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‘A regulatory framework combining compulsion and incentives’

Abdulhadi Ali Alalyak, Board Member, Middle East Facility Management Association (MEFMA), speaks with Climate Control Middle East on the important role FM companies can play in improving energy consumption, reducing long-term cost and the need for greater collaboration among relevant stakeholders…

| | Nov 25, 2017 | 11:59 pm
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FM has a huge role to play in raising energy efficiency and reducing power consumption of critical functions. There is a huge opportunity to cut down on operational expenses through optimising maintenance-related performance. FM can be a huge ally of building owners and help them achieve profitability and, at the very least, to help them reduce additional losses. What’s being done to address that? Does the lack of specialised MEP FM services mean that FM companies are missing out on this as a huge business opportunity?

Facilities management (FM) is well in its place to offer comprehensive energy management solutions. To promote more partnerships between FM managers and building owners, we are looking at establishing a working mechanism coupled with a regulatory framework combining compulsion and incentives to ensure that landlords can capture the benefits of their investments. We also encourage FM firms to link up with technology suppliers and finance providers to create a more compelling proposition for the landlords. Additionally, we are working towards promoting independent auditing of performance targets and baselines.

Buildings account for the consumption of more energy than any other sector, utilising a whopping 70% power. Many regional governments are acting to address this if they are to be successful in their sustainability goals. The Dubai Government, for instance, has already outlined an ambitious strategy to secure a sustainable approach to energy and water usage. Its Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy is in fact aiming a 30% reduction in energy demand per capita by 2030.

The Middle East’s FM industry is in an ideal position to take on a central role in the emerging energy management market in the GCC and capture a share of the prize it has to offer. Providing specialised FM services aligned with energy conservation efforts is the way to go so as not to lose sight of growth opportunities.

There are a number of FM companies that don’t have the required expertise to handle HVACR equipment, such as with regard to the proper maintenance of cooling towers and pumps as well as dealing with Electrical Low Voltage (ELV) equipment. What is MEFMA doing to address this huge gap within the industry?

The rapidly changing landscape of the FM industry is a clear reflection of how it has evolved over the years–not only has it shown key growth but has also witnessed the emergence of newer technologies and innovations that have been designed to address the key goals of FM. In line with this, MEFMA believes in the need for continuing education and training to help in the further growth of the industry. We regularly organise and hold key training courses, seminars and workshops to ensure that FM personnel and professionals are at pace with the latest equipment, services and products that are being introduced in the market today.

How many FM companies, according to MEFMA, have qualified MEP maintenance personnel in their ranks? Is there a process of continuous training?

Continuous learning and training is the key. At MEFMA, we offer certified FM training courses with practical qualifications that can be implemented in the daily tasks of our students. Our courses cover a wide range of FM aspects and fundamentals in line with the needs and requirements of the regional FM market.

In terms of building retrofit projects, are the relevant stakeholders being trained to address concerns with regard to energy efficiency?

FM is at the core of the retrofit process and plays a pivotal role in ensuring long-term sustainability of buildings. Training ensures that standards are strictly observed concerning post-retrofit maintenance and preventive care implemented in any facility. We always highlight the importance of training to create a fully integrated FM industry adequately equipped for the ‘retrofit revolution,’ as well as the need to upskill, evolve, and adapt to new retrofit processes through continuous learning.

Moreover, given that energy auditors are essential in a building retrofit process, we believe that FM companies can benefit more by hiring certified energy auditors directly on their team as opposed to outsourcing the auditing task.

Can you comment on the specialised FM services for the healthcare industry stakeholders, especially in terms of maintaining air quality and acoustical comfort? Do we have specialised MEP firms that can handle it?

Yes, FM companies must be specialised or can work with contractors in ensuring air and water quality in hospitals based on approved government standards and in liaison with Health, Safety, Quality, and Environment (HSQE) Department and Infection Control Officer. In the region, there are adequately trained staff specialising in hospital cleaning and protocols and they are mentally prepared to handle hospital emergency situations.

In an ordinary facility, the primary objective is to maintain the area’s visual appeal and cleanliness. A healthcare facility involves a more detailed and thorough process. Not only does the property need to be free from unpleasant odours and be visually appealing, it also needs to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to prevent growth of germs and pathogens; and properly managed to avoid cross-contamination between patients, staff and visitors. We need to prevent infections caused by unhygienic surroundings. As such, waste management and segregation has to be precise and frequent and minimised movement of dust around the hospital must be ensured, among others.

Can you comment on the important role that proper FM practices can have on the user-experience of a building? Especially in terms of air conditioning systems, given that cooling a vital part for the comfort of residents and inhabitants?

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are an integral part of the building management system and are responsible for more than 40% of total energy use. We need well-trained personnel specialising in HVAC system maintenance as the demand grows. But their function goes beyond just controlling energy use as buildings today need properly overall operating systems to ensure more than just the people’s comfort. FM companies can guarantee maximum operational efficiency from a building’s HVAC system through regular monitoring, measurement, maintenance, and equipment replacement as needed.

To optimise performance and increase efficiency of the HVAC system, we need to audit the performance of all integrated systems. In addition, with the right budgetary support, building owners can ensure efficient HVAC operations. We understand that ignoring HVAC maintenance can be very costly to the owners. If FMs are able to identify the real cost savings associated with comprehensive maintenance and monitoring plans, then the entire process will result in an improvement in the bottom line.

Can you comment on the important role FM companies’ play in meeting the building’s sustainability targets?

Efficient HVAC systems running properly and at peak is the first step in managing facility energy use. Facilities in which proper HVAC maintenance is completed will use at least 15-20% less energy as opposed to the deteriorating ones.

FM professionals are, in fact, at the forefront of ensuring that building owners meet their sustainability targets. They are crucial to ensuring that we have more sustainable facilities, through a number of stages in the life-cycle of a building. A sustainable building results in reduction in absenteeism; increased workforce productivity; improved learning abilities; and a reduction in inpatient stay times. These benefits are provided through the integration of FM and design knowledge into the facility.

There are talks that FM companies should be part of the design, and even pre-design meetings of projects Do you also believe this to be true? Have FM companies been involved with contractors/consultants in the initial design/development of projects?

Yes, involving FM companies as early as the design phase will reduce the efforts for maintenance during the operational phase of the facilities. As what has been suggested, FM can contribute to reducing the needs for major repairs and alternations that will otherwise occur at the operational phase. FM firms can utilise the Building Information Modelling (BIM), which provides a visual model and a database throughout the building life-cycle, for space planning and energy analysis purposes, among others.

In Dubai, authorities have identified facilities that are mandated to implement BIM. These are above 40-story buildings; building with area larger than 300,000 square feet; specialised buildings such as hospitals, and universities, and other similar facilities; and all buildings requested on behalf of a foreign office.

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