Q: Hugh, you recently won a project with Sydney Airport – can you tell us a little bit about that and what that project means from Umow Lai’s perspective?
A: This is a really exciting step in our relationship with both Sydney Airport Design Inc (Architect) which has been gaining momentum through hard work and perseverance over 5 years or more. The project is the expansion of the Sydney Terminal 2 Check In Hall which is both direly needed from an airport capacity point of view, but will also be an iconic development at Sydney Airport as it is new first thing you see when entering the Domestic precinct, and the first interaction for passengers within Terminal 2.
So from Umow Lai’s perspective it is an honour to be entrusted with such a significant and strategically important project for Sydney Airport.
Q: You also recently won a tender for a peer review role for Inner Sydney High School for Schools Infrastructure NSW. Can you tell us about that project and your involvement?
A: The Inner Sydney high School project is a major exercise to redevelop the existing site (previously known as Cleveland Street Intensive English High School) into an all new high school which includes full refurbishment of the existing 3 heritage listed buildings on the site, and then construction of an all-new 12 storey tower in one of the first high rise schools to be constructed in NSW.
Umow Lai’s involvement started with a peer review of the design documentation for Schools Infrastructure, and has expanded to include a watching brief engagement to include construction stage and finalisation assistance to ensure the Government is provided with a high quality outcome for their long term use as a learning environment.
Q: Can you explain in layman’s terms – what does a peer review involve in this context?
A: The peer review role is really to keep an eye on the design and construction process from the perspective of the end client (in this case the NSW Government). The role is independent of the construction team, so our vested interest is in the government getting a high quality outcome only.
Q: Your expertise is in Mechanical Engineering. What made you want to pursue this discipline in particular?
A: I really wanted to be an aeronautical engineer after working at a large architectural practice in London. This was in my backpacking days. When I got back home (Sydney) I realised I wouldn’t get into that course so I “settled” for Mechanical (being very similar) – best decision I ever made because I loved it from the start.
Q: What value do you believe that Mechanical Engineers bring to large projects, particularly in the Aviation space?
A: A really interesting element of the Aviation space is the fact that airports are very large public buildings that typically require a significant level of fire life safety systems that do not necessarily fall within specific categories in the building standards. As such, smoke management systems play a vital role in maintaining a safe environment for passengers.
Q: You seem to be winning a lot of projects lately despite it being a highly competitive market. What do you think people are really looking for in their building services engineers?
A: This is a service industry and the most important thing we can do is provide a good quality, personal service to our clients. I think clients are looking to work with people that will listen and try to understand their needs, and then react in a highly tailored way to meet their requirements and solve their problems.
I think clients also like to see some passion.
Q: In the context of building services, what are some of the most interesting changes or trends you have noticed in the Sydney market recently?
A: The obvious answer is the prevalence of Design and Construct as a procurement model. However, the trend I have noticed is that the level of engagement of consultants fluctuates in a seemingly cyclical fashion. I know of plenty of examples of clients who have moved towards D&C, then had a bad experience, then move back to full design (or at least more design) – and then move back again.