Altaf Hussain

Altaf Hussain

General Manager , GECO M&E Mechanical & Electrical Ltd. (GECO M&E)
George Berbari

George Berbari

CEO, DC Pro Engineering

Sustainable engineering trends are changing the playing field for Sharjah's subcontractors and the Emirate as a whole.

How are you establishing yourselves as leaders in the sustainable engineering community?

ALTAF HUSSAIN I tried to diversify GECO M&E's business lines. We have four major divisions, including mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP); power; facilities management; and fire protection. When I took over, the MEP division was the biggest one, generating almost 80% of GECO M&E's revenue, with the remaining revenue coming from the other, significantly smaller, divisions. I felt there was a need to diversify all our business lines, as well as grow the business. Now MEP makes up almost 40% of our revenue, power 30%, fire protection has increased to 15%, and facilities management contributes almost 15%. We have also started a new extra low voltage (ELV) division because the requirements in the UAE are changing and we want to address this new segment of the market. Our ELV division covers home and building automation, security systems and cameras, gate barriers, parking management systems, internet protocol television, and the like. With this strategy, GECO M&E's business has grown considerably, and our staff has grown from 1,700 to 2,500 over the last four years.

GEORGE BERBARI DC Pro Engineering is a highly specialized electromechanical firm that focuses on district cooling, power generation, and green building. We are behind 90% of the implemented air conditioning and energy innovations in the Middle East. While the amount of resources and opportunities are huge, the efforts to optimize sustainability and limit waste are minimal. We have one of the largest carbon footprints per capita in the world when it comes to energy. Despite several success stories, we have yet to impact energy consumption trends. The effort in Sharjah must involve detailed structure and coherence. As Sharjah is growing more and more dependent on energy imports, we must focus on reducing consumption of energy as well as utilizing its existing energy, mostly natural gas, as effectively as possible. We have been very successful in the UAE and GCC simply because of the need for district cooling. Our unique expertise covers development, operation, design, maintenance, and all other aspects of the business and has enabled us to be industry leaders.

How does the current trend for green buildings and sustainable construction affect your operations?

AH All the tenders that we are receiving require us to meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. For some projects, they ask for LEED Silver and for others LEED Gold standard. We recently signed a contract with Majid Al Futtaim to build a substation in Zahia City Center Mall that will be LEED-Gold compliant. This is an international standard that ensures a building is designed to maximize energy efficiency and make the most of renewable, sustainable resources. The standard goes from silver to gold and then platinum.

GB The UAE's signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was a big step in the right direction. Sharjah must follow the lead of Dubai and Abu Dhabi and seek investment in solar, wind, and green building. The Sharjah government has taken the initiative by establishing waste-to-energy projects and is attempting to recycle large swaths of construction waste. However, stricter regulation with more enforcement is still necessary. By using aerated blocks rather than the block and insulation currently used, we could cut construction waste from 5% to 1%. Energy policy is very complex and requires much research and dedication to begin to understand how to address it effectively and efficiently.

What are some of your most significant projects at the moment?

AH The Tilal City development is one of the big projects for our power division. Also, recently we have signed huge contracts of USD77 million for the construction of two substations and the other one for the USD100-million Lulu Hypermarket in Sharjah. We are the MEP and fire-fighting contractor for Dubai Municipality for their “Dubai Frame" project. We are installing almost 400km of fiber-optic cable in Sharjah that will be used for smart metering and monitoring. Our pipeline of work is full for 2017 as well as 2018.

How do you engage with the community and encourage more sustainable practices?

GB While DC Pro Engineering is a business that operates for profit, we are also a business with a mission. For years, we have never given up on trying to create change, though this is happening slower than we would like. Through perseverance and education the sustainable engineering trend in the UAE and the region is gaining momentum. We attend several conferences a year, and publish books, papers, and articles, all with the goal of sharing knowledge, engaging the construction and MEP community, and accelerating change as fast as possible.