Revealed: Top 20 MEP Consultants 2016

The annual Power List of the leading players in the region for 2016


The MEP consulting community has a lot to grapple with. Uncertainty continues to spread through the GCC as low oil prices result in governments cutting back on capital spending. Then there are the uncertainties on a geopolitical level which threaten to destabilise the entire region.

MEP consultants are operating under increasingly intense pressure. Are clients demanding more for less? Are MEP consultants being paid their fees on time? Are they able to retain and also attract the right calibre of staff? Is the much talked about construction boom in relation to Dubai Expo 2020 and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar slow to materialise? How MEP consultants tackle these questions and many more will shape their fortunes in the region this year and beyond.



Putting together any sort of ‘listing’ feature is a fraught process. The challenges stem partly from the intangible nature of what we are trying to measure: namely influence, and are then compounded by the quality of information we can draw upon. Most of it is inconsistent, incomplete and entirely unverifiable; making it much harder to draw a like for like comparison between different companies.

Some companies failed to respond, others declined to participate, some pulled out at the last minute and most firms didn’t complete all fields of our questionnaire. Our form was designed to create a level playing field – as much as possible we wanted to be comparing apples with apples. Our initial focus area was on revenues achieved in 2015, and the forecasts for 2016, trying as much as possible to separate global and regional sums. However, that alone failed to provide an accurate measuring stick across all companies.

Consequently, we also looked at the team size of the operation, asking about the number of MEP and BIM engineers based in the region, as well as the number of GCC nationals and women working at the company.

Other information was requested, including recent project wins, the profit of the company as a percentage of company revenue, the amount a firm has invested in training in the last 12 months, the areas it has invested in, and how the company has embraced sustainable business practices. We also gave recognition and weighting to the companies which triumphed at the 2015 edition of the MEP Middle East Awards last November. The second half of the brief survey focused on the company leadership.

Overall the results have been fascinating and it is a shame that we don’t have the pages available to reproduce all the information we received.

The published results are dependent on the quality of information we received. Those companies that were more open tended to fair better on the list.

In the absence of locally available listed information, an element of subjective judgement in the listing becomes inevitable. If you don’t agree with the list please feel free to get in touch.

Please bear in mind what I said earlier about the quality of information; with better data we could compile an infallible list. However, we have tried to do the best job with the tools, or rather, information we have.

20. Griffin Consultants

Omnia Halawani, Managing Partner

Number of years in role: 3
Number of years in company: 3
Number of years working in Middle East: 12
Middle East workforce: 13
MEP engineers: 8
GCC nationals: 4
Female staff: 3

Griffin Consultants was only founded in 2013. Managing partner Omnia Halawani says that 2016 is shaping up to be an encouraging year for the fledgling firm.

“Our profit was at 20% of our revenues. And we are expecting that our revenues for 2016 will jump by 200% of their 2015 value,” Halawani says. “We have already secured 120% of our projected budgeted revenue for 2016. Those are secured or booked projects. We are expecting to sign an additional 20% in the first half of this year.”

One of the most exciting projects Griffin completed in 2015 was with AESG. This involved determining the total installed cooling load in Dubai and the efficiencies and market shares of the different AC technologies on behalf of the Dubai Regulatory and Supervisory Bureau for Electricity and Water.

Ongoing projects include: the design of a five star high-rise hotel which will be located in Mohammed Bin Rashid City, Dubai; lead design of the expansion of two Nakheel district cooling plants in Jumeirah Heights; and Estidama consultant on two new GEMS Education schools in Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi.

“We are a young company on paper but with huge projects experience on our CV. It takes perseverance and a lot of effort to get clients to trust us with their projects. But once they do, we always see them coming back to us with more projects,” Halawani says. “Eighty percent of our projects are from return clients, which gives us great pleasure that hard work gets rewarded. This also enforces the idea that the quality and experience of the individual engineer working on a project is far more important than the age of the company on paper.”

19. DC Pro Engineering

George Berbari, CEO

Number of years in role: 10
Number of years in company: 10
Number of years working in Middle East: 25
Middle East workforce: 85
MEP engineers (excluding draftsman): 38
BIM engineers: 24
Female staff: 13

DC Pro Engineering predicts year-on-year revenue will grow 100% to AED60m ($16.3m) in 2016. As a result of this increased volume of work, full-time staff will rise from 50 to 85 this year, says CEO George Berbari.
DC Pro is currently involved in around AED30.3m ($8.2m) worth of work, ranging in scope from district cooling design services, thermal storage tanks design, and MEP building design. The projects are located across the Gulf in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Berbari cites the falling oil price and political instability in the region as major challenges for the business to tackle this year. “Of course the decline in oil prices, which all the region’s GDP is so dependent on, and the political instability in the region is getting more and more complicated with no near hope for a permanent solution in sight,” says Berbari.

18. Godwin Austen Johnson

Nathan Cartwright, Head of MEP, Associate Partner

Number of years in role: 4
Number of years in company: 4
Number of years working in Middle East: 8
Middle East workforce: 190
MEP engineers: 30
BIM engineers: 79 (6 for MEP)
GCC nationals: 1
Female staff: 54

Godwin Austen Johnson has 190 staff working across the Middle East. This year the company is involved with a raft of schemes in the UAE including: Arabian Hills, Al Bait Sharjah, Al Wathba Desert Resort, Fortes School, Aracadia Preparatory School, Lady Bird Nursery, and Emirates International School.

Nathan Cartwright, head of MEP, associate partner, says the market is uncertain.

“It has been reported that projects are being scaled back or on hold by some developers, which can of course impact our business from a resource perspective and a financial perspective. Managing resources against revised programmes and cash flow forecasts will be critical as clients hold on to their money for longer.

“Regional unrest continues to have its impact on developments; in particular we have seen areas of Egypt, formerly tourist destinations, becoming ghost towns due to travel bans imposed by some airlines. This sharp slump in tourism raises the risk level for investors and developers. This is likely to impact on the firm’s efforts to diversify its business into other regional markets.”

17. P&T Architects & Engineers

Rehan Shahid, MEP Director

Number of years in role: 3
Number of years in company: 8
Number of years working in Middle East: 22
Middle East workforce: 144
MEP engineers: 23
BIM engineers: 7
GCC nationals: 1
Female staff: 29

P&T Architects & Engineers picked up the Mechanical Project of the Year at the 2015 MEP Awards Middle East for its work on the Burj Rafal in Saudi Arabia. The firm was praised by judges for its forward-planning on the Riyadh-based mixed-use project which includes a Kempinski Hotel and 440 residential apartments.

The firm is close to completing residential and office towers as part of the City of Lights scheme in Abu Dhabi. It has been undertaking architectural, structural and MEP pre and post contract work for clients Tamouh Investments and China State Construction Engineering Corporation.

A raft of projects are currently on its books in the region and are being executed from its Dubai office. These include: Viceroy Hotel, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai; Security Forces Medical City, Riyadh; Saraya Aqaba hotels and villas, Jordan; Hameni Tower, Jumeirah Village Circle, Dubai; Krystal Tower, Dubai; and Empower headquarters, also in Dubai.

MEP director Rehan Shahid cites low oil prices and retaining experienced staff as key challenges this year. He predicts “conservative” revenue growth of 10% for the firm.

“There is a concerted effort and funds available to employ new skills and software in line with the demand of the clients and the industry,” Shahid says.

“We have in-house training programmes on regular basis to keep the team up to date with the developments in our industry; also regular training is offered for the users of Revit, AutoCAD, BIM and various engineering software being used by the firm whenever new versions are introduced.”

16. Hilson Moran

Matt Kitson, Regional Director: Qatar

Number of years in role: 4
Number of years in company: 15
Number of years working in Middle East: 4
Middle East workforce: 20
MEP engineers: 15
BIM engineers: 4
GCC nationals: 1
Female staff: 3

Hilson Moran states that its two most important markets in the region are the UAE and Qatar, with increased activity seen in both over the last year.

“We have a vision to expand and progress activity within these two markets, and we are on track to secure a number of projects throughout the year,” says Matt Kitson, regional director, Qatar.

Kitson says BIM is very much the future of the construction industry and Hilson Moran is involved in a number of BIM projects across the region. It currently has three BIM engineers working in regional offices alongside a further five who are working on GCC projects from its UK offices, together with a BIM manager.

Last year Hilson Moran pulled in regional revenues of $3.78m and forecasts it will generate around $10.18m this year, with around 60% of which is already secured.

15. Arabian Engineering Bureau

Ibrahim Mohamed Jaidah, GCEO & Chief Architect

Number of years in company: 25
Number of years working in Middle East: 28
Middle East workforce: 703
MEP engineers: 107
BIM engineers: 8 (this eaxcludes BIM architects & other BIM certified staff)
GCC nationals: 6
Female staff: 50

Qatar-based Arabian Engineering Bureau completed design and construction services on around 50 projects of various scales last year. Major schemes this year where it has lead architectural and MEP design and site supervision include: QIMC Tower, a 2022 FIFA World Cup Stadium in Al Thumama; a mixed-use development in Oman; Qatar’s Burj Al Fardan in Lusail; Fraser Suites in Doha, and the conservation and rehabilitation of Al Ruwais Mosque.

“Considering that an economically challenging time has come, we are well placed to deal with concerns that may arise from this,” says Ibrahim Mohamed Jaidah, GCEO and chief architect. “The value of our work is considered high by international standards, however becoming more efficient with lower overheads is the key to managing challenges that lay ahead.”

14. Hoare Lea

Ian Gow, UAE Director and General Manager

Number of years in role: 3
Number of years in company: 13
Number of years working in Middle East: 8
Middle East workforce: 32
MEP engineers: 24
Female staff: 6

Hoare Lea estimates that revenue for its Middle East operation in 2015 will reach circa $13.5m.

Significant projects that met major milestones included: the detailed design of Shams Meera Residential Scheme, completion of the design and construction of the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, and completion of the detailed design phase for approximately 20,000m² of retail space on the Msheireb Downtown project in Doha.

The next 12 months promise to be a fruitful time for the company, says Ian Gow, UAE director and general manager.

“We have seen an increase in enquiries and secured a number of new developments within the mixed-use, hospitality and residential sectors,” he says. “We will also be focusing on future opportunities within the healthcare and education sectors over the next 12 months, and this will be mainly focused on UAE and Qatar-based clients.”

Hoare Lea has recently started working on the new Etihad Lounges for the Abu Dhabi Midfield Terminal project. Its scope includes MEP, lighting, fire, sustainability, and acoustics consultancy services.

13. BuroHappold

Paul Crayford, Associate MEP Director

Number of years in role: 3
Number of years in company: 3
Number of years working in Middle East: 14+
Middle East workforce: 180
MEP engineers: 82
BIM engineers: 3
GCC nationals: 16
Female staff: 29

Over the next two years BuroHappold says it will concentrate its regional activities in countries where it has strengthened its presence: namely the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“Of course we will continue our efforts to make to make our services available in other minor GCC countries and beyond,” says associate MEP directorPaul Crayford.

BuroHappold is currently involved in seven major projects this year, says Crayford, and is tendering for a host of schemes, including two related to Dubai Expo 2020. He says that over the next 12 months companies must be strategically flexible in order to adapt to changes in individual markets.

“The biggest challenge is to be able to understand and cope with a series of challenges affecting the construction industry in the near future,” says Crayford.

12. WME Consultants

Louise Collins, MEP Director

Number of years in role: 5
Number of years in company: 5
Number of years working in Middle East: 12
Middle East workforce: 151
MEP engineers: 46
BIM engineers: 24
GCC nationals: 1
Female staff: 16

In the words of MEP director Louise Collins, WME Consultants is always on the lookout for “the next innovative project as well as projects that will keep us busy for the year”.

WME has been busy with a number of Dubai projects including: Riverland Retail and Lapita Hotel, Dubai Parks and Resorts, Nikki Beach on the Palm Jumeirah island, Swiss School phase two, and the Marriott Hotel at Citywalk.

“On the design side we have a few interesting projects in-house including Reem Mall, which we are wrapping up this month with contractor appointment imminent. This also includes the fit out of the largest indoor snow park in the region,” says Collins. “We will also conclude the design for the Holiday Inn at Dubai South, Ramada Hotel in Bur Dubai, three Al Ghurair residential developments, Adventz Tower in Downtown and the Palm Hotel tower, to name just a few.”

Last year the company generated revenue of AED47m ($12.8m) and forecasts revenue of around AED52m ($14.1m) for 2016. “As it’s only February and we are busy with RFPs and repeat client requests we envisage a host of new projects throughout the year,” says Collins, who believes Dubai Expo related schemes should start to come to life this year.

11. ARUP

ChewPieng Ryan, Associate MEP

Number of years working in Middle East: 6
Middle East workforce: circa 4,800
MEP engineers: 519

Arup carried out AED640m ($174.2m) of work in the Middle East in 2015. Ongoing key projects include: Qatar National Museum, Khalifa Tennis Complex, Lusail Stadium, Abu Dhabi International Airport, and a restoration and conservation project in Abu Dhabi. Its strongest markets are the UAE and Qatar.

Moving into 2016, the company has secured a diverse portfolio of work ranging from: major masterplanning in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah; consultancy work on airport projects in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha; and strategic rail, metro and infrastructure design in Kuwait, to name just a few.

“The challenges to the business in the coming months are the continual rapid changes in the marketplace and accelerating convergence of SMART technologies in buildings and cities, as well as integrating smarter working practices with broadening the use of BIM beyond the design team environment,” says MEP associate, ChewPieng Ryan.

“The UAE now has a good stock of mature buildings and, as MEP engineers, we have the responsibility when addressing retrofits to help ensure better energy efficiencies, improve the quality of indoor environment, health and safety in accessibility, fire engineering and facade technologies.”

She says capital spending cuts present a major challenge for firms in the region.

10. Ted Jacob Engineering Group

Robert Mitchell, Principal Manager

Number of years in role: 4
Number of years in company: 4
Number of years working in Middle East: 34
Middle East workforce: 146
MEP engineers: 92
BIM engineers: 12
Female staff: 30

Ted Jacob Engineering Group is holding its own. Revenues were AED60m ($16m) in 2015 and are projected to be around the same this year. At the same time, the Dubai branch has seen significant growth in the past year and now accounts for 90 of a total 146 employees across the region.

Principal manager Robert Mitchell describes the market as “very aggressive”, but this has not stopped the company from picking up contracts. It was recently awarded the design of what Mitchell describes as a large hospital project.

“This project will require the involvement of our offices in Dubai and the USA,” Mitchell says. “We are very excited that this year we will be working with internationally recognised architects such as Hazel Wong and Zaha Hadid.”

Ted Jacob is currently active on what Mitchell labels as two iconic jobs. The first is the DEWA (Dubai Water and Electricity Authority) Solar Innovaton Centre in Dubai, which is a LEED Platinum certified building that will showcase solar technologies. Lead consultant Ted Jacob has completed the design for the project and is now in charge of the supervision of site works.

The second project is the Deira Islands Mall, a shopping centre that will span over 800,000m² and will be the main and first attraction at the new Deira Islands development. The project is currently finalising its tender phase and moving to site later this year. Ted Jacob is responsible for all engineering design aspects of the mall. This includes civil, structural and MEP disciplines, including associated specialist sub consultants.

Mitchell says that the company is tendering for major projects right across the region and also uses its Dubai headquarters to bid for work in India.

9. Aurecon

Mark Davies, Middle East MEP Technical Director

Number of years in role: 1
Number of years in company: 16
Number of years working in Middle East: 4
Middle East workforce: 224
MEP engineers: 30
BIM engineers: 11
Female staff: 31

Aurecon has been operating in the UAE since 2000. The total number of staff across Dubai and Abu Dhabi is currently 224. Last year Aurecon earned Middle East revenues of $50m and that number is estimated to rise to $60m this year.

Projects completed in 2015 included:

A mixed-use development in Al Ain; a residential development at Al Raha Beach in Abu Dhabi; and Bollywood and Motiongate themes parks as part of the Dubai Parks Resort project in Jebel Ali.

This year Aurecon expects to wrap up work on: Doha Oasis, Oman Museum, Raffles hotel and residential tower, Saudi Arabia; Al Taweelah substations, Abu Dhabi; Motiongate Theme Park, Dubai; and the upgrade of Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai.

“Maintaining the size of the current projects team against the market conditions with oil prices dropping,” says Mark Davies, Middle East MEP technical director, are the challenges facing the firm over the next 12 months. “It is important to maintain the core group we have established to deliver our current workload as well as new work coming in.”

Davies says that the consultancy is investing heavily in staff training.

“Aurecon offers technical training on a monthly basis to encourage staff to attend the training sessions. Being a large company our expertise ranges across the globe and we bring people in from other areas of the business to provide the best training.”

8. Mott MacDonald

Fergus Donaghy, Technical Director, Mechanical

Number of years in role: 2
Number of years in company: 6
Number of years working in Middle East: 10
Middle East workforce: Circa 1,500
MEP/BIM engineers: 292
GCC nationals: 130
Female staff: 226

Mott MacDonald employs around 1,500 staff in established offices in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE. The company completed around eight major MEP projects last year and has around 10 ongoing major MEP projects that are programmed to complete this year or next. The scope of work includes full MEP design and post-contract services, MEP design verification, drainage design and MEP technical and advisory services.

“We are currently working on a large new healthcare facility in UAE. This is a major hospital that will form part of the bedrock of the nation’s healthcare strategy moving forwards,” says Fergus Donaghy, technical director, mechanical. “It needs to be delivered within a workable and sustainable framework and offers just about every challenge to our building services team.”

He adds: “We are also designing the MEP systems for a new wildlife centre for endangered Arabian animals. The key challenges here range from the environmental care of the large visitor numbers with the use of aesthetically pleasing low velocity air distribution systems in the viewing galleries to the health and welfare of the endangered animals with special water mist systems to keep them cool in summer.”

Mott MacDonald is also involved with the MEP infrastructure masterplanning for a small island in Ras Al Khaimah with mixed-use developments. It is also designing a school in Saudi Arabia for 3,000 students, a marina and leisure project in Bahrain, plus two major deep-level multiple line metro stations in Doha; and is design verification engineer for other metro stations in Doha.

“The main challenge over the next 12 months would be the slowdown or lack in confidence in the market due to lower oil prices. This is a major challenge faced by all construction and engineering firms in the region,” Donaghy says. “Among other challenges would be the competitive market place, the changing market and how to react efficiently, and political instability in the region.”

7. SSH

Mark Fletcher, Associate Director, Building Services

Number of years in role: 2
Number of years in company: 2
Number of years working in Middle East: 4
Middle East workforce: 1,096
MEP engineers: 108
BIM engineers: 32
GCC nationals: 56
Female staff: 180

Kuwait-based SSH says it will continue to remain actively engaged in all aspects of its four core activities: masterplanning, infrastructure, building design and construction supervision/management.

For 2016 the company is involved in a raft of multidisciplinary projects. In Kuwait it was appointed lead consultant on the Educational Complex Project in Jahra. It is providing full design services for civil, structural and infrastructure, and project management and building services engineering. Architecture and landscape architecture will be designed under a joint venture with Perkins Eastman. Also in Kuwait, it has been appointed as lead design consultant by Kuwait Oil Company for a new residential housing project in South Ahmadi.

Elsewhere, SSH was awarded: the design of Zunairah Villas and Juman One residential block at Al Mouj Muscat (formerly known as The Wave Muscat); full multidisciplinary design and construction supervision on the South Mall development in Qatar; masterplan and villas design consultant for Ras Al Barr Resort development in Bahrain; and design and construction supervision consultant of the new PK-12 International school project in Aziziyah, Saudi Arabia to name a few.

SSH is also opening offices in two of its newest markets: Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

“The impact of reduced oil prices continues to present a challenge to all economies across the globe and the architecture, engineering and construction marketplace reflects this, as does the revision of government budgets that are adjusted to reflect current conditions,” says Mark Fletcher, associate director – building services. “SSH is ambitious and it is our aim to be the architectural and engineering consultant, strategic partner and employer of choice in the
MENA region.”

6. KEO

Darrel Strobel, Managing Director, MEP Engineering

Number of years in role: 4
Number of years in company: 4
Number of years working in Middle East: 7
Middle East workforce: 2,491
MEP engineers: 250
GCC nationals: 84
Female staff: 416

KEO closed out a number of major projects last year, particularly in Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. These included: the Doha Westin Hotel and Spa, New Doha Zoo, Doha Festival City – traffic impact study, Hala Hotel, West Bay; Hamad General Hospital Theatre Expansion; King Abdullah Economic City – TH2 & TH3 masterplan; Awqaf Tower, Abu Dhabi; and Kuwait’s Promenade Mall and mixed-use tower and Kuwait Institute of Science and Technology, to name several.

On top of this, KEO has more than 300 active projects across the region supported up by a full-time staff of almost 2,500.

“The current low oil price is having an effect on budgets and project schedules across the GCC. 2015 was a very successful year in terms of sales. But one of the major challenges we face in 2016 is to continue to secure new projects in order to end the year with a solid backlog for 2017 and beyond,” says Darrel Strobel, managing director, MEP engineering. “In an increasingly competitive market, we constantly need to look at ways of achieving higher efficiencies, so we can offer our clients the greatest value possible.”

Strobel says that sustainability is a key pillar of KEO’s business ethos. It has signed an International Environmental and Sustainability Policy committing to the protection and enhancement of the environment and sustainability of natural resources. In 2015, KEO supported the Dubai Municipality Environmental Planning and Studies Section (DM-EPSS) to prepare Green and Sustainable Industry Guidelines for Dubai. These guidelines will be publically available and will be used as a regulatory tool in evaluating proposed industrial projects for their environmental aspects and impacts as well as to ensure their sustainability.

KEO has also signed an International Environmental and Sustainability Policy committing to the protection and enhancement of the environment and sustainability of natural resources.

Quoting the company’s commitment: “Environmental and sustainability management is a major component of KEO’s business strategy and will be a principal consideration in respect of all of the company’s work activities.”

5. Arcadis

Reid Donovan, Regional Middle East Director, MEP

Number of years in role: 1
Number of years in company: 1
Number of years working in Middle East: 8
Middle East workforce: 2,200
MEP engineers: 118
BIM engineers: 41
Female staff: 378

Arcadis has recently gone through a change at the top. Graham Reid is the new chief executive officer for the Middle East after succeeding Wael Allan, who has stepped down from the position to pursue new opportunities outside of the company.

Reid inherits a team of 118 MEP engineers across the Middle East. This is set to be boosted by 20% this year to meet the current volume of work.

In 2015 Arcadis completed pre-contract design services and post-contract supervision for the North Wing project of Mediclinic City Hospital in Dubai, and MEP engineering and design services for the W Hotel and Residences on the Emirate’s Palm Jumeirah island.

“Ensuring we keep winning work and continue maintaining existing client relationships to meet our budgets and 2016 growth plans will be one of our biggest challenges in the next 12 months,” says Reid Donavan, regional Middle East director, MEP.

Arcadis is involved in a number of major projects, some of which cannot be disclosed. Of the ones that can be mentioned, there is Al Falah Community Hall in Abu Dhabi, where Arcadis has been appointed as lead consultant and construction supervisor for the 30,000m² retail mall. Then there is the Security Forces Medical Centre in Riyadh, where Arcadis will undertake all engineering services for the main hospital building and the utility building to schematic stage. The subsequent stages of the design are to be undertaken by a local consultant under the oversight of Arcadis representatives in the city.

4. CH2M

Mark Small, Head of Building Services, MEP

Number of years in role: 5
Number of years in company: 5
Number of years working in Middle East: 7
Middle East workforce (includes India): 2,175
MEP engineers: 195
BIM engineers: 170 (estimate)
Female staff: 366

Last year CH2M’s MEP division, which is incorporated into the Industrial and Advanced Technology Market Group, generated revenues of $347m. Within the Middle East North Africa and India (MENAI), CH2M employs 2,175 people.

Some major projects completed last year included: the $300m Common Seawater Supply Project in Iraq, where CH2M was the project management consultant, providing in-house services for project management and full detailed MEP engineering design for all buildings. It was also emergency response engineer and the lead technical consultant on the Mishref pumping station in Kuwait.

This year will see CH2M continue work on: the Strategic Tunnel Enhancement Program (STEP) in Abu Dhabi; Dubai Canal Project – design and construction supervision – with Parsons; and the BAPCO Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plant in Bahrain – to name a few. However, is it fully engaged in projects right across the MENAI region.

Mark Small, head of building services (MEP), says some of the main challenges this year will be finding, hiring and retaining top talent in a “very competitive” market place.

“It’s a bigger challenge when trying to hire nationals of the countries we work in,” Small adds.

“Shifts in oil prices and financing funnels such as P3 funding and geopolitics in the region are also challenges.”


Don Davidson, Director, Head of Mechanical, Sustainability and Commissioning, UAE & Oman

Number of years in role: 3
Number of years in company: 6
Number of years working in Middle East: 9
Middle East workforce: 4,295
Full time MEP employees: 333
GCC nationals: 173
Female staff: 615

BIM engineers: around 20 cross-discipline BIM specific professions Aecom’s largest markets in the Middle East are the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. A lot of effort has also gone into growing the business in Oman and Bahrain.

“We are seeing some good returns,” says Don Davidson, head of mechanical, sustainability and commissioning (UAE and Oman).

Major projects completed last year included: the Jeddah Stormwater Drainage Programme for Jeddah Municipality. Aecom provided project management, design and contract administration masterplanning. It also wrapped up project management and construction supervision consultancy services on Abu Dhabi’s Taweelah Aluminium Extrusion Plant for Taweelah Aluminium Extrusions (TALEX).

Aecom is currently embedded on some of the region’s biggest projects. On the Abu Dhabi Midfield Terminal Complex, for one, it is carrying out construction management, construction supervision and contract management. On the Riyadh Metro, it is the lead designer for most of the engineering and architecture work on lines 1 and 2 for the BACS Consortium. On the Jeddah Metro project, it is carrying out programme management on behalf of Jeddah Metro Company.

Projects which are scheduled to close out this year include: the Doha Expressway Programme for Ashghal (Aecom’s services range from complex highway, bridge and tunnel design, to build services, tender development and construction site supervision); DAMAC Heights in Dubai for developer DAMAC (site supervision); Qatar’s Hamad Port (programme management, construction management); and Al Wakrah Stadium and Precinct (design including engineering and architecture with Zaha Hadid) for the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.

A few ongoing projects include: Saudi Arabia’s Tatweer Schools Programme, King Abdullah Port, Riyah Metro, Jeddah Metro and King Khalid International Airport; Akoya Oxgen in Dubai, and Ashghal’s Doha Expressway Programme.

2. WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff

Ray Moore, Director of Building Services

Number of years in role: 5
Number of years in company: 5
Number of years working in Middle East: 16
Middle East workforce: 1,500
MEP/Building services engineers: 179
GCC nationals: 29
Female staff: 219

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff picked up three accolades (Plumbing Project of the Year, Plumbing Engineer of the Year and Project Manager of the Year) at the 2015 MEP Middle East Awards.

The consultant currently has 1,500 full-time people working in the region.

Last year WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff completed work at: Me’aisem Mall, Dubai; New York University in Abu Dhabi; Dubai Mall Fashion Avenue; and Kempinski Hotel, The Wave, Muscat.

Ongoing projects for this year include Bvlgari Resort and Residences – an exclusive island development constructed on reclaimed land off the Jumeirah neighbourhood coastline. The island is sculpted in the shape of a titanic seahorse and will be joined to the mainland by a single carriageway bridge. Completion is expected in November 2016.

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff is providing a wide range of consultancy services including geotechnical engineering, acoustics, architect of record, building services design, fire and life safety, integrated design management, roads and highways design, security consulting, structures design, TIS, utilities design, vertical transportation and a lead role on the project. Main contractor is ALEC and MEP subcontractor is ALEMCO.

Ray Moore, director of building services, expects a more challenging market this year with factors such as the low oil price contributing to a “tempering of project activity”.

“We have a reasonably strong pipeline of work and are actively targeting expansion into new markets, particularly capitalising on our increased capabilities in programme and project management,” he says.

1. Atkins

Cathy Christer, Regional design director, MEP

Number of years in role: 3
Number of years in company: 3
Number of years working in Middle East: 11
Middle East workforce: 2,557
MEP engineers: 80
BIM engineers: 650 with basic training
GCC nationals: 80
Female staff: 450

The Middle East remains a profitable region for Atkins. Last year it achieved double digit profit margins on revenue of $312.15m, outperforming Group growth. Completed projects in 2015 included: Iris Bay Tower in Business Bay, Dubai, where it was lead designer and construction supervision consultant. Last year also saw Atkins win four awards (Consultant of the Year, GCC Project of the Year, Mechanical Engineer of the Year and Electrical Engineer of the Year) at the MEP Middle East Awards.

Atkins delivered MEP design on the likes of: Viceroy Dubai Jumeirah Village; Prince Sultan Culture Centre, Jeddah; Al Habtoor Residences at Habtoor City, Dubai; Dubai Opera; Port Sultan Qaboos redevelopment, Oman; Riyadh Metro (FAST consortium); Doha Metro Red Line South and Doha Metro Gold Line.

MEP regional design director, Cathy Christer, says Atkins Middle East is developing a BIM strategy with the potential to “radically improve” how construction materials are evaluated to meet LEED V4 environmental impacts requirements.

“Projects of the scale and technical complexity of Riyadh Metro and Dubai Opera simply would not be possible, in the phasing and timescales in which they’re being delivered, without our ability to push the boundaries of BIM,” Christer says. “The new tool will enable comparison of multiple construction materials at the outset of a project to provide a clear understanding of capital cost against the long term environmental impact. As a first step, Atkins is using the tool to understand the impact of different concrete mixes on construction projects, to be followed by steel, glass and insulation materials.”

Christer says tightening market conditions linked to low oil prices and the wider global economy are likely to cause continuing uncertainty, which can impact decision-making on project awards.

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