One needs to adapt in this price chal­leng­ing mar­ket, says Mark Far­ley, di­rec­tor of build­ing ser­vices, Mid­dle East, WSP

MEP Middle East - - CONTENTS -

Mark Far­ley, di­rec­tor of build­ing ser­vices, Mid­dle East, WSP.

Canada-head­quar­tered global con­sul­tancy firm WSP has al­most 30 ma­jor projects in the GCC spread across di­verse a port­fo­lio. “We have over 30 ma­jor projects across dif­fer­ent stages in the project life cy­cle. Our projects are di­verse and span across many key sec­tors in­clud­ing rail, com­mer­cial, hos­pi­tal­ity, and res­i­den­tial. Cur­rently, WSP in the Mid­dle East has five high-rise tow­ers (60-80 storey) on its books,” says Mark Far­ley, di­rec­tor of build­ing ser­vices, Mid­dle East, at WSP.

Far­ley says that the firm sees it­self as “a very strong lo­cal build­ing ser­vices com­pany that has the ex­per­tise of sev­eral projects that bring about many dif­fer­ent chal­lenges”. He says: “If we en­counter a chal­lenge on a project, we are very good at re­spond­ing lo­cally. We also have the ex­per­tise and knowl­edge base around the globe to bring in ex­perts to the lo­cal mar­ket.”

Talk­ing about the MEP sec­tor, Far­ley says that the mar­ket is “chal­leng­ing but ev­er­chang­ing”. The mar­ket is price com­pet­i­tive from a soft and hard cost per­spec­tive. Hard costs are tan­gi­ble as­sets that you need to ac­quire to com­plete your con­struc­tion project. Hard costs are quan­tifi­able and can be de­ter­mined with such cer­tainty that usu­ally they are de­tailed by an ex­pe­ri­enced es­ti­ma­tor. Soft costs on the other hand are costs that are not con­sid­ered in di­rect con­struc­tion costs. Soft costs in­clude ev­ery­thing from ar­chi­tec­tural and en­gi­neer­ing fees, to le­gal fees, pre- and post-con­struc­tion ex­penses, per­mits and taxes, in­sur­ance, etc. He says: “For con­trac­tors, the chal­lenge is hard costs, whereas for con­sul­tants, it’s soft costs. There’s a real chal­lenge in my area in terms of main­tain­ing value. So if the price is more com­pet­i­tive and the soft costs are chal­lenged, what we’ve got to do as WSP is to make sure we’re de­liv­er­ing the same end prod­uct that the client de­sires.”

Far­ley ad­mits that the client’s mind­set and their ap­proach to projects are chang­ing. He says that there is a more man­aged ap­proach to projects. “For me, it’s a ma­tur­ing mar­ket, and the chal­lenge is that clients are tak­ing longer to award [projects] be­cause they want to check the fea­si­bil­ity and make sure the project is the right fit for the mar­ket. We just need to fit into that and be re­spon­sive to clients.”


Also, talk­ing about the client’s mind­set, there is greater in­ter­est in adopt­ing tech­nol­ogy. “Tech­nol­ogy is rapidly chang­ing. BIM (Build­ing In­for­ma­tion Modelling) is a great ex­am­ple. BIM’s been around for quite a long time, but it’s still de­vel­op­ing, im­prov­ing, and pro­gress­ing. WSP ac­quired a BIM One com­pany that feeds into a piece of soft­ware called BIM Track.” BIM Track is an in­no­va­tive web-based tech­nol­ogy de­signed to max­i­mize in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary col­lab­o­ra­tion in dig­i­tal 3D model con­struc­tion and man­age­ment. Com­bin­ing var­i­ous 3D co­or­di­na­tion and modelling soft­ware ap­pli­ca­tions, this so­lu­tion helps con­sol­i­date project in­for­ma­tion. This en­ables ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion of ev­ery­one in­volved in the BIM process, at both the de­sign and con­struc­tion stages, us­ing any type of de­vice (desk­top com­puter, tablet or smart­phone).

Con­trac­tors now are en­gaged in BIM, Far­ley be­lieves. He says. “You’ve got to take into ac­count that the con­trac­tors have thou­sands of peo­ple work­ing with them. It’s a com­plete change in the way they do things. So, I un­der­stand that when we work with con­trac­tors, we re­view the BIM mod­els with them. To me, BIM is the only way to do things.”

At WSP tech­nol­ogy is em­bed­ded in ev­ery­thing that is done, says Far­ley. “Tech­nol­ogy has been part of what we do for the past 2030 years, and it’s part of what we do now, and will be a part of what we do in 30 years’ time. We’ve got to be on track with where tech­nol­ogy is. We’ve got to keep pace with the mar­ket. We have var­i­ous ways of do­ing that. We’ve got our of­fice setup, which has mul­ti­ple screens, dock­ing sta­tions, and hot desks. It’s a very col­lab­o­ra­tive work­ing area. It very much starts at the workspace and our in­fra­struc­ture. And the way we ac­tu­ally op­er­ate is con­sis­tent across all our of­fices, and you’ll no­tice that if you ever come to any of our sites, and any of our de­sign of­fices.

“So we be­lieve in cre­at­ing the right work en­vi­ron­ment. We’ve got vir­tual re­al­ity rooms

The chal­lenge is that clients are tak­ing longer to award [projects] be­cause they want to check the fea­si­bil­ity and make sure the project is the right fit for the mar­ket.″

in our main of­fices where we bring in clients and our part­ners, and we can help peo­ple visualise and look around a build­ing [project]. You can also go mo­bile and take it over to the clients’ of­fices so they can view it. Tech­nol­ogy is al­ways a part of ev­ery­thing that we’re do­ing th­ese days.”

WSP has a lot of small fo­cus groups, and ded­i­cated soft­ware teams, where the small fo­cus groups sup­ported by the firm’s in-house soft­ware team carry out a lot of de­vel­op­ment work such as scripts. He says: “Soft­ware is de­vel­oped to make things eas­ier and more ef­fi­cient, and re­ally, the fo­cus around tech­nol­ogy is to en­able our peo­ple. So that fi­nally we are able to spend fruit­ful time with clients and ar­chi­tects, to do the bit that’s needed. To spend time on the im­por­tant stuff such as co­or­di­na­tion, de­sign, col­lab­o­ra­tion. Be­ing able to bring the team to­gether to get a project built on time.”


In or­der to be suc­cess­ful in this in­dus­try, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween con­sul­tants and con­trac­tors is im­por­tant. Far­ley says that a suc­cess­ful way of work­ing for a con­trac­tor and con­sul­tant is al­ways col­lab­o­ra­tive. He says: “It’s al­ways com­mu­nica­tive. It’s al­ways some­one pick­ing up the phone and get­ting around a ta­ble and re­solv­ing an is­sue. We’ve got to chal­lenge each other and to me one of the main parts of that equa­tion is the client. If we just have a con­sul­tant with a con­trac­tor, it prob­a­bly won’t suc­ceed. We need the client to buy into that as well and be part of that process and that’s to me the recipe for a good and suc­cess­ful project.”

Far­ley con­cludes by say­ing: “We, at WSP, are al­ways try­ing to look at how we im­prove at what we do. We don’t want to be stag­nant. To me, if you have that mind­set to al­ways move for­ward, and al­ways mprove, then you will be suc­cess­ful un­der any mar­ket con­di­tions.”

Mark Far­ley, di­rec­tor of build­ing ser­vices, Mid­dle East, WSP

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