Property
On track to achieve world-class excellence
Sonia Ramachandran 
Though CIDB has been doing a good job, stakeholders feel more can be done
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The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) is synonymous with the local construction industry, a key pillar of the domestic economy.

As the industry’s regulatory body, it has in recent years introduced a slew of initiatives to transform the sector, and is the major driver in executing the Construction Industry Transformation Programme (CITP) 2016-2020.

The board has sought to bring improvement in areas such as construction methods, safety standards and sustainability.

For example, it introduced the Quality Assessment System in Construction (QLASSIC) to measure and evaluate the workmanship quality of building construction work based on the Construction Industry Standard (CIS7:2006).

It also introduced the Safety and Health Assessment System in Construction (SHASSIC) to assess and evaluate the safety and health performance of contractors at construction sites as well as a carbon reduction tool, MyCREST (Malaysian Carbon Reduction and Environmental Sustainability Tool).

The board is also looking at introducing the Construction Design Management (CDM) system to reduce fatality rates on construction sites.

Industry players feel CIDB has done a good job thus far with its various initiatives, but some feel more can be done, especially in engaging industry stakeholders.

Wan Hashimi says CIDB is moving full steam ahead with CITP’s four strategic thrusts

Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia (Rehda) vice-president and Federal Territory branch chairman Datuk Wan Hashimi Albakri tells FocusM that CIDB’s role in a nutshell is to drive construction excellence in an engaging and collaborative manner with all industry stakeholders.

He says CIDB started slow but is now focusing on moving full steam ahead with CITP’s four strategic thrusts – quality safety and professionalism; environment sustainability; productivity and internationalisation.

“I believe our construction industry will achieve world-class standards and best practices by then, if not already in certain areas,” says Wan Hashimi, who is also Sime Darby Property Bhd chief transformation officer.

 

More engagement needed

However, he says it is a journey fraught with many challenges. “CIDB needs to engage and collaborate more not only with policy makers, but equally importantly, industry players: developers, consultants, contractors, suppliers, manufacturers – the entire eco system.

“(CIDB should) listen well and seek to understand,” he adds.

Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) president Foo Chek Lee feels CIDB has been a great regulatory body as “it has worked towards ensuring the quality and safety of the industry”.

It has also improved best practices and technologies used in the industry, he says.

“CIDB is responsible for the registration of contractors and establishment of the CIDB Green Card, which certifies that the bearer has undergone mandatory safety training,” says Foo, who is also Pembinaan Mitrajaya Sdn Bhd managing director.

The board should seriously look into construction productivity,  says Foo

Foo notes that CIDB also certifies and accredits construction workers based on their trade skills to improve quality. He adds that the board is working with the industry and relevant government agencies to promote and export local construction services overseas.

Building Materials Distributors Association of Malaysia (BMDAM) president Yang Kian Lock concurs, saying CIDB plays a very important role in ensuring the industry develops in line with national policies.

“It also ensures that industry players comply with all requirements,” says Yang, who is also Sudut Swasta Sdn Bhd managing director.

Property developer Adenland Group director Datuk Seri Eric WT Wong says CIDB has many crucial roles to play.

“Apart from increasing the efficiency and competitiveness of the industry, it acts as a watchdog for both developers and property purchasers,” he says.

 

More to do

Though CIDB has been doing a good job, there is still room for improvement. Wong says CIDB‘s underlying objectives and blueprints are “absolutely spot on,” but more pragmatic and effective implementation is needed, particularly in registration and approval processing.

MBAM’s Foo says CIDB should look into the continuous training of skilled human resources to fulfil the industry needs and also to upgrade building technology such as Building Information Modelling (BIM).

“Construction productivity is an area of concern which MBAM feels CIDB should seriously look into, besides the issue of high dependency on foreign workers,” he says.

On this issue, CIDB chief executive Datuk Ahmad ‘Asri Abdul Hamid says its MyBIM Centre is already operating and will enhance the promotion and utilisation of BIM.

The centre will also provide access to BIM software and hardware on a pay-per-use basis for companies that find it costly to invest in BIM.

Ahmad ‘Asri points out CIDB has also introduced the Centralised Information Management System (CIMS) on July 4. This integrates all processes and transactions to facilitate sharing of data and decision making to ensure faster, efficient and transparent services to its stakeholders.

Under CIMS, application and approval processes are conducted online whereby customers no longer need go to CIDB counters to send physical supporting documents or to collect their certificates or cards.

It also allows for a shorter approval process which will be done completely online to enhance transparency.

Ahmad ‘Asri says he tries to find out actual problems on the ground by reaching out to as many people as possible and by practising an open-door policy.

BMDAM’s Yang wants CIDB to have regular dialogues with them as well as quarterly meetings to explore more about issues faced by building material distributors.

“We also hope that BMDAM will be provided with a seat on the CIDB board to contribute our views and also for us to disseminate the latest information to our members,” he says.

 

QLASSIC & IBS

CIDB wants QLASSIC to be made compulsory for all building projects worth RM50 mil and above next year. The Industrial Building System (IBS) will also be made compulsory by 2020.

Rehda’s Wan Hashimi says the move to make QLASSIC and IBS compulsory is generally supported by developers. “In fact some major developers are already adopting them in their projects.

“I do not see it as an issue amongst developers, except if it involves including them as requirements in the SPA (sale and purchase agreement) with our customers,” he says.

MBAM’s Foo points out that QLASSIC was introduced by CIDB for the purpose of setting a standard for quality of workmanship for various construction elements of building and construction works.

“I am confident that once it is mandatory, it will ensure that even lower-end developments are subjected to the same standard of assessment, which is a good move for the continuous improvement of the industry,” says Foo, adding that this will assure clients and buyers of product quality.

Adenland’s Wong says QLASSIC acts like a quality endorsement, just like SIRIM for electrical products. “Overall it is a good long-term idea but very much is needed to educate and inform the public on what QLASSIC is all about.

“If there is no recognition, then there is no accreditation,” he says.

However, Wong is concerned on how CIDB will assess quality when it comes to categorising cheaper housing products.

“It will be unfair and inaccurate to have a blanket method of assessment for all types of buildings,” he adds.

BMDAM’s Yang says QLASSIC is a good policy and practice for the industry. “The industry will have the same standard to comply with, and house owners will get more quality for the homes they buy with potential value increases in the future.

“All contractors will know what specifications and standards to comply with to avoid undercutting one another and therefore not being able to deliver high-quality jobs,” he says.

On the move to make IBS compulsory, MBAM’s Foo says it is timely, but cautions that the government needs to take a holistic view of the industry before the system can be implemented effectively.

“(This includes) reviewing existing uniform building by-laws, import duties on heavy equipment which involve IBS component manufacturing as well as installation and human resources such as skilled workers, supervisors and designers.

“This also means that the government needs to put more incentives on the table as push factors for the private sector to commit and carry out the transition,” he says.

Adenland’s Wong says he is in favour of IBS to reduce conventional labour reliance.

 

CDM

CIDB also wants to emphasise more on safety and plans to introduce CDM to further improve safety at work sites.

“CDM was introduced as a regulation on April 6, 2015 in the UK. It governs the way construction projects of all sizes and types are planned,” says Rehda’s Wan Hashimi.

He adds that CDM aims to improve the overall health, safety and welfare of those working in construction, describing it as “a very good thing”. However, he says it is going to add about 10-20% to project costs.

MBAM’s Foo says CDM is a good regulation to ensure health and safety issues are appropriately addressed during project planning and design development.

“MBAM is now working closely with CIDB and the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) on ways to implement CDM, which not only covers safety aspects in the design, construction and maintenance, but also the demolishing of the intended structure later,” he says.

Staying the cause

Industry players generally agree that CIDB head honcho Ahmad ‘Asri is doing a good job.

Wan Hashimi says Ahmad ‘Asri is committed and dedicated to stay the cause in achieving construction excellence in the country. “He is very open and I believe it is the openness with stakeholders that will ensure the success of CITP,” he says.

MBAM’s Foo concurs. “He (Ahmad ‘Asri) is a hands-on man and understands the industry well.

“He has been listening to the plight of the industry and has worked closely with us to come up with programmes and regulations for its improvement and future growth.”

Adenland’s Wong commends Ahmad ‘Asri for his willingness to fight for the industry’s interests. “He has consistently pressed for IBS and has even demanded that the government reduce taxes for IBS machinery.

“I hope he has the full support of other government agencies to keep everybody on the right track for an advanced construction industry which is geared towards technology, not the labour-intensive backwaters,” he adds.

CIDB’s man of the hour

When Datuk Ahmad ‘Asri Abdul Hamid assumed the driver’s seat at the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) on March 1 last year, he had to “hit the ground running” as he was entrusted with executing the Construction Industry Transformation Programme 2016-2020 (CITP).

CITP is the national agenda to transform the construction industry through four strategic thrusts: to be highly productive, environmentally sustainable with globally-competitive players, while focused on safety and quality standards.

“My first plan of action when I took over was basically CITP because although it was launched in 2015, the starting point was actually January 2016 because the programme covers 2016 to 2020.

“In that sense I am very lucky because my road is already paved. It is just a matter of getting the resources and moving forward. It is all about execution,” Ahmad ‘Asri tells FocusM.

“To me, what I am doing is for the industry – from the industry, for the industry,” says Ahmad ‘Asri

The chief executive says CIDB is on track with CITP. “We use the traffic light system. If it is green, it is good, yellow is okay but red is for those who have not achieved their KPIs (key performance indicators).

“There is no red at the moment despite some challenges in achieving certain KPIs. That is why I am very happy.”

 

Focus on safety, R&D

After ensuring CITP is running on schedule, Ahmad ‘Asri is focusing on safety as well as research and development (R&D), with necessary plans in motion.

The initiatives include collaborative efforts with overseas partners and projects that benefit the rakyat.

Although CIDB has the Safety and Health Assessment System in Construction (SHASSIC) in place, he wants to “move up another step” by having the Construction Design Management (CDM) system to reduce fatalities at construction sites.

SHASSIC is a standard assessment mechanism to assess and evaluate the safety and health performance of contractors on construction sites.

“The Construction Research Institute of Malaysia (CREAM), which is our research arm, has signed a collaboration agreement with the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

“It took HSE 23 years to reach where it is now with the average workplace fatality rate at about 1.9 per 100,000 workers. In Malaysia, the figure is about 10.9, so we still have a long way to go,” says Ahmad ‘Asri, adding that one of HSE’s initiatives was implementing CDM.

He says safety is definitely a focus and the collaboration involves HSE looking at what CIDB plans to do based on CITP and to identify the gaps or differences between that and what HSE has done.

R&D is also another area of concentration. “We are not focusing on academic research but solution-based research. We want research that solves problems,” he adds.

 

Industry input

Feedback from the industry is paramount to Ahmad ‘Asri. “What I am doing is for the industry – from the industry, for the industry.

“I am just their (the industry) representative and enabler. At the end of the day, they are the implementers.”

He describes himself as a hands-on people-oriented boss, saying managing people is more difficult than engineering as “machines are predictable”.

“The challenge of a leader is to make sure you leverage the strength of your workforce and accept their weaknesses.

“Do not demotivate them.”

On what has been his proudest moment, he adds: “(Pursuing) happiness and success is a journey. This journey has been full of satisfying moments. That is why I enjoy working.”



This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 255.