An in-depth analysis of what goes behind the plush buildings-posh interiors and the swanky façade. Decoding the challenging role of those who make it happen-facility managers!

Picture this: you’re getting late for a meeting in a high-rise tower and the elevator broke down. After walking in the sun, you reach your office and realize the air conditioning is not working. You go to the cafeteria to grab a quick bite and you’re put off by the unhygienic conditions and the bad odour in the area. You must be wondering what’s wrong with the day? This is where the facilities management comes into big frame. According to the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), “Facilities management is the integration of processes within an organisation to maintain and develop the agreed services which support and improve the effectiveness of its primary activities”. In the real sense, facilities management is the essence of every possible building standing tall. FM brings together the various hard services such as mechanical, electrical, plumbing and soft services like cleaning and landscaping to make sure that everything is alright under the roof. With these services, come tonnes of challenges and reaching to the exact root cause of the problem without failure. We spoke to the industry experts from the Middle East region to unfold their toughest challenges in the field and how they succeed over them.


Mahmood Rasheed, Chief Operating Officer from the multi-award winning integrated FM company, Imdaad charts out the MEP challenges in the region and their strategies to succeed.

Challenge: Maintenance of AC chillers and energy conservation

Solution: The main single largest users of chilled water are the AC chillers and its maintenance is a huge task. We use Business Management System (BMS) to control the operating time of the chiller, which will enable the end user to save energy to a large extend. Since most of our facilities are old and located near the seaside, the condenser coils tends to get rusted easily because of the lack of protective coatings such as heresite and browns glow. This considerably increases energy consumption and reduces efficiency. In Dubai Custom, we had replaced the condenser coils of four chillers in 2011 with heresite-coated coils, which offer a five-year warranty on the coating.

Another important thing is to have a correct PM programme with a proper scope of work, which helps in maximizing the efficiency, lowering energy cost and extending the life of equipment. In addition, by installing Pressure Independent Control Valve (PICV) initially or retrofitting, in conjunction with variable-frequency drive (VFD) controlled pumps, up to 30 per cent of energy used by the above systems can be saved. Since 60 per cent of the energy used by a building is from chilling water, it makes for a significant saving.

Challenge: Challenge of electrical installation

Solution: Lighting and electrical fitting is a major concern that needs to be addressed. It is very important to opt for modern lighting systems in order to save the energy and cost of wiring. The wireless motion sensor is one of the innovative products which can be installed anywhere in the ceiling without altering the main wiring for lights. The best way to reduce the wiring cost is to develop the solar systems in the field where ever possible. Replacing conventional lights with LEDs is another way of saving energy.

Challenge: HVAC updates for the existing buildings

Solution: Retrofits for existing buildings is not an easy task. There are many concerns like unavailability of handing over documents, catalogues, O&M, warranty certificate, contract documents, as built drawings and specifications, factory test certificates, cut views and spare parts catalogues. In case of such projects, a new heat load calculation needs to be done to check whether the existing equipment is meeting the requirement. If not, additional equipment will be required to match the requirement. How old is the equipment and what is the life cycle of each of the equipment? There is a need for a life cycle study to determine whether the unit needs repair or replacement. Is the existing unit energy efficient or not? If it is not, then necessary modification needs to be done to make it energy efficient. Once you have the answers for all these, you can go ahead with major changes.


Marwan Al Falasi, Vice President, Business Development, Inaya Facilities Management Services, discusses MEP challenges and their plan of action in crucial times.

Challenge: Breakdown of elevator or escalator

Solution: When we experience an elevator or escalator breakdown, the first step is to immediately contact the call centre of the OEM service provider and register the complaint. At the same time, the duty service technician is called directly to attend to the issue. We have established an emergency response team, which is available on site at all times, and this team is certified and trained to carry out the emergency manual operations of elevators and escalators. The OEM service provider provides the training and we complement this with additional in-house workshops and training sessions, which take place on a regular basis. To try and avoid such breakdowns, third party inspections are conducted every six months as per Dubai Municipality guidelines and we have KPIs in place with specialized service providers that define their obligations and response time.

Challenge: Maintaining a good security system

Solution: We believe a good security system should be technology driven and tailored to the client’s needs. For example, in spaces such as retail outlets, it is important that security systems are highly effective, but invisible. Having a strong surveillance system is the key, as is controlled access to all restricted areas. An effective system should be put in place, such as a guard tour system, access control system or CCTV system, which can support and secure the community. These systems need to be regularly checked and maintained, especially those with cameras where the basic elements of view, focus, angle and signal interference need to be constantly checked. For example, with today’s focus on energy conservation, facilities may switch off lights during certain times of the day or lower lighting in particular areas, which could impact the security cameras’ ability to operate if they need a certain minimum level of illumination to function.

Challenge: MEP challenges and the rising cost

Solution: One of the challenges we come across in providing MEP services is the accuracy and reliability of asset information in the facility. Securing as-built drawings, technical documents and BOMs of the building can sometimes be a challenge as in some cases they are not archived. Building an asset management framework through asset capturing will keep up-to-date asset information as well as a historical record of both financial and non-financial information for each asset. When providing MEP services we sometimes find that obsolescence management for high end electrical and control systems are not implemented, which causes issues and challenges. Because of the speed of technological advances today, equipment and systems become outdated much quicker than before, hence it’s important to have continuous communication and fault diagnostics about your systems to avoid, amongst others, high system support costs and long procurement lead times for spare parts.

Cleanco Services

Sultan Khouri, CEO of leading commercial and industrial cleaning company, Cleanco, shares the tough side of soft services and the ways to correct them.

Challenge: Cleaning of buildings

Solution: It is very important to have the required information before we start off with any project and must have a complete evaluation and estimation of the building and to meet with our client to understand the requirements before we start delivering our services. We send our professional team to visit the location and came back with survey details about the site situation and then we send our report to our clients with our services solutions proposal which include the number of staff required, materials, equipments and our recommendation so we can start delivering our value services from day one and continue for 20 years and more in some project we have today.

Challenge: Pest control management

Solution: For providing this service, you need a comprehensive strategy by the managers and skilled labour to carry out the actual work. Our methodology in the pest control is to focus on the solutions not only spray the chemicals, our team visits the location before hand and examine the land and then we follow with our preventive services. We implement the integrated pest management system and adopting green pest control methods and green pesticides without causing any adverse effects on people or the environment. We use the latest chemicals and equipments to ensure an effective and total pest control in any given premises to the customer’s best satisfaction. Non-chemical methods are used in sensitive areas to prevent any allergic reactions.


Challenge: High rise cleaning activities

Solution: The primary objective when using rope access method for cleaning is to plan, manage and carry out the work with minimal accidents, incidents or dangerous occurrences. It’s very important to ensure that a safe system of work is maintained at all times, and with no damage to property or harm to the environment. Safety of our team is our priority and for this reason we train our staff and obtain licenses as well. We are using professional approved equipment from the world’s leading companies, moreover, our team is trained to deal with different building shapes and surfaces.

OCS Qatar

Joseph McMullan, Head of Operation, OCS Qatar, talks about the maintenance and cleaning issues and how lack of skilled labour in the region is creating a problem.

Challenge: Maintaining washroom cleanliness

Solution: The main challenge in cleaning buildings, offices, shopping malls and manufacturing sites is to maintain their washrooms. Maintaining the cleanliness of washrooms is tough because of the number of reasons like poor ventilation, poor plumbing/sewage planning and volume of use against number of facilities. We use environmentally positive chemicals, along with powered machinery to clean these areas consistently and have now started to use steam machines within these areas, which kills 99% of bacteria and virus and leaves these areas cleaner for longer.

Challenge: Lack of qualified employees in Qatar

Solution: Some of the other challenges that are faced within the market especially in Qatar are that most employees have to be brought into the country and at the end of short contracts, they’re sent back out of country. This does not seem an efficient way to enhance our business profile; OCS focuses on growing its business profile and matching the right employees to the right job. One of the major issues within the Middle East and within Qatar is the contract lengths, where presently most are based on one year datelines, which gives no long term commitment, reduces the opportunity for the FM Company to make investment in equipment which is sustainable and has a life of more than one year. We are trying to change this mentality within the market, so customers can see the benefits of three years (minimum) contracts for both the customer and OCS. We can reinvest in the contract over the three year period, we can train and develop better employees, we can manage our costs better so give the best deal possible to the customer.


Sunil Kumar, Operations Manager, Tanzifco talks about how the problem of waste management is a matter of concern in the UAE and needs serious attention. Plus, how pest control management and façade cleaning is a challenging task for managers.

Challenge: Waste Management

Solution: In UAE, the problem of excessive waste generation stares us in the face. This is the first hurdle to tackle, i.e., reduction in the waste generated. This can be done by charging an amount if the waste produced in a locality is more than a defined figure. However, this would entail a highly systematic waste management procedure and equipment in place. The above issue also leads to the increasing landfills. An innovative solution such as underground waste management needs to be worked out. Further, the issue of mixed waste generation especially from the hospitality sector needs to be addressed – solid waste mixed with the liquid or organic waste mixed with the other non-biodegradable and so on. Solution lies in carefully segregating the waste at source before disposal or it reaching a recycling facility.

Challenge: Pest control management

Solution: First and foremost, one needs to follow the Municipality rules while carrying out pest control services. Instead of cutting costs by using low cost chemicals which could prove to be harmful; operators need to use Municipality approved chemicals. Also, the chemicals need to have low mammalian toxicity, so as to avoid any harm to the staff using them and the customers. It is preferable to have chemicals which have low mammalian toxicity, low odour, non-staining, effective and approved by the Municipality.

Challenge: Façade cleaning

Solution: Nano technology is an innovative and definitely interesting concept in façade cleaning. For all its benefits, it seems to be in a nascent stage in the Middle East and the awareness quotient regarding it needs to be worked upon. In the time to come, this could be a useful tool in maintaining façade cleanliness and minimizing cleaning costs. Absolute high rise cleaning services are usually carried out through the rope access cleaning technique. However, these are not ordinary cleaners. The rope access technicians have to be IRATA trained and certified before deployment to the site. Hence, the availability of trained technicians could be a problem. This aspect also entails selecting candidates with the right aptitude as it is not an ordinary cleaning job and further, the company needs to invest in their training. This job is also accompanied by expensive equipment and accessories which are a must to ensure the safety of the technicians. More importantly, the structure and accessibility parameters of a high rise building could prove to be a challenge.









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Nivedha Sridhar is a member of the founding team at Facilio Inc