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Digital Printing will Revolutionize the Façade & Fenestration Industry
In conversation with the Team of Window & Façade Magazine, Robert Stephens (Executive Director & Founding Partner, Inhabit, The Middle East & Europe) talked about the activities of Inhabit, What are their Strategies and Future Plans. Here are the excerpts…
Please Brief us on the History and Objective Behind the Formation of “Inhabit”?
Inhabit is a unique, multi-disciplinary team of professionals who are passionate about making a positive contribution to our built environment. Established in 2010, with offices across Asia Pacific, the Middle East and UK,
Inhabit has developed a diverse international body of work that includes partnerships with some of the most creative and celebrated architects around the world, resulting in a wealth of experience in different project types and scales.
Please Highlight Briefly About Your Services.
We are a collective of experienced architects, designers, engineers and contractors who work both independently and in partnership to form a holistic approach to the services that we offer including façade consulting, lighting design, acoustic engineering, logistics, building physics and sustainability consulting, façade diagnostics and remediation.
We believe that our respective areas of expertise can be integrated to allow seamless interdisciplinary synergy to create buildings that are more relevant to our evolving society.
Could you Tell us About Inhabit’s Some Latest Projects?
Sustainability Pavilion, Cable Facade, Dubai
In terms of prestigious projects in the region, we have been involved with the key/core components of Expo 2020. These projects are centrally located at Al Wasl Plaza Hotel and residence buildings, The Sustainability Pavilion and the UAE Expo Pavilion.
The Sustainability Pavilion employs a unique pretensioned cable wall design with patch fittings which do not penetrate the glass. The patch fittings have been conceived, engineered and developed by Inhabit based upon Grimshaw Architects intent.
To achieve this new and unique design, we worked closely with specialist façade contractors “JML”. The UAE Expo pavilion has very complex, 3-dimensional warped geometry with 30m operable wings constructed in high performance GRP. We are assisting market leaders WME (local multidisciplinary consultants) and international architects and engineers “Calatrava” to deliver the project. Special attention has been given to materials and geometry of this project.
Al Wasl Plaza is constructed using a very high performance, fully unitised stepped construction to get the LEED platinum certification. We are also working on the iconic project “One Zabeel” at Trade Centre. One Zabeel is designed and constructed for Ithra, the development arm of ICD. ICD is the principal investment arm of the government of Dubai.
Sustainability Pavilion During Construction – Expo 2020, Dubai
The building consists two 50+ storey towers, which are interconnected by way of a mega structure cantilever link. The link straddles a 4 lane highway and is said to be the largest cantilever in the world. We have been involved with the project from concept to construction, working with internationally renowned architects Nikken Sekkei, project managers Mace, main contractor Alec and façade subcontractors Al Abbar.
We have provided the coordinated inputs for this project, such as the design, construction and maintenance of the soffit link and providing an integrated façade design in terms of movement, structure, lighting and energy performance for the building envelope.
What Benefits can Inhabit Bring to a Project?
Bluewaters Island, Dubai
Inhabit’s approach is centred on finding innovative solutions that provide quality and efficiency cost effectively. We are committed to collaboration with other like-minded designers, with the experience and knowledge to understand that successful collaboration will lead to a successful outcome. Our experienced global team works seamlessly across many geographies to deliver a better built environment.
What Strategies is Inhabit Implementing to Ensure Continuous Innovations?
Inhabit is continually engaging with the market leaders for products and technologies as well as engaging with progressive design thinkers in architecture, engineering, industrial design and related fields to keep the emerging technologies and development at the forefront.
DIFC Gate Retail Dubai
To ensure continuous innovations, we employ the following strategies:
• An open company culture where ideas can be freely exchanged between disciplines and geographies. Communication between staff from all levels of experience is encouraged
• A commitment to invest and try the latest technologies and equipment in order to allow our staff to experiment and investigate new possibilities.
What is your View on the Future of Façade and Fenestration Technologies as well as Materials?
My view on the future of façade and fenestration technologies is that digital printing, in either metals and/or high performance plastics, will likely revolutionise the industry in the near future.
What are Inhabit’s Expansion Plans?
In June 2019, Inhabit entered in a partnership with Egis, Europe’s leading consulting and engineering firm, to form a design-led consulting group with a global capability.
This will allow the team to become one of the world’s leading specialised engineering firms with an uninterrupted service chain, ranging from early conceptual design, right through to delivery and construction guarantees. This will see the continuing growth of services to provide ambitious environmental and low-carbon design at both city and building scales.
What do you See as the Main Challenges Faced by your Industry?
In this region, I think the main challenge is the development of the industry in terms of quality, and cost, which has suffered due to loss of knowledge. The loss of knowledge in the past has been largely due to the transient expat base for the industry.
Hopefully, with some of the new residency initiatives the Dubai Government is implementing, we will see more expats settle permanently here and with more local people being employed in our industry. We will also see a better retention in knowledge which should lead to improved cost and quality of construction.
What were the Biggest Milestones for 2018?
In Dubai, the biggest milestones for us were some of our previously done prestigious projects, UAE Expo pavillion and OneZabeel. We also managed to grow in a challenging economy, which I think is a testament to our care, dedication and reputation in the region.
Where do you see your Company in 2020?
In 2020, I would see our company continue to work with new and established forward-thinking clients to deliver innovative and cost-effective solutions across the region.
Executive Director & Founding Partner
Robert Stephens is an Executive Director for Inhabit, responsible for group operations in the Middle East and Europe. He has over 20 years of façade construction experience in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. For the last 15 years, he has been heading up specialist façade teams servicing projects in the Middle East and U.K.
Robert Stephens has broad experience in the field, working with both concrete and steel construction. He has worked on a wide variety of projects - large-scale and multiple-plot retail projects to singular mega high-rise projects. He has developed particular expertise with regard to the design and construction of lightweight steel façade structures and warped geometries. His articles were published in the Steel Construction Institute U.K. and the Institute of Structural Engineers U.K. on sustainable design. He has also presented at technical conferences around the world.