“There are still too many practices that are inefficient and in need of rejuvenation”

Omnium’s Fernando Freitas also reveals he’s keen to continue expanding Omnium’s global reach and spearhead its move to decarbonisation services in the long term

In an exclusive discussion with Middle East Construction News (MECN), Fernando Freitas, Director at Omnium International made it clear that enhancing efficiency in construction is an issue that’s very important to him.

“I feel very strongly that efficiency is the key to most things we do in construction. Despite huge advances in our industry in recent years, there are still too many practices that are inefficient and in need of rejuvenation. Take, for example, the typical approach to procurement: over a number of years now, there has almost certainly been an undesirable ‘race to the bottom’ across all facets of construction including consultants, contractors and supply chain. We are now seeing the problems this creates which have manifested themselves when it comes to project delivery,” he points out.

Freitas explained that the industry must shift its focus to value management (VM) rather than rely on value engineering (VE), “Involvement of the cost consultant from the earliest stages contributes significantly to managing expectations and reducing unnecessary abortive work and services by stakeholders engaged at each stage. If a client can future-proof their feasibility study from inception, this sets the tone for all parties to work cohesively with ‘design-to-budget’ in mind. In our experience, habitually using the lowest cost as the determining factor during the procurement process is simply unsustainable – reducing value and efficiency for all parties, it is purely a short-term fix to what often becomes be a long-term issue. Early savings are all too often overshadowed by the cost of remedying poor developer choices later in the life of the project,” he cautions.

Here, Freitas points out that a shift towards alternative methods of procurement does seem to be taking place. He notes, “Some clients are recognising the value that a collaboration between consultant and contractor team can bring to a project. This is an area I would really like to develop moving forward; Early Contractor Engagement under Pre-Construction Services Agreements and Two-Stage Tendering and Target Cost Contracts are now being seriously looked at in the Middle East, as viable methods of procurement to generate ‘best value’. We owe it to our planet and future generations to build efficiently and protect our environment.”

Earlier in the year, Freitas was appointed to Omnium’s main board. When asked about how this move has had on his day-to-day, he responds, “I’m delighted to have joined the Omnium Board – it was always the plan that the transition into my new role would be a progressive one, so in truth my day-to-day has only subtly changed so far. My client, ITHRA Dubai, remain my top priority and I look forward to seeing out the completion and the opening of the One Za’abeel Project, which I have been committed to since the early design stages.”

In June 2022, Ithra Dubai began sales of the One&Only Private Homes and The Residences at One Za’abeel.

He adds, “I’ve been working on the One Za’abeel project for eight years (about 20% of my life), and while my new role means I’m starting to spend more time between technical and management concerns, I remain devoted to the completion of this amazing project. I do enjoy being more involved in the day-to-day running of the business; it is amazing to discover just how much non-technical work is required to keep the ship running steady, and I really admire the sterling work carried out by my fellow directors in Dubai, Peter Westeng, Nick Harris, Terry Smith and Kieran Duckworth. They’ve fostered a real ‘family’ environment at Omnium, but I can tell you that doesn’t come without significant effort and maintaining a happy family as big as ours is no easy task.”

Speaking to Freitas about short- and long-term goals related to his board appointment, he’s notes that his short-term goals centre around the completion of One Za’abeel, sharing his accumulated knowledge and developing himself further as a Director.

“My most pressing short-term goal is to support the completion of the One Za’abeel project for Ithra Dubai. It is a true architectural marvel, filled with exciting offerings that break new boundaries in terms of luxury. It has already changed the landscape of Dubai and I have no doubt it will become a centre piece of the city, and a real accolade for Omnium and all those involved.”

With regards to sharing knowledge, he adds, “I have spent the last 20 years working as a QS or managing a team of QSs. I understand the role inside out and what it takes to be part of a successful project. Omnium already have internal processes for sharing good practice and lessons learned but my role as a Director will grant me greater opportunities to visit sites and give one-to-one support to both our clients, and the Omnium teams.”

“In my opinion, an effective leader never stops learning or teaching. There is always room for improvement, both personally and in your organisation. If you want to maintain the highest standards, you must continually develop to the needs of your clients and your staff,” he says on the topic of personal/professional development.

Delving into his long-term goals, he states, “One key goal is to make Omnium a pillar of the Dubai 2040 Urban Masterplan. We have been in the UAE for 27 years and were central to the successful delivery of many of the region’s masterplans including Downtown Dubai, Dubai Creek Harbour and Dubai Hills Estate. We have a wealth of knowledge, experience and ‘lessons learned’ retained in the company – we are immensely proud of the city we call home, and it would be fantastic to utilise our niche expertise to support the delivery of this impressive initiative.”

He’s also eager to continue expanding Omnium’s reach across the globe, “It is a very exciting time for the company, the Omnium group has expanded by approximately 30% in the last 12 months, we now operate in UAE, KSA, UK, and Europe and our client base has increased 35% during the same time period.”

Making his final comments, he says, “I’d also like to spearhead Omnium’s move towards decarbonisation services. The Middle East has always heavily relied on fossil fuels, but decarbonisation initiatives are gathering pace in the Middle East as environmental regulations become stricter globally.”

“Over the next decade, the UAE has pledged to lead the drive towards decarbonisation in this region and this is a sector Omnium has experience in via our London office. It is a very complex and specialised sector, and one that I very much look forward to supporting our clients with,” he concludes.

At the 2021 edition of the Middle East Consultant Awards, Omnium International was unveiled as the winner in the ‘Cost Consulting Company of the Year’ category.

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