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Sat 16 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Construction frustration

The construction industry needs to move forward more efficiently, says Rod Stewart, regional managing director at Hyder Consulting Middle East.

We can safely say that we are in the middle of a construction boom here in the Gulf, on a scale that has rarely been experienced anywhere else in the world.

This is very stimulating for all involved, I am sure, but I hope you will forgive me for saying that it also brings enormous frustrations as well.

We have an ambitious programme of development creating the equivalent of whole new cities and their infrastructure in the space of a few years, where it has taken decades before.

There is plenty of strong leadership and direction being given to this, politically, and there are some very good construction organisations involved in delivering it. However, I feel we are missing a strong link somewhere between the political vision and the practical delivery - that is to say we don't have enough representative industry bodies that can influence government and give strong practical advice as to how to best achieveits ambitions.

Of course, we have lots of good ideas being promoted by individuals and companies, with the ever-growing construction conference circuit full of excellent discussion on very relevant topics, including alternative formsof procurement (partnering and alliancing); innovations in HR policy (addressing the resource shortages); and improving sustainability (considering environmental, social and economic factors).

I attend quite a few of these, and I always walk away with the feeling that the ideas are great, and, indeed, that there are pockets of success evident where international best practice has been followed. However, the industry as a whole needs to move forward more efficiently and in many cases there are either legislative or economic barriers to making progress.

If I compare the situation here in the Gulf with experiences elsewhere, we are missing out on things such as:

• A strong professional engineering representative body that has real recognition from the government.

• A body that raises the profile of improved health and safety on site. There are some excellent private sector initiatives in place - these need real government backing and support.

• A developer or client representative body who can review the industry's performance (our equivalent of a Latham or an Egan review) and promote improved procurement.

• A set of construction cost indices which are recognised as truly reflecting construction cost inflation.

• A single set of standard Conditions of Contract (or a suite of these) which are adopted by all government or government influenced clients.

These are just a few examples that come to mind straight away. I am sure there are many other specific representative bodies, which could impact positively on the way our industry operates, if given appropriate recognition.

The Emirates Green Building Council is a good example where a few enthusiastic professionals have been able to raise an issue into both the public and government consciousness, in a short space of time, but even they have not managed to procure clear and specific government legislation yet.

Let's keep pushing out to bridge the gap between political vision and practical delivery.

If you would like to write for Construction Week in this column, please email angela.giuffrida@itp.com

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