The fact that the world is transforming. What actions do we need to take?
ARCH. RAMON L. ABIERA, EUAP
The Manila Times
Build & Design
THE current global pandemic has greatly impacted our society, our activities, or work and everything else. This article is focused on better understanding how to adapt and recalibrate our mindset and actions. I have often been asked this question “Why is it that our ratings are low compared to our Asian neighbors? Are we not doing a lot?” This was before the pandemic, and my answer is we, as a nation, are doing a lot. However, our Asian neighbors are doing a lot more and faster. If we want to catch up, we need to leapfrog, adopt technologies to improve efficiency and do it rather quickly. The global pandemic has changed all that, most nations were affected and slowed down particularly the construction industry. At a point everything seemed to almost stop. The main reasons being the Covid protocols affecting sourcing manpower, logistics supply chain and evolving demand. The positive effect of the pandemic, particularly for the Philippines, is that almost everything went to a reset mode. Fortunately, this provides our country an opportunity to better improve our ratings and performance at the starting block. Now the whole world is transforming and adapting to the new world normal. The purpose of this is to achieve our own transformation rather quickly in the design field, supply logistics, better materials and better construction methodology, among others. By doing this, we might be able to improve our performance, productivity, profitability, quality and safety. If we can do this, we are well on the road to global competitiveness without knowing it. Design professionals must also be able to adopt and embrace into their practice new standards, technology and added values. The importance of the overall performance of the building project on its use of energy and water resources, considering that throughout the building’s lifespan, it can either be wasting or saving these resources. Green sustainable features are to be included in initial designs concepts as well as resiliency considerations. Resiliency and sustainability add value to the operational performance of the building. The design professionals must also have greater attention on the materials, construction methodology to be used and how to properly maintain the external walls and features. Some cities — like Singapore — have buildings that look good and contribute to the general clean and modern vista that many tourists admire. This is because buildings are not only designed well but also intended to be operated and maintained well. Here, I see many high-rise buildings with exposed firewalls over time are often with lots of cracks, water/dirt marks and unmaintained. The overall cost of projects can be reduced through the utilization of various construction methods. Savings are realized through improving delivery time, productivity, efficiency, reducing formworks, scaffolds, etc. The way design professionals would detail the design will often dictate the construction methodology. More understanding of the various construction methodology and their benefits will help in developing a design that can be executed with intentions to reduce overall cost and time, and improve quality. The savings can improve profitability but also be utilized to improve durability, quality and performance. It is noteworthy that the incoming board of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) have adapted “Future proofing of UAP” as a theme. Among my suggested action plans to achieve the theme, changing mindset to embrace new normal, new technologies, new collaboration to develop new materials, BIM training to allow more architects to participate in large collaborative projects that require BIM knowledge. To achieve a robust and quick BIM knowledge and skills training for architects nationwide, a UAP BIM institute may need to be established to allow access for training software. Research and development (R&D) are generally a weak point of our nation. Other countries leverage on strong R&D to leapfrog and lead in new technology and developments. It would be nice for UAP to have strategic foresight in having a strong R&D to possibly leapfrog into future proofing the practice and organization. To support our new strategies, it may be important to discuss that major impact on the way we design and construct can be attributed to new materials and systems. Understanding the characteristics and advantages of materials can reduce the overall weight of the structure. Therefore, structural element size may be reduced to lower the cost. Among materials that are available like GFRC (glass fiber reinforced concrete), air aerated concrete and composite panels. Including lightweight efficient structural columns, beams and slab systems. It may be noteworthy to also understand the amount of energy to harvest, transport and manufacture these materials. This is the amount of embodied energy that a square meter of these represent. That is why factory visits add to a better understanding of the common materials that is normally used in our built environment. In the delivery of our projects, operability and maintenance must also be considered to preserve its aesthetics and add to the overall nice vista of our cities. This also adds to our tourism impact and brings forth a more beautiful outlook of our country. Construction methodology has also evolved to address the quality, speed, safety, productivity and reduce cost. Understanding the various types can help designers a better alternative to achieve their overall design objectives and improve sustainability and resiliency. Unfortunately, most of the buildings still utilized practically the same construction methodology and mindset. Utilizing prefabricated processes can help mitigate the skilled labor shortage issue the industry faces. Fewer workers are required in the process of building hundreds of bathroom pods for a hospital using prefabricated cassette type technology. Arch. Ramon L. Abiera, EUAP, is an architect and environmental planner, CIAC accredited construction arbitrator, and an advocate of green buildings, resiliency and sustainability of our built environment, EDGE expert and auditor, ICFG Director, an inventor, resource speaker and writer. He also was privileged to have served in government as Executive Director 3 of the Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines.