• Strong focus noted for build and design
  • Poor focus on operations due to realtively young market
  • Cheap labour disincentivises case for efficiency

The Middle East region lags behind its western counterparts in terms of adopting solutions that allow smooth data access and integration as one project moves through the design, build and operate (DBO) stages.

There is a very strong focus in the Middle East region on design and build, says Simon Blenkiron, sales engineer at Trimble, a US-headquartered company specialising in DBO software. However, little focus is being given to when a building begins operating.

“In an ideal world, the data generated by the building information modeling (BIM) system used by the architects who designed a building should be shared with the facilities management company so that the latter can efficiently run the building bearing in mind its design constraints,” Blenkiron explains.

The level of awareness and adoption for DBO software is still relatively low across the Middle East although the UAE is more advanced than the others, thanks to expertise exported into the country by many Western countries.

Blenkiron says there is an obvious appetite among consultants and contractors but it is not yet where it should be.

“Generally we find that most clients in the region still try to bend old customer relationship management (CRM) systems or Excel spreadsheets to manage their building projects,” sayd Blenkiron. “[But they should be made aware that] what they don’t spend up front, they will end up spending later on, usually with compounded interest.”

The lukewarm appetite towards DBO solutions, however, is not only attributable to the clients’ or contractors’ overall price sensitivity. Unlike in the US or UK, most buildings in the region are considered first generation, or under 25 years of age, which means operating costs are still relatively manageable. This compares with most building structures in the more developed economies that are already in their third to fourth generation.

The abundance of land to build on and the relatively small population particularly in the GCC states also serve as a temporary disincentive for the adoption of more efficient and data-driven analytics software.

Another incentive that is absent in the region, compared with the more advanced countries, is cost efficiency created by employing fewer staff.  Cheap labour means many companies across the GCC will still probably choose to employ 50 instead of 20 staff in the foreseeable future, cites Blenkiron.

This could change over time as urban population increases and commercial building owners realise the benefits of efficient office space utilisation or even gas and electricity utilisation.

As the cost of utilities and office space rents increase, the benefits of adopting efficient DBO systems that feature cost-saving modules is likely going to become more apparent.

Other areas of building operations that a DBO system could help improve are those that concern break dates. Missing break dates for lease agreements could entail major costs for facilities management companies, as will the failure to efficiently utilise office spaces in densely populated and high-value commercial addresses.

According to data presented during the ongoing Cityscape in Dubai, some 40 per cent of projects are over budget and twice as many are delivered late due to inefficient build and design processes. The cost of operating projects also tends to be higher than it should due to the absence of reliable analytics.

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