Today’s buildings are increasingly equipped with smart technologies that help optimise operational efficiency and limit negative impacts on the environment. Growing adoption of these systems is also helping to cater to the needs of end-users who are inclining more and more towards a sustainable way of life.
A report by Navigant Research found a growing market opportunity at the intersection between the smart city concept and smart building technologies. “Smart city agendas can encourage smart buildings market growth through regulations, incentive programmes, and creative initiatives like open data platforms,” said research analyst Christina Jung. Large volumes of data, the report says, “can be shared directly with the public, empowering city inhabitants with real-time information about their surroundings”.
A smartly-run integrated facilities management system not only saves costs for the company and ensures the safety, security and health of its customers, it builds a strong and loyal brand image.
“FM companies are continuously working to increase customer engagement and interaction by ensuring that the services they provide meet the expectations of customers,” says Jamal Lootah, president of the Middle East Facilities Management Association (MEFMA) and Group CEO of facilities management company, Imdaad. “Industry experts have put an emphasis on behavioural marketing to target the appropriate audience, through the use of influencers and thought leaders on social medial platforms. FM companies have also been known to use frequency illusions to boost the positive perceptions of its customers, which poses a range of benefits for the industry.”
Anne Le Guennac, CEO of Enova, a strategic joint venture between Majid Al Futtaim and Veolia, agrees on the importance of maintaining acceptance from the international community in terms of sustainability. “It is important, and challenging, to support brand image. The behaviour of the building occupant is a key factor.”
The company, a regional leader in integrated energy and multi-technical services, has developed a powerful tool called Hubgrade, an internal digital platform that receives data from the many field devices and sensors connected to the site building management system.
“From this platform we are able to provide energy, water and waste management services,” says Le Guennac. “The tool combines real time monitoring and remote management with our onsite technicians, thus being able to generate and guarantee savings.”
This live monitoring involves not only the firm’s operational team, but also the owners, the building operative team and the end users. “We conduct customer satisfaction surveys as it is important to have feedback from the end users and understand how comfortable the building is,” she says.
One of the most challenging projects is the popular indoor attraction at Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates - Ski Dubai. The firm is responsible for providing optimal indoor air quality for the estimated 42 million visitors to the attraction every year. Le Guennac believes that facilities need to be cared for with the diligence of a good household. “When it comes to very sensitive facilities such as the leisure and entertainment sector, it’s very useful and important that we are actually able to provide proper preventive maintenance before the customers are impacted.”
Training to Excel
Ever more sophisticated practices are boosting the need for specialists and skilled manpower within the industry. However, one of the main challenges facing the FM industry in the region is a shallow pool of talent to choose from. There is a growing need to attract younger professionals who are more averse to the latest technologies than older counterparts.
Lootah says that not being able to find UAE nationals with the right qualifications and experience to hold key industry positions, in addition to a general indifference among young people for careers in FM, presents a challenge in the industry.
“These challenges are being overcome by introducing training and accredited programmes to qualify sought-after candidates for key industry positions,” Lootah says.
Enova, equipped with a string of accreditations from the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), provides 4,000 hours of training yearly to its operations teams. The training is split into three categories – health & safety, technical and transitional training.
“We benefit a lot from continuously investigating the market for new technologies, also testing them and using the knowledge they have in this field. This helps us get the best of the technology with proven results,” said Le Guennac.
A recent international accreditation has provided UAE-based Emrill with the leverage to satisfy customers who demand high quality international standards. The accreditation from NICEIC, the UK’s leading voluntary regulatory body for the electrical contracting industry, enables Emrill to raise technical electrical contracting standards across the UAE’s facilities management sector.
Stuart Harrison, technical director at Emrill, says: “One of our clients made a specific requirement that we be NICIEC-accredited before working on their site. This is exactly how builders in the UK are set to work – that you can’t install any electrical equipment unless you are accredited. We are trying to push the whole industry here in this direction so that they have to be accredited to world class bodies to be able to then work with anybody in the UAE.”
Emrill also offers an in-house course at its Centre of Excellence in Dubai to ensure that staff are provided with a consistent standard of internationally-recognised training. Previously NICEIC trainers would need to fly into Dubai from the UK, but the in-house training programme means more staff can be trained throughout the year, Harrison says.
Building owners and facilities management companies are striving to improve their businesses through the introduction of smarter technologies, which also happens to be in line with government objectives.
“Despite certain challenges, building owners are continuously reinforcing their efforts to make their facilities more intelligent, and move further away from conventional means of operations,” he concludes.
New trends and technologies in the facilities management will come under focus tomorrow at the FM EXPO, which opens at the Dubai World Trade Centre tomorrow.
The Big 5 Hub September issue is available HERE