While in Abu Dhabi to deliver my Strategic Facility Management training workshop, which is closely related to the focus of my new FM book, “Managing Facilities & Real Estate”, I had a chance to meet Ali Al Suwaidi, one of the MEFMA board members. Ali had been the Senior Director Operations at the worlds tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Through a lively and interesting discussion with Ali and seeing his passion for Facilities Management and MEFMA, I realized that the financial crisis and unintended slow-down in construction will probably benefit the FM industry in the region.
Up until 2009, Dubai and Abu Dhabi were growing at an incredible pace, with huge building complexes being built in record time. With this unprecedented construction, developers sprinting from project to project and service providers scrambling, developing the facility management profession within the United Arab Emirates and the rest of the Middle East region would have taken a back-seat to the whirlwind activity.
Now, with projects slowed or stopped (according to The National, almost $500 billion in construction is cancelled or on hold in the UAE) and a skyline littered with cranes waiting to begin working again in Dubai, you’d think the profession would suffer even further, but instead, the key players in the industry decided it was the right time to start a new association for facility management from scratch.
Government support from the UAE’s Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) has helped it’s development, along with the high-profile companies who have become the association’s founding partners.
Officially launched at the 5th annual FM EXPO held in Dubai last May, they had over 200 members as of November 2nd. The association seems to encompass a much broader range of industry types into the association, including commercial buildings, residential condominium complexes, government and corporate facilities and more. In older markets, these are often represented by different associations, even though they have a common purpose – managing an asset for the comfort, use and productivity of their occupants and the value of the investment for the owner.
To move the industry forward, the association is already holding networking events and held a conference in Qatar in November. They are also delivering training on the fundamentals of FM and are developing their capacity to train and certify facility professionals.
The unique nature of the region’s rapid development, most notably and visibly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has meant lots of commercial, retail and in particular, residential condominiums so it’s no surprise that their initial focus groups would include issues related to condominium and tenant issues, but they are also moving forward on a focus group for optimizing energy consumption, a difficult yet important issue in the Middle East. These focus groups should result in recommendations to industry and regulatory bodies on how to incorporate the best practices going forward.
I expect the association will also deal with broader industry, including commercial property and real estate as well as corporate / government facility issues as well.
They will also have to develop a Facility Management Profession with strong leadership and management skills that go beyond the traditional maintenance function to provide care for their assets and move into the strategic phase of facility management very quickly to ensure the architecturally stunning new developments are well managed and maintained with leading practices while moderating the costs and preventing deterioration. This is one of the reasons I was invited to deliver a Strategic Facility Management workshop to a major facility management organization in the region.