Face to face: Naveed Ansari, Tecon Specialized Engineering

The Middle East’s sub-contractors have played a decisive role in the success of both regional and global developments. Yuanda Europe and William Hare UAE played a critical role in the creation of the responsive façade for which Abu Dhabi’s Al Bahar Towers is famous.

Similarly, the freestanding fibre roof – notable for its ‘spaceship’ shape – installed on the $5bn (AED18.4bn) headquarters of technology giant, Apple, was assembled and tested in a Dubai desert by UAE firm, Premier Composite Technologies, before being shipped in pieces to the US.

It is these specialised pre- and post-construction services that the chief executive officer of Tecon Specialized Engineering Solutions (TSES), Naveed Ansari, believes the Middle East will need more of in the future. Sub-contractor knowledge of such esoteric verticals can contribute to a project’s long-term wellbeing, he says.

“In the 1990s, when we were trying to sell energy management systems (EMS) in the region, people [questioned] the viability of doing so in an oil-based economy with cheap energy rates; but today, everyone is using EMS technology,” Ansari tells Construction Week.

The Middle East’s construction sector, and TSES, have come a long way since then. A part of UAE-headquartered Albatha Holding – chaired by Sheikh Ahmed Mohammed Sultan Al Qassimi – TSES provides services in verticals such as mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP), geosystems, chemicals, testing, calibration, and maintenance. Each vertical is further divided into activities that include lightning protection systems (LPS) through the power division of the MEP team, seismic monitoring through the geosystems department, and corrosion monitoring through the chemicals branch.

According to Ansari, these are just a small part of the firm’s overall product and service offering. However, the expanse of TSES’s operation is easier to track today than it might have been a  few years ago, thanks to a consolidation programme currently underway at the company.

Outlining details of the activity, Ansari says: “We have created TSES as a platform comprising seven companies [from Albatha Engineering Group], namely the MEP specialist, Tecon; Geco Engineering; Geoscope; Spectra; Geco Chemicals; Geco Chemical Oil and Gas Field Services; and Geco Industrial Packing.

“All these companies were active in the construction or project-related fields, and we felt it would be good to combine them so that we could achieve maximum synergy.”

The consolidation also allows TSES to capitalise on a wider clientele, which includes organisations from both the public and private sectors, with the mix varying by vertical. The MEP and civil engineering divisions predominantly work with industry-specific private-sector contractors, and UAE municipalities, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, as well as other government departments. The chemicals team is sought out by industrial clients, while its oil and gas department works with clients including Abu Dhabi National Oil Company; Abu Dhabi Gas Industries Limited; and engineering, procurement, and construction contractors. Meanwhile, TSES’s maintenance division is contracted facilities management companies to work on platforms such as emergency lighting systems and fire alarms.

This broad spectrum of customers is why Ansari prefers TSES to be viewed as more than a sub-contractor in the traditional sense of the word. “You could say we’re sub-contractors, because we provide design, supply, commissioning, and maintenance services. However, a more accurate term would be ‘system integrators’ – so, for example, not only would TSES provide security products such as CCTVs and access control systems, but as system integrators, we would also [implement] and maintain those systems.”

Regardless of the language used to describe it, TSES’s project portfolio is an impressive one. Two years ago, the company’s earthquake monitoring systems (EMS) were used to provide vertical monitoring and structural health monitoring for Burj Khalifa, a project for which the firm had previously delivered LPS services.

The EMS, which included the installation of sensors after construction was completed, is used to monitor the structural health of the world’s tallest tower. Meanwhile, LPS services for Burj Khalifa were delivered by TSES’s MEP-specific division, Tecon, in coordination with project consultant Hyder, a legacy company of Arcadis.

“In 1993, when I joined Tecon, I used to show my lightning protection [literature] to customers, and they used to take it lightly, saying that the Middle East would not witness lightning or heavy rains,” Ansari says.

“Today, 25 years later, the majority of Dubai’s buildings feature lightning protection, and most consultants and contractors approach us for LPS drawings.”

Ansari says that the bulk of UAE projects his team has worked on feature LPS services, with this repertoire including notable Abu Dhabi developments including the Ferrari World theme park and Louvre Abu Dhabi. TSES also delivered emergency lighting systems for both projects. In fact, LPS and emergency lighting systems are among the key regional growth opportunities that Ansari foresees for TSES, especially in the Saudi Arabian market, where the firm has had a presence for the last six years.