Contractors working in the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) sector are advised to switch from traditional construction to off-site prefabrication, as it would allow them to better manage their costs.

Describing the construction industry as “really inefficient”, Dimitri Papakonstantinou, managing director of Plafond, said that MEP contractors need to be “clever” and stop “wasting” their money by adopting technologies that enhance efficiency, including modular systems.

Ramy Boufarhat, COO of James L Williams (JLW) Middle East and one of the panellists at the MEP UAE Conference 2018, expressed his agreement, calling modular systems “the way of the future”.

IN PICTURES: MEP UAE Conference 2018

In his presentation about modular construction at the event, Saad Taher expanded on the points raised by Papakonstantinou and Boufarhat, saying that MEP contractors are lagging behind other trade contractors when it comes to the adoption of off-site prefabrication.

Taher, who is managing director of Smart MEP Solutions, noted that a growing number of trade contractors are taking their projects to factories or prefabrication facilities, and then transporting the prefabricated products to the site for installation or final assembly.

Prefabrication, according to Taher, can address many of the problems and issues typically encountered by MEP companies during on-site and traditional installations, including cost overruns.

“Overruns in the budget are from the costs of resources and the labour and staff,” said Taher, adding that having control over the different components of a project during traditional installations doesn’t seem “achievable [in] 90% of the cases”.

The chance of facing budget overruns is minimised with off-site prefabrication, since it allows MEP contractors to not only better manage their time and boost the quality of their work, but also reduce their headcount, he explained.

“You will be able to reduce the number of people required to do [the] work, because [you can] control the environment off-site and the type of machines you can use,” said Taher, adding that off-site fabrication also offers the added benefit of not having to deal with weather-related challenges, resulting in increased efficiency and productivity.

“As MEP contractors, we need to create – and innovate – ideas and solutions, to [think about] how we can apply off-site prefabrication [in our projects] and to escape from the problems that happen on site” he said. “[We need to] change our mentality and our mind-set.”

The MEP UAE Conference 2018 was held in Dubai on 9 May, 2018. Visit ConstructionWeekOnline's sister title, MEPMiddleEast.com, for full coverage of the event.