Time and again, the GCC region countries have done a wonderful job at perpetuating the core messages of their socio-economic and sustainable development targets. For instance, it is common for senior government representatives to elaborate on the salient features of the vision documents in their presentations. Oftentimes, they are the contexts of discussions.
And yet, the messages seem to be taking time aplenty to percolate down the value chain of the building construction sector of our industry. At the risk of generalising, the many layers of the private sector do not seem to be showing the right level of responsiveness, coordination and collaboration to get the job done. The slowness of the process is worrying at a time when climatologists are calling out for quicker action on lowering emissions.
Truly, the building construction sector paints a surreal landscape. I mean, the disconnect is brain-addling. At one level, we are still staring at a fractured approach to building pre-design, design, construction, Installation, testing & commissioning and FM processes. (I would delete commissioning from the list, for even if followed, is only rarely followed correctly. And the general absence of retro-commissioning is another story, altogether.) And this is the situation at a time of heightened awareness of the benefits of an integrated project development approach.
And then, there are the numerous specific instances of demands placed by unthinking developers that often defy engineering logic and showcase a lack of understanding of the climate zone they operate in, and of ecologically friendly and holistic construction practices. The matter is aggravated by compliant architects and designers, amongst others, who would much rather give in to the sheer illogicity than risk losing the contract.
The phenomenon of disconnect transcends regional boundaries. In distant North America, there are rumblings of a different nature – of consultants pointing out to a general severance of obligations after handover. Of how FM managers don’t do anything about areas that need improvement simply because the operations budget doesn’t exist or is abysmally inadequate.
Many of the fault-lines have attracted attention the world over, but before 2020, the focus largely was on energy inefficiency; in the COVID period, they are drawing attention for reasons relating to poor Indoor Air Quality.
The unthinking nature manifests in poor ventilation decisions, of either investing in inadequate ventilation or applying ventilation indiscriminately, irrespective of location of the building in question. The latter case – of increasing the rate of ventilation in specific buildings – is equally counterproductive. For instance, excessive ventilation in buildings along a busy arterial road with a high density of vehicular traffic, or next to a power-generation station, is extending an invitation for contaminants to come in. That’s where thinking needs to be applied. As I said, the disconnect is brain-addling.