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Construction Standards & Quality

Construction industry in Pakistan is now growing faster than ever largely due to the participation of private housing developments. It just takes only a Sunday newspaper to realize the status of real-estate development in the country against any other business sector just by measuring the centimeters of allocation to each sector by advertisers. Taking a look at the local dispatch/consumption of the cement, one can clearly see a continuous rise since 2001 to date with exception at two years.  9.93 Mn tonnes of cement consumed in FY 2001-2002 has reached to 33 Mn. Tonnes in FY 2015-2016. Dewan Cement CEO has been quoted saying that 70% of the cement is consumed by real-estate and builders while only 30% goes for infrastructure developments.  This raise in construction activity has attracted me to look at the construction standards and quality in the country and for this I turned to Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) to understand, as apex body in the field, what PEC has contributed to ensure and raise the construction standards and quality.

PEC is mandated to set and maintain the standards of professional (engineering) competence, regulate the quality and practice of the engineering profession.  Leaving the education part aside, for  engineering practice PEC has issued some bye-laws of three categories: Companies registration (consultant & contractor) , Building Design Codes including supplementary seismic & energy provisions and   Engineering practice exam & professional development.  In addition to these, a set of standard bidding documents has also been issued that mainly address the matters pertaining to selection process and procedures of procuring the engineering services under various forms of contract. There are certain areas where PEC bye-laws are either confusing or totally missing.

Irrespective of what has been covered or totally missing in existing PEC regulatory documents, there is a need that construction industry regulations committee (CRIC) come forward with an active set of bye-laws to put in place the clear standards for the Engineers (standard for companies separate) involved in Engineering Design, Supervision and execution of the engineering works. One such set can be called Minimum Standards for persons and design of engineering works.  The design team of an engineering work/system shall be led by a person having passed EPE exam, duly registered as Professional Engineer, authorized to design and Sign (take responsibility) of an engineering system in a respective domain of Civil, Structure, Mechanical, Electrical and all other specialties for which PEC conducts EPE. Such a team leader can be called Qualified Person (QP-as is in Singapore).  To put in place competitive and higher standards of engineering design, requirements of a Qualified Person’s experience may vary in terms of years & complexity of the projects he has been involved.  The committee with due consideration of the existing capabilities of the professional engineers in the country and standards it wants to achieve,  a framework for the requirements of a Qualified Person and his team can be developed for and based on  project profile codes & Project value – Project profile code is a list of project types already developed by PEC. The same set can cover the building codes to be used for the design and other statutory requirements to be place so as to achieve a higher quality in engineering design. Organizing  & regulating the individuals involved in design of engineering systems will help to raise the overall national competency in design of engineering system and will enable our local consultant companies to compete globally.  Further, such a dedicated regulatory framework will assist us to continuously raise our competency level against other countries and will help other countries to understand our competency levels in design of engineering systems in terms of the scale and complexity thus creating more collaborative and competition opportunities of our engineers.

Likewise for supervision of engineering works, the committee shall come up with Minimum Standards for persons and supervision of engineering works.  I was amazed to see LDA rule requiring 10 years’ experience of a Resident Engineer for supervision of a 3 story building whereas with same years of experience in Singapore one is allowed to supervise as Resident Engineer a project over $100 million with 6 buildings and each of 15+ stories also include supervision of substation and multistory car park. We need to have some minimum but rational standards that can be basis of our engineering supervision.  This set, like above, based on the project value, area and complexity may determine and set the minimum number of engineers or diploma holders require for the supervision. Further, instead of generality using some rational, it shall also place the years of experience required for each supervision team member. The team leader can be called Qualified Person (supervision) for whom, committee considering various attributes can determine the minimum requirements and also can provide the mechanism of his autonomy and coordination with other project stakeholders.

In addition to the Design & supervision teams, Execution team or the contractor is the one key stake holder. Competencies of the contractor team are paramount in for overall project cost and quality. So in addition to put framework of competencies for the contractor personnel’s and the work quality, it’s important if we regulate the non-engineering staff engaged in the engineering work. This may not fall under preview of the PEC however PEC may consider coordinating actively with other relevant departments and assisting to set the competency framework for various trades involved in engineering works. Regulating and improving the competencies of the non-Engineers supervisors or laborers involved in an engineering work can help us to improve the quality of our workforce  and such well-trained and high competency workforce can improve the overall work quality at home and is a ready asset for export to other countries.

In view of the above, I request the PEC Committees on Construction Industry Regulations and on Acts & Bye-Laws to review the existing bye-laws to make them more simple and clear for general understanding for the engineering community and also to consider having separate bye-laws as proposed above to raise the competency levels of the engineering community. Setting and enforcing such minimum standards on quality and number of engineers for an engineering project will certainly increase the employment opportunity as well.

 

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Yasir Cheema

Yasir Cheema is a Civil Engineer by training and currently working as Resident Engineer for Surbana Jurong Pte. Ltd. in Singapore. He writes at this portal about Governance, Public policy, Institutional development, Construction practices, and procedures.

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