20 June 2001
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, --The report under the headline "Act to oversee condition of buildings" (NST, May 29) was so brief that readers could be excused for not having read it, or if they had, could make little of it.
Yet it may be a milestone leap to the local construction current practice, also to academics in the local institutions of higher learning.What was reported was that an Act to be called the Commissioner of Building Act was to be tabled by the Housing and Local Government which, if we may intepret it correctly, will put a lid on the number of developers who abandon their projects and those who do not have the necessary credibility to implement development projects professionally in terms of building standards.
The Bill, which subsequently will become an Act, will be one that will have wide usage and implications for the next 30 to 40 years.The Strata Title (Amendment) Act 2000 that was recently passed was not addressing the same problem, and the soon-to-be-introduced Commissioner of Building Act will not in any way supplant it.
Subject to further clarification from the proper authorities, it may be timely to review the need and demand for, and the provision of, competent personnel able to assess the condition of buildings.Lately building professionals have widely used the term "intelligent buildings" to denote integrated planning and designing, systems for a total quality approach that will optimise resources for effective management, maintenance and performance of buildings. Malaysia has not been slow in developing buildings in this category (Petronas Twin Towers, KLIA, Cyberjaya, etc).The City Council of Kuala Lumpur has put up its own classification list of buildings categorised for such purposes.
However few buildings in Malaysia belong to this category. Buildings need systematic management and regular maintenance, otherwise they rapidly degenerate to become liabilities.Electricity for air-conditioning, artificial lighting, and increasing use of electrical appliances result in spiralling costs to sustain creature comforts.Flat-roofed buildings, inspired by the industrialised west's construction techniques, need special attention to be free of leaks and algae growth in our tropical rains and high humidity. Low-cost flats and apartments are vulnerable to constant breakdown of lifts, toilets and refuse collection, partly through excess use, lack of servicing and civic consciousness. Many of our once beautiful planned landscapes have become eyesores.
The list of maintenance work needed seems endless. In Malaysia, the idea of a scientific and systematic facility audit for performance, effectiveness and efficiency is in its infancy. When the economy is booming, costly repairs and maintenance may be done as a routine exercise, but when the reverse occurs, too often only emergency maintenance and repair is undertaken. In hospitals, educational institutions and government offices, old furniture needs to be systematically "condemned" to justify new procurement orders. Workers require to be retrained to meet new work processes, new regulations, and threat of change through outsourcing, and benchmarking of their work area. Here again many of our services and procedures require to be reviewed and effectively managed.What arises then, is the question of how the situation can be improved and who can be relied upon to do the work effectively?
We can respond to these questions at two levels.At the repair and maintenance level, the new crop of graduates in Building Surveying have followed a course of study designed to look after the existing and rapidly growing building stock of the country. Their core studies cover building technology, science of materials and building services, with particular emphasis on building pathology, i.e. the diagnosis, prognosis and remedy of building defects including the costs to repair. Their five-year course takes in the basic principles of architecture, planning and structural design and provides a detailed knowledge of the building by-laws.Add studies in information technology, principles of valuation, contract documentation and professional ethics and you have candidates with the education and skills to deal with and manage problems a client may have regarding repair and maintenance work in domestic, commercial and industrial buildings, old and new.Property managers also get involved in maintenance management but at a much more general level than building surveyors, and predominantly for the purpose of valuation, rating and leasing of property.The maintenance of specialised mechanical and electrical services and equipment, for example lifts, central air-conditioning plant, mechanical ventilation and automatic controls, passes to the expertise of the mechanical and electrical engineers while serious structural faults, above and below ground level, are covered by civil/structural engineers.
At the second level, where we look to top management to relate company strategies to oversee buildings and the integration of the necessary services together with the people working in these buildings, all to achieve the goals of the company, then we think in terms of Facilities Management.Facilities Management is about able leadership. It is about good co-ordination of activities and is about the provision of good communications and interaction of people within the organisation. It seeks to provide quality and value management through more informed business decisions based on the best information available. Modern technology and communications play a major role in Facilities Management.The role of strategic decisions includes management of life cycle costs of facilities associated with the competitive position of the business unit; creation of a work environment (productive and/or service oriented) to achieve customer satisfaction; provision of flexible infrastructure, space and services to respond to change of business or public service needs; innovation in product or service to enable future strategic contribution to business performance; awareness of community and environmental needs.
In short, the Facilities Manager's job is to provide effective management to improve business performance, cognizant with the needs of people and local culture. Currently, there are a number of management consultancy groups in Malaysia who operate mainly in non-core services areas such as security, health and safety, energy efficiency, and use the title of Facilities Managers. They offer to optimise costs and improve service levels to help the organisation achieve competitive advantage. There is an increasing demand for Facilities Management in Malaysia and as we drive to achieve our Vision 2020, the trend in Facilities Management is likely to continue. The development of the intelligent city at Cyberjaya is taking Facilities Management to even higher levels. Educational provisions in Facilities Management is considered more appropriate at post-graduate level in view of the nature and scope of the role of Facilities Manager. Currently, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) is offering this course and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) is scheduled to start its course in September 2001. Both provisions are offered by full-time or part-time attendance mode. Having reported on all this, it is to be hoped that those forming the required legislation for the Act to oversee the conditions of buildings are aware of these recent developments. If they have not, then a proper grace period should be given so that interested parties may be given the opportunity to make timely input before the Act is finalised.
Prof Bill Hamilton and Dr Wan Salleh Wan Ibrahim are with the Faculty of Architecture, Planning and Surveying, UiTM.
Source: The New Straitstimes, Malaysia