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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lessons from recent tragedies

Governing authorities should work towards a construction benchmark

The need for a high quality culture to be adopted for all construction projects, whether they are public or private structures or facilities, cannot be over emphasised as the people’s safety should be of paramount importance.

The fact that there have been a spate of “problem” projects with structural problems or certified unfit for occupancy shows that a conscious quality culture is still grossly missing among some industry players.

From faulty infrastructure projects to poorly constructed public buildings and amenities, the list includes the collapse of the Kuala Terengganu stadium roof and the roof of the Kuala Berang express bus and taxi terminal, the RM18mil Batu Burok Aquatic Complex and the RM123mil Sultan Mahmud Airport terminal.

Shoddy workmanship and the use of sub-standard building materials have been found to be the major contributor of most of these failed projects.

There is also the issue of proper maintenance and whether these public structures are periodically maintained to ensure that they are in tip top condition.

Besides the loss of lives like the three schoolchildren attending the 1Malaysia camp in Kuala Dipang who drowned after the suspension bridge they were on collapsed last October, such mishaps will also tarnish the image of the country and the whole industry.

It is important to ensure that personals of the governing authorities, including the Public Works Department, are well equipped and properly trained to ensure they keep abreast of latest industry standards and needs to conduct their supervisory role responsibly.

Industry practitioners should take it upon themselves to promote a conscious quality culture in all their projects.

There are many benefits that can be reaped from having quality construction standards that include significantly reducing the incidents of structural and architectural defects.

The adoption of high international standards in our building and construction projects is a good platform for local players to take their developments international.

For a start, industry players and the governing authorities should work towards a minimum set of quality standards that need to be adhered to by the building fraternity, including contractors.

Although there is a local quality system, the Quality Assessment System in Construction introduced by the Construction Industry Development Board since 2006 to evaluate the quality and workmanship of construction projects in the country, it is not compulsory for the building fraternity to adopt them.

The adoption of such standards should not be just to win government contracts but to ensure a strong quality culture prevail among industry practitioners.

In Singapore, it is compulsory for all public amenities and government buildings to adhere to the strict guidelines of the Construction Quality Assessment System (Conquas).

Its Building and Construction Authority conducts intensive training camps for developers, contractors, and building engineers, to adopt these stringent quality standards in their projects.

The fact that there are 47 Malaysian developers and contractors who are adopting Conquas shows that there are local players that have embraced the quality culture seriously.

It is important to build on this foundation and cast the net wider to include all the industry players, whether big or small.

A poor maintenance culture is also one of the major flaws in our society today that has contributed to the poor state of affairs in many of our buildings and public facilities.

To ensure greater durability and sustainability of these facilities, there is a need to promote a world-class maintenance culture among the people and the relevant authorities.

There is no point having great buildings or projects if they are not properly maintained.

For those who own strata-titled buildings, it is mandatory for them to make monthly contribution to a common maintenance fund to ensure the proper upkeep and maintenance of the common facilities.

The maintenance is the responsibility of the joint management body (JMB), of which owners are members.

It is the responsibility of owners to pay the maintenance fees.

Likewise, the respective local councils and authorities should also ensure that all public facilities are properly maintained to ensure they are safe to the users at all times.

·Deputy news editor Angie Ng believes selflessness is the way to go to promote a caring society.

By The Star

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