60 second Interviews

As a result of the interest in the market and The Big 5, we got on board some of our leading experts, key speakers and industry leaders to share with us their insight, knowledge and expertise on the market place and exhibition as a central platform for construction professionals globally.

Liz Kentish, Kentish & Co and Julie Kortens, Chairman and Managing Director, BIFM and Konnected People



1. There’s a growing understanding in the market that management and maintenance comprehensive of energy accounts for up to 80% of total building cost. Based on your experience, how is this acknowledgment changing the approach to the design and build industry in the Region?

Julie: From my perspective, what I am seeing more and more of, are the developers, the designers and the people who are going to manage the building talking to each other at the very beginning. You can have some amazing design, you can have some amazing technical equipment in a building but if the people who are running that building on an ongoing basis don’t know how to make best use of it those cost will never decrease and it will always be 80%. So for me, it’s the collaboration, its’ all of those people coming together and talking in the next interests of the building. 

2. What are the main challenges facing the FM and construction industries today in the region?

Julie: I think for me, as well as collaboration, its understanding that actually talking to people makes you get the best out of people. Don’t always look at that contract, don’t always sit down and say right this is what we want, you need to provide that.

If we go back a few years, a designer designed the building, the developer built the building and that was it. That is where the collaboration stopped and started. Now we want people talking to each other, so for me the challenge is talking in the FM industry, we talk about output specification, contracts so allowing the FM person, the provider, to decide the best way to deliver their services, rather than telling them, this is exactly what you have to do. 

3. What do you think are the major trends in today’s FM industry?

Julie: I think the most important thing is professionalization. You can have lots of really fantastic people in the FM industry, they know lots of things, they are very experienced and good at their job, but we don’t have any common core competencies, and they don’t have many core qualifications. If we can get everybody on the same level, on the same page, we will professionalize that industry.  

4. So Liz – can you talk to me about the trends you see in FM at the moment?

Liz: What I see and what I find really interesting is that FM service providers are really starting to look outside for innovation.

I know innovation is really big here in the UAE, and I think the only way to be innovative is really to look outside, not just at your competitors, but what is happening at your clients businesses, but also at the supply chain

5. As a a visitor and a speaker at the Big 5 last year, would you use the show as a place where people can find solutions to their challenges and find new innovations and products?

Liz: Absolutely. It is a great place to find new products, new services but also an added bonus if you like, is the opportunity to network, so there are lots of workshops always going on, there is educational content, but just the opportunity to meet people and to talk to people in similar positions about some of your challenges. 

Julie: For me, some of the real quality was shown in a master class, one for example that Liz Kentish did, where you had people from different professions, different levels across a different industry, so really powerful conversations were being had between an architect, a project manager, and facilities manager and a builder, all talking to each other, about similar problems that pulled it all together and showed how important the Big 5 was.

6. Liz you ran the leadership skills workshop at The Big 5, so it would be really interesting for us to understand why that would be such a popular workshop for people to attend.

Liz: One of the big issues people face is communication, and the ability to have effective conversations at all levels of the business, and particularly if you’re a project manager with your client and with the other contractors that you’re managing. So what we do when we talk about leadership is we help people first of all by holding a mirror to themselves to become much more self-aware of their own style. And then to understand that other people have different styles of communication. So if we want to be effective we have to adapt how we speak, how we email, how we text, because we can be very technical in how we communicate and that is not really how human beings are meant to communicate with each other. So we give people lots of tips and techniques to go straight back to the workplace and the very next day to put that into practice.

Maurizio Rosa, Architect from Venice Municipality

Maurizio delivered a presentation in Dubai on an Italian test case for designing energy efficient mass housing. The interview explores this and green building regulations.

1. Often sustainability and green buildings solutions are associated with higher costs. Is that true and your experience?

A: This is not true – you always have to understand what you are looking for, and what the goal is that you want to reach. It means that green buildings are now a very confusing concept. If I compare the same parameters when I'm going to build a building in the normal way and then the green building construction process, the green building construction is cheaper than the normal way of building and, overall, the quality of the total construction and the design is much better than the normal way.

2. So why don't more people follow the green building process or regulations? Is it to do with cost?

A: No it's not the cost, it’s culture. This is the way and the law. In Europe the process and the culture of the green building started almost 40 years ago so this market is ahead with this concept of the green building. So, following that process then is a longer process in general and you need to change the law.

3.  Do you think that could be a reason why it's maybe not, as laws and educating people need to change, so it hasn't been yet heavily adopted in the region? Or is it starting to but it's not there yet?

A: No. If we are talking for example in the UAE. Abu Dhabi for example is more advanced if you compare the regulations issuing for the green building construction compared to Dubai. This is our data,technical data, and scientific data,so we have to take care that green buildings are not only to save energy it is how you are living inside the building. It must be healthy.

4. Can you take us through what you thought were the key findings of that study? The key elements of your study and what you did?

A:The key elements are first of all which kind of material are you going to use for construction? Because a lot of materials you find in the market are very dangerous. The first one is that they don't have chemical components inside. All natural components.  The second one is that you have to use recycled materials to create the components for your system.

The other step is that all this material has to be recyclable because now, the market is running so there is the market that is stable and the market that is moving.

5. Could you see that this would be something that grows in the future, using all this recyclable material?

A:The technology is not easy to find in the market because there's a cost. To open a factory is creating economy, economy in the UAE. The green building concept is also so that you don't have to make a long trip to have your items, your components to work. 

6. What are, according to you, the latest trends in sustainable energy solutions for new buildings in the region? 

A: The market is trying to do something, however there are problems. The problem is first, the law. The regulations for the building are basic ones. You have to create the mindset of the people and the culture of the people starting from the main contractor, starting from consultants, to be able to manage green building construction. 

7. What is it about the Big 5 for someone in your industry that makes it an important show to go to, or a show that you do choose to go to?

A: The Big 5 is growing. The big companies for me are not a big interest because I know them already. I know how to deal with them. I'm looking for small companies that have ideas and that are developing something that I can apply in my ideas in my system. And so I need to have discussions, information, to talk with them.  

Khaled Hajbakri, Architect/ BIM Engineer, Mazaya Consulting Engineers

1. Could you please give us a brief description of both Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) and Building Information Modeling (BIM)? What are the main differences between these two, and what are their major strengths?

Α: In our office we like to say it is as big as the difference between black and white, referring to the black background of CAD’s software screens vs the white of BIM’s. The difference is huge! In a simple statement, buildings go through various stages starting from design to documentation to coordination. What matters is the fact that “the earlier you change the less it costs”! CAD has revolutionized the way we document and produce drawings, that are the major way of communication between the industry players, resulting therefore in a faster coordination processes. On the other hand, BIM introduction has shifted the focus and efforts to the design stage.By doing so, it has helped not only reaching an unparalleled efficiency level of coordination, but also considerably a less time’s and effort’s consuming documentation process.

2. The rapid movement from CAD to BIM by professional architects and engineers is creating several challenges and opportunities for Architecture and Architectural Engineering programs. Would you please tell us more about it?

Α: While many locally, within the UAE, have already taken steps into BIM, the reality is that only few are fully benefiting from the fruits of it. Fully adoption normally goes beyond the utilization of various software to actually a change of working methodologies and the way of thinking. An example would be adopting the Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) process. The hierarchical shape of decision making is completely reversed to include a wider range of professionals and to cover the entire project lifecycle. Affected parties beside architects and engineers include contractors, clients, landscape and interior designers, facility managers and green building Consultants along with other specialist consultants. Secondly comes of course the cost of the transition, either being it the consumption of a long time which is our scarcest asset, or the need to invest heavily in training programs and the acquiring of a new software and Hardware infrastructure.  

3. Building Information Modeling is shaping the discipline of architecture, both in concept and practice, with the promise of streamlining the design and construction process. What is your experience with BIM? How is it improving your daily work as an Architect/ BIM engineer?

Α: When the decision has been taken by the company lead to make the shift, I was an early adopter. I immediately recognized the rewards that I would gain by committing to the change. Working in bigger teams has gradually become the norm substituting the solo-boring-mode of traditional CAD environment. The project as a whole lifecycle is now a primary data for our design team, and with that increases the amount of decisions and responsibilities that a designer needs to take. The management believed in the change and a great support was given, yet the process is still ongoing and the continuing success of the completed project will be the final judge.    

4. What are the key outcomes of the transition from CAD to BIM in the UAE?

Α: Following many other countries, Dubai government has taken the lead and announcements has been made that the use of BIM will no longer be optional but a requirement by the municipality for all industry professionals. By implementing BIM, everyone in the construction industry is getting smarter as their decisions are better informed.  Problems related to dis-coordination and unforeseen clashes between various disciplines,that were held responsible for holding the progress of many projects, are now being avoided very much earlier resulting in huge savings and the enhancement of services. Clients’ satisfaction is at record as they have now an opportunity to take a thorough look at the final result and to reflect then and involve more in the design process.

5. Looking at the future, how will Architectural engineering develop? Do you expect an evolution of BIM? If so, what new features is it likely to have?

Α: Looking back at the BIM adoption cycle, both innovators and early adopters have been busy, over the last decade, in discovering every possible way to maximizing the use of new technologies and enhancing the BIM ability to deliver a final product. Nowadays, while we are witnessing a huge transition shift towards the adoption of BIM among the majority of professionals within the field, BIM is easier than ever to adopt and awareness among professionals is on the rise. Leaders therefore are shifting focus into the stabilizing and standardizing of the industry. Consequently, BIM standards will mature worldwide to organize the flow of information and the methods of collaboration between all concerned parties. We will be witnessing the rise of the Architectural Engineer rule, while architects are on the crossroads of either involving more into the engineering of buildings or leave-taking the lead to other professional engineers.

Dr. Edgar Small, Coordinator of Construction Management, Associate Professor, American University in Dubai

1. What are the main challenges faced by sustainable building developers in the UAE and the GCC region?

A: Sustainability is an area that is becoming increasingly important for everybody who is involved in the construction process - for the owners, for the architects and engineers, for the contractors, for the developers as well... One of the main challenges that we have in terms of implementing sustainable development is time. Sustainability usually requires additional time in terms of the design process, additional thought to rethink how you're going to do things and sometimes additional time for construction as well.

2. Does the local climate and weather somehow affect sustainable building design?

A: I think that the weather really incentivizes the need for better solutions, for sustainable structure, sustainable building, the use of alternative power sources for your buildings is certainly a great opportunity here with the amount of sunshine that you get so it changes it. It doesn't really make it more difficult. I think it changes how you're going to implement sustainability because of the environment.

3. What are the main trends that you are spotting in sustainable building development in the region?

A: Well, in the region I think that everybody is very interested in sustainability. When you look at the regulators, they’re all very interested in promoting and pushing sustainability into the development culture to conform with UAE Vision 2021. And we see this with the Dubai green building regulations, we see this with the efforts in Abu Dhabi, with Estidama, we see this with the people in the industry who are more interested in looking at how can they incorporate LEED designs, or BREEAM designs, or Estidama designs, other types of sustainability approaches, into the standard every-day practice.

4. How do you see Dubai becoming a sustainable City in the future and what needs to be done to fill the gap?

A: Right now in the Middle East, you have very large overall footprint, ecological footprint per capita, in this region compared to other cities in the world. The top three cities in terms of per capita ecological footprint are here in the region and I think the leaders recognize that and they want to do something about it. They have made it a priority. And they are trying to actually make an impact so I think that sustainability will become more commonplace as a result of that. To try to take a very high per capita carbon footprint and to lower that and make some real difference.

What I want to add is for the construction stage, we need to see some more sustainable material options available in the market so I can have the option of selecting different material. All of them will fit the design. This is not normally available for all designs. For facade, for insulation, normally the option is very limited and the contractor is not going to select the sustainable one because of the price.

5. Is the new fire regulation in Dubai and going to affect the way sustainable buildings are designed and developed?

A: Recently Dubai Civil Defense have developed new regulations for fire. I think working together with Dubai Municipality. It is still also under revision or something like that so we are expecting something and we have to deal with it and the specialists have to work it out somehow with new innovations solutions, different solutions.

Jayan Balakrishnan, Managing Director, Apt Management Consultancy

Expert expresses the importance of professionals in the construction industry to know the basics of finance.

The UAE construction industry has no doubt been expanding in the last decade, seeing massive changes in the sector.

Jayan Balakrishnan, Managing Director of APT Management Consultancy says that to manage big projects it is critical that one possesses a basic understanding of finance. But, most of these companies are being led by engineers who are technical experts with management skills but probably do not possess an MBA degree or a formal finance training.

"For any organisation a lot of financial decisions are the results of actions that are taken by non-finance people,” he says. “So those people are influencing finances of the company than the finance persons themselves. So it's quite important that these people should know what the impact of their decisions are when they act."

He adds that having a fundamental knowledge in finance, the project managers will greatly benefit when they interact with their finance team or with higher management.

Knowing basic key concepts like assets, liability, revenue, expenses, gross profit, net profit, cash flow, operating cash flow, key financial ratios, and having an understanding of what they mean and how they work will help them to contribute better in a company’s growth.

For a project manager, it is essential to manage resources effectively and achieve profitability while managing cash proficiently, Balakrishnan says. These skills could be critical at this point of time as the construction industry in the UAE is very competitive.

Balakrishnan urges the companies in the UAE to train people in the field of finance as this skill will become very handy in the coming years as the country is setting new federal laws.

These laws will be implemented this year and will make it mandatory for every company to maintain their accounts which will be audited. The records will have to be maintained for five years too. 

"I believe there are a lot of entrepreneurs who should attend this type of seminars. It is also good for small owner-managed companies "

He says that the VAT regulation will be the main law to look out for, even though it will be implemented in 2018 Balakrishnan believes that it requires a lot of preparation before it actually makes its debut to the UAE. As a first step one could review all documentations as it is likely that all purchase orders, contracts and even record management could change and also the information systems need to be altered.

And Balakrishnan gives construction professionals a word of advice: “It doesn't matter if VAT will be incorporated within your industry. Anyone may be affected in some way. You will only be aware of the exact requirements after the regulations come into place.”

It is important to train project managers in this skill set as they need to understand exactly how their actions will affect the future financial position of the company.

Companies need to understand that all sections in a company and its environment are interrelated and that to work in one section you need a fair idea of how the other sections work too, and essentially improving the organisation as a whole.



Mustafa Rasch, Managing Director, SL-Rasch

The following questions are directed at Mustafa Rasch, who is doing a presentation on Adaptive Architecture: convertible structures at The Big 5 Dubai.

1. Tell us about the concept of convertible structures

A. Convertible structures, generally are based on lightweight constructions, minimal usage of materials required or chosen and of course the purpose or cause to be achieved through it. The difficulty of a convertible structure is to achieve its cause of creating a sheltered space which in the same can be transformed into an open space, which required the structure to be as light as possible and of course as possible allowing the different members of the structure to move freely.

2. Can you talk about the balance of architecture, engineering and styling in your work?

A. Staying at the subject of lightweight and convertible structures the engineering and architectural development is a strongly intertwined process. Therefore shape and outer styling of a construction is a self‐defining process achieved through many interactions between boundary definitions, calculations and their reactions and the form and shape developing hereby. An interior space is more emotional. To achieve an acceptable result, one must concentrate much
stronger on the human, human scale and atmosphere aimed at to create.

3. What do you look for when you select a project?

A. First decision is taken on the purpose of a project. Then of course it has to be of such type, that we can assure to achieve a best solution with our path, tools and way of developing the project. Not in any case we see our approach as the only, or the best appropriate to reach a projects solution. If these basic indicators are found positive and we feel that we can challenge ourselves to reach beyond our current horizon, while creating a best solution and contribution. The conditions are close of being perfect. In general, architecture should be more than producing an object. It is the way of creating inspiring places for people to work, live and to enjoy.

4. Which cities most inspire you as an architect?

With the wide variety offered through all different cultures, countries and their cities and people, I’m of the understanding everybody who limits himself to just one city, country or area loses way too much of the precious and richness the world has to offer. Therefore, I can’t say I’m most inspired by certain cities. Especially not having seen all existing.

Tarik Al Hraki

1. What benefits do PMOs bring to the construction sector’s businesses? Why are they relevant?

The PMO role is quite important in the construction sector, it can provide a great capability to the company & client to supervise the project closely, it can provide great governance that can suit the client, consultants & contractors. Especially if you have multiple projects on the same time, thus can provide great archive of lesson learned to evaluate the end results & the processes after delivering each & every project.

2. Is there a growing trend towards the introduction of PMOs in the region and why?

Yes, in my opinion the need for PMO will be higher as we are running to maximize our business benefits after delivering projects especially during special economic condition.

3. What makes a PMO truly successful in the construction industry?

Business Customization to the business culture of each and every company, what's important is not having processes but the application of these processes, this is called process capability.

4. Why are traditional PMOs failing to meet the needs of the businesses?

Simply because they act like a police, they show the senior management that the role of the PMO is only to train & control the PMs which can be the main reason behind the failure, the PMO should act with very high profile in terms of business orientation.

5.  What are the main challenges faced by PMOs in the UAE and GCC construction businesses?

It is not only the UAE but worldwide, first showing the value behind the PMO and sustaining this value during the operation of the PMO in order to show our customers & senior management real business benefits otherwise the PMO either will be outsourced or even cancelled.

6. Is there any difference in setting up a PMO in a small - medium business VS big corporation?

Yes of course, we have to analyze the main reason behind establishing the PMO, what do we need from the PMO, what is the relationship between the PMO and our core business & finally the readiness of our organizations to receive and run the PMO.

7. What are the key topics you will be discussing at the workshop?

 - The Business PMO, how to make our PMO relevant to our core business
 - The importance to move to the new model of the PMOs
 - What are the characteristics of the Business PMO?
 - Clear Roadmap to build and sustain your Business PMO

8. What will be the most relevant takeaways for participants after the workshop? 

Yes, the most relevant takeaway is how to transform your PMO from the traditional role into Business role in the organization, we will discuss this main point from different aspects of the PMO.

9. Is there a particular business case you came across during your 15 years’ experience in the field, you would like to share with us?

Well, I will share during my common insights came from different projects & organizations but mainly how expand the role of the PMO, how to make the PMO relevant to business like any other departments of the company such as marketing, sales finance or even HR.

Yaser Alsayed, Chief Architect

1. What are the region’s current trends in building interiors? Is there a shift towards a modern and minimalist style, or a return to a more traditional design?

A. When analyzing and monitoring of interior decoration trends in the region, we find clients are seeking to get distinct interior designs that meet their brands vision of success.
As well, designers are seeking to create and invent a unique designs that meet the clients demand, and then add points to their record and history.
Design competition between the projects is very clear, and what unites all is the power of simplicity and elements of contemporary that people feel it is linked to the present and future, none a copy of the past.
Of course there is a school of design derives its strength from the past spirit and re-formulate the elements in line with contemporary and modernism.

2. The GCC, and Dubai in particular, is a crossway of cultures, a melting pot of over two hundred different nationalities. Do you think the region is in the process of creating its own specific interior design style? If so, what are the main traits of the UAE building interiors?

A. All residents in the region are seeking to live and co-exist and excellence under the umbrella of region's laws, vision and history.
In Dubai We find interior design elements derive spirit from its history, Arabic language and geographical merits and association with the sea and fishing.
Visitor over time can feel the presence of this spirit through the buildings and its interior spaces mixed with luxury and superb finishing, permanent maintenance and continued development.

3. Tourism is a major contributor to the UAE’s economic growth, with a number of hotels currently under construction. What opportunities does the hospitality sector offer to architects and interior designers? And what are the main challenges you face when working on a hotel project in the GCC?

A. Architect is founded to give people a beautiful and comfortable spaces, one of the most important spaces is the hospitality projects, especially when you are in a tourist country like UAE.

By working on a hotel project, I can reinvent the wheels and unlock special ideas, creativity and excellence through the use of all materials and elements of luxury and modern technology.

What are facing problems may relate to the classification of the hotel, the operating company guidelines under its worldwide trade name,  and sometimes the project budget plays a big role towards finding solutions to complex between luxury and economic.

4. Dubai is preparing to host the Expo 2020, the first carbon-neutral mega event in the world. Recently, the Dubai municipality introduced the Al Sa’fat rating system for green buildings. The city looks like resolutely moving towards a more sustainable urban development. How does this impact the building interiors? Will architects and interior designers in the UAE look for more sustainable, green finishes as a result of these governmental policies?

A. Certainly, architects and interior designers appreciate and understand what is sought by the United Arab Emirates policies in the subject of sustainability and green buildings.
They start using natural and clean energy sources and the most important is to educate and guide the society and customers toward interest in sustainable materials, understand the meaning of sustainability and its uses.
Embrace the principles of sustainability will give a very clean environment for internal spaces in forms and functions, as well as savings in energy consumption and compensate for clean energy.
There is no doubt that the financial savings will be reflected gradually with time factor, and its impact on the health of buildings users.

5. The Big 5 is strongly promoting the introduction of sustainable building solutions and materials to the region, not only through the Gaia Awards, but also through the showcase of new, innovative products from world-renowned manufacturers. What products will you be looking at during your next visit at The Big 5? Do you think there is still a lack of sustainable, green products in the local market?

A. For years BIG 5 is trying to present the most sustainable building products and offers lectures and seminars on the sidelines of the exhibition, and calling specialists to deliver their studies and researches in the field of green sustainable building.
And in spite of all these efforts, there is a lack of presence of sustainable building materials and at all levels.
Perhaps, the relevant authorities such as municipality and civil defense should begin development of new requirements to urge the consultants and contractors to start specify and characterize the sustainable green environmental materials then apply and execute it.
This in turn will lead to revitalize the producers dramatically.
One more thing, educate the society, customers and developers is the target that leads to facilitate the work of engineers and turn the direction of building style.
Sustainable materials will produce healthy buildings, like the organic vegetables that produce healthy bodies.

Saber Mohamed Shehata, Sr. Reliability Eng

1. What role does the HSE Department play in minimising costs within a company?

A. maintenance division can play a great role by providing maintenance support and performance support, work shop and major overhaul area, each area has its own role in maintaining the equipment to make it reliable during the operation period.

2. Ensuring reliability in the oil & gas industry is no easy task. It implies a number of activities, spanning from scheduling maintenance and inspections, to assessing risks of assets, to designing effective processes and objectives. According to you, what are the most important ones? Which factors have the biggest impact on costs reduction?

A. From experience and real practice in the field, the most important factor that has the biggest impact is predictive maintenance, because it can predict and pinpoint of the problem with minimum cost, man power and time.

3. How do you ensure continuity of operations and production efficiency in the oil & gas industry?

A. By maintaining the equipment at optimum conditions during operation time, plus it should be that there is back up equipment especially for those critical times.

4. What role do environmental considerations play in HSE?

A. By maintaining the equipment, it will reduce the consumed spare parts and used materials, such as Oil and oil filters, air filters, rags, etc. By using a predictive maintenance technique it can also extend the service interval for preventive maintenance activities required on a regular basis for the equipment. 

5. How do you integrate environmental friendly practices in the minimisation of costs in the oil & gas industry?

A. There are many special types of consumed grease and oils that can be used as equipment in routine services, such oils and greases and if used wisely it can save money, time and support the environment.