For BuroHappold Engineering Middle East MD Andrea Scotti, collaboration, connectivity and creativity are crucial to the success of modern, innovative undertakings in today’s built environment
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Ryan Gray
I have been captivated by the construction industry for as long as I can remember.
“Large infrastructure projects such as major bridges and dams have always fascinated me because of their intrinsic conceptual simplicity and their large scale and impact.
“What I’ve found to be interesting, however, is that the more I studied and practiced engineering, the more I realised that the technical aspects of all projects are at the same time the most complicated and least complex element of overall efforts.
“All engineering challenges are fantastically complicated. Yet, for me, the real complexities lie in the interdependencies between several different aspects of the design, planning, use, and impact of any project.”
Leaving full time higher education with two master’s degrees and a notable respect for the vast multitude of niche verticals comprising the built environment, Andrea Scotti embarked on an ambitious career in 2004, securing his first job with international, integrated engineering consultancy BuroHappold Engineering.
Looking back 15 years later, it’s safe to say that this calling has proven to be something of a perfect fit.
Now positioned as the organisation’s Middle East Managing Director, Scotti’s own expertise as a development enabler match up with BuroHappold’s pragmatic approach to solving the most complex challenges of the built environment, the company flexibly delivering value to its client’s time and time again via an emphasis on ownership.
“BuroHappold is a partnership. Not many other organisations in the industry are like us,” Scotti explains.
“This structure ensures that every development we are involved with and every relationship we have is ultimately led by an owner of the company – an element that brings a markedly different approach to everything we do.
“For us, it is personal. We really make sure that everything hinges on close working relationships within our teams and with our clients and collaborators.”
A philosophy that’s become entwined with a broad reach spanning Asia, India, the Middle East, Europe, the UK and United States, the enterprise has successfully nurtured an ideal balance between global pre-eminence and local knowledge within each of the markets that it operates.
The firm’s emphasis on connectivity underpins this two-pronged approach, recognising the merits of collaboration, cooperation and communication between its network of branches.
“We’re spread globally but are still agile enough to be fully connected with each other,” Scotti affirms.
“There is virtually no project that is delivered by a single office in isolation from the rest of the practice. We have managed to maintain a really impressive internal, informal harmony that allows us to always deploy the best resources and knowhow available to any project around the world.”
Indeed, there are countless developments which showcase the successes of BuroHappold’s modus operandi, Scotti himself calling upon a select few highlights in the Middle East including the company’s involvement in the Atturaif Living Museum Project.
Once the seat of governance of the House of Saud, Atturaif was abandoned in 1818 when the Ottomans seized the city, the historic political epicentre gradually deteriorating over the next near-two centuries. In 2007, however, BuroHappold was appointed to lead an integrated team of architects, engineers, restoration consultants, quantity surveyors and contractors to revive the 58-acre site – an undertaking which it achieved with the highest levels of client satisfaction.
Outlining the company’s diverse expertise, Scotti also goes on to point to its role in the design and delivery of the Museum of the Future in Dubai – a structure that has quickly become one of the continent’s most iconic buildings – as well as the part it played in the completion of similarly infamous Louvre Abu Dhabi, Future Riyadh and Tuwaiq Palace.
“There’s so much to choose from,” he states, before citing similar optimism about the firm’s future project pipeline.
“It has never been more exciting. We’re eyeing up everything from paradigm-defining cultural work in the UAE to planning and consulting work in Saudi Arabia and a number of other opportunities in Kuwait.”
Indeed, BuroHappold’s own expertise as a development enablement specialist have been and will continue to be paramount in each and every one of its project successes.
Yet so too have its partners, contractors, vendors and suppliers, the company rarely understating the importance of these entities and their individual skillsets.
“They are of key importance to what we do,” Scotti declares.
“In order to develop cradle-to-grave solutions for any client, we really rely on a web of trusted collaborators whom we can call upon for the right opportunities. As I have said before, developments are generally very complex and only a cooperative and flexible effort between planners, consultants, engineers, contractors, economists, lawyers and so on can tackle such complexities.
“We would definitely miss a large component of the added value in what we deliver without those partners and collaborators.”
Similar respect is also paid to the firm’s 1,700-strong workforce.
Readily positioned as a champion of transformation across a vast range of segments within the built environment, Scotti pays homage to both the firm’s expert team itself and the firm’s overriding emphasis on diversity as two key facets of its long-term success.
“Our company was founded on Ted Happold’s idea that “the best work is done by the most diverse group of talents who can still work together”, and we are really making sure that this is delivered in all of our teams,” he affirms, pointing to his Middle East team as a prime example.
“We invest heavily in the progression of our employees and have several development programmes supporting the wellbeing of our people, ensuring no one is ever isolated.”
These admirable, responsible attitudes are not limited to the company’s internal operations, the firm able to say the same about its societal efforts as its employee practices in the way of wellbeing.
“We embrace mutual responsibility and understand that a sustainable future is pivotal to the economic and social impact of our work,” Scotti reveals. “Likewise, we actively engage with the communities in which we operate through charitable outreach programmes.”
In the case of the latter, BuroHappold’s Share Our Skills initiative is one that is particularly inspirational.
Empowering its employees to carry out charitable work during regular working hours, the company is able to facilitate numerous activities across both international communities in Africa, Asia and South America and those nearby to its local offices.
“Our Los Angeles team works with the likes of Homeboy Inc, Los Angeles Eco Village and Our Foods to address numerous sustainable development issues such as criminal justice, affordable housing, and sustainable food supplies, for example,” Scotti states.
“Further, the company also has a long history of supporting the Happold Foundation – a charity dedicated to using engineering skills and experience to make a positive impact on people’s lives – and contributes two percent of its net profits in Mumbai to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund which provides immediate relief to the families of those affected by natural disasters such as floods, cyclones and earthquakes.”
Looking to the future, these corporate social investment initiatives are expected to grow thanks to the wider trajectory of the whole business.
Right now, BuroHappold is flourishing, further reflected by its increasing emphasis on the application of technology.
“Here, we are taking a relatively unique approach,” Scotti explains. “We’ve decided to invest in having 100 percent digital literacy across all levels of the company, pushing for everyone, from partners to consultants to technicians, to be able to manipulate and understand code.
“We believe that only once this has been achieved will we be able to achieve a proper transformation in the way we interact with the rest of the industry.”
Proactivity to this end will stand BuroHappold in good stead when it comes to capitalising on technology, a segment of the industry that the Middle East MD believes is poised to explode in the coming years.
“It’s an exciting time,” he affirms.
“Construction is deeply influenced by modularisation and rapid digital prototyping. Engineering and architecture are finally leveraging the power of collaborative digital platforms, facility management is being pushed by new technology into more coherent and predictive elements, the real estate market is ready for a complete shift to online secure transactions, and we have started harnessing data in everything we do – plan, design, build and operate.”
Achieving digital literacy is just one of two key priorities for the company moving forward, however, the other being the pursuit of a renewed structural model in an attempt to create a net-zero carbon culture, both internally on its operations and externally on its projects.
All elements combined, the coming years will no doubt consist of a period of great change for the enterprise. Yet Scotti and his team remain optimistic, owed to the buoyant direction that the industry is beginning to take.
He concludes: “After a few years of extreme competitive pressure in the Middle East, I am now extremely confident about the direction of the construction industry. The right developments are now being planned by the right clients, with the right intent and the right funding.
“It is quite refreshing to see, and more and more, quality of the final product is the key driver for decisions. Our industry has grown in its knowledge, practices and behaviours, and it’s good to witness this evolution and be part of its continuous improvement.”