In this exclusive interview, we have the privilege of speaking with Enrico John Chavez, a distinguished professional with an illustrious career journey in the construction industry. With a background in Quantity Surveying and extensive leadership experience, John, as most people know him, brings valuable insights into the evolving landscape of cost management, sustainability, and the future of work in the construction industry.
As an Associate Director at Linesight, a global construction consultancy firm, he plays a pivotal role in managing a team of experts and delivering strategic advisory services to clients, in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and across the MENA region. Join us as John shares his experiences, thoughts on industry challenges, and the continuous strides that the construction industry is making toward a sustainable and prosperous future.
Could you start by telling us about your career journey and how you got to this point?
I began my career journey in the UAE by working with an MEP subcontractor as a Quantity Surveyor in 2005 and was involved in the expansion of Dubai International Airport. Subsequently, I held roles as a Commercial Analyst and Proposals Administrator in the oil and gas sector.
Unfortunately, the global recession hit in 2009, leading to a challenging period for many professionals, including myself, as opportunities became limited. However, luck was on my side, and I received an offer for a position in Abu Dhabi. There, I had the opportunity to work on notable projects such as the Yas Ferrari Experience Building, The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, and the Cleveland Clinic.
I consider my true professional journey to have started when I became a chartered professional with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). RICS is a globally recognized professional body that upholds the highest standards in qualifications with regard to property, infrastructure, and construction. The skills I developed through the chartership program allowed me to progress to the position of Senior Quantity Surveyor, where I began leading projects and teams.
In 2015, I joined Linesight, a global consultancy firm. My current role as an Associate Director at Linesight involves managing a team of 12 quantity surveyors and providing cost management services to our clients in the GCC region. During my employment with Linesight, I also have been fortunate to be qualified as a Fellow of RICS and am now an active counselor for my colleagues in Dubai. I was also a former National President and a Board Member of a Filipino QS organization, PICQS.
How does Linesight’s cost management approach contribute to the sustainability of construction projects?
Sustainability is ingrained in our business philosophy at Linesight, and as a purpose-driven business, we take our commitments to sustainability, social responsibility, and governance very seriously. Recently, we unveiled our 2022 Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) report, which showcases the comprehensive efforts the company is making for our people, clients, and the planet. The report aligns with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, demonstrating our commitment to global sustainability initiatives. Additionally, we have established a baseline GHG emissions inventory for 2022, setting the stage for reducing our carbon footprint.
For our clients, sustainability holds a central role in every Linesight project. As cost managers and project managers, we meticulously consider the whole-of-life costs in relation to the project’s entire life cycle. We also have a number of projects that have obtained certifications from reputable organizations like LEED and WELL in recent years, indicating our dedication to high sustainability standards.
On a personal level, I actively promote a paperless environment and strongly advocate for the ‘Triple R’ initiative – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Recognizing the impact of climate change on the next generation, I believe it is crucial to impart the importance of sustainability on a day-to-day basis to them, as they will likely be the ones most affected if we fail to manage this aspect responsibly.
How do you see the cost management profession evolving in the next 5-10 years, and how will Linesight stay ahead of the curve?
As the role of cost management evolves over the next 5 years, both people and technology will be key factors. As a business, Linesight has demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our unwavering focus is on our people and their development, and we strive to attract and retain the industry’s top talent and provide mentoring and training to help them reach their fullest potential. As a member of the leadership team in Dubai, I actively support Linesight’s initiative to promote mobility, which allows our colleagues to apply for opportunities in other countries where Linesight operates.
Moreover, we strongly support our team members in their pursuit of becoming chartered professionals, particularly through reputable organizations like the RICS. Through our Learning and Development committee, we regularly review training courses to enhance the competence of our colleagues.
Over the next 5 years, technology and digitization will play a significant role in cost management. Business intelligence, artificial intelligence, analytical technologies (such as predictive analytics), and construction technologies like BIM, VR, and drones are increasingly being utilized. Improved software and systems, along with trained professionals, are empowering our clients to make informed decisions and drive efficiencies. These advancements are shaping the future of cost management at Linesight and beyond.
What are some of the key challenges that the construction industry is facing in the Middle East, and how is Linesight helping to address them?
Considering the current market conditions, attracting and retaining the right people has become a significant challenge for the industry. The competition has intensified, primarily due to the numerous large-scale and giga-projects underway, which aim to stimulate the regional economy.
From a management standpoint, continuing to deliver high-quality work to our clients is crucial, as it positions us to secure more projects in the future. Additionally, we acknowledge the value of diverse and inclusive teams, as they tend to be more innovative, creative, and effective at problem-solving. As a people-focused company, we recognize that our success, as well as the success of our clients, is built on strong relationships. To foster these relationships, we are dedicated to creating a culture of inclusiveness at all levels and adhering rigorously to the principle of equity in all our selection, internal and external processes.
Another key challenge in the construction industry lies in the supply chain and logistics. The increased demand from active projects in the region has led to difficulties in sourcing materials and has caused unnecessary cost premiums. At Linesight, we aim to address this challenge by providing alternative options and innovative solutions for consideration, adding value to projects that we manage. Additionally, we offer regular market intelligence through our Country Insights and Commodity Reports, as understanding commodity price fluctuations and potential supply chain disruptions is crucial for ensuring robust construction timelines.
What are your thoughts on the future of work in the construction industry, and how is Linesight preparing for it?
Based on current trends, we have forecasted a highly positive outlook for the construction industry in the UAE and across the MENA region. MEED, a leading source of business intelligence in the Middle East, has recently published a report stating that the industry in this region will outperform the global market. Consequently, there will be substantial demand for consultants and professionals to deliver these projects.
Consultancy firms like Linesight must be well-equipped with the right tools and resources to cater to our valuable clients’ needs. However, as an industry, we must also take proactive steps to attract the next generation and ensure that a career in construction is perceived as a viable and enticing option. Key strategies to achieve this involve fostering the right culture within our firms, offering exciting career opportunities, and showcasing how construction careers can have a positive impact on the UAE’s built environment and cityscapes. By implementing these measures, we can effectively encourage younger generations to join the industry, thereby enriching the talent pool and sustaining its growth.
How do you manage your team? How do you ensure work productivity without causing burnout?
In terms of managing a team and my leadership style, I have been called ‘Kuya’, which means an elder brother in our Filipino language, as I act like one! Leadership starts with setting a good example, as well as empowering others to be their best.
Creating a healthy and collaborative environment is part of our culture at Linesight. Our team also regularly catches up at social or CSR events, which allows us to actively contribute to and have a positive impact on the people and communities around us.
Work-life balance is deeply important when it comes to work productivity without causing burnout. I always explain to new staff that a typical working day can be split into 3 segments, and a third of it is allocated to work but the other two-thirds are your own time, and if these are out of balance then it affects the rest, particularly your time with the family and even sleeping habits. Of course, there are days that we need to cater to the needs of the project, and in order to serve our client and deliver a quality service, some extra hours of work are required from the entire team in order to achieve the required task.
We also like to bring some fun to work! For example, we regularly hold office pool and dart competitions which are great ways to connect with colleagues.
Could you tell us something more about your services and upcoming projects? Would you like to say anything else to our viewers?
Our mission is to deliver trusted strategic advisory services continually and consistently to our clients in the region through our professionals and skilled team members, who are empowered and motivated to collaborate for success.
As for some words of advice to the viewers of UAE Times, the construction industry in the United Arab Emirates is experiencing rapid growth, and this trend is expected to continue beyond 2023. The industry offers numerous career opportunities across various fields, and professionals with diverse skill sets can find rewarding careers as it flourishes. Hence, I recommend that you invest more time to develop yourself and aim to get qualified from reputable organizations that will be able to support your professional journey.
And lastly, I think it’s important that wherever you choose to work, the culture, values, and ethos speak to you – that you buy into the organisation’s purpose and vision. For me, one of the key tenets of our employer brand really resonates is: We are Linesight. Dynamic. Driven. Different.
Connect with Enrico John Chavez on LinkedIn.
Journalist:- Sangeet Kumar
A versatile journalist, navigates the media landscape with finesse. As a dedicated reporter, he crafts compelling stories that captivate diverse audiences. His bylines grace numerous news portals, delivering insightful coverage across topics. Sangeet’s passion for truth and storytelling fuels his impactful contributions to the world of journalism.