Abu Dhabi: In a region where FM providers often complain about having to deal with clients who are not attuned to the value that FM expertise can bring to their built assets, it’s good to see that this is certainly not the case at Abu Dhabi’s International Tower, whose developer, SinoGulf, and FM provider, Cofely Besix have an excellent working relationship with each other.
Located within Abu Dhabi’s Capital Centre master plan, the 24-storey, 41,000m2 International Tower was brought to the market to lease in April 2012, and since then, has managed to rake up a fine roster of tenants, which include aerospace specialist BAE Systems, building consultancy AECOM, engineering firm Hoare Lea, and a host of government institutions.
But even as International Tower gets closer to becoming fully occupied, SinoGulf is also getting ready to launch a new building into the Abu Dhabi market—and this time, it’s a 30-storey residential tower, Capital House, located right next to the commercial tower.
Offering a total of 332 apartments in one- and two-bedroom sizes, Capital House is one of only two residential buildings in the Capital Centre master plan.
Cofely Besix, which has been providing FM services at International Tower for about three years, has been entrusted with the same task at Capital House now. While the plan is to put Capital House on the market in June, David Cockerton, fund manager, SinoGulf says that the discussions and strategies about the way FM is to be implemented in the residential tower has already begun.
“We took handover of International Tower from the contractor at the end of 2011, and we brought it to the market to lease in April 2012,” Cockerton said, in an interview conducted at his office in International Tower in early May.
“We took 3-4 months just to embed in the FM and sort out any snags and issues before launching in the market. It was important to us to actually bring the product in a finished state. And that’s exactly the same plan for next door at Capital House.”
“Unfortunately, too many landlords tend to bring their buildings to market too soon,” Cockerton said.
“And then, they have the difficulties of resolving remedial work with contractors and bring in FM at the same time. Tenants start asking difficult questions, like why isn’t the building finished. So what we did with International Tower—and are doing now with Capital House—is to make sure they are ready [before they hit the market].”
Ian Harfield, general manager, Cofely Besix, commends Cockerton and his team at SinoGulf for their efforts in getting FM involved before the actual handover process. “The effect of the preparation work that was done was seen when the building actually opened to the public,” he said. “It allowed us to be proactive, instead of reactive. So, when the tenants were moving in, we were managing them, rather than them managing us.”
“Traditionally, in a lot of buildings around this region, the building owner tends to be a bit on the back-foot, trying to catch up all the time,” Harfield explained.
“But here, because of the time invested at the start, it means that you are on the front-foot, you are leading the way. And because you are in control of it, it means that the actual quality of service is a properly managed service, rather than a reactive service. So the tenants get served far better.”
This quality of service can be seen as soon as one walks into International Tower. Smiling receptionists greet and welcome both tenants and visitors. High-speed elevators are called via a scan of an access card, and no buttons need to be pressed to take you to your requisite floor, as the elevators have already got that information from your access card.
As one walks around International Tower’s many floors, Cofely Besix’s security, housekeeping and MEP teams can be seen at various points around the building, and managing them all is Shemeer Ibrahim, the facility coordinator for the building.
Besides catering to the needs of the tenants already occupying space in the building, Ibrahim is also responsible for managing the fit-out teams of those tenants wanting to move in to the building.
“According to me, the biggest challenge we face is to maintain a separation between the fit-out work and the tenant operations,” Ibrahim said.
“We have promised full, five-star facilities to the tenants, and so, we don’t want to mix their operations with the construction work that may be happening elsewhere in the building. Maintaining this separation is, I think, our biggest challenge.”
Robert Waugh, senior asset manager, SinoGulf, agreed with Ibrahim’s analysis of the situation at International Tower.
“This is the conflict between somebody who’s in occupation and has paid rent to have a quiet office, and someone who has also paid his rent and wants to get into the building asap,” Waugh explained. “And we need to balance that.”
But to his credit, Ibrahim certainly seems to have got that balance right at International Tower. Both Waugh and Cockerton commended Ibrahim’s expertise at managing both the FM and the fit-out teams at the building effectively and efficiently—and it’s also worth noting that Ibrahim’s work at International Tower has earned him a spot in the shortlisted nominations for the Young Facilities Manager of the Year category at this year’s fmME Awards.
Given their successful outing with Cofely Besix at International Tower, Cockerton and his team at SinoGulf didn’t have to think too hard when choosing a FM provider for Capital House as its gets ready for handover. “I believe it’s very important to have a good management framework and resources in place before the handover,” Cockerton said.
“We need to have that relationship we do with Cofely Besix, which is one of working together properly and a partnership,” he continued. “We are pretty transparent with each other, since it’s a joint project managing these things. It has worked on this building, I think, extremely well, and so it made perfect sense for us to do it again next-door.”
While Capital House, being a residential building, brings with it a different set of challenges in terms of FM at the site, SinoGulf and Cofely Besix are going at it with the same strategy they had used for International Tower.
Paul Pimlott, property manager, Cofely Besix, is getting himself ready to be the point man for all things FM at Capital House—and that means he has a lot of preparation to do right now.
“Obviously, the handover hasn’t been done yet,” Pimlott said. “But as far as preparations go, it involves daily visits to the site, and liaison with the contractors on the site to see how things are progressing. We’ve also had good training for all the services being offered at the building, which includes the HVAC systems, swimming pool filtration systems, security access cards, etc.”
Waugh added, “I think, at this stage, we are trying to make sure that we have got all the documents we need from the contractor for the building... All the FM systems and planned preventive maintenance needs to be set up and organized effectively now, so that they happen seamlessly in the background as we get into operation.”
Harfield commended the SinoGulf team for taking an active interest in the FM processes at both Capital House and International Tower. “Because we work closely with the customer, we are encouraged to try harder and harder for the customer,” Harfield continued.
“The relationship is such that it allows the team onsite to be far more supportive beyond the area of expectation, and try to find new ways to do things, which then gives SinoGulf a better product,” Harfield said.
And Cockerton, as a satisifed client, didn’t shy away from lavishing praise on Cofely Besix as well.
“I think, for me, the most important point is the ability to talk to Ian and his team, and they understand what we are talking about,” he said. “They don’t simply provide one type or one level of service—they are prepared to be flexible, and to actually respond to our needs.”