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Life safety and security firm Intertek discusses the challenges of the GCC’s construction sector

Mike Luna, Business Line Leader, Building & Construction and Electrical, MENAP, at Intertek, describes how the company’s life safety and security services have evolved – and the unique challenges and opportunities posed by this region.

Can you describe in your own words the Intertek scope of business in the life safety and security industry?

Generally speaking, our definition of the Life Safety and Security industry takes into consideration products, systems, and projects that both actively and passively mitigate the risk of fire, from smoke detectors and fire doors to external cladding. Not only that, but we also work to ensure the structural integrity of products and systems by building on-site mock ups and carrying out structural performance tests such as air and water leakage, acoustics and thermal heat gain. Our scope of work in the construction and life safety and security industry includes third-party assurance activities for customers by carrying out onsite field evaluations on installed products and systems, quality assurance of materials that are delivered to site, and risk assessment of buildings and structures through design drawing reviews, site audits and on-site mock ups. We also perform third-party testing and certification for products entering the market. This is done through audits on the manufacturing process, to understand the quality of the products produced and through the testing and certifying of the products. Manufacturers are then subjected to a follow up programme, where our teams visit their facilities every quarter to ensure that product quality continue to be maintained. Our services have evolved to now start at the construction job site with consulting, through the testing and certification of building materials, field testing of curtain wall and facades, and the building enclosure commissioning of the constructed building or structure. We are a global company with over 40,000 employees and a vast experience in assurance, testing, inspection and certification. With that we can enable our customers to meet quality, health, environmental, safety, and social accountability standards for virtually any market around the world.

What particular sectors / areas of work are you doing in the GCC? 

Intertek has 24 locations in the GCC region, with the Regional Head office based in Abu Dhabi. Its network is global and has approximately 1600 people employed in the region, including scientists, engineers, auditors and laboratory technicians with a diverse range of expertise, technical and scientific skills. We support a range of industries in the GCC region and our business mix encompasses energy & commodities, food, consumer goods, electrical products, building and construction, and life safety and security. Our work in the construction and life safety and security industry includes testing and certification performance to manufacturers to gain market access in different regions of the world. In addition, we aid in standards and codes development with authorities. We also perform building envelope assurance through consulting, testing, and validation.

What are the challenges/opportunities of working in this region? 

The region is growing extremely fast and this accelerated growth represents challenges in staying updated with the continually changing codes and standards. However, opportunities are many in the region and include learning from other Intertek networks in the world that have already made it. The architecture and design of buildings here are extravagant and therefore the need for specialised consultants is huge. As façade consultants, Intertek knows the intricacies of providing specialist advice when it comes to design, specification development, specification assurance, and installation supervision to ensure buildings are built airtight as well as meeting the fire codes.

Describe your typical week. 

My typical week usually consists of speaking with customers about upcoming projects, authorities regarding the applicable codes and standards, and continuously building Intertek’s team for our Building & Construction regional business line. Our team is looking to expand rapidly in building envelope consulting, building product testing and certification, and geotechnical services, materials testing, property & environmental services.

Can you talk about any trends you are seeing in 2016? What are clients focused on? 

Although there has been a slowdown in certain industries over the last year, the construction market seems to be stable as large infrastructure projects in the GCC continue to move forward due to growing populations, Expo 2020, and FIFA World Cup 2022 as major drivers for the region. This, along with tougher fire and life safety controls, is leading to more regulations by authorities in allowing products in the market, assurance by all parties on the construction site. This drives accountability, better inspection requirements during construction, and the reliance on third-party Assurance, Testing, Inspection and Certification companies to drive safer and more economical buildings.