In this special Expert insight feature on construction, Finance Monthly speaks to Audrey Djang Hesse – Chartered Architect , RIBA, working for Kellogg Brown and Root – KBR, Leatherhead, UK as Technical Professional Leader – Architecture.
Audrey has over 30 years experience in the industry, working on projects across the globe, in different climatic environments for oil & gas offshore & onshore greenfield & brownfield projects, infrastructure, transportation, housing, civic and urban regeneration projects.
Early in her career as a chartered architect, her interest in managing risks in large scale construction projects led her to undertake a masters degree in Building/ Construction Economics & Management at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, UK. This specialty is of particular benefit to the diverse complexity of projects undertaken by KBR. After several years in industry, Audrey is currently part-way through a Doctorate degree (DBA) at the School of Management at Cranfield University, UK. Her doctoral research is on vulnerabilities to industry arising out of the dynamic environment of the global supply chain, and how industry maintains product integrity in spite of these vulnerabilities.
In her role at KBR, Audrey provides Architectural services and archtectural-related support to the Structural Civil and Marine Disciplines. KBR is a global technology, engineering, procurement and construction company serving the hydrocarbons and government services industries, employing approximately 22,000 people worldwide with customers in more than 80 countries and operations in 40 countries across three distinct global businesses: Technology & Consulting, Engineering & Construction, and Government Services. For decades KBR has been the company that customers turn to for their most challenging assignments. Although Architecture is involved in all three sectors, most architectural activitiy in KBR occurs in the Engineering & Construction and Government Services.
As a professional with over 30 years of experience, what would you say are the typical challenges surrounding architectural projects in the oil and gas industry?
Architectural construction in oil and gas projects is important as its remit is to supply life-critical facilities to accommodate site personnel and critical operations. The challenges that usually surround typical architectural projects also affect architectural projects in the oil and gas industry. However, the latter has added complexities, because architectural projects in the oil and gas industry are comparatively very large projects, executed with both real and virtual teams working across several geographical zones, incorporating several inter-disciplinary requirements, and delivering widely dispersed facilities to other disciplines such as process, mechanical, process-control, instrumentation, telecoms, electrical and HVAC. Completing the project in phases, whilst working simultaneously on closely-coupled activities with other disciplines, is a challenge that surrounds architectural projects in the oil and gas industry. Site planning of architectural assets in oil and gas is challenging because the assets are located in areas logical to the chemical process, but not necessarily logical to standard architectural site planning. In addition to maintaining industrial architectural standards, architectural projects in oil and gas have to satisfy aesthetics and international hospitality standards. This is because due to the high capital commitment of national, international and joint venture partners, oil and gas projects often host global leaders and decision-makers of industry, and thus architectural assets in oil and gas projects have to satisfy the requirement of being important gateways to the overall project. As hospitality facilities are often adjacent to critical operational facilities, such as control suites, the challenge is to find a suitable configuration that satisfies safety, function and aesthetics. Architecture has to pursue technical appropriateness without being overshadowed by the heavy engineering disciplines which dominate the oil and gas industry, and the challenge for architecture is maintaining and driving through life critical international building standards without comprising adjacencies and relationships to assets of other disciplines.
Oil and gas projects are often located in extraordinary climatic environments such as deep seas, cold deserts, hot deserts and areas of outstanding natural beauty. The challenge for architecture is to work within time, budget and schedule requirements and provide energy-efficient designs and sustainability practices during construction.
The oil and gas sector is currently going through one of the most transformative periods in its history – has the low oil price affected your practice?
Globally, the turbulence in the oil and gas industry has had a profound effect on all participants of the oil and gas industry. Clients, Contractors and end users are all having to adjust to emergent occurrences which have impacted their overall planning strategy. By engaging with the emerging dynamics in the oil and gas industry, and adopting lean and agile strategies in this transformative period, KBR has demonstrated resilience and has consolidated its position as one of the more dominant practices in the oil and gas industry.
What is the current environment of the Architectural global supply chain? What is its impact on Architectural construction in oil and gas projects?
The current environment in the architectural global supply chain is one that has been impacted by delayed, cancelled or shrunken projects, and, significant reduction in remuneration. The impact of the above on architectural construction for several global projects site is a misplaced perception that a downwards adjustment to required standards of architectural specifications is required to navigate the current trend.
What are some of the vulnerabiities to the Architectural discipline arising from the dynamism of the global supply chain?
The Architectural discipline is vulnerable to the effects of reduced and cancelled projects, shrinking scope of work, and reduced budgets – whilst having to maintain time and schedule constraints.
During construction, how is Architectural product integrity maintained in the global supply chain of the projects it undertakes across the world?
Supply chains disruptions due to breaches in product integrity are expensive to companies in terms of remedial costs to reputation and or product recall. The architectural global supply chain of projects undertaken across the world is supplied by global manufacturers and suppliers operating from various geographical hubs with a worldwide reach far beyond the home office. The further the global supply chain is extended from the home office or design office, the more visibility becomes obscured and the more vulnerable it is to breaches, which typically occur at nodes or links in the global supply chain. These links are entry points at which architectural products are supplied to the construction project and the breaches at these nodes allow sub-standard architectural products to be received into the project and thus, enter the legitimate supply chain. Architectural product integrity is maintained by forging close links with partners in the extended supply chain and by maintaining close integration by frequent audits and information sharing. Architectural product integrity during construction is enforced by close collaboration with the design office and by construction teams possessing a clear understanding of the dominant and relevant specification and recognising when a product is a copy being passed off as the original; and most importantly, having the procedure to identify, isolate, quarantine and reject products which do not meet the required product integrity.
What intervention and initiatives does KBR Architectural envisage will meet the challenges of the dynamic environment of the Architectural global supply chain?
The result of the challenges in this dynamic environment is a rationalisation of projects, as clients adjust to the changes in the global oil and gas industry, KBR Architectural aims to consolidate KBR’s position as the contractor of choice delivering value for money without compromsing on product integrity. Ensuring the performance is paramount and KBR Architectural will utilize BIM (Building Information Modelling) in delivering projects to meet the requirements of LEED, BREEAM and other national and international Sustainability and Performance codes. This will ensure the provenance of architectural products during construction, and will highlight any products or elements which are in breach. KBR Architecture recognises that the drive for product integrity begins very early in the design process, and to that end, KBR Architecture will engage with projects at the early planning stage to ensure intuitiveness and awareness of the Client’s requirements.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The role that good architectural design plays during the Construction phase, and the skills required in traversing dynamism in the global supply chain can be extended to other dynamic environments. Of personal interest is the extremely dynamic world of synaesthesia – once little known, except in selected groups, it is now of increasing interest to specialist design, financial and scientific companies.