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“The materials’ fire rating and fire-resistant criteria shall be crossed checked with the FLS engineers during selection”
Moemen AbdElkader, P&T Group, RIBA
Please tell our readers about your design practice.
Architectural design is one the most essential design practices that has a vital interaction with our daily life. We live in homes that are designed by architects and go to offices, schools, hospitals, malls, hotels, etc. which are all designed by architects. Hence, architecture is playing a vital role in our lives. Even though we are hired by our clients we always need to remember that we are designing for humans after all.
Could you please tell us about your journey in the field?
Even before knowing the meaning of architecture, it has been always my passion to be an architect. Since my early ages, my parents had noticed that I was more oriented to construction and imaginary games, enjoying drawing and sketching. Once graduated from the School of Architecture, I was qualified to be a Teacher Assistant in the same school due to my honoured grades during the five years of architectural study.
A few years later, I came to Dubai and started my real Architectural practice. Dubai is deemed as the gate that I passed through to see the whole world. I have been involved in the design of many projects with professional architects beyond the UAE boundaries. Nevertheless, I joined P&T Group 11 years ago, and since then, I have been given the responsibility to lead mega-scale projects in the Middle East and Africa, in collaboration with professional P&T team members throughout our branch in Dubai.
Why did you think of becoming an architect?
I was lucky enough to be loving what I do. Some people spend their whole lives trying to find themselves in a profession they love. In my first year at college, I found out that I can spend endless hours sketching in the studio without feeling time passing. Hence, I realised that I was on the right path
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
Thinking as the building user! When designing a school, you have to think like a kid or a teacher, designing a healthcare facility, while thinking like a patient, doctor, nurse, etc. Sometimes the commercial aspect overwhelms our profession. Thus, we have to always remember that we are designing for humans, that will stay in those buildings for around 80% of their lives.
How do you go about choosing materials for the façade and cladding?
The building envelope is like the human skin that filters the undesirable elements and interacts positively with the surrounding context. It has a visual and environmental aspect that affects the design efficiency from both psychological and physical perspectives, respectively. Our skin characteristics change according to the region, and so does the building façade. Thus, involving energy modelling at early design stages plays a vital role in the shape, design, material, and specifications of the façade envelope.
What do you think is the role of a Facade in the Sustainability Enhancement of a building?
In my opinion, the façade plays more than 60% in enhancing the energy efficiency of a building. Coordinating the MEP efficiency with our engineers will be meaningless if the wrong façade is specified. The façade maintains the optimum heat gain, noise level, daylight, air/water tightness, and views. Hence, providing internal spaces at an adequate comfort level for the building users.
Please tell us about your favourite projects in which you were involved.
Dubai Commercity – It is the first free zone in the MENA region dedicated to the e-commerce business. DAFZA – the client – advised dividing the project into 2 phases, each phase is subdivided into three main zones; The Business cluster consists of six office buildings with external shaded courtyards, the logistics cluster is a free zone light industrial units that accommodate a class B storage type, and the social cluster which is a public resilient space with two multifunctional buildings that acts as a transition element between the business and the logistic clusters. Phase 1 is completed in 2020, whilst Phase 2 is currently under construction.
Where is the architectural industry heading (globally or in the country where you work)?
Architecture is one of the fundamental seven arts and will remain. However, like many other industries, architecture has been affected by globalisation, the world wide web, and Artificial Intelligence, and will continue to be impacted by many others in the future. We have to admit that architecture is a profitable business, with continuously upgrading tools. Nevertheless, the complexity of the human in which the buildings are made would be the only criteria that maintain the humanistic aspect of the architectural industry.
Please explain the role of design systems in fire-safe buildings.
There are four main design systems or elements that shall be considered in any safe building:
Detection; smoke and fire detection systems
Alarms and Notifications; through public address and voice alarm systems
Suppression; such as sprinklers, extinguishers, hose reels, and foam suppression systems
Evacuation; designing safe, fire-rated egress routes, and fire-resistant building construction
In P&T, we recommend involving fire & life safety engineering from the concept design stage till obtaining the Civil Defense approval. The FLS strategy has a vital impact on the architectural, structural, and MEP designs that have to be considered from the early design stages. Moreover, all the involved designers and engineers have to be aware of the FLS fundamentals, which realistically ease the process and expedite the design program duration.
Brief about the choice of materials considering fire safety.
The materials’ fire rating and fire-resistant criteria shall be crossed checked with the FLS engineers during selection. All the materials have to be tested by the stated labs in the enclosed material specifications issued in the design development stage. I consider that the construction specifications – in whichever format – are the spinal cord of the design.
What is your vision for 2030?
To be continued, by many visions and endless ambition. The ME region has been vitally contributing to shaping the future for the past few decades, and now it has been proven to the world that the Middle East will be the new focal point and desirable touristic destination in the coming decades.
What kind of cities would you like to see?
I would love to see functionally developed cities, that are coherent with the urban community, whilst providing a healthy social environment for its habitants. The more our tools are in continuous development, the more we shall be able to foresee our futuristic needs.
One piece of advice you would like to give to aspiring architects?
I would like first to thank you for the interview, and I would like to highlight that the architecture and the development of our building environment rely on the awareness of the architect. Hence, continuous professional development shall be a vital key element in any profession. We had an Architectural Professor that used to say: “Our profession is relatively affecting human life more than a doctor. The Doctor’s mistake may affect one human, whilst the architect’s mistake may affect all the building users for around 50-60 years”. The architect can either provide adequate successful space for living or undesirable spaces that negatively impact the social and sustainable environment.
Moemen AbdElkader, P&T Group, RIBA
Moemen AbdElkader is a Senior Associate - Architect | RIBA, in P&T Group. P&T group was first established in Hong Kong in 1868, and offers a full range of architectural, structural, and mechanical engineering, planning, and project management services, with full support from in-house interior and graphic design divisions. Moemen had contributed to the long journey of implementing an experience with various numbers of projects in the Middle East, and Africa, which are emphasized by diversity in playing the role of his team members that participated positively in the elaboration of his overall experience & career in Architectural Design. He is a Former Teacher Assistant in the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture Department, October 6 University.