Orion Sitronix has clinched a multi-million dollar building integration and technology consulting deal for the first phase of the new Dubai Festival City waterfront development that spans 1 300 acres and stretches three kilometres along the Dubai coast.

Dubai Festival City is being developed by the Al-Futtaim Group, one of the leading privately owned business groups in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The development, valued at around US$11-Billion, is one of the biggest developments of its kind in the world, encompassing the finest shopping, dining, entertainment, homes, schools, hotels, offices and leisure in one place. The first phase comprises 22 buildings with another 60 buildings being built between now and 2022.
Orion Sitronix has opened an office in Dubai to accommodate the project and to take advantage of opportunities arising out of the construction boom currently taking place in the UAE.
The Dubai operation will be named Orion Sitronix, a company that has been formed as the result of a venture between Sandbox Holdings' Sitronix company, specialists in providing high-end  enterprise integration in the form of automation, building management and security, ECH Management Solutions, a consulting firm within the built environment.
According to ECH director Steve Wallbanks, phase one of the Festival City project involved Orion Sitronix firstly doing an audit and needs analysis and then devising an end-to-end implementation plan that met Al-Futtaim's business management needs.
"The solution is aimed not only at improving productivity, and increasing the buildings' security, but importantly reducing overall cost of ownership and maximising installed technology and energy efficiency," says Steve Wallbanks. "We encompassed a design, build and operate approach because of the scope of the project and tight deadlines."
Wallbanks points out that the integration of all individual building information regarding the air conditioning systems, CCTV, access control, fire detection, people counting, concierge services, asset tracing, and preventative and reactive maintenance enables all information to be sent back to a central control command centre where it can be critically managed from one point using high level integration software. Long term, the idea is to link other Al-Futtaim Group buildings in Dubai and some other countries to the same control centre.
As to why the Al-Futtaim Group chose a South African company, Sitronix MD Tim Timmins says that the combined expertise of ECH's strong consulting skills in the built environment together with Sitronix's automation, building management and security expertise was a key factor in attaining the deal.
Stan Frank, director: city management of Al-Futtaim Group Real Estate realised the expertise required to accomplish the vision of the Dubai Festival City were exceptional, as the project presented a distinctive opportunity to develop cutting edge technology, which would position the development as a global leader.
He says that the process of selecting Orion Sitronix was based on identifying specific skill sets for each section of the 'value' chain' and hence a team was formed that would not only meet the required 'body of knowledge', but had the attitude and ability to push the boundaries in respect to testing the limitations of technology. Frank says this is about taking the physical and transactional integration of technology to a whole new level.
With regard to the availability of skills, Timmins says South Africa is regarded as having some of the best integration consulting expertise in the world. "For this specific project we have some great skilled people in SA who will be deployed in Dubai for the project. We will also be importing skills from the UK for the project."
Timmins says that while Abu Dhabi is considered to be the heart of the industry, a large majority of construction activities are taking place in Dubai where tax-free status, political stability, a liberal business environment and minimised dependence on oil-price movements drive investors' interest. Low entry barriers provide the additional impetus to foreign players.
Several mega development projects are either under way, or have been planned between 2007 and 2010 and Timmins believes that Orion Sitronix is favourably positioned to address opportunities in the UAE. Major projects include the $20-billion Burj Dubai project; the US$6bn aluminium smelter at Abu Dhabi; the Dubai Light Rail Transport venture valued at $4,1-billion and the Dubai International Airport, worth $4,08-billion.
The UAE construction industry is the third-largest sector of the economy, after oil and trade. "As evident from the large number of new and ongoing large-scale projects, the country has the highest per capita expenditure on construction in the world and 60% of the world's building cranes are currently deployed there," he says.