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  • Timi Adegoke - Nigerian Construction Engineer building Iconic Structures in Dubai
    Saturday 11 2017
    By Editor

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  • I have known Timilehin Adegoke a long time so, setting up an interview despite the difference in our time zones was not much of a difficulty. What I did not anticipate however, was just how important the structures he is building as a construction engineer in Dubai would turn out to be.

    Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is the Mecca for civil engineers, architects and interior designers in search of their holy grail projects. No other city compares! Like a lot of these professionals working in Dubai, Timi's professional output will benefit individuals, communities and even future generations.

    Timi as he is normally referred to, took many detours on his way to Dubai including a much needed pit-stop in Edinburgh which led to a spell in the oil and gas industry. Suffice it to say not even that industry could stop him from pursuing his construction related vision. This is what I could not wait to find out.

    Why Construction?

    Thinking back to the first job I interviewed for he says, 'I applied for a position with Atkins while in the UK, long before my present job'. He was asked the question 'why would you like to work in the Middle East' and all I could say was 'half the world’s tower cranes are in Middle East and I want to see it'.

    Any interviewer is bound to be impressed by an answer like that from a graduate engineer. It was concise, clear and laden with a sense of mission. Its brevity portrayed a mind that was made up irrespective of the outcome of the interview. Timi never got the job, but his answer back then, is his reality today.

    What is the Construction Industry like?

    Working in construction is both physically and mentally challenging, irrespective of location and availability of high tech equipment. It mainly driven by manual labour. It is one of the low risk professions to the threat that is artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT).

    Perhaps the simplest yet most effective way of conveying this message came from Timi, when asked what the construction industry was like, he replied 'next time you see a construction site with the sign "men at work" please believe, men are really at work, they're not playing around'.

    Timi has been a civil engineer at Al Naboodah Construction Company; UAE’s leading indigenous contracting company with an enviable portfolio that other contractors can only wish for. He likens Al Naboodah to a super-sized, busier version of Julius Berger in Nigeria.

    He describes the chain of command in Dubai's construction industry in the order; top management, project management, construction manager, site agent, then you get to project engineers, civil engineers and the menial labourers who do the heavy lifting.

    They are usually skilled workers of different trade groups who have been to technical school to specialise in their areas of expertise. Most of them speak Hindi and Arabic. 

    On his role in Al Naboodah

    Within Al Naboodah's vast portfolio of projects which includes airports, iconic buildings, golf courses, bridges and tunnels, Timi has worked on several projects. 'I started as a site operations engineer working on the NAS Arena indoor stadium project he told me.

    Timi has however, been involved in several exciting project over the past two and half years in Dubai. His employer, Al Naboodah is never short of such projects and he has since been moved to another project this month.  

    On his previous project; the construction of the NAS Arena indoor futsal and volleyball stadium, the stadium had a maximum capacity of about 15,000 people. Timi was responsible for the precast slab design, production and installation.

    NAS Arena Indoor Stadium Dubai

    Construction of NAS Arena Indoor Stadium, Dubai  [Photo Credit: PrivateUni.com]

     

    NAS Arena is built in such a way that when the frame structure is complete, the seating arrangement platform is supported with columns and extended beams. Then the precast bleachers (meaning L-shaped slabs) have the seats affixed to them.

    The L-shaped beams which support the slabs were also under his care. The precast slabs and the L-shaped beams constituted his project deliverable.

    Humble Beginnings

    After graduating with an honours degree in Civil Engineering from Covenant University, Timi-kun as he was known then (the suffix originating from a deep knowledge of the anime Naruto Shippuden which had taken the university by storm), joined the construction industry in the early 2000s.

    He previously worked on construction projects which include a 45 km dual carriage road for Ogun State's Road Maintenance Agency (OGROMA)  and a 2.5 km beam bridge at Cross River State's Road Maintenance Agency (CRROMA).

    The former was during a six months Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) placement and the later during his National Youth Service Corp (NYSC). Timi proceeded to study for a double award in Energy (MSc) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Heriot-Watt University in the Scottish Capital, Edinburgh.

    Timi Adegoke

    Timi as an Undergrad student at Covenant University Nigeria, and Postgrad graduate from Heriot-Watt University Scotland [Photo Credit: PrivateUni.com]

     

    He spent three years as an engineer, away from construction, designing pipelines for indigenous companies in Nigeria's oil and gas industry before returning to his true calling; civil engineering construction.

    On overcoming challenges

    Having settled into his role and come to understand the working environment of Dubai, Timi admits there were obstacles he had to overcome. According to him, 'initially, language was an obstacle, most workers in the construction industry are recruited from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan; countries where English is not their first or second or third language'.

    This meant construction supervision had to be done effectively with very limited use of English or language in general as a means of communication. This is the nature of the construction industry in a city as diverse as Dubai.

    Fortunately he says, 'the profession I am in is such that the tool of communication are lines on a drawing to show how point A connects with connect B. Your ability or inability to speak or write good English is not a very big barrier, more important is your ability to delegate and identify those who can take on roles within a team'.

    Dealing with Dubai's weather

    With his construction experience gained in the tropics, Timi soon found Dubai's hot climate to pose new challenges for construction and site engineers. 'Dubai weather can get very intense, particularly during the summer'. Temperatures can rise as high as 50 degrees Celsius'.

    Timi Adegoke Dubai

    Cooling off in Dubai ... [Photo Credit: PrivateUni.com]

     

    Thankfully there are laws here in Dubai and the Middle east as a whole that protect workers from working outdoors when temperatures approach or exceed 50 degrees; all on-going works which are not indoors must come to a halt.

    This law which protects workers also poses a new logistical challenge in the form of project delays which project managers will have to deal with later. It however, gives a well deserved rest to the workers on site'.

    On his coming projects

    Having moved on from the NAS Arena project where he worked on the superstructure, Timi now works as part of the finishing team completing a four storey, 58,720 square meter labour accommodation in Jebel Ali.

    As expected in Dubai, the labour accommodation will have a three-star interior finish with six marble staircase, 4 modern full equipped kitchens, fully furnished common dining areas, central cooling system for the whole building, en-suit toilets in supervisors rooms and tiled out large common shared toilets to mention a few features.

    In the UAE, it is mandatory by law to provide a high standard of living and working conditions for your employees. These could include full accommodation and feeding as is the case with Al Naboodah's labour force who are served breakfast and dinner daily.

    Timi already knows what his third project will be at Al Naboodah Construction Group. 'The project I'll be working on he told me, is a twin residential towers and commercial units located on the Island District at Dubai Creek Harbour Development.

    Twin Towers Dubai

    Twin Towers project, Dubai  [Photo Credit: PrivateUni.com]

     

    'It is designed to have two basement floors, three podiums, ground floor, thirty-seven typical high rise floors, one lower roof and one upper roof. The project is a master planned, mixed use development, comprising nine districts with a fully integrated transport system and major cultural offering.

    His role in the labour accommodation project was initially in operations management but has now evolved to cost control and subcontractor management. According to him, 'each project work can be divided into phases; the substructure, the superstructure and the finishing phase'. 'Being a jack of all trades really does not distinguish you but mastering one of the phase in construction does'.

    Timi worked on the superstructure phase in the stadium project. For the labour accommodation, he is presently working on the finishing phase, and for the upcoming twin tower project, 'I will be working on the substructure, building my way up'. For him, being part of the start-up project team is exciting and gives background understanding of all temporary work setups that support all construction activities on site.

    He already knows what his role will be on the project. 'Each project is in phases, there is the substructure phase, the superstructure phase and the finishing phase it is difficult to be an expert in all these phases'. He worked on the superstructure phase in the stadium Project. For the labour accommodation he worked on its finishing phase. 'For this twin tower project, I will be working on the substructure'.

    Proudest moment

    What asked which construction related achievement he is most proud of so far, what he told me was a story of incredible audacity and a sense of purpose. 'When I joined, it felt like being placed at the front-line of a ground inventory war with bullets shooting straight at me'. 'I had just arrived in Dubai, still trying to adjust to the extreme weather.

    It turns out the engineer in charge was going on a three month's medical leave, and I had just two weeks to learn all he knew and stand on my own two feet. This represented one of the biggest challenges to me as an individual, being newly employed, working in the UAE'. 

    'Issues I had to deal with included; a language barrier, precast bleacher mockups were not approved, inspectors were having doubts about the quality of the precast in the interest of the client, rebar material delivery was not as planned, the job however, had to be done and delivered on time, to budget and to quality’.

    Precast design by Timi

    L-shaped precast bleachers designed by Timi [Photo Credit: Private Uni.com]

     

    Timi was tasked with pushing quality to an acceptable standard. He was in charge of ensuring the precast was of the right quality as well as its erection and installation so he had all the drawings given to him. His job was to plan out and supervise all the material, human and equipment resource required to deliver this part of the job.

    Timi was tasked with pushing quality to an acceptable standard. He was in charge of ensuring the precast was of the right quality as well as its erection and installation so he had all the drawings given to him. His job was to plan out and supervise all the material, human and equipment resource required to deliver this part of the job.

    In an extraordinary show of leadership with an understanding of the urgency of the situation, Timi prepared a program of his own and went to work on implementing it. 'What I basically did was change the design of the precast because what was there could not achieve my own program'.

    Fortunately, he was given a free hand to operate so he drew a conceptual design for new tables that were not completely different but innovative. That's what really pushed the quality beyond what was acceptable. 

    'There were only three tables for manufacturing the precast slabs when I got there, at the end of the project I had 4 more tables made and re-designed the precast slabs'. 'I was responsible for everything, no line manager or supervisor, just me. After delivering the slabs earlier than expected, Timi had made savings worth AED280000 (₦24 million) for the company. The cost of that aspect of the project was supposed to be AED1.2 million (₦104 million).

    The longer you spend on a construction task the more expensive the task becomes hence, completing a project on time saves money as every project is a function of time, cost and quality. Without the changes he made, the quality would have been rejected. The low quality precast slabs will then have to be destroyed since they cannot be reused. These non-reusable resources result in losses when they are destroyed.

    Construction or life's lessons

    Living the reality of one's dreams must offer some lessons, according to Timi; in relation to my previous construction experience in Nigeria, construction lessons can be summed up in three core areas:

    Dignity in work - Dressing fit for purpose and a sense of ownership by each tradesman for his craft.

    Health & Safety - Every worker has the right to a safe working environment, every worker has the right to welfare facilities because every life matters.

    Housekeeping - 'I was amazed at how serious keeping the construction site clean was, especially with construction being a waste and dirt generating activity. 

    Timi reminisced about his days as a student and waxed philosophical, 'like Bishop David Oyedepo used to say "I am not surprised I am here", I have always grown up watching megastructures documentary, I have followed Dubai infrastructural developments much more than those who live in Dubai and now I have just stepped into the reality of what I have always dreamt so I encourage people to pursue dreams not jobs'.

    Timi Adegoke Dubai

    Timi inspects concrete work [Photo Credit: PrivateUni.com]

     

    On his plan for the future, he confessed 'I have not yet got the iconic projects that I long for, there are some iconic projects on the way'. One such project he would have loved to be involved in is the observation tower next door to his current project. It will cost an estimated AED3.67 billion (₦316 billion).

    'There will be an announcement of a building taller than the Burj Khalifa very soon, these are iconic projects which every civil engineer wants to work on'. Just listening to him talk about his dream project gave the feeling it will come sooner rather than later, probably iconic enough to be one of the wonders of the world.

    This story first appeared on PrivateUni.com - authored by Olu Isrel. 

     

     

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