The dilemma of construction waste

The rapid development and construction activities have led to rampant disposal of construction wastes in undesignated places. Although regulations in the Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2012 indicate legislations to control illegal disposal of waste, construction waste is generally treated similarly to household waste by the populace, not understanding the consequence and is disposed haphazardly, undermining the consequences to the lives of people and the environment. 

At present, absence of a reliable strategy to dispose construction waste, limited recycling capability, and limited human resources to regulate illegal dumping remain a major predicament to environmental stalwarts and regulating agencies.   

Innovation- The Way Forward

As stated in the beginning of the insight, the construction industry has been slow in adopting full-fledged fusion of technologies of the fourth industrial revolution. In the last five years, however, numerous testing of prototypes and processes have shown positive results. Technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, drones, 3D printing, artificial intelligence and machine learning are increasingly being used in construction processes and achieving results that a few years ago, would have seemed like science fiction. The developed world is now entering into transforming the construction industry. 

Bhutan’s approach, however, as a developing nation and still in the least developed countries category should be to reform the construction industry by adopting positive changes to the institution in learning lessons from other countries as well as learning from the last 60 years of our own development.

The effective nature of Building Information Modeling (BIM) 

The foremost positive change that construction professionals can incorporate without any drastic change to the work environment is the use of Building Information Modeling known as BIM. The only change involved will be that BIM will encourage coordination and collaboration between designers-architects and structural engineers, quantity surveyors and implementation units and discourage working in silos. It will enhance communication-increasing accuracy of items, specifications, drawing details and quantities. It will inform and update changes to field engineers with 3 dimensional models decreasing the possibility of errors during implementation. 

Popular software such as AutoDesk REVIT are designed to cater to BIM services and will drastically improve delivery of output and increase efficiency, thus saving time and cost in rectifying errors.

The promising gains of mechanization and prefabrication

In 2015, the construction sector employed 44, 535 foreign workers while only 6,241 Bhutanese workers put their skills to task. The Ministry of Labour and Human Resources through their Technical and Vocational Education Training programs produce on an average 690 graduates annually. Despite the huge vacuum for national work force, the supply is not adequate to address the requirement in the construction industry nor is it able to reduce the economic liabilities of high dependence on foreign workers. Currently, it is even a complex challenge to engage these TVET graduates as well as other youth to partake in construction work, due to the manual labour involved and current perception of construction as a dirty and unsafe work. Investments in efficient machinery and other methods of construction such as prefabrication will reduce the requirement for manual labour, reduce time of projects and enhance the desirability of youth to participate in construction. Professional approach to construction by adopting technology to develop the construction process is imperative not by derivations from its initial cost but by its potential benefits of cost over time. Construction firms, although burdened with the limitations of projects not being guaranteed, should empower mechanization either by investments or by influencing hiring sectors. Such drive will promote employment of national work force including the youth and promote professionalism in the construction industry. 

Thinking about other sources of energy

Construction firms in Bhutan engaged 804 earth moving equipment consuming more than 486,420 liters of fuel even if considering filling up each tank only once. Other machinery and vehicles consume similar volume of fuel. Machinery that utilize electricity can reduce this reliance on fuel. Similarly, coordination between agencies to address the requirement of alternate sources of renewable energy to complement the primary source of hydropower is necessary. In a rough estimate, south facing school roofs with reliable sun exposure covers more than 50,000 square meters of space for solar panels. Exploring collaborations and studies to incorporate such possibilities will be a huge boost to the energy sector as well as enable multiplication of options for our dependence on more than one primary source of energy.

Encourage start-ups in the construction industry

The information technology infrastructure in Bhutan have developed firms that are now capable of recognizing the lapses in the construction process and encourage digitalization to address such limitations in the sector. From accounting to construction management, there are numerous avenues for firms and agencies to delve in through developing software applications that will enhance information, coordination, payment, logistics and management. 

Strides of the Construction Development Board (CDB)

The Construction Development Board was first instituted as the Contractor Selection Board under the purview of Ministry of Communications (now Ministry of Works and Human Settlement) in 1987.  Ever since, the board has evolved into an autonomous regulatory body and has delinked from the Ministry in June 2016 with increased responsibilities of developing the construction industry of Bhutan through professional development of construction firms, registration of construction professionals and machinery, regulation of committed resources, promotion and maintenance of data related to the construction industry.

Despite the mandates, it has remained more of a passive organization limited by the absence of sufficient support, legislation and enabling environment to support its action. The growth of the industry requires strengthening the Construction Development Board to cope with increasing demand of services, to function at its full capacity and to monitor the industry for its healthy growth, thus filling the need for a strong, central agency with clear leadership and authority in the construction sector. The adoption of Construction Development Act of Bhutan, which is still under review and the Draft National Construction Industry Policy, and comparative analysis of similar bodies in the region recognizes the need for the transition of the Construction Development Board to the Construction Development Authority. 

In 2017-2018, Construction Development Board further strengthened its institutional linkages by signing Memorandum of Understanding with the Construction Industry Development Council of India on 1st February, 2018, Construction Institute of Thailand on 5th June, 2018, and with the Philippines Overseas Construction Board on 11th June 2018. CDB also had corresponding visitations to the Building Control Authority of Singapore and the Construction Industry Development Board, Malaysia. CIDB Malaysia with similar strides of a transition into a developed country status through its Vision 2020, tremendously involves and covers the construction industry of Malaysia, providing substantial inspiration to the strides of the Construction Development Board. Such linkages allow the secretariat to garner relationships to address common objectives and aspirations. Similarly, the secretariat sees the development of its own capacity as vital and has trained its human resource in Contract Administration, Construction Quality Control and Monitoring, Best Practices in International Procurement, in leadership and office management while in-house trainings for construction firms in using e-tool and the induction courses are continually being provided.

Local presence is promoted through linkages, with Royal Audit Authority and Anti-Corruption Commission to fix accountability on construction firms and consultants and to promote cooperation to fight corruption respectively, and with tertiary institutions, and technical vocational institutes for research and development and organizing the Annual Construction Expo in collaboration with the Construction Association of Bhutan. 

The Construction Development Board, after three years of facilitating resolutions for disputes related to construction projects- 43 disputes in all amounting to Nu. 1.2 billion- successfully handed over the charges to the Bhutan Alternative Dispute on May 15, 2018. 

The construction industry will see major facelift when the Construction Development Authority Act is adopted and once professional bodies such as the Engineering Council become fully functional. Meanwhile, Construction Development Board appeals to all construction professionals, design consultancy firms, construction firms, procuring agencies and private home builders to kindle and motivate the spirit of building quality infrastructure, recognize and own our responsibilities, develop ourselves professionally and enhance the construction process with ethics, for sustainability, to fulfill the vision of our kings and to achieve the objectives of the nation.        

  “We have to live by the infrastructure that we build and it is our responsibility to build a safe and sustainable infrastructure for future generations”

Contributed by CDB