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Q&A: Bill Jones of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

Bill Jones is Asean managing director for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), a body that promotes professional standards in the property industry

Safe buildings require good construction practice, and Asean is slowly implementing consistent standards, says Bill Jones of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

What would you class as RICS’s biggest successes in Southeast Asia?

If you’ve heard about the work we’ve done in Cambodia, we’ve been working on assisting the government and other stakeholders to rewrite the building and fire regulation codes. We’re playing an ongoing role there, so that the country has the right regulations in place in construction, and we’re also aiming to produce professionals of the highest standards who adhere to those standards and regulations.

What innovations in building design and standards could be particularly useful for Southeast Asia?

We work closely with architects and developers to try and promote green building design. We’re also looking at sustainable cities and the role our members can play to make cities more viable, more enjoyable to live in and better planned with better infrastructure – so that the majority of people’s lives aren’t spent sitting in cars or on public transport.

How does the region’s growing population affect building and architecture?

There is a skills shortage when it comes to the construction of homes for people, and with a growing population there’s going to be a massive boom in developments to house them. Meanwhile, increasing urbanisation will require a real focus on cities and how they can be better structured and managed.

One of our big challenges is trying to find people with the right skills to work in the construction and real estate industries, so there’s a massive role to play over the next 20 to 30 years. We need to take action now, and a key area is implementing technology, such as building information modelling [an intelligent 3D model-based process for the planning, design, construction and management of buildings], which is becoming a tool of increasing importance.

Would you say that the codes you try to implement are being enforced in countries properly?

It’s mixed. The challenge with international standards is that while they are adopted by organisations, governments tend to adopt local standards produced by local bodies. What we produce isn’t mandatory. So that’s the challenge, that’s the next step for us – to try and get international standards accepted by countries in tandem with local standards.

Is there a push within Southeast Asian countries to bring in standards across the board? And is there the political will to do this?

Certainly, if you look at the Asean secretariat and the fact that the economic community is being developed. All the things they are going to have to rely on will be linked principally to the development of a regional standard – but that regional standard will rely heavily on international standards.

There’s a whole mishmash of different standards in the different countries across Southeast Asia. You’ve got ten countries, as well as maybe one or two others who want to join Asean, that all have wide and varied standards, so there is a massive need for the Asean secretariat to pull it all together.

Keep reading: “The rise and rise” – Marc Townsend, managing director of CBRE in Cambodia and Vietnam, discusses the two countries’ revitalised property markets and why affordable housing will be the next big thing

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