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From design to delivery: Infrastructure mega schemes drive demand for project managers

With several huge local infrastructure projects in the works, such as the proposed third runway at Chek Lap Kok airport and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, project managers are in high demand.

Aedas is an international architecture and design practice actively looking for architects with project management experience to manage projects in Hong Kong and Macau.

Frank McGoldrick, a director on the global board at Aedas, sees many opportunities for international architects to flourish and contribute to the built environment worldwide. This is especially true in Asia, where massive urbanisation is leading to the construction of many major public and private developments across a wide range of sectors.

McGoldrick expects demand for project management talent to continue in Hong Kong well into the next decade. "I can envisage a number of excellent opportunities in the future, especially in the infrastructure sector, with new airport projects coming up and a significant number of rail projects being considered," he says. "I can see this sector being buoyant for at least the next five to 10 years."

Experience is extremely important for project managers, who have to employ, manage and coordinate the work of different parties involved in a development, such as contractors, consultant teams and clients. "Experience is always extremely valuable," McGoldrick says. "It is only through real experience that a manager in a senior position can have a complete understanding of the whole process."

He stresses the importance of having a consistent team to work on construction projects that very often take years to complete. "I believe continuity and retention of key staff are vital in building a strong knowledge base," he says. "For example, for Las Vegas Sands in Macau, we are managing a consultant team to deliver more than 25 million square feet in 10 years, which requires a thorough understanding of the whole process and the role each member of the team has to play. The core team for our projects in Macau has been with us since the first project started in 2002."

The career of project manager is rewarding, with many opportunities to enhance knowledge. "We don't want our architects to focus only on project management. They need a well-rounded understanding of all facets of the construction process, from design and construction to management. Having a multifaceted skill-set is important for a successful career in an architecture firm."

Having led many internationally significant projects with a particular focus on integrated resorts and transport infrastructure, McGoldrick says design excellence and high quality of delivery are the fundamental principles guiding his approach to architecture. Underscoring these is a desire to explore ever more innovative and sustainable design solutions.

He says seeing a project coming to fruition is the most satisfying part of being a project manager. "First and foremost, we are designers, and when our designs are built, they have real meaning to communities and people. To achieve this, especially for complex, large-scale projects, requires complete alignment and cooperation from all of the key stakeholders, including the consultant team, client and the contractors."

McGoldrick recently visited the site of the Express Rail Link West Kowloon Terminus project - which he has been a part of - and was very excited to see it come into shape. "The visit to the site was an unforgettable experience for me. We had a site walk at the infrastructure designed by Andrew Bromberg of Aedas, to view the progress of the project. It is going to be a remarkable building for Hong Kong when completed," he says.

With many years in different sectors in the profession, McGoldrick has a deep understanding of design and construction and he thinks the biggest challenge in project management is to get the whole team to work together harmoniously, with a single vision to deliver a great design.

Dorothy Chan, regional human resources manager at Aedas, says talented architects are always in demand. "It is always a challenge to recruit qualified architects with project management experience in the competitive market," she says. "Candidates must possess good design, coordination and construction experience. We are looking for registered architects in the UK or Hong Kong with a minimum of five years' experience in infrastructure design."

Aedas is looking to recruit architects at all levels for infrastructure developments in Hong Kong and residential projects in Macau. "Most of our architects are involved in both design and project management. We are looking for all levels of architectural positions, from assistant architect to associate director. We are also recruiting interior designers."

Patrick Balfour, manager of the property and construction division at Robert Walters Hong Kong, says demand for project managers in Hong Kong is not as keen as in Macau and the mainland, but will go up next year as several new big projects begin.

He says the casino projects in Macau and residential and commercial building projects on the mainland provide major demand for project management talent. "The Hong Kong market is kind of stagnant now with a number of huge projects being delayed. The most documented delayed projects are the MTR lines and the high-speed [cross-border] railway. The demand for talent has slowed because project managers are still working on existing projects," he says.

"I predict a better outlook next year with the airport's third runway, more MTR lines and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge projects getting set to take place."

Balfour points out that most contractors are running on a tight budget, making cost control a major concern in project management. Such a situation has brought great demand for quantity surveyors.

"At the moment, it is the most sought-after post in project management," he says. "Quantity surveying acts as a bridge between the construction team and the finance team to manage the project in the most cost-effective way, looking at the cost of materials and labour."