All’s well that ends Honeywell
BY ROBERT WILLOCK
What excites you about working in this region?
I’ve been travelling around the Middle East since 1990. It is growing rapidly. In the UAE, growth over the next five to six years will be driven by Expo 2020; Qatar is driven by investments for the upcoming FIFA 2022 World Cup. These are all places where Honeywell is
well established. The area is an attractive proposition for the MEP sector to grow profitably and expand its operations.
What can MEP contribute most effectively to the local built environment?
MEP has seen a significant increase in its influence over the past 25 years. The scale of the opportunity has changed, and the demands of stakeholders – government, investors, owners etc – on MEP have grown.
MEP contractors must ensure the correct products and systems are used in the way they were designed for optimum performance. The efficiency of these systems has to be significant to ensure energy conservation and sustainability.
In a land obsessed with iconic buildings, how can MEP professionals raise their profile?
When you look around the UAE, you see all these iconic structures – but they’re not just pictures. All property developers, facilities managers, owners and operators want properties that can be managed. If you build an iconic structure, but it can’t be used, no customer or guest will want to live there.
Energy is such a big cost. So designers and consultants are taking care right at the design stage to have the best energy management systems, room controls and automation, and have energy dashboards to know what energy is being used and saved, and to use the facility most efficiently.
How can MEP get itself noticed?
While MEP itself may be hidden, convenience and comfort are not hidden. And its quality and reliability is so important – be it a thermostat or a full building management system.
Technology is different and information travels fast. The younger generation, and a wider range of users, are so interested in hi-tech – not just for the sake of it, but because of the comfort and convenience it can offer at our finger tips.
The luxury sector, which is a characteristic of the region, has always welcomed this technology. But the mid-market segment is growing rapidly and wants those smart solutions, but at competitive prices. It is a challenge for clients to decide what fits into their budget and what doesn’t, but at Honeywell, we have all the solutions for all budgets.
What is the role of research and development in MEP?
This is one of the biggest things for Honeywell – we have more than 18,000 engineers engaged in R&D in the business, developing the latest technology and solutions across the globe. Things are changing so fast today that unless you can think what is expected you will be left as a follower not a leader. Our customers must get the best and latest solutions. If they move ahead and we stay behind, that won’t be possible.
So we stay close to our customers to understand their changing needs. Pre-development and during development, we hold forums with our customers, both formally and informally. That’s a very important role. Development is an internal thing, but it is an outcome of communication with customers.
Is it cost effective to retrofit old buildings with new MEP technology?
There has been a huge amount of construction here in the past 10 years, but this region has lots of buildings dating back 20 to 40 years. So there is a good retrofit market already, but it will grow significantly and it will be an important part of our business.
There are two considerations:
1) What were the types of products originally fitted, regarding their efficiency and productivity – have they run out of steam or are they robust enough to continue? How are they performing today? And how well have they been maintained?
2) The cost of energy has gone up. Everyone is now conscious of conserving energy – be it lighting or HVAC. When energy costs were lower, it was more about comfort and convenience. Now we’re more educated about these issues, and the future needs of society.
It’s also important to remember the bottom line – someone’s paying for that. So if you can make a retrofit investment that will pay back in two or three years, that’s great, because that’s going to run for 10 years. It serves the both the property owner’s financial needs and the efficiency and longevity of the building itself.