UAE and KSA. We expect modular and demountable solutions to be adopted and on the increase across most sectors. Our revenue is skewed towards the UAE, and global destinations controlled by local project owners this year; however, we see KSA equaling the UAE next year as we diversify.” Somerville summarises, “The impact of COVID-19 has affected the way of the world. We feel for everyone that has lost livelihoods and can only wish them steady improvements during the next few months. Whilst some industries and countries have adjusted quicker than others, we are still a long way from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.” “By using this time to readjust, realign, reconnect, we are able to plan, modify and adjust our business to come out stronger and together. We look forward to 2021 being our best year yet,” he concludes.

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September 2020

In Practice | 27

The Science of Buildings John Downey discusses the value Intertek’s building sciences offering can offer project stakeholders and shares his views on the future of the built environment in the region Intertek is a multinational assurance, inspection, product testing and certification company that works across multiple industries. The firm offers a plethora of services under its Building Sciences & Enclosure Consulting umbrella including building enclosure testing, certification and performance testing, code evaluation services program and product testing. Due to its breath of capabilities and its subcontractor background, the firm has worked on multiple high profile projects in the region include the Coca-Cola Arena, Muscat International Airport, Al Maryah Central and the Museum of the Future, to name a few. Speaking to Middle East Consultant, John Downey, regional manager - MENA - Building Science Solutions at Intertek explains that the firm’s building sciences offering operates differently here versus other markets. “Building sciences operated here previously but we’ve been through an epiphany. We operate building sciences differently here than they do in, say, the US. In the States, they’re more focused on building renovations, new buildings and performance. We’ve gone outside that box and incorporated whole building air tightness testing, sick building syndrome etc. We’ve also become project managers for renovations – in DIFC, we’ve overseen the removal, deconstruction,

rebuild and reinstallation of a very intricate glass system. Nobody wanted to do it - nobody had the skillsets or the testing capabilities but we managed to do it. This would never be considered in the US but because of our subcontractor background and the skills we have as Intertek, we took on the project management of that job and became the consultant/project manager,” states Downey. Asked about what prompted the move, Downey responds, “I gave a talk at the Building Sciences Symposium last October in the US and there were questions about why we considered this. Last year, this made 60% of our revenue. There is a big opportunity for us, the challenge is when you appoint consultants, there are things they know to do and things that they don’t know to do. For example, they may not know how to source glass or how to install it because, generally, they have no direct relationship with contractors or sub-contractors. We’ve got specialists and we work with people who we know can deliver what is needed for a project to be successful.” He continues, “Anything to do with a building, we can deliver. Anything to do with the components of that same building, we can deliver. Recently, a major telecommunications firm came to us because they’re launching 5G here. They have three campuses; one in Dubai, one in Abu Dhabi and one elsewhere. They want

01 John Downey is regional manager – MENA – Building Science Solutions at Intertek.

September 2020


to build this product overseas and then ship it here but they want it to be compliant with local civil code, fire and standard municipality regulations. We can do that service and we do it from a turnkey standpoint.” We’re doing the design, the material sourcing, the compatibility testing if required, analysis of testing data if it exists, its compliance against code, engineering judgment issued to civil defense, certificate of conformity, installation etc. So we’re offering the full A to Z of service, Downey clarifies. The Importance of Assurance

Downey has significant regional experience, having first arrived in Dubai in 2005. Since then, he has worked on numerous high profile projects and has seen the market evolve he says, but there are still gaps that must be addressed. Asked whether project stakeholders have taken learnings onboard and changed or if there are still significant challenges, he states, “It’s a really good question because it varies from job-to-job and consultant-to-consultant. Some are willing to listen and learn and some are not, and they will tell you that this is what they want, even though that’s not what’s needed. Sometimes it’s very smooth but with others, it can be a battle to the end. We’re often seen initially, by some consultants, as an easy path September 2020

02 Construction on CocaCola Arena began on January 2017 and the venue opened for business in June 2019. 03 The Museum of the Future was established in 2015 and is expected to open soon.

to get approval because they don’t quite know what to do in certain scenarios. With some of the other consultants it can be quite political.” In some cases Downey says a firm’s goal can be to stay on a project for as long as possible. In this scenario, the company may reject work and highlight delays are the result of contractors and subcontractors and will present rejection letters as evidence to the project director. Speaking about how scenarios play out when his own firm is faced with conflict on projects, Downey says project directors have been allies. “When a project director realises we can deliver the project, they protect and nurture us. With smaller operators, they can get quite defensive as we highlight gaps and what needs to be worked on because it’s in our nature to deliver quality. We don’t intend to aggravate anyone and don’t want to say you don’t know what you’re talking about when we see something that doesn’t make sense but they do get defensive and push back.”

That said, Downey states things are changing as a result of Intertek’s track record in certain areas of the market. “After four years of putting ourselves in the fire space, we’ve proved repeatedly that we can deliver from what’s deemed incredibly poor situations. Now, we’re getting a lot more early engagement - there are people with foresight saying: they can help us by holding our hand, give us the certificate at the end and say you’re open for business.” He notes that more people now anticipate challenges as local codes and regulations are changed and updated. He comments, “I have to give kudos to the civil defense here, there are always new regulations coming out, they take learnings from things that have happened and are very strict about these things. People building structures have and are continuing to learn hard lessons - they’ve been delayed because now the code is the code is the code. Unless you interpret it properly, you’re going to be rejected and you’re going to have delays and that’s where the value engineering discussion comes in – we solve your problems before they become problems.” Shifting Tides

Value engineering (VE) is a divisive topic in the industry, as many projects stakeholders have had to deal with cost cutting and are expected to ‘value engineer’ down to fit the new budget.

In Practice | 29

The market has begun shifting away from these practices, though it is still an ongoing issue. “The world we’ve lived in over the last five or so years has been squeeze the contractor, subcontractor, the supplier, the manufacturer and that’s what’s deemed VE. For me, true VE is when you deliver a quality project that’s compliant, on time and with minimal fuss. That’s what we deliver. If you want to put me in to cut cost out of some contractor, I’m not your person but if you want me to make the contractor/subcontractor more efficient and get them across the line in a top quality manner, I can do that.” He elaborates, “I think the tide has turned for a number of reasons, and certainly there’s been a knock-on effect that’s led to this. With dropping property prices, people are now saying ‘I’m not paying big bucks for a property with problems’. People are now buying or renting quality. If I was a property owner, I’d be saying here’s my property, it’s accredited by Intertek to be a firesafe structure, it’s got all the other certifications and we even recycle the water. These are all value added sells to get me into renting or buying. That I think is going to drive the market going forward.” Downey is confident refurbishments will be a big driver going forward, as asset owners looking to sell or rent their properties pay closer attention the quality of their stock. “That’s the future,” he exclaims. “The person with diminishing returns on his property is going to look at why people are leaving or choosing not to move into the property.” Downey also reckons refurbishments will be pushed by updated codes and ensuring that existing stock is compliant. “Eventually, it’s going to be decreed, certainly for fire safety. For me, that’s going to be a growth market. After 2020, I think we’ll top out in villas and buildings – there’ll be the occasional new development but I believe the focus will be on refurbishments. There are new projects that were under construction in a number of areas in the city but I believe there’s a chance they’ll be knocked down. Even if they are complete, it’s unlikely those buildings will attract tenants and be full.” Speaking about the future, Downey believes Intertek is ideally positioned and has the talent and tools to provide value to project stakeholders working on refurbishments and new builds. He

If you want to put me in to cut cost out of some contractor, I’m not your person but if you want me to make the contractor/subcontractor more efficient and get them across the line in a top quality manner, I can do that”

says, “The value we bring to you as a developer or as a consultant is we can make sure that the modifications that you do meet the code or meet the regulations, and can even make the building more efficient. We can help get more bang for your buck as an investor/owner.” The outbreak of COVID-19 across the globe has also driven his firm to launch a new service for building health. He concludes, “Since some structures have gone unoccupied for months, we developed a service called Protek. It’s a big bill of health for the building to ensure it isn’t going to make people sick. It can be applied to existing and new buildings but, also, if you’re renovating. As I said earlier, we can make a project more efficient, cleaner and healthier.”


September 2020

30 | Educate ME


I want to provide customers with an experience of luxury Azhar Sajan, Casa Milano’s director discusses his firm’s unique proposition with Middle East Consultant What was the inspiration behind launching Casa Milano?

Casa Milano is the UAE’s premier luxury sanitaryware retailer. My father and I had the vision to open something luxurious during the summer of 2018. My inspiration was to provide unique products through the brand in the UAE market, luxury wares that are not available anywhere else in the country and also provide good service. All of our products are manufactured in their original countries and brought here. With certain brands, we have the provision to provide customisation as well.

360-degree luxury bathroom requirements; our priority is to understand our customer’s needs and showcase some of the world’s top brands. Each touch point in the showroom has been designed to inspire with various display setups such as hotel rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms. When customers walk into the showroom, I want to provide them with an experience of luxury and that is why we’ve invested in an elaborate showroom space. What markers do you look for before you work with international brands?

a partnership work is to understand them, see if they are in sync and whether they have a similar mindset to us. Next is the quality of their products and their performance, even if they are smaller brands. The potential that we see to grow in terms of the quality, design, their pricing, and the value for pricing is important. Looking into these features is how we choose our partners. My father always told me that we need to tie-up with brands who become our long-term partners and have the same mindset for mutual benefit. I’m making sure to partner with brands for a long-term association.

The first step for collaborating and making Casa Milano has invested into an elaborate showroom space in Dubai. What was the thinking behind this?

Casa Milano is a concept that caters to the September 2020

How does Casa Milano define luxury 01 The brand’s showroom is designed to inspire customers through its various display setups.

and sustainability when it comes to products destined for interior spaces?

Our first priority is to tie-up with brands that

Educate ME | 31

02 Azhar Sajan is a director at Casa Milano.

provide durable products. When you sell luxury products, customers expect sustainability because they pay a premium for it and if we want to keep a long lasting relationship with a client or an end user, we cannot compromise on the quality of products. Each product is given exquisite attention to detail in terms of texture, finishing, color, and patterns. How does Casa Milano see interior spaces evolving, following the outbreak of COVID-19?

Interior spaces and the materials that customers are looking for are definitely evolving. A brand that we recommend is Corian. It is durable and does not chip easily. It is especially good for spots that are prone to regular wear and tear. Corian Surfaces is nonporous and hygienic. The non-porous surface does not allow the growth of bacteria and viruses and it has proven resistance to disinfectants identified by US EPA to work against COVID-19. With the new normal, surfaces that are hygienic are of top priority! We are in constant touch with all our suppliers to get products that are anti-bacterial. What are some of the requirements


of creating interior spaces is personal for anyone and each prefers a certain trend, unique colors and have differently shaped spaces. It is our job to bring the customer vision to existence with the basket of products we provide and ensure that they have the 360-degree luxury experience.

Clients look out for quality, value for money, and a unique design that meets their taste. The process


COVID-19 has had a major impact on factories and supply chains. How do you ensure that you have availability

What differentiates Casa Milano and

of such a wide portfolio of products?

its products from its competitors?

COVID-19 definitely impacted a lot of businesses in the UAE, but what separated us was that we had we had kept certain levels of stock for each item. We had more of those products that were hot running and urgently required in the market, which were disinfectant products such as dispensers, touchless mixers, and faucets. Moreover, we were aware that with quarantine, many people wanted to create fresh designs in their homes. We prepared well in advance and had proper stock.

As the UAE’s premier sanitaryware and tiles retailer we showcase products not found anywhere else in this country such as M.R

your clients have with regards to products for their interior spaces?

Walls. For so long, home and property owners had to endure a tedious and expensive process of sourcing quality products from as far as Europe. We’ve introduced products exclusively made in Europe, anchored on unprecedented quality and interior design trends. Moreover, our showroom is designed to give our visitors the complete feeling of being surrounded by a congregation of world-class amenities. It boasts a touch and feel concept and this attribute is intensified by the state-ofthe-art, exquisite products such as 24-carat gold tiles, diamond bathtubs, hands-on experience of live showers, bathtubs, and Corian, which are rarely found. We also provide a free interior designing consultation, for the customer to understand the look and feel of their bathroom.

03 The Casa Milano showroom can be found at Exit 45, Al Waha Complex, Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai.

Which sectors will be growth markets for Casa Milano going forward?

Residential is definitely a key sector! Looking at the market and the way it is reacting, many end-users are renovating their homes due to spending more time at home. Staying indoors can definitely make the customer want a change of interior. Also, Dubai never sleeps! Construction never stopped. Yes, it slowed for a while but it has picked up pace in the last month as many developers are looking for material to complete their on-going projects. For more information, call: +9714 346 5151 or email: Website:

September 2020

32 | In Practice


RISING Jason Saundalkar talks to Losberger De Boer Middle East’s Paul Machin about temporary structures and their rising importance to multiple sectors in a world hobbled by COVID-19

September 2020

In Practice | 33

Temporary structures specialist Losberger De Boer (LDB) provides turn-key solutions to clients for events and commercial usage. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it has delivered several temporary structures to clients across the world, and has now launched a global think tank. LDB aims to work with partners and clients to design safe event spaces that adhere to government and health authority guidelines. Here, Jason Saundalkar talks to Paul Machin about the last few months and the firm’s plans. What was the catalyst for setting up the internal think tank and what is its mandate?

Following the outbreak of COVID-19 and subsequent guidelines and restrictions put in place by governments to ensure the safety of residents, the event industry is in a state of turmoil. Many countries in the region had periods of full lockdown, during which sterilisation programmes were executed and residents were asked to remain home for all but essential travel. In August 2020, the UAE’s government announced events would be able to resume, providing a clear set of guidelines and restrictions with the aim of keeping people safe. In Saudi Arabia, only 10,000 residents of the kingdom from different nationalities were permitted to perform Hajj, which is typically performed by 2.5m pilgrims annually. As events reopen, organisers are faced with the challenge of bringing large groups of people together as safely as possible. Until a vaccine is widely available, severe restrictions will remain in place and the regulations landscape is likely to change on an ongoing basis. The catalyst for establishing the internal think tank was to – in partnership with trusted partners - design venues of the future, which offer secure and safe spaces that not only safeguard the health of all participants but that are also financially viable within a COVID-19 proof environment. We’re creating these guidelines so event organisers can determine at what capacity their event is safe and profitable. The think tank invites all professionals within the event industry to present ideas on the ‘Event Venue of Today’ and will focus on organising safe events during a pandemic.

Based on discussions and submissions and the company’s high levels of expertise, we will present a series of proposals on how organisers and their partners can design and deliver safe venues that protect attendees from airborne viruses and ensure physical distancing can be maintained, while still providing a meaningful event experience. These proposals will then be shared openly, making the information available to anyone who has subscribed to the think tank.

to live events may be slow, it is definitely coming. It is now the responsibility of the event industry to make this transition as safely as possible. We will achieve this by collaborating with local governments, staying abreast of all guidelines and regulations and maintaining transparent communication with all stakeholders. A lot of regional cities set up field hospitals, quarantine areas, COVID-19 testing areas etc. Has the pandemic increased the

What is the firm’s view on the event’s

demand for temporary structures?

industry in key GCC markets?

In the months following the first confirmed case in the region, we saw an increase in enquiries for temporary structures in the region. The governments’ response was rapid and decisive, and we saw several medical facilities erected and operational very quickly. Globally, we saw our structures being used as temporary medical facilities, field hospitals, drive-through and standard testing facilities, and isolation facilities. Within the region, the firm delivered 12,162sqm of space to a national medical corporation. Alu Hall and chalet structures were erected across five sites, increasing capacity by 1,264 patient rooms and 16 negative pressure isolation rooms. We delivered a turn-key solution, providing all non-medical items. We also saw increased demand across a wide range of other sectors. For example, online retailers needed to expand storage space quickly to meet the growing demand of people doing more of their shopping online. Additionally, there was an increased demand for storage space in harbour areas, as they met the logistical challenges of operating during a pandemic. We also witnessed a sharp increase in demand for temporary dining hall facilities, which enabled people at work to enjoy their lunch and each other’s company together and at a safe distance.

While the industry has faced an unprecedented challenge, it will recover. Following the announcement that events in the UAE can once again resume, we have already received several enquiries with a focus on delivering an outstanding visitor experience as safely as possible. COVID-19 has likely changed the event industry permanently, and while there has always been a focus on safety and hygiene, we are seeing a more cautious approach to airborne viruses and the prevention of the spread of infection. We see this upheaval as an opportunity. Anything that drives improvement in the industry should be viewed as a positive in the long-term. The governments of the UAE and other GCC countries have been doing an excellent job of managing the crisis, and the responsibility must now be shared with the event industry to continue what they have started. Virtual online events have become more popular in the past few months, and we expect they will continue to be a popular choice in the future. However, in this region, there remains a real appetite for face-to-face networking. We expect to see an increase in hybrid events, which seamlessly blend live and digital elements. We may see in-person events happening less frequently, but they may have larger budgets allocated to them. The threshold for live events may also be higher, so only the most important events or most popular sporting and entertainment events will take place with a live audience or on-site attendees. This region is home to some of the world’s most prestigious and popular sporting events, with many more coming to the region every year. It is unlikely they will continue in the future without a live audience. While the transition back

How do you see the temporary structures market developing over the next couple of years? Where do you see the most demand for space coming from as a result of social distancing guidelines?

There is no doubt the temporary and semipermanent structure market is growing. The rise of mega and giga projects in Saudi Arabia and the rapid urbanisation of the Middle East have resulted in the increased demand for projects to September 2020

34 | In Practice

be delivered faster and more efficiently than ever before. In the short-term, the delays resulting from the pandemic will need to be offset by solutions that offer quicker build times in order to recoup time delays and meet project deadlines. In the longer term, we are already seeing a greater willingness in the region to embrace temporary and semi-permanent build solutions, and we have delivered several structures that would have previously been delivered via permanent construction. These have included sales centres, school expansions and facilities for entertainment. A key advantage of temporary and semipermanent structures is that they offer far greater flexibility than traditional permanent construction builds. They can be scaled up or down to meet client requirements, relocated to different sites and altered to accommodate different uses – what is a healthcare facility today can be adapted to be an event venue tomorrow. In 2018, we accelerated the launch of the iconic Qiddiya project by delivering an integrated complex of 15 semi-permanent buildings,


September 2020

including the Panorama Dome – the only one of its kind in the kingdom. To deliver this impressive project within 60 days, our team worked 9,360 hours over 36 days – the same structures would have taken up to two years to construct using traditional, non-modular, permanent builds. Demand will come from any sector that seeks to commercialise and generate revenue quickly, while ensuring high building standards. Our off-the-shelf structures enable us to deliver solutions, for any use, in a factory setting, which can then be transported to and assembled onsite. These structures can be standalone or integrated with existing facilities. Going beyond events, these structures can be used to expand office facilities, create new dining spaces, act as temporary supermarkets and stores or be used to expand warehouse and manufacturing facilities. What does Losberger De Boer define as a safe event space? Is this definition changing in response to the latest finding with regards to COVID-19?

A safe event space goes far beyond a stable structure and should ensure everything possible is done to ensure viruses and airborne diseases do not enter the building by way of screening and thermal scanning. Furthermore, if they do, the venue should not contribute to the further spread of the virus. In response to COVID-19, governments in the region and around the world have rolled out advisories and regulations relating to temporary and semi-permanent structures and events. These are subject to change as we learn more about the virus and how it spreads. Due to this, providers of events spaces have to remain adaptable and flexible, ensuring all guidelines are followed in the design and delivery of spaces. In addition to providing a space that is large enough to meet capacity requirements, while ensuring physical distancing is possible, the event space must account for the way crowds move and interact with each other and their surroundings. We pay close attention to how people congregate and factor in human nature when we are considering people flow. We also recognise that not everybody infected with COVID-19 is aware of the fact. A large portion of these people could go on to unknowingly transmit the virus to others. Therefore, a safe event space must prevent the risk of a large-scale outbreak by ensuring all people entering the venue are coronavirus-free. As a result, a broad range of measures must be taken, focusing not only on people within the space but also people approaching the space. When designing event venues, our clients will have the option to incorporate intelligent thermal cameras. These can be installed at our clients’ request and can quickly, accurately and unobtrusively check flows of people for elevated body temperatures, detecting people with fever-like symptoms and preventing them from spreading illness. The event venue of the corona-age will also have multiple access points that allow for a steady influx of visitors. For this purpose, we have designed specific access structures, in which people can enter more safely (but not slower), while maintaining physical distancing. It is in these access points that scanning will be most efficient; visitors will be scanned while going through the entrance process, so


they don’t need to wait to be scanned. People with fever-like symptoms will be detected and could be sent home, with the advice to contact their doctor and place themselves in quarantine or placed in an isolation facility. Ultimately, adaptability is key. Should guidelines be updated, the event industry must be positioned to react appropriately and quickly. Talk us through your approach to designing and rolling out safe event spaces.

Every design project starts with a conversation. The key to designing and delivering a successful event venue is a comprehensive understanding of the desired outcomes and how they can be achieved, taking into consideration the legal requirements of the country within which the event is taking place. We need to look not only at the space available but, and perhaps more importantly, how we can effectively and safely use that space. When designing spaces, we work on a formula based on the type of event, the expected footfall, the timings of the event and when peak visitors are expected and how success will be measured. Based on all these factors, we provide recommendations of structures and layouts. This

01 Losberger De Boer Middle East has erected a number of temporary structures in the region including medical centres. 02 Paul Machin is a senior sales manager at Losberger De Boer Middle East. 03 The firm says it approaches temporary structures with a view to provide safe venues that are financially viable and provide a meaningful event experience.

While the transition back to live events may be slow, it is definitely coming. It is now the responsibility of the event industry to make this transition as safely as possible”

process hasn’t changed because of the outbreak. However, we now need to provide more space. We are still designing the same elements, such as access points, staging areas, entrance gates and walkways, but are doing so with a view the controlling the number of people in a space at any given time. All our design is done in-house, which allows us to adapt quickly and meet very specific requirements. In fact, we are also able to offer completely bespoke structures. Working with the client, we can calculate how many people can safely fit within the venue, determine the capacity for each area, and provide a plan that includes required facilities, such as medical bays and quarantine facilities if required. At the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell trofeo conde de Godó, a large-scale tennis event, we built an 888sqm dining hall. When seats are fixed, 75% of the surface area or 666sqm would be available for seating. Before COVID-19, a ratio of one person per 1.5sqm was the standard, which would allow this dining hall to hold 444 seats. In the new normal, we have to use a ratio of one person per 2.5sqm, which means the same dining hall can now hold 266 seats. By providing this information, we are helping event organisers realise their event plans. September 2020

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Kelly Whitehead “Change needs to be authentic not just a ‘tick the box’ exercise, so companies must put ED&I at the top of their agenda and live and breathe their commitment” Following 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 industry across the GCC. Here, we catch up with Kelly Whitehead, Human Resources director, Africa, Middle East, Asia at HKA. What drove you to get into construction and your very first role in the industry?

My move into the industry was not intentional. I moved to the Middle East in 2012, wanting a different lifestyle for my family to that in the UK. My intention was to work part-time so I could spend more time with my children but I soon realised that these roles are not common in the Middle East! I secured a full-time role with an engineering consulting firm, which provided me with a good introduction to Middle East culture, construction and consulting. Share a brief about your career, mentioning key achievements.

I began working in HR when I was 19 and have continued to build my career in this profession ever since. I care tremendously about people and am naturally a problem solver. I love to

help identify the challenges and improvements needed in organisations to create a great workplace for the benefit of its people. My career started in the financial services sector, moving into public services and now construction consulting. Each industry has been vastly different, each with its own challenges, yet my experience and skills working with people were totally transferable. Construction consulting is about building a sustainable, efficient, profitable business where your asset is people. Typically, it is a male dominated environment, although progress is being made to ensure greater diversity of people work in the industry. I was hired to build the HR capability in the region, which has subsequently increased to include Africa and Asia, spanning over 10 countries. During my tenure, I have been involved in a global demerger, an acquisition by a PE firm and successfully driven change. I have found HKA leadership to be very good at listening to opportunities to improve. The firm is passionate about retaining its brilliant people and attracting more to work for us; so continuous focus on people is high on my agenda. Besides fairness and being the right thing to do, diversity in the construction industry is important because of the September 2020

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value women can bring to employers, clients and customers. How have you made your mark in the industry?

I have a responsibility as a senior female in our regional business, to ensure the women at HKA are taken seriously and feel valued. I am a mentor through a UAE women’s Facebook group that is currently sitting on 15k members. Also, earlier this year I established a ‘Lean In’ circle called Women Lean In Dubai, however, this was just before the pandemic, so I have had to put this on hold as I have been fully engaged in ensuring our people are safe and well. I am passionate about Equality Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) and I believe I have a lot more to contribute.

women available but some companies are not prepared to offer any flexibility, so it is easier for women to stay at home. Companies are losing out on a whole talent pool available due to policy. I hope that organisations, through the ‘global home working experiment’ we have experienced due to COVID-19, have learnt lessons, forcing companies to work smarter than before and create more opportunity. In order to make this happen, the mindset of leaders need to change and adapt. 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

What are some of the barriers to women

and make pay a level playing field?

entering the construction industry?

Simply put, accountability through transparency and measurement. We need to learn from the countries which are more mature in this area. Governments who want change and improvement for their country’s economy need to hold businesses to account. In countries such as Australia and the UK, businesses over a certain headcount must report on not only gender equality and gender pay gap, but ethnicity pay gap also, and publish results.

I believe that a lack of female role models is a barrier to entering the construction industry. Firms need to adapt their approach to recruitment by ensuring time is spent in schools and in universities where careers in the construction industry are fully explained so regardless of gender, everyone knows about the excellent opportunities available. A diverse set of role models need to attend these types of career events and explain how they have been supported through their careers.

We recognise the need to do more to increase diversity in certain areas of our business such as having our diversity metrics, so we can clearly identify where we need to address under-representation with direct action. It is important to never become complacent”

Besides authorities and construction firms, who else can play a part in increasing

The GCC construction sector is still male

diversity and balancing pay scales?

dominated, however diversity is beginning

There are several governing bodies and industry councils who are proactively addressing the issue of diversity and helping to create opportunity for discussion, learning, and promotion of diversity initiatives, which is great to see. However, to engage with these initiatives, companies must have someone accountable to lead and engage through these platforms - we have such a person within HKA and our leadership and all our colleagues fully support our ED&I approach. Non-profit organisations committed to creating social movements to improve diversity are positively impacting globally. Organisations such as ‘He for She’, 30% Club, Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) and ‘Lean In’ are all demanding and helping to create change. Firms in the construction industry would benefit from aligning their diversity programmes to one of the global movement organisations to demonstrate a long-term commitment to change

to increase. If you agree with the above, comment on what is driving this and how you see the GCC markets changing in the coming years? If you do not agree, share your thoughts/views of the market.

I agree, the GCC as a region is still heavily male dominated. Change is being made through individual organisations taking responsibility and addressing gender diversity head on by implementing relevant policies to support change, which is what we, as HKA, are currently focusing on. The GCC tends to attract families to the region and it can be a difficult place, logistically, to work as it is geared towards the stereotypical family set up, where the man works and the woman is responsible for the home/children. This is difficult to navigate working full time. There is an untapped market of professional September 2020

and set an example for other organisations within the construction sector. As a woman in the industry, what has your experience been working in the GCC construction sector? How does your experience here compare with what you’ve experienced in other markets?

I’ve encountered a few challenges along the way, predominately around work-life balance. There is a lack of family-friendly policies in the construction industry and particularly across the GCC. This has been very different to my experience working in the UK, where policies are more progressive; at one time, I worked part time and term time only. I don’t know of many companies in the industry or across the GCC which offer similar policies. Change needs to be authentic not just a ‘tick the box’ exercise, so companies must put ED&I at the top of their agenda and live and breathe

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to reach their full potential’. Creating an equitable environment, where our people feel valued, included and that they belong, is of key importance to our CEO, Renny Borhan and our leadership team. We recognise the need to do more to increase diversity in certain areas of our business such as having our diversity metrics, so we can clearly identify where we need to address under-representation with direct action. It is important to never become complacent. We recently appointed Chris Bernard, our Global People Recruitment and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion director who is responsible for the development and execution of our global ED&I, while working with colleagues to always improve our ED&I approach. We have established ED&I Committees and it is encouraging to see strong engagement from colleagues who are contributing to building a diverse and inclusive culture. Our approach to ED&I underpins how we recruit - we ensure a level playing field for diverse talent through our recruitment process, how we onboard our new colleagues, and develop our people to ensure they have equal opportunities. This impacts our ability to attract great talent and stand a greater chance of retaining our brilliant people. How do you push for diversity and equal pay in the construction sector? Are you

their commitment. This is critical, not only for organisational growth but for industry growth. In doing your job, what sort of

to feedback and vice versa. It is allowing the conversation to happen and talking honestly and openly which will help to demystify these sensitive topics.

discrimination (if any) have you faced and how did you/employer address it?

Do you feel there’s a limit with regards to

Thankfully, I haven’t been on the receiving end of any intentional discrimination. However, I have experienced previously in my career micro-aggression, for example, being talked over in meetings, being interrupted when speaking, assumptions that I am going to take the minutes of a meeting as I am the only woman in the room! I think that there is always opportunity to learn from these situations and we are all on a journey to (hopefully!) be better people, but we all make mistakes, myself included. I am not afraid to challenge inappropriate behaviour, in a suitable manner and in fact, at my level, I have a responsibility to do so, if it occurs. Thankfully, I work with a great bunch of people who are open

how far you can progress within HKA?

At HKA I have always felt I am in control of my own destiny. I did not have a career roadmap handed to me, I saw what was needed and I aimed to build the solution, and I don’t see this changing. HKA is in growth mode and I work in a great global people team with strong leadership. I am very excited about the future at HKA.

involved in any groups/councils etc?

I do have my personal network across the industry and we share ideas and best practice, but there is definitely a gap insofar as involvement in groups relating to the construction sector is concerned. The industry is not mature enough but we could learn from other industries, such as the legal sector. I participate in many events, such as round table discussions, on these topics organised by law firms. It is at these events that I establish connections in the construction industry, so perhaps we should put our heads together to build our own groups! What advice would you give to a woman

How does HKA approach diversity

entering the GCC construction industry?

in the workplace? What more can

We are all different and have a unique perspective which is valid, so believe in yourself! Have the courage to challenge; focus on your strengths as the sky is the limit in these areas; and invest in yourself!

your firm do to increase diversity?

At HKA, ED&I is one of our core principles, where ‘we value diversity and inclusion and provide opportunities to enable everyone

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01 Gabriella De La Torre is a director at CBRE.


September 2020

Gabriella De La Torre “Beyond the human benefits, green and open spaces contribute in many other ways to communities” Parks and green spaces play a unique role in our cities and have increasingly begun to represent a focus of discussions on our communities in recent years. The emergence of COVID-19 and social distancing measures has only highlighted the significance of these spaces. As stay-at-home restrictions have been lifted, we have witnessed communities flocking to and yearning for nature and the great outdoors. Walking trails and promenades have never been more popular, with new micro-mobility solutions, such as Careem Bikes, facilitating movement for the purposes of transport, exercise and enjoyment. Green and open spaces add value to our cities in immeasurable ways. From providing a place for social interaction and community events to helping define the character and sense of place within a neighbourhood, these highly versatile spaces are critical to supporting the well-being of the many people within our communities. With social distancing measures in place, one can imagine the heightened importance these spaces have more recently played on supporting mental health and well-being. Beyond the human benefits, green and open spaces contribute in many other ways to communities and mixed-use developments and play a central role in enhancing real estate value. This enhancement can be achieved in a variety of ways – from altering the image of an area to creating a new destination for residents, workers and visitors. Dubai developers have seemingly understood the value of green and open

spaces, with communities such as Al Barari dedicating more than 60% of the 1.4m sqm development to green spaces, lakes and streams. Similarly, Emaar’s Dubai Hills Estate is slated to include 1.4m sqm of parks and open spaces, coupled with a 54km bicycle route to support its future residents. The New Normal

Pandemics and other global crises have been instrumental in shaping our built environment throughout history. This pandemic should be no different, and it has already offered some key learnings around the importance of our public spaces. As a rapid response to these changes, cities around the world are pedestrianising more and more streets and effectively ‘giving the streets back to the people’. As we witness this shift, another question becomes what to do with spaces which are no longer in high use? As people increasingly choose other forms of mobility, what becomes of parking facilities? These and other areas are expected to offer new opportunities for repurposing spaces for public use in creative and innovative ways. As we go back to life in the new normal, we should not forget the lessons our communities have given us on the importance of the public realm. If we keep in mind the benefits of our parks and public areas, not just to the human psyche but also to our surrounding real estate, these unique and versatile places will be well-poised to continue playing their intended role in our developments and communities.

Project: Mercure Hotel, Kaliningrad, Russia Solution: Sierra OP Board, RAL 5013 Š Egor Sachko

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