Prefabrication: The Right Fit

Cooperation and coordination through prefabrication are critical to success in the MEP sector, writes Gavin Appleby, managing director, EFECO.

Christophe Viseux

There is a common historical challenge that the MEP industry faces, which is not being able to achieve programme dates due to external factors.

The external factors cause delays, which in turn impacts most in the MEP sector. Several evidences indicate that traditional methods are inefficient, outdated and in need of evolution in order to make use of the available technology.

There are many risks in the MEP industry today related to project coordination; for example, the communication channels are ineffective, last minute changes are constantly being made to drawings, delay in obtaining approvals, lack of availability of design change or basic information, complex logistical planning and coordination with general contractor, high risk associated with health and safety. All these factors are genuinely beyond the control of MEP providers and yet they have significantly impacted the MEP industry locally which has impacted our peers and colleagues throughout the UAE. It’s time to change!


Gavin Appleby, managing director, EFECO.

Companies like EFECO, who have been strong enough to ride the wave, have faced enormous challenges with regards to damaged relationships.
To overcome these risks, EFECO as a company has been focused and determined on pioneering new methods and innovations such as its in-house prefabrication and duct facility that has the capacity to produce 2,000m2 per day. We need to overcome the apparent, obvious and common challenges we all face with the intent of supporting the MEP industry. Our regional director Khaled Derhalli has been fundamental and passionate about driving innovative changes. We need to demonstrate that we can overachieve the desired outcome set by developers efficiently and, more importantly, on time if we drive the change.

We all know that the traditional method requires individual trade disciplines to be installed onsite by the associated crew/team members. For example, around five to ten disciplines will have to be installed at one time in small proximities with a poor approach to sequencing. This method requires increased resources, carries increased risk in health and safety and creates unproductive behavior. This impacts the quality and causes uncertainty in the installations. Whoever arrives first takes the prime spot to utilise the space which causes clashes within the services. The quality of the overall project as well as the project plan are then affected. The general contractor’s succession activities or non-MEP related works are jeopardised, which have detrimental knock-on effects on the execution of the project for all parties.

Our modular strategy locks in cooperation which will bring the teams together creating a combined execution strategy benefiting all stakeholders in delivering our projects whilst reducing many risks and eliminating unnecessary obstacles.

When talking about modules, we are talking about installing all installations by incorporating all disciplines within a module. We fabricate our modules in a purpose-built off-site industrial facility. The modules have been engineered appropriately and precisely in line with the construction drawings. All of this is coordinated within a controlled BIM environment and is developed using our unique fabrication software. The modules are engineered and designed to a specific segment to cater to all services whatever the space restraints maybe. The modules are tested, quality checked, and alphanumerically coded. Once the final checks are completed, we document the schedule. Then, we load the modules for transportation and ship them to our sites. They are then lifted in cooperation and coordination with the general contractor to be installed in a numerical order. All of this in a fraction of the traditional time with less onsite resources. Additionally, there is huge improvement on material wastage. The installation quality  is  incredible due to the reductions on material handling when onsite, and there are no crowded corridors enabling us to reduce the safety risk keeping our teams safe and delivering quality MEP services.

The complete cooperation and coordination are in partnership with the general contractor. This is critical to the success of any project. When executed correctly it dramatically reduces the level of planning required by the general contractor with additional reduction on the full site safety risks. The time, energy, materials, manpower, and the safety risk associated or required to install risers the traditional way with the erection of scaffolding are more. The risk of potential clash of services the traditional way is incredibly slow and a restrictive method. We can immediately eradicate all of this simply by utilising modular risers that are designed, engineered and fabricated off-site. They are then shipped for quick, safe and effective installation. The beauty that gets overlooked or ignored is the fact that we can immediately open the work front for following trades, thus ensuring programme compliance in comparison to the outdated traditional methods.

If or when we can liaise directly with the general contractor, consultants and developers regarding modules from day one, it allows us or gives us the ability to add value and offer our extensive experience and expertise in our specialist field to benefit the overall project and execution. We have demonstrated and proven that the cooperation on our BIM modules prevents or reduces the risks associated to common delays.

It’s a very complex yet very simple methodology. Working with modules allows us to get an input with all the key stakeholders in the early stages of the project, meaning there is a clear communication in the project team and they are aware of the progress. Since agreed designs result in agreed drawings, there are no last-minute conflicts.

The general contractor and developer can have a false notion about cost saving. Cost saving is not the driver here; it’s the vision and investment that drive clear and precise innovative technology and methodology. This in turn will have clear and precise project execution including the elimination of the traditional labour overruns that lead to commercial arguments between the parties. We have evolved as an MEP leader. The quality of this approach is incredible. The accurate planning is not questioned. We reduce unnecessary waste and thus have less environmental impact. We increase the well-being of our teams by eliminating safety risks. In short, we have a well-engineered clear planning execution strategy to ensure projects remain on plan. If the project succeeds, the stakeholders succeed through technology aiding delivery. We aim to create lasting, successful and harmonious relationships with the general contracting sector, MEP consultants and global leading developers so as to build relationships for the future. We as a company are redefining the value in MEP services.

Khaled Derhalli, regional director, EFECO

“As the advantages of MEP prefabrication and modular approach have been proven, the time has come for a change in the MEP industry and to say goodbye to traditional installations. The construction world has changed and the traditional methods won’t serve the purpose anymore. To embrace this positive change, all have to cooperate and change their mindset and facilitate the implementation of prefabrication and modular construction, starting from clients mandating prefabrication in contracts. Or at least making it optional for consultants and their designers to consider modular approach while designing the services from all the aspects (architectural/ civil and MEP). Also, general contractors should accept and encourage this approach.”

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