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Views from a German construction designer

Thomas Zazworka, country manager of Novare Design Cambodia, spoke to Special Sections Editor Moeun Nhean on German National Day about setting up in the Kingdom and taking on big projects.

Thomas Zazworka, country manager of Novare Design Cambodia.
Thomas Zazworka, country manager of Novare Design Cambodia.

How long have you been in Cambodia? What made you stay and work in Cambodia? What’s your current job?
Thomas Zazworka: I emigrated from Germany to Cambodia in 2007 to work for a local consulting firm. From early 2009, I began working predominantly on bridge issues associated with the 256km Cambodian southern railway line and the 385km northern railway line. This work has involved the strengthening of 13 bridges on the southern line and the replacement of 32 bridges on the northern line.

Due to the complexity of the project, another specialist consultant became involved in 2010 – Novare Design company from New Zealand. After completing the railway project Novare and I decided to open a branch office for Novare in Cambodia.

The main purpose of this office is to provide consultancy services in structural engineering for the Southeast Asia region and to support Novare’s New Zealand head office for their several international projects in Cambodia. I’m a representative of Novare Design as country manager for Cambodia.

As you come from a developed country, what do you think about the current situation of Cambodia? What do you see as the future of Cambodia? Could you give us some guidelines to help develop human resources in Cambodia.

Regarding the current situation, if I look back, since the day I arrived in Cambodia from Germany six years ago I can see significant changes in Cambodia; not only in Phnom Penh but also in the countryside. During my involvement in the railway project I travelled a lot through Cambodia and I recognised a lot of changes in the rural areas. Just to mention a few: new roads, like the road to Kampot and of course the landscape of Phnom Penh has changed a lot, new government buildings on Russian boulevard, a few new skyscrapers or if you go to Vietnam the new Monivong Bridge, just to mention a few. Referring to HR issues, I do think a change in education system would be a step forward. Currently Cambodian universities do have a mix of different standards in our industry and they do not focus on a nationwide education system.

Could you give us an introduction to your company based in Cambodia? What are your major business services?
The company originated in New Zealand where it is well recognised for skills in bridge, structural and civil engineering. Since its inception in New Zealand in 2004, Novare Design has been involved in projects in New Zealand, Australia, the Solomon Islands, the Philippines and Cambodia. It has delivered over 1,000 projects ranging from buildings to iconic bridges, including the international award-winning Te RewaRewa Bridge – a pedestrian and cycle-way bridge across the Waiwhakaiho River in New Plymouth, New Zealand. In August 2012, Novare Design opened its office on the ninth floor of Hyundai Phnom Penh Tower.

Why did your company choose to work in Cambodia? What’s important for your company and the Cambodian people?
Licensing for design engineering and construction companies in Cambodia grew by 13 per cent in 2012. According to the Cambodian Land Management Ministry, total companies currently number 1,205, with 932 being of Cambodian origin and 273 being international firms. With the growth in construction and property sectors of Cambodia, Novare Design entered the Cambodian market in July 2012. We believe that Cambodia has large potential for consulting engineer providers operating to international standards. Novare Design has historically specialised in infrastructure projects, particularly railways, but the company is not only focused on this. We are becoming more involved in other sectors including industrial and commercial, since we have the expertise and experience as general civil and structural engineers. In the future, Novare’s Cambodia office aims to split its resources 50 per cent for international markets and 50 per cent for local or ASEAN markets.

Briefly tell us about the achievements your company has made in the Kingdom. What are the next steps your company is planning to take Cambodia?
Aside from the recent railway project which has been completed, we anticipate being involved in further railway-related works and of course other sectors. The company plans to increase its staff to 15 by the end of this year including 10 local and international engineers.

What else do you think the Cambodian government needs to do to improve development in the country?
Despite several construction sites that are applying high-class design and construction standards, I have observed that often clients may not realise the longevity benefits of paying for this high-class service. At the moment there is no clear construction standard used by the industry and the lack of consistent use of internationally recognised design and construction standards is a matter which the country should address. However compared with other countries, the construction sector in Cambodia is growing quite well.

What is it like operating in Cambodia?
Working in Cambodia is challenging, and working with Cambodians comes with a learning curve. The thing I most like about Cambodians is that they are willing to learn and put a lot of effort into their work. What I have realised over the last six years is that Cambodians take criticism well and that they are also willing to correct themselves. These characteristics are important in our business.

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