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‘Environmental consciousness is uncommon among MEP consultants’

The September 2016 issue of Climate Control Middle East carried a detailed report on the state of the MEP consultancy industry. Here, as a follow-up, Hassan Younes, Director at Griffin Project Development Consultants, shares his views on the topic with B Surendar. Excerpts from the Q&A…

| | Nov 30, 2016 | 1:04 pm
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Hassan Younes

Hassan Younes

Has there been a palpable change in mindset and approach in the MEP consultancy community in the wake of vision statements issued by different GCC governments?
The MEP consultancy community is not all of the same mindset. However, some consultancies have started the internal change to meet the new governmental requirements.

Generally speaking, do consultants care about the projects they have designed after the buildings are up and running? Is there a need for a government-mandated mechanism to ensure consultants learn from projects with a view to improving their performance in future projects? What financial incentives need to be created for consultants to take that extra step?
Unfortunately, few to none visit the buildings after they are up and running. The Soft Landings framework has been suggested in the United Kingdom to counter the inefficiencies in construction. Soft Landings is a cradle-to-operation project process, which enables designers and constructors to focus more on operational performance outcomes. The approach helps project teams to deliver buildings that achieve their energy and environmental performance ambitions, while also focusing more on meeting the needs of occupants. Soft Landings requires clients and their design teams to make more use of performance feedback, from pre- and post-occupancy building evaluations, to better inform client requirements and design briefs. The consultant would stay on board for one or two years after the building gets occupied to make sure all systems are working as designed. This will definitely increase the consultancy cost on the owner, but with all the problems buildings are facing nowadays it seems like a necessary measure. Of course, the success of the approach depends on the future course of the property. For instance, if the owner intends to put the property up for sale, he won’t have an interest in Soft Landings.

How responsive are consultants to such trends as BMS, BIoT, nearly zero-energy buildings, smart cities, retrofitting, etc.?
In today’s market, most of the consultants claim to know it all. That’s why owners need to have informed teams to select the appropriate consultant for the appropriate job. Take for example BMS. We rarely find fully functional BMS on site. Who is to blame? Well, this might be worth a separate article.

We do a lot of design reviews, and the number of mistakes we find is alarming

What is the level of commitment towards, and concern for, the environment? Or is it a ‘business as usual’ mindset?
For most of the cases, it is a ‘business as usual’ mindset. Consultants are running businesses, and their main target it to satisfy the owner’s requirements while spending the least amount of time. Environmental consciousness is uncommon, but some consultants are now focusing on environmental issues from a CSR point of view.

Are consultants rushing through projects and often bypassing due diligence measures? I ask, because some manufacturers and suppliers are complaining of rampant misrepresentation of product certifications. They say the onus is on the consultancy community to ensure products that arrive at site are as per specification?
That is true, and it has many reasons. The first reason is unrealistic timelines by the owner. The second reason is un-informed consultants, who would copy and paste from other projects without looking into the specific need of the project at hand. We do a lot of design reviews, and the number of mistakes we find is alarming.

Copying and pasting is obviously not delivering the goals of projects

Is there still a strong copy-paste culture, which is detrimental to energy efficiency and IEQ goals? Some consultants are of the view that while copying and pasting conceptual design, and even schematic design, is not detrimental to sustainable development goals, the detailed design ought not to be copied. Do you agree?
Every project has its requirements, and the concept should be tailored to fit the project. Get the concept right, and your goals are 80% achieved.

If copying and pasting is an international phenomenon, what can the MEP consultancy community in the region do in terms of leadership, and in terms of offering a paradigm shift for the better?
Copying and pasting is obviously not delivering the goals of projects. It is up to the clients and building owners not to accept such designs, and to expose those consultants.

What are the challenges confronting MEP consultants in terms of collaborating on projects? How widespread is the lack of cooperation among multiple stakeholders, many of whom are often accused of quite not understanding or adhering to energy efficiency and good IEQ, to name two? Is there a stark absence of an Integrated Project Delivery approach, as a result of which the best intents of consultants are often overridden by owners?
In most of the cases, the MEP consultant would receive the architectural layouts done with a preliminary approval from the authorities. This would negate any passive measures that the MEP consultant would have advised on. Also, MEP room sizing and distribution tasks become more difficult to tackle.

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