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Quantifying the value offered by integrated facilities management

Jamal Lootah, Group CEO, Imdaad, discusses the need for greater collaboration and knowledge exchange among service providers, manufacturers, consultants and building owners, and underscores the valuable role an integrated Facilities Management company plays in enhancing building performance, providing savings and extending the lifecycle of mechanical equipment. Excerpts from the interview he gave to Hannah Jo Uy…

| | Sep 15, 2019 | 9:48 pm
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Jamal Lootah

You have spoken on the need to create a shift in the mindset of the market to encourage more long-term investment in enhancing building performance, which often suffers owing to cost-centric thinking. Could you share what Imdaad is doing in this regard, by way of example as well as through its engagement with customers?
As a leader in the market, we try to be very close to the client to show them the right way. [It is] not about saving money or trying to cut corners. We are sitting with the client, telling them what is better for the machine they have in the buildings and how to maintain it for a long time, even for 20, 30, 40 or 50 years. [It’s also about] being close to manufacturers, to see and know the latest [innovations] and how we can save using it, not just to install the machine and expect it will work for 50 years without maintenance. It is about making sure you maintain it in the right way, according to the manual and to have experts do it for you.

When markets go down, people try to cut cost – downsizing and terminating people. We say, ‘No!’ We are thinking of the future, we have to have the right plan and to have the right people to keep giving high-quality service to the client. If cost saving will help the environment, I am with that, but if it will harm the environment or put the teams in a difficult situation, I am against that. I try my best to keep my experts and maintain my clients.

Considering different clients have different expectations, how does Imdaad identify and manage customer demands? Do you see a marked difference when developers engage specialised consultants in their projects?
Internally, we have research and development. Most of the time, we are evaluating the clients we have. We look to the client that understands facility management and is aware of what will happen in the future if they don’t maintain [their assets]. It is important. It is not just that ‘[This costs] one million, now make it 500,000’. No, professionals are asking, ‘If I do that, how long will my equipment and investment be retained, and how can it give me more?’

Overall, would you say there has there been greater appreciation for specialised FM providers that can manage HVACR equipment? Would you have data in relation to how quality FM services can help enhance efficiency of overall operations?
Of the many examples I could provide, Hamdan Sports Complex stands out as one of the major projects we have tackled involving expensive HVACR equipment. When Imdaad initially took over the contract in 2011, the MEP, ELV, HVACR, swimming pools and associated equipment were not completely operational. We submitted a highly detailed report identifying key issues with the infrastructure, such as chiller and heat pumps, cooling towers, air-handling units and building management systems. Some of these had the potential to seriously affect the lifecycle of the mechanical equipment, while resulting in high energy consumption and generating huge operational costs. Based on our findings, we were able to optimise energy consumption in the complex and enhance the lifecycle of expensive equipment through a series of energy/water conservation projects that brought energy savings of 2,274,144 KWh in the five months compared with the previous year, even though the occupancy level in the complex had increased by 15% and the scheduled aquatic events were increased by 20%. It also had the following benefits:

  • Reduction of CO2 by 1,435.44 metric tonnes
  • Reduction of water consumption by 165,000 imperial gallons
  • Annual reduction in the disposal of 600mg of Hg to the environment
  • Optimisation in the use of renewable energy sources, and
  • An increase in the lifecycle of the equipment

You have spoken on the importance of collaborating with manufacturers in order to gain insights on how to optimise installed mechanical equipment. Could you speak more on what Imdaad is doing on that front?
We send our people to train with the manufacturers to understand exactly how to deal with the unit and the system. The relationship between service provider and manufacturer is very important. We have a good relationship with manufacturers, and [there are] good brands in the GCC region and in the UAE. We try to make this relationship even stronger by conducting courses and organising events together. At the same time, through Middle East Facilities Management Association (MEFMA), we try to bring all the manufacturers and all the service providers to the table to discuss the issues and challenges we have.

Could you speak on the insights that such an integrated approach can offer building owners and developers, especially considering that many are showing greater interest in specialised FM to extend the lifecycle of equipment and avoid cost associated with retrofitting?
That starts from the design stage. First, [it’s about asking] which parts and equipment will fit the assets and building and, after that, asking for quality from day one. Sorry to say that most try to cut cost in the beginning and, after that, suffer a lot. If I am an investor, I have to select the right equipment for my assets and, again, select the right service provider to maintain my system.

As Imdaad, we tried many machines and many systems, and we know the difference of each one. There are differences in price, there are differences in quality. If you want to pay less, you will get that one [unit], as well as the headache and the problem in the future. You have to understand the differences, the basics of the building and investment in the right equipment. We have very good air conditioning brands here in the UAE and in the GCC region for more than 50, 60 years that are dependable. Okay, we can try the new brands, but we can help the investor a lot when it comes to selecting the right machine and systems.

I would always say to manufacturers, it is important to be close to service providers and to work together. Some manufacturers try to cut cost and not deliver the best quality systems, and the client has to see and select a good machine that is fit for the environment in Dubai.

From your personal experience, do you feel then that FM companies are given enough of an opportunity by consultants to provide feedback on design and equipment selection?
We have participated in the design stages of many projects in Dubai, and those projects have seen the benefits of that. As a facility management provider, we discuss how to design the air conditioning system, how to select the lighting or the windows. We have many case studies and connect with manufacturers on, for example, the ducting and how it should be designed because of our experience and the challenges we faced. This will help the manufacturers, designers and consultants. Every day, we are learning something new, and this adds to our experience, and we give that knowledge to our clients and to the manufacturing companies.

Day by day, the challenges facing the built-environment will be reduced through the right selection of the consultant and by working together with FM providers. Yes, we have issues, not all designers are the same, not all people and manufacturers are the same, but already we are feeling that the awareness of the people in Dubai, UAE and GCC region is much better than before. They are aware of the importance of service quality and asking service providers really good questions, and that’s why you see the correction in market prices. Before, in 2006 or 2007, no one asks how much it costs for service of FM by square feet or square metre. Now, people go into details asking how much certificates they have, how many courses they have taken. There is much better awareness and training, thanks to the people in RERA and to people in MEFMA, working hard on events and training. This is reflected in our service as a company and on the industry as a whole.

How is Imdaad leveraging emerging technology to enhance its service portfolio?

Imdaad is a frontrunner in leveraging technology and innovation and in introducing best practices in sustainability that are shaping the development of the regional FM industry. An example includes the remote monitoring of legacy chiller systems using Imdaad’s custom-designed hardware. Imdaad’s contract with JAFZA includes maintenance of 120+ chillers, aged 10-25 years, spread across 57km2. Due to their age, the chillers are neither smart nor connected to Building Management Systems, leading to high operational costs. Imdaad’s team of chiller engineers devised a solution by internally developing a prototype device that uses sensors and microprocessors to capture chilled water temperature, chiller running status and other parameters. Based on pre-set settings and thresholds, the device communicates with the Imdaad team through SMS notification or call. This highly cost-effective solution only requires a one-time investment to monitor the chiller remotely.

As a result of this initiative, technicians’ site visits have reduced by 50%, thereby reducing manpower costs. Reactive incidents reported by end- users have also reduced by 30%, as we can now identify chiller trips or drops in temperature before they are felt by the end-users. Imdaad’s efforts in continuously improving operational performance have resulted in an average client KPI achievement of above 95%. Our high level of customer satisfaction is reflected in the number of client recognitions and appreciations we have received from Tecom Group, JAFZA, Wasl, Queen Elizabeth 2 and Dubai Sports Council, among many others.

 

Hannah Jo Uy is Assistant Editor at Climate Control Middle East magazine. She may be contacted at hannah@cpi-industry.com


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