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The facilities management (FM) sector is taking centre stage for the first time at Cityscape Global this year as it readies itself for the Middle East Facility Management Association Star Rating System (Mefma SRS) and to meet increasing demand for operational sustainability in the run-up to the World Expo 2020. ''Real estate investors and occupiers should take an interest in how the buildings they occupy are maintained, as it protects the long-term value of their assets,'' says Wouter Molman, Director of Cityscape Group.
''With the region's real estate market maturing further, we believe a stronger focus on FM should be an integral part of the event.'' The exhibition's line-up includes some of the region's leading integrated FM companies, including Ejadah Asset Management, Emrill and Farnek.
''Quality FM is key to protecting property values, lowering operational costs and improving the sustainability of our built environment,'' says Molman. ''The industry is underdeveloped regionally, but options are fast improving and changing the real estate landscape.''
Stars for success
Stakeholders in the FM industry have been working together for years to improve services under Mefma and the SRS is one of the organisation's major projects. The system, which will award one to five stars to residential and commercial buildings, hotels, malls and educational and health-care facilities, will be implemented around June next year, says Ali Al Suwaidi, Board Member of Mefma.
''The system promotes FM best practices and a holistic approach [covering] design, construction, handover and operations,'' he says.
The main objective is to make all stakeholders aware of FM best practices, such as enhancing healthy and effective management of facilities and evaluating the four main components of FM strategy — people, building details, technology and process. Buildings will be assessed on quality management, documentation, health and safety and sustainability.
''The Mefma SRS will drive all stakeholders to work together to showcase FM best practices, which ultimately will be the start of an industry benchmarking platform,'' says Al Suwaidi.
Markus Oberlin, CEO of Farnek, an award-winning FM firm, says Mefma SRS will raise the bar in the industry and bring transparency, standardisation and increased levels of quality and efficiency by identifying areas of improvement. ''Customers and landlords will be able to check the quality of their FM provider, ultimately increasing the demand for superior integrated services across the region.''
Sarfraz Dairkee, Board of Directors Secretary at the Emirates Green Building Council (EmiratesGBC), points out that the FM market will react positively to the introduction of the Mefma SRS, which is similar to the existing building rating systems, standards, certi fications and labels, such as Energy Star and Green Seal. However, the standards need to be set high and control mechanisms, such as third-party assessments and audits, should be stringent enough, he says. ''This is to guarantee the coherence, relevance, strength and reputation of the scheme. Customers can then be confident of the assessment/benchmark and make choices that are more responsible and oriented towards specific areas, whether it be price, sustainability, efficiency or location.''
The green deal
Sustainability is essential to win more stars from Mefma. EmiratesGBC has been organising awareness campaigns on this front for its FM member organizations for several years, ensuring professionals understand and apply best green practices effectively in their work and relationships with tenants. Monthly technical workshops help determine areas for improvement and provide updates on new technologies. In addition, practical guidelines such as the recently unveiled EmiratesGBC Technical Guidelines for Retrofitting Existing Buildings help FM staff and tenants to implement relevant actions.
''Most FM organizations in the UAE have long included sustainability in their agenda, particularly to address the need to reduce energy and water consumption and protect the environment,'' says Dairkee.
The detailed agenda includes educating tenants and understanding the impact of existing building and community infrastructure on their surroundings, such as greenery and street lighting, he adds.
New projects are also analysed from an FM perspective at the early stages, adhering to UAE standards including Abu Dhabi's Estidama Pearl and Dubai's Trakhees specifications, as well as corporate key performance indices and environment engagement.
''From our perspective, we support the FM sector as well as other stakeholders to drive the UAE's sustainable development,'' says Dairkee. ''This is aligned with Expo 2020 in Dubai, which has sustainability as one of its key themes.''
Farnek has launched several innovative initiatives including the region's first bin-less office scheme under its Waste Management Consultancy division. The programme was first implemented internally and delivered impressive results: waste diversion ratio increased from 4.2 per cent to 19.9 per cent and the quantity of waste recycled per employee increased from 8.2kg to 46kg.
''We started in our headquarters by encouraging a more sustainable culture and providing daily reminders to employees that they are responsible for the waste they generate and the environmental benefits of recycling,'' explains Oberlin.
Farnek has also developed a virtual energy and waste management monitoring and benchmarking tool for the hospitality sector. The Hotel Optimizer identifies a building's sustainability potential and calculates its customers' the carbon footprint.
''Technology and innovation are integral to our ongoing success and the ability to stay ahead in the game,'' says Oberlin.
The firm is looking ahead to meet the expectations and requirements of Expo 2020, investing further in carbon neutral services. ''The expo will be very beneficial for us as it will be the first of its kind to be carbon-neutral,'' says Oberlin. ''With a main focus on sustainability, they will require [similar] FM services.''
Rope in the best
The potential business impact of the star rating is expected to attract building owners and managers, therefore raising the demand for FM services. ''Today, the main developers in the UAE have FM experts in their teams, with qualified and structured procurement processes in place,'' says Oberlin. ''This leaves very little space for companies who cannot meet the client requirements and offer best practices.''
Molman says Cityscape is an excellent platform for developers to highlight the importance of integrated FM services in their projects.
''Developers will be able to demonstrate to tens of thousands of real estate investors and professionals how FM has been adopted in their buildings and communities. Investors and occupiers, in turn, can compare and rate developers accordingly, making better informed decisions for their next purchase.''
The growing real estate sector has also encouraged the FM industry to expand. ''Like most industries, the FM market is extremely competitive,'' says Oberlin. ''With new companies starting up regularly, you need to ensure you can offer superior services at a competitive price.''
Dairkee adds that certain areas needed to be addressed to guarantee the industry's growth. ''Education on sustainability and skill development need to be strengthened to further drive the sector,'' he says.
Farnek has set up offices in the northern emirates in addition to branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in its expansion drive. It has a skilled workforce of more than 2,500 people looking after a portfolio of 2,500 properties, including the Burj Khalifa. The company has also partnered with Hitches&Glitches to target the residential market.
''Technology is going to change the FM market in the near future and companies who cannot afford or are unwilling to invest in state-of the-art tech will not be able to survive,'' says Oberlin.
UAE to help preserve the ozone layer
The Cityscape Global Conference will include a facilities management (FM) programme that will discuss the global use of the refrigerant R22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) that's one of the chemicals eating up the ozone layer.
The Montreal and Kyoto Protocols, signed by the UAE, call for the reduction and eventual phaseout of this gas. Dubai Municipality has published Policy on the Control of Ozone Depleting Substances on its website detailing how it's dealing with the issue. ''Globally, there is a movement towards banning the use of HCFCs in refrigeration, heat pumps and air conditioning,'' says Sarfraz Dairkee, Board of Directors Secretary at the Emirates Green Building Council. ''Other refrigerants that are not ozone-depleting are used as substitutes.''
Markus Oberlin, CEO of Farnek, says the manufacturing and import of equipment that use R22 would be discontinued after 2016, and most major manufacturers from developed economies are already supplying equipment that use non-ozone-depleting refrigerants such as R134A and R410. ''[But] R22 will still be utilized large-scale for at least five years as most older HVAC equipment are not suited to retrofitting due to higher working pressures.
''However the impact of R22 can be mitigated by implementing a refrigerant recovery and management plan, ensuring its reuse in current systems.''
Oberlin says non ozone-depleting refrigerants can help consumers benefit from energy efficiency ''with recorded savings of up to 30 per cent''.
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Source: Nicole Walter, Special to Property Weekly