Security Separation

MEP talks to some of the leading security system experts in the UAE

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Security system designers need to work closely with their clients to ensure that their systems meet stringent standards.
Security system designers need to work closely with their clients to ensure that their systems meet stringent standards.

At first glance, the combination of security systems and MEP work seems to be an ideal match up, especially since contractors and consultants are able to define the specifications for security systems in conjunction with the designs for a building or project’s MEP work.

Furthermore the accepted school of thought was that while helping to design and coordinate a building management system, an MEP engineer would also be able to oversee the installation of its corresponding security system with minimal costs and time wastage to the project.

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However, in recent years, this theory has been challenged, with security system experts challenging the effectiveness of this system, especially in regards to being able to meet a client’s specific needs or demands.

Nadim Abdulrahim, regional director, of Siemens’ Fire Safety and Security division for the lower Gulf, is one of those challengers. And he is adamant that the split between MEP and security services needs to be clearly defined to allow clients to get the best possible service.

“MEP tends to work on specification and getting the best price for whatever system they’re contracted to and executing. Whereas security is a little bit more personal to the end user, so our approach is to go directly to the client,” he explains.

“There is definitely a trend these days where they’re taking the security power portion out of MEP and dealing directly with the client,” he adds, “either they’re contracted directly from the client or you’re a nominated subcontractor chosen by the client, and then you’re placed contractually under the MEP contractor, but basically, the client is in control.”

The reason behind this shift in the market is down to MEP contractors looking to get the cheapest and most cost effective products that are compliant with the required standards.

Abdulrahim adds that the bottom line is often the primary consideration for most MEP contractors, which is an attitude that will not work, especially when it comes to security because it remains very personal to clients, and as such, demands individual attention.

Even more pressingly, especially in a city like Dubai, which is undergoing rapid development and expansion, buildings that have dedicated security systems which feed into a city-wide grid, become essential for the well being of the city.

“A city like Dubai is like Manhattan, Singapore and Disneyworld all rolled into one. It has the same constraints, the same requirements and the same challenges (of a project that size and scale). It’s all brand new and people and governments are just learning how to address the challenges and protect themselves,” Patrick Guedel, general manager of the Lower Gulf Region, for Siemens’ Infrastructure and Cities Sector.

However, unlike Abdulrahim, he sees a role for MEP contractors in this scenario, and says that while they may not necessarily be involved in the design and engineering of systems, they would still play a vital role in maintaining them.

“From this point of view, MEP contractors become more like contractors really. The importance of a MEP contractor in this point of view is the value of the quality of work they do, the reliability they have and their ability to execute a project on time,” Guedel adds.

While Dubai offers obvious growth potential, both Guedel and Abdulrahim admit that it is one of the more mature markets in the region, which means that its neighbours could offer more potential for security firms.

“The markets are definitely maturing, and within the region, it varies between Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain and so on. I would say that Dubai is probably more mature than the other markets,” says Abdulrahim.

A consequence of that maturity is the presence of clients that are established in the market and as a result of their long experience, know exactly what they want.

Although reluctant to discuss specifics, Abdulrahim says that this presents a challenge to security companies, but adds that it is one they welcome, since it allows them to tailor their systems specifically to the requirements of individual clients.

“The market has probably split into two or three parts. One is the contracting market or the ‘crane market’ as we call it. Everywhere there is a crane, there’s likely to be a security solution. But we (security firms) don’t usually go for this because they’re smaller and more MEP based, meaning that the client just gets whatever is in the specifications.”

“We go for the larger solutions, usually that means more government, we do infrastructure type solutions and city or country wide solutions,” he adds.
With this in mind, Schneider Electric’s Anant Berde, vice president of Buildings Business, says that there are a number of challenges ahead of the GCC when it comes to implementing the latest security system technology.

“Adoption cost, direct interaction with end users versus the contractor channel and confidence in new technology are the main challenges we face,” says Berde.

“By opting for op-ex as opposed to cap-ex, end users can finance the cost of upgrading their security systems in an adaptable way. Additionally, by educating users on the benefits of the advanced technology, most apprehensions and misgivings can be mitigated,” he says.

This touches upon a particular problem in the GCC, says Abdulrahim, where clients always want the latest technology without really understand the implications of what they’re buying. Because of this, he agrees with Berde and says that education needs to become more of a priority, and that can only be helped by more direct client involvement from the security firms.

“They definitely adopt things very quickly, sometimes they don’t even know why, but they just want it. It’s like a new car, they just want the latest. There is a bit of a misconception in the market as to what’s really the best,” Abdulrahim explains.

As a result, working with clients means that when consultant sets the specifications on a system design, the client actually knows what they’re getting and firms can make sure the client is actually educated about getting the best use and functionality out of the system.

Guedel adds that with most cities in the world having city-wide security systems, the relevant authorities usually have specific guidelines for what needs to be done to ensure that building security systems meet up to their stringent specifications.

Thus, by having a specialist security contractor alongside them, a client can prepare a detailed and customised plan for its building, rather than having a broad based, general specification based outline that a standard MEP contractor would provide.

“In a city like Dubai, and elsewhere here in the Middle East, you have three layers, three points of view crossing each other. So sometimes you get a building that’s been designed as a building, and secured as a building, but then gets included in a city grid.”

“Or you can have requirements, for instance, from the police department for the city, implementing new policies, (which is possible, since it’s a very new city), and then the building becomes a piece of a larger puzzle,” he explains.

One such example is of the installations of CCTVs in hotels in Dubai. Usually, they are part of a MEP package, but both Abdulrahim and Guedel say that firms need to go to clients directly and highlight how they can customise the system to suit not only their requirements, but also the requirements of Dubai police.

The city’s police have some strict guidelines, Abdulrahim says, especially concerning what kind of cameras are installed, how many cameras are installed and most importantly, where they are installed and how long they record for.

These complicated regulations only serve to highlight the need for more direct involvement by security firms into the installation of systems, adds Berde.

“There is a cautiously optimistic slowdown in the Gulf security business. The market is continuing to grow, but more vigilantly now.”

“However, security remains an integral concern in this part of the world and the abundant natural resources make it imperative for governments to ensure the security of everything from their oil and gas fields through to the surveillance of urban centres, as any loss of service in these environments, could have a potentially irreversible impact,” he says, as he issues one last warning about the issues still facing the industry.

Challenges facing CCTV in the Emirates
Anant Berder says:
As we start to see the trend to IP gaining momentum, we will see challenges in the migration and transition phase. Customers, who have experienced the transition from Standard Definition HD (720p) and Full HD (1080p) in entertainment video and readily see its benefit will increasingly come to expect the same from security video.

The pace of its adoption in security video is being modulated by two factors:
1. Better image quality, in terms of low light performance, WDR tends to be available at lower resolutions first before it can be applied at higher resolutions.
2. Higher resolution video consumes more bandwidth and storage which adds to the total cost of the system.

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