“We are Very Customer Centric”

By February 17 , 2016
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Jairam-Panch
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Sheriff-Abrar

Turner, a North America-based international construction Services Company, is known for working in diverse markets undertaking complex projects. The company has more than 5,200 employees who work on more than 1,200 projects each year that vary from design/build to procurement services Face to Faceto building information modeling to lean construction. Turner Group´s project management consultancy, Turner International, completes 50 years of its global presence. The Company has been serving the Indian market since the last eight years and is involved in few major projects in Delhi, Mumbai and Gujarat.

WFM interviewed Abrar Sheriff (President & CEO, Turner International LLC), Jairam Panch (Managing Director of Turner India and Vice President of Turner International LLC, USA) and, Mark A. Boyle (Senior Vice President & Chief Procurement Officer, Turner Construction Company) at an event celebrating the groups 50 years in the construction sector. They discussed their projects, the challenges they face in the construction sector, their future plans and much more.

WFM: Please tell us briefly on your firm Turner International and its focus?

Abrarar Sheriff (AS): Turner International is a subsidy of Turner Corporation. Turner Construction Company is one of the largest construction management companies in the United States with a construction volume of $10 billion. In the US we do general contracting work. Outside America we primarily focus on project management consulting. We have 16 offices around the world. The regions are Latin America, South East Asia, Europe, Middle East and India. India is a standalone region because we think it has a huge potential. We started our operation in India since 2007 from Chennai. Now our focus is to grow our Mumbai operation and take it to the next leg.

WFM: Please tell us briefly about your journey and about few of the iconic projects completed over these 50 years? How has been your experience in India so far?

Jairam Panch (JP):
It had been a very interesting experience. Some of our significant projects are Burj Khalifa (Dubai), Emirates Palace Hotel (Abu Dhabi), Mall of Dubai, Mall of India (Delhi), Heart of Doha, Bitexco Financial Tower (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam),etc. In India, we have gone through the learning process for the past eight years of our presence here, trying to understand the construction market first, specifically the construction management market. We feel that the construction management market is at a very nascent stage here in India, and is still slowly catching up. Developers are hiring international consultants for project management. They think that these consultants are much more empowered to take decisions. We feel that we are one of those people who will bring the desired change to the sector. We have done it internationally and are sure that we will be doing it in India as well.

Burj-Khalifa-Dubai
Burj Khalifa, Dubai
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Emirates Towers, Dubai

WFM: Coming to Project management consultancy, in foreign countries you provide end-to-end solutions for projects. What is the scene in India?

JP: Our model remains unchanged in India. We like to provide end-to-end consultancy and we are doing it for our projects. We are providing our services at pre-construction stage, construction stage, and at the hand over stage.

WFM: Do you get the leverage to select your suppliers and other service providers? Does it vary from client to client?

JP: Yes, it varies from client to client, depending up on the scope of work given to us. But on a job that we are there from day one, we are able to select the suppliers, consultants and contractors through proper tender mechanism and make sure that we add value to the client.

AS: The decision at the end of the day is that of client’s. What we do is we make recommendations, and the clients decides on whom to go with. We keep the whole process very transparent and open without setting any bias and levelling out everything and make recommendations. We have to collaborate with our clients and it is always a united decision that we make.

WFM: Please tell briefly about your ongoing projects in India?

JP: We are doing two projects with DLF: DLF Mall of India and DLF Capital Greens in Delhi. We are also doing the prestigious project, Statue of Unity in Gujarat. We are working on another project for the defence services, which is a confidential one and we cannot disclose the details to the media. In Mumbai, we are doing two projects for Piramal Realty. One is commercial centre and the other one is a residential project.

WFM: How do you project the facades for your signature projects? How is the branding done through the facades?

JP: Facades make great statements. Facades also need to have the sustainability aspects captured on to it. The importance of facades were realised about 40 to 50 years back with the works of one of the greatest among the architects – Mies van der Rohe.When we talk about Facades, we are doing a project which is very special, showcasing innovative cladding. The whole concept of facade engineering is still in the developing stage in India.

Our project, the Statue of Unity at Gujarat, has a very interesting facade. It has got bronze cladding on its facade, which is very unique. From the technology perspective and installation perspective, and from the uniqueness perspective, it is truly different. Each panel used would be different since we are following the body contour. We all know that the facade and cladding consultant plays a very big role in this project.

WFM: Please tell us about some of your complex jobs on facades?

AS: We are doing many complex curtain wall jobs in Malaysia and have completed about 183 high-rise buildings in Malaysia. Some of them extremely multifaceted. Our expert in Facade based at Malasia, Nickey Haize, is managing these jobs very well.

WFM: Do you have any in-house team of facade consultants or do you hire any outside consultant?

AB: We have people, in-house experts, though we won’t call them consultants since they are part of our team. They have done several project including the Burj Khalifa at Dubai. So they understand and know all the details on it, hence we do not typically go to any consultants.

WFM: In all your other establishments abroad, you have directors for every department, which is missing in India. Why is it so? Do you think hiring facade consultants is a liability?

Facade is the skin of the project. It should be sleek and iconic. Hiring an expert for the facade design is very important. But budget is always a constraint.

WFM: Please tell us about the current facade design trends?

JP: I must say that aesthetics play a big role. When you are talking about the unitized curtainwall system, it is where the complexity lies. There is always structural engineering aspects related to it. It is where the engineering part is also related. There are various factors that play a big role. In India, when you look at it, when you take a balance approach, for an office building or a residential building, what you have is a twin glazed with a standard insulation. Most of the architects recommend this. I think it is a good solution and is a very practical one too. It is reasonably competitive in most of the weathers and geographical conditions we experience in India. But it does put certain amount of load in the mechanical systems, even on the air-conditioning systems. So we need to use it judiciously. Glass is a great material and we have very good manufacturers in India. We don’t need to import glass. All that we need to ensure is that, implementation of best of technologies.

Facade technology is a growing field in India and there is a lot more opportunities for many players to perform. As the buildings are becoming more and more complex in design, many foreign experts including architects are coming in to do these challenging projects. It puts tremendous stress on the contractors also.

Hearst Tower New York
Hearst Tower, New York
JW Marriott Hanoi
JW Marriott, Hanoi

WFM: When you are looking at the projects you are doing in India and abroad, do you follow the same measures in same manner in India? Is the budget again an issue here?

JP: We try to follow the same pattern and uniform process regardless of which country we operate from. But sometimes there are gaps. So that is why, when we take up a project, we feel that we are in a better position to implement the necessary changes and client see the value in this, though they pay a little more premium.

WFM: Globally you have done many wonderful projects and you have taken up many commendable projects in India. As you see the Indian building Industry is flooded with new ideas and technologies, pushing glass processors and glazing companies for new innovations and collaborations. What kind of quality control procedure do you follow while procuring the materials for your projects?

JP: We do the inspection at the factory and do the three crucial test before the materials being shipped. All these three tests are very important. As far as the curtain walls are concerned, the quality checks start from the factory. Then it is cut and sized and is ready for shipping. Next is tracking the fabrication and the production process and the quality control at the factory itself. Always random tests are done to ensure quality.

When it comes to the site, obviously one need to make sure that installations are in place, and you need to ensure that the site is ready to receive it. I do not recommend that the curtain wall being stored at the place. As soon as it reaches the site, it should be installed well.

Then we do the water, fire, wind tests followed by many other assessments that need to be done, which is part of the process.

Museum-of-Islamic-Art-Doha
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha
Pullman-Saigon
Pullman Saigon Centre Ho Chi Minh City

WFM: Could you please brief on the fire safety measures?

JP: The architect must specify the necessary fire stops, which are essential between the floors. This is the first aspect for safety. The glazing that comes has a panel which could be broken. Glazing comes with a fixed panel or a non-fixed panel which the firemen can identify. These things are of great importance.

When we do buildings, we identify the panels which can be accessed from outside during the event of fire. So it is not that the glass buildings are unsafe and people get trapped. We have to understand this and all the measures have to be taken appropriately.

WFM: What are the usual challenges you face during the construction of facades and fenestration?

JP: The biggest challenge that we face during the facade building is the delay in installation of facade which should be followed very swiftly. The biggest challenge we face is the delay in decision making on selecting a cladding contractor. Because of the delays, facade work does not start even after the completion of 60 percent the building structure. Only if the building is covered, one can start with the fit-out work. Facade is an envelope. The building cannot be left naked. Once the facade work is done on time, the productivity is very high. It is an offset process. It is similar to a pre-fab. It is all done off-site.

It is extremely important to start the facade work without any delay. The client must realise it too. The more he leaves the building open, he is actually risking his own project.

WFM: Could you please tell us about the challenges you face during installation of facades?

Mark A. Boyle (Mark): When you look at the facade industry today, we have a very limited market. There are not many major design projects, since the market has shrunk over the last 8 to 10 years. It is a challenging market right now and it is challenging in number of ways. When we evaluate the facade sub-contractor, or supplier, we first look at couple of things:

1. Their project management team: do they have a team to take on a major project
2. Their engineering capacity and skills to take up the project.

Reality is, until just recently, the major components like aluminium, glass, and the miscellaneous sealants and gaskets, were available in plenty in the world. But during last eight month, glass has become an issue. Now it is working its way out uniformly worldwide. We were doing the KL tower in Kuala Lumpur, it is a 118 story tower. We had to devide the total work to be able to get enough capacity to do the whole tower. In the US, a lot of fabrication is out sourced to various locations. Vietnam and Taiwan has become very competitive and is a heaven for fabrication & assembly of fabricated units. We haven’t looked at the Chinese market yet, though they can produce very good products. But they are not good at installation part. We are following the facade market worldwide.

The problem with the market sector or the trade is that it faces exposure to loss. 50 percent of Turner’s loss is due to the facade. Many of the facade consultants around the world are also facing the same problem. US is facing it terribly. We are facing the same problem, whether it is in Kuala Lumpur or in Mexico. It is a worldwide issue which we pay great attention to. I do not see any additional capacity coming in from any major company in this sector.

We at Turner, keep track of major facade suppliers. If you look at the major suppliers around the world, they all have changed hands. Thus we are seeing more and more consolidation in that fashion. The smaller, privately owned facade companies cannot sustain anymore.

WFM: What would be your advice to manufacturers and fabricators of doors and windows in India?

JP: Focus on quality control which is extremely important, with frequent visits at the sites. All in the business should maintain international standards.

We also strongly urge the local contractors and developers to stop manufacturing the doors and windows in the job sites. Instead go for good makes and not to compromise on quality. The customers are investing their hard earned money. So we have to make sure that we give good value to them. Also make sure all the commitments are honoured, and not to compromise on the quality. In India, we need to focus much more on the quality and there is a need for leap frog improvement.

WFM: What is the main factors that differentiate your firm from your competitors?

JP: There are many points which makes us superior. The two main points are: we are very customer centric and we are very people focused.

DLF-Mall-Of-India-Noida
DLF Mall Of India, Noida
Piramal-Vaikunth-Thane
Piramal Vaikunth, Thane
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