Late involvement in the project forces firms to be reactive instead of proactive
By Fatima de la Cerna | Assistant Editor
Major developers and main contractors in the GCC region understand all too well the role commissioning (Cx) plays in the construction industry, says Lee Hewitt, Operations Manager at Core Emirates.
“They know what can be achieved by early appointment, together with sufficient resource,” he says, but indicates that the need to win contracts often takes precedence, resulting in limited funding for commissioning. “The scope of involvement is often eroded during tender negotiations,” he adds.
Hewitt explains that an issue with funding usually means late appointment for commissioning agencies. “We are generally asked to commence duties at site after installation has significantly progressed and, almost always, after the construction and handover programmes have been finalised; therefore, we end up being reactive rather than proactive,” he says, adding that this restricts what they can offer. “In many cases, we simply provide our clients with damage limitation solutions instead of the perfect indoor air quality expected by the end user.”
Hewitt also cites a challenge that several other experts have pointed out in the past, which is the lack of awareness among clients and project managers of the importance of commissioning and their “lack of recognition that the commissioning process should not, and in many cases cannot, be compressed”.
“Historically, the strategies and philosophies adopted on large-scale projects would filter downwards through the industry,” he says. “Unfortunately, the pace of this change is slow, largely because large-scale projects will usually have a project timescale running into years, typically five to 10 years, from concept design to handover.”
Hewitt, however, stresses that it’s not all bad news for the sector, saying that he has observed an improvement in the commissioning scene. “The efforts to increase the developers’ and owners’ understanding of the importance of commissioning management can be seen most strongly through the implementation of government strategies to promote a level of commissioning awareness through all stages of the project’s life,” he says and names Estidama as a particularly notable strategy.
“The Estidama scheme includes mandatory requirements for minimum levels of commissioning and awards additional points in recognition of enhanced commissioning options,” he says.
Hewitt, while acknowledging that “the application of commissioning management philosophies and proper commissioning methods is still very much in its infancy” in the Gulf region, points out that at least the need for change is being recognised.
He forecasts that with the shift in approach, benefits will be observed in the coming years in the form of “enhanced built environments and improved efficiencies and life cycles for the projects being developed and handed over during the next five years”.