Ireland's only dedicated building services engineering journal
Ireland's only dedicated building services engineering journal
Michael O’Doherty, Director, Delap & Waller

After significant market research the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, it chose Abu Dhabi as its target market due to its significant plans in construction for “Plan Abu Dhabi 2030”. Its proximity to Dubai, allowing for a recovery in that market over time, was also an important factor in selecting Abu Dhabi.

Three potential routes to market were originally identified:

— The first was for a Delap and Waller Director to be located in Abu Dhabi on a full time basis to carry out all lead generation and to manage projects directly;

— Another option was to form an alliance with an established local M&E consultant and seek work together;

— The final option was to employ someone with significant UAE experience to manage the operations in Abu Dhabi, with monthly business development input from a Delap and Waller Director.

Delap and Waller chose the latter option and so, for the last three years, Director Michael O’Doherty has been visiting Abu Dhabi on a monthly basis. The first task in establishing the business in the UAE was to secure a strong local Abu Dhabi sponsor. Six months of meeting with various potential suitors resulted in Delap & Waller committing to Bin Hamoodah Group (, a very influential family group with 45 years trading experience in Abu Dhabi in various sectors.

With the sponsor secured, the subsequent search for an Area Manager led to Paul Hockings, an English ex-pat and former director of WSP in Dubai, who had lived and worked in the UAE for over 20 years. The combined efforts of the above team have resulted in a significant workload over the past three years.

Design work on some projects is carried out in Ireland, while on others the design is carried out in the Abu Dhabi office. Some of the notable projects carried out to date include:

Das Island, HVAC Systems for Central — Amenities Building for 6000 staff: MEP Design/Periodic Inspection;

King Abdullah Sports City, Saudi Arabia —  Design Review/Value Engineering;

Mid Field Terminal Building, Abu Dhabi Airport — Design Review/Value Engineering;

Premier Inn, ADNEC — Abu Dhabi, MEP Design/Periodic Inspection;

Al Queisewerh Military Airport — MEP Design/Periodic Inspection;

Strategic Water Project — Abu Dhabi, MEP Design/Periodic Inspection;

Yas Marina Restaurants for 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix — MEP Design/Periodic Inspection.

While the monthly visits do have some disadvantages, Delap & Waller has found that overall the combination of a strong local sponsor, the permanent in-market presence of an area manager with significant local experience, along with frequent input by a Delap and Waller Director, has given the company a successful and affordable formula to steadily build the practice in the region.

Despite the 6,000km distance between Ireland and the UAE, the direct 7-hour flights from Dublin to Abu Dhabi eases the burden of monthly travel, with the outstanding Ethiad flight experience significantly reducing stress levels.

The next stage of the business plan is to increase the number of staff based full-time in Abu Dhabi in order to grow the company’s market presence and allow it complete its growing workload. Next year will see Delap & Waller implement this stage of the plan, with the recent approval of its largest project in the region to date – Bausher Heights in Oman.

This is a 37-acre mixed-use site that will house residential, hotel, educational and healthcare facilities. Its progress into design and onto site will allow Delap & Waller the prospect of adding to staff numbers in its Abu Dhabi Office, and hopefully go from strength to strength in the UAE over the next five years.

Abu Dhabi has learned from the mistakes made by Dubai in the mid- 2000s. It is more conservative and is moving at a slower pace, but has significant plans to boost its residential, hotel, retail and commercial sectors. The recent award of Expo 2020 to Dubai can only enhance the renewed confidence of the region, and construction sector, over the next few years in the UAE.

“At Delap and Waller we are hopeful we can embrace the opportunities this industry recovery represents and use it to grow and expand our presence in the Middle East into the future”, concludes Michael O’Doherty.