Integrated design approach helps all stakeholders

Experts at the MEP UAE Conference discuss ways to champion the integrated design approach

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The integrated design approach is advantageous to all stakeholders, panellists agreed.
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The integrated design approach is advantageous to all stakeholders, panellists agreed.

The integrated design approach is mandated by green building standards and regulations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. However, is that followed and what are the challenges? Hassan Younes, director, Griffin Consultants, asked this question to a group of experts who were in the last panel titled “Championing An Integrated Design Approach”, at the MEP UAE Conference.

Gavin Appleby, managing director, Emirates Falcon Electromechanical Company (EFECO), said that the integrated design approach is not being followed. He said: “I still fail to understand how people can target LEED Gold buildings without an integrated design approach. My view is that the relationship between contractors and consultants is strained because of following a very outdated model of constructing projects where consultants and contractors are involved at the end of the design stage and they are squeezed on their fees.”

Appleby said that contractors ought to be involved from the initial stage and work with consultants to develop a concept design so that coordination issues can be eliminated. He said that by adopting this approach project timelines will be shortened and commercial disputes on variations will be minimised.
Georges Basmaji, building services director, Aecom, said that one of the issues their company face is budgetary challenges. “Integrated design approach requires us to put all the effort in the beginning and increase our cost. Secondly, there needs to be a change in mind set. We face difficulty in convincing people that MEP inputs should be at the beginning and making the clients aware that they should pay more in the beginning stage to maintain the cash flow of the consultant for design.”

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“It is important to convince all stakeholders that the integrated design approach is beneficial for all of them. It’s easier and cheaper for the consultant because it avoid costly reworks in later stages. Contractors, too, benefit because they’ll be able share all their feedback from the initial stage and avoid variations later. The client is the most important stakeholder who should be convinced that integrated design will lead to a building that has better energy performance, low maintenance and huge savings for the client in the future even if this approach takes a little more money and time.”

Bill Jolly, regional director of MEP Solutions, Arcadis, said that MEP design consultants need to understand the architectural and other aspirations for projects and vice versa. He said: “Ultimately, the goal of all parties should be to achieve sustainability through better design efficiency and to reduce energy and water consumption wherever possible in buildings. Once everybody understands each other’s aspirations for a project as a result of better communication, only then can they work in an integrated manner to achieve a sustainable solution that satisfies all requirements.”

He said that the key component to achieving that working mindset is through the better utilisation of tools available to design engineers to help manoeuvre building physics and energy modelling at the forefront of the design process.

A different angle was suggested by Reid Donovan, regional director, Chapman BDSP, who said that more focus should be given at the concept stage. “We feel we need to get involved in the pre-concept stage because we can have a massive influence on design. We tend to lose sight of the big picture and forget that we’re there to support the architect and the architecture of a building, to minimise space so that the client can get the maximum return on investment on a property.

“Design consultants need to make sure that the design is buildable and maintainable all the way to the end instead of passing a half-worked design to contractors and letting them figure it out themselves.”

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