- Ahmad Al Naser, Managing Director, Drake & Scull Engineering
Drake & Scull Engineering (DSE) has been a veteran of the MENA construction industry since 1966, and has delivered many milestone iconic landmarks that have contributed to the development of the regional skyline. Besides executing the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia, ranked among the largest LEED Platinum certified campuses in the world, DSE has undertaken various projects including the Al Habtoor City, the Jewel of the Creek, a hotel complex in Jumeirah, a recently announced prestigious hotel complex and Mall expansion, a series of projects in Oman, an education institution in Kuwait, a residential development in Abu Dhabi and an iconic beach-front retail zone in Dubai. Ahmad Al Naser, Managing Director, Drake & Scull Engineering, shares his views with CW...
How do you view the current construction market in the Middle East? Which sectors are the major opportunity drivers for an engineering company like yours?
The Middle East construction industry is currently witnessing a challenging period due to the reality of the regional economy which has been affected by the fall in oil revenue. Governments across the region have pledged to continue their infrastructure development efforts, while also simultaneously reigning in expenditure. Nevertheless, the biggest markets in the region, UAE, KSA and Qatar will continue to drive the demand for large-scale real estate development, especially as the preparations for the Dubai EXPO 2020, the 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup, the Qatar 2019 Athletics World Championship and the various rail projects across the region gather momentum. According to a Ventures Onsite report, the total value of construction contracts across the GCC is expected to touch $194 billion in 2015.
Introduce us to the company´s engineering expertise that is offered to projects. What is your USP?
DSE has been a veteran of the MENA construction industry since 1966, and has delivered many milestone iconic landmarks that have contributed to the development of the regional skyline. We believe that our experience, our completed projects´ portfolio, our skilled workforce and our tradition of spearheading new technologies like District Cooling, Building Information Modeling, LEED Platinum building standards, and modern Oracle JD Edwards technology give us a competitive advantage in our industry. By leveraging our ties to our sister companies though our parent company, Drake & Scull International PJSC, we are among the few EPC companies with the capability of offering Vertically Integrated end-to-end general contracting, engineering (MEP and water and power), rail, oil and gas, infrastructure development as well as water and wastewater treatment and waste-to-energy capabilities. Our operations and processes are also ISO 9001:2008, ISO 14001: 2004, ISO 27001:2013 and OHSAS 18001:2007 certified.
Introduce us to a landmark project executed by the company in the past. What is the role technology has played in the success of the project.
The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia is an international, graduate-level research university which is ranked among the largest LEED Platinum certified campuses in the world. DSE undertook the complete MEP design, supply, installation and commissioning on the campus. DSE had to implement several unique and innovation technologies and approaches to maintain compliance with the strict LEED Platinum standards. DSE altered conventionally-used designs and installations and employed several innovative engineering techniques and products including designing a system to sustain a life-cycle of 100 years, maximising efficiency of installed systems and using special construction materials for the laboratory buildings, adopting photovoltaic cells for generating power, installing solar towers and solar water heaters, and using low-emission sealants in addition to minimising construction waste and using recyclable materials wherever possible.
To optimise the impact of renewable energy DSE installed 900,000 sq m of solar energy panels which provide 100 per cent of the campus energy needs and make the university carbon neutral. To create a passive pressure difference and continuous breeze along the shaded courtyards, DSE installed two fans, each extracting 95 cu m per second through 3.0 m diameter axial blades power fueled by solar power and prevailing winds. The company´s highly efficient mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems was designed to reduce the overall power demand of the campus through the adoption of advanced technological equipment such as chilled beams and under-floor air distribution incorporated into early designs to achieve energy cost-savings of 24.5 per cent.
A total of 1,152 units of solar thermal panels with a 4,134 sq m area for hot water production was installed on the monumental roof to produce approximately 50 gigajoules per day. Also DSE´s installation of a total of 16,567 sq m of photovoltaic arrays on the monumental roof was designed to produce 4 MW of renewable energy, offsetting 5.7 per cent of the total campus energy demand. The use of variable speed drives to run all the major equipment such as air-handling units, chilled water pumps and different types of fans also contributed to reducing overall power consumption rates. The proficiency and prevalent experience of DSE in addition to its successful integration with all project teams enabled KAUST to be announced as one of the winners of the American Institute of Architects´ Top 10 Green Buildings awards for 2010 and to be classified as the ´Most Sustainable Project of the Year´ in the 2009 MEP Awards.
Elaborate on the major project awards secured this year, and your plans to ensure timely execution of the same.
DSE has registered a series of prominent projects across the MENA region in 2015, which include the AED 395 million Jewel of the Creek, a AED 334 million hotel complex, a AED 290 million mixed-use development, a series of projects in Oman worth AED 350 million, an education institution in Kuwait for AED 218 million, a residential development in Abu Dhabi and a premier retail development in Kuwait for a combined value of AED 96 million, a AED 123 million iconic beach-front retail zone in Dubai and a AED 224 million prestigious Hotel complex and Mall expansion in Dubai.
How do you view the current engineering and contracting opportunities in Dubai and any particular sector that you are eyeing in the region?
Dubai has started rolling out the massive investment required to upgrade the existing infrastructure to ensure that the EXPO 2020 preparations remain on track. We remain confident about its prospects of securing major projects across the retail, hospitality, district dooling and infrastructure sectors. We also believe that our strong rail expertise will offer tremendous value to the development of the UAE rail network as well as the planned urban rail transport programs in Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Metro expansion.
Introduce us to the works you are executing in Dubai.
Some of the iconic projects being undertaken by DSE in Dubai include the Al Habtoor City, the Jewel of the Creek, a hotel complex in Jumeirah, a prominent mixed-use development, and the recently announced prestigious hotel complex and mall expansion in Dubai.
As a contracting and engineering company, what are the execution challenges you face, especially in Dubai? How do you overcome the same?
The UAE real estate sector is witnessing a period of growth as more companies move here to offer their construction engineering services. Due to this, there is a lot of pressure on the supply chain in the sector, especially in terms of manpower, equipment, material and logistics. The UAE real estate will also have to contend with the growth in demand from Qatar, that may create constraints on the availability of resources. The falling oil prices have also had an impact on the finance cycle of projects which is gradually increasing. Heavy demand for materials and human resource shortages, leading to project delays and cost overruns, are likely to pose as major challenges.
DSE will utilise its centralised, coordinated project planning approach, complemented by globally proven technologies like the Oracle JD Edwards ERP platform, Electronic documentation and file system, and the Aconex project collaboration solutions, to make our processes more cost-efficient and eliminate delays wherever possible, in the project management and the operations procurement chain.
What are the company´s annual investments in technology, equipment, training manpower, etc?
Drake & Scull is rolling out the modern Oracle JD Edwards ERP platform across its projects and offices, which is among the largest ERP implementations-of-its-kind in the MENA region. DSE has invested considerable time and resources to provide its employees with adequate training to adopt the modern ERP technology into its operations.
DSE has also recently created a training workshop for its labourers in the UAE, which helps the recently hired blue collar staff to upgrade their skills and become familiar with the stringent QHSE standards practiced in key markets.
What is your outlook for the engineering sector in the Middle East? And what are your expectations from the business the company is generating Dubai?
The GCCÆs population is expected to grow to 60.2 million by 2050, which will continue to drive the demand for infrastructure development especially in housing, education, healthcare, and infrastructure to support the communities. We expect to see sustained momentum in markets like UAE, Qatar and KSA for the next 5 years. DSE has registered positive growth in project awards in the UAE in 2015 and is optimistic about securing more high profile, large scale projects in the final quarter of 2015.
Year of Establishment: 1966 in the UAE, 1881 in the UK
Top Management: Khaldoun Tabari, CEO and Vice Chairman, Drake & Scull
International PJSC; Sam Deeb, Chief Financial Officer, Drake & Scull International PJSC; Zeina Tabari, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Drake & Scull International PJSC; Graeme White, Chief Commercial Officer, Drake & Scull International PJSC; Ahmad Al Naser, Managing Director, Drake & Scull Engineering; Naser Yaseen, Chief Operating Officer, Drake & Scull Engineering
Areas of operations: UAE, KSA, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, India
Number of employees: 31,000
Landmark completed Projects: (UAE) Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Beach Residences, Baynunah Hilton, Al Raha Al Muneera Beach Development, Cayan
(Infinity) Tower, Meydan Nad Al Sheba District Cooling Plant; (KSA) King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Information Technology and Communications Complex; (Kuwait) Kuwait State Audit Bureau Headquarters; (Oman) Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque; (Qatar) West Bay 4 Seasons Hotel; (Thailand) The River
Upcoming and Ongoing Projects: (UAE) Habtoor City, Louvre Musuem, Jewel of the Creek; (Qatar) Dohaland, Wadi Lusail District Cooling Plant, Mall of Qatar; (Kuwait) Sheikh Jaber Cultural Center, Sheikh Saad Sports Complex; (KSA) Al Dara Hospital, King Fahad Medical City; (India) World Crest Tower, New Cuffe Parade 4Towers; (Jordan) Saraya Aqaba District Cooling Plant; (Oman) Saraya Bandar Jissah 5 Star Hotels
Turnover: Drake & Scull International PJSC reported revenue of AED 4.762 billion, with a profit of AED 101 million for FY2014.