In conversation with Compass Project Consulting’s Regional Director Construction Management Richard Cushnan, discusses the company’s beliefs, exciting projects, sustainability, and how an effective team is the key to success.

By Roma Arora

How does Compass differentiate itself as an award-winning project development consultancy in terms of its approach and values?

At Compass, our commitment to excellence is underscored by the personal and hands-on approach we bring to every project.  Clients are in close contact not only with our construction management delivery team but also with senior leadership, often on a daily basis.  This level of accessibility and dedication is the hallmark of our client-centric approach.

What truly sets us apart is our unwavering dedication to being there for our clients whenever they need us.  Our team is at your service 24/7, offering unwavering support throughout the project’s lifecycle, from the earliest pre-construction and design stages right through to the culmination of the construction phase and handover.

Could you share some insights into the sectors you cater to and how your tailored services benefit clients across these sectors?

Our experienced staff specialises at providing complete support across a wide range of industries, including hospitality, industrial, healthcare, and the workplace, as well as anywhere clients want expert construction management control, particularly during the construction period.

Our primary area of expertise is commercial office fit-out, where we specialise in providing cost-effective turnkey design and build solutions.  We’ve executed various office space projects spanning thousands of square metres while meeting timelines and financial limits every time.  Notably, where possible, we specialise in increasing the value and sustainability of designs.  This allows us to precisely personalise solutions to our clients’ ethos and budgets.

In a current specific project, under the umbrella of confidentiality agreements, we’ve demonstrated our ability to support the asset owners by optimising design to achieve cost efficiencies exceeding 60%, all while preserving the original design intent and specifications.

ENVI Al Nakheel, Al Hasa, KSA. CLIENT: Afyaa Group and ENVI Eco-lodges DESIGN: Fractal Architects & Kristina Zanic Consultants

What key attributes or strengths do you believe make your team effective project leaders and communicators?

Drawing from the insights of our valued clients, it’s clear that our team’s exceptional background in engineering, construction, and contracting is a pivotal advantage. This unique blend of expertise allows us to seamlessly comprehend the intricate needs of both clients and contractors, ensuring projects are not only completed on schedule but also within the defined budgetary constraints.Our philosophy is rooted in pragmatism, and we lead the charge in guiding contractors and the broader supply chain to uphold program and project commitments while staying firmly within budgetary boundaries.

What sets us apart is our proactive stance in tackling technical challenges.  We empower our team to resolve issues without burdening the client with every minor decision. This streamlined approach not only enables contractors to maintain a swift pace but also sustains the project’s momentum throughout the construction phase.

Furthermore, our involvement begins at the conceptual design stage.  This early engagement equips us with an intimate understanding of the project’s complexities right from the outset.  It’s this holistic perspective that sets the stage for success from day one, ensuring that our clients’ projects are in the hands of experts who leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of excellence.

Can you discuss any notable projects that have contributed to Compass’s dynamic and well-respected reputation?

Over the last 14 years, before I recently joined Compass, their impressive reputation has always been very professional and well-respected, delivering a diverse range of projects, throughout the region, and even internationally.  Not bad for a 9-year-old, UAE-born, homegrown consultancy!

Compass has evolved into a global player with a varied portfolio of over 800 completed projects.  Sindalah Island, NEOM; Bustanica – World’s Largest Vertical Farm: An award-winning achievement displaying agricultural innovation; Reem Mall in Abu Dhabi; Envi Lodges, Al Hasa; luxury private residential projects, among others.

In what ways do you integrate sustainability and innovation into your projects to enhance the built environments and communities you work on?

Our ongoing involvement in a sustainable hospitality project showcases our commitment to innovation.  We’re pioneering the use of Modular construction, integrating sustainable design features and products into the value engineering process, aligning with our client’s sustainability goals.

The key to our success lies in a collaborative team approach, involving ourselves, our client, and designers.  Together, we work towards collective approval and establish a well-defined plan that not only meets but exceeds time and cost targets.

Our strategy involves value engineering materials, leveraging local supply chains, and streamlining designs to generate cost savings.  These savings, in turn, provide the flexibility to allocate a greater budget to sustainable solutions within the project.  This holistic approach ensures that sustainability is not just a goal but a reality, making a positive impact on both the environment and the bottom line.

ENVI Al Nakheel, KSA: Twenty five biophilic pods surrounded by date palm trees each with its private pool.

What regions are you currently focussing on in the Middle East and beyond, and do you have plans to expand further?

While our primary focus remains on the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the breadth of our knowledge and our globally experienced staff enable us to provide solutions to clients throughout the MENA region and beyond.  In fact, we’ve produced and supported projects in places as diverse as Oman, Bahrain, Seychelles, India, and even the Bahamas!

Currently, we’re actively engaged in devising solutions for a private villa and Hospitality project in the Seychelles.  This experience positions us perfectly in assisting new clients in executing projects in these exotic and challenging locations.  Our commitment to excellence knows no bounds, and we’re ready to bring our expertise to any corner of the world where ambitious projects await.

Could you elaborate on the core values or principles that guide your consultancy’s approach to project development and client relationships?

Teamwork may be an old cliche, but it is the foundation of our success.  Compass recognises that our strength comes from the steadfast support of our clients and supply chain partners.  We work as a single team, representing our fundamental values of promoting inclusivity, ethical excellence, problem solving, and winning together.

Could you elaborate on how your team’s collective attention for precision contributes to defining goals, establishing realistic schedules, and managing budgets throughout the project development process?

At Compass, we work backward from the project’s end date, carefully planning each phase – engineering, design, authority approvals, procurement, and lastly, the construction timeline. We can mitigate construction challenges, however items not within normal parameters for mitigation have to be set in stone and so we maneuver around them.

Our primary drivers are engineering and procurement schedules.  Timely placement of long lead items is of paramount importance, and we meticulously track these milestones using comprehensive logs.  A delivery register is kept in sequence with the baseline program and as long as we have the financial support of our valued clients we won’t fail on the deliverables or timeline.

We focus tracking project progress through the procurement lens from the start.  Material supply is coordinated with the programme, with an emphasis on “just in time delivery” to avoid site clutter with unneeded materials.

This streamlined strategy allows us to align the project’s cash flow with the agreed budgets of our clients.  The result is a straightforward and pre-approved payment plan that seamlessly aligns with their capital expenditure (CAPEX) requirements.   Because of our dedication to transparency and precision, our clients may securely negotiate the financial aspects of their projects.

How do you approach challenges and complexities that arise during the project lifecycle, and how does your team ensure successful project completion?

At the heart of our approach, we circle back to our Compass Core Values of “Solutions Minded” and “Winning Together.”  Our entire team engages, supporting one another to achieve shared success.  No one faces challenges alone; we’re all in this together.

While we might have the occasional ‘’exciting’’ team meeting, our unity is the real star.  We function as a cohesive unit, all driving toward the same goal: timely project delivery, within budget, with a spotless HSE record, and the assurance that our clients receive nothing less than a best-in-class Turnkey service from inception to completion.