As the economic development rate in Cambodia keeps steady at 7 percent, the physical manifestations of this growth are seen through the development of many mixed-use high-rise buildings, highlighting the architectural collaborations between local residents and foreign influences. Some of these structures rise up to 200 metres in a city that only consisted of structures no higher than the tallest tree just a few years ago.
The construction industry is booming, and while city planning experts have lauded the country’s rapid development, they also say that Cambodia needs to proceed with caution, going so far as to advise companies to only invest in high-quality projects.
Ly Hour, president of the Housing Development Association of Cambodia, said that many international investors, particularly from China, are eyeing Cambodia for potential projects and investment. Most, he added, were focused on the construction industry and said the country’s continued economic growth made it an ideal place to invest.
“If we look at the population factor of Cambodia, we are a country with a young population, with a high demographic population for people under the age of 30 – the age range with the highest productivity,” he said. “For the people within the middle income bracket, we also see a significant increase in their numbers, which means housing demands for people will soar.”
Sat Dara, an engineering professor at various universities throughout Cambodia, told Post Property that factors such as the country’s demography were part of the reason for the strong interest from international investors.
“If we examine the prime minister’s rectangular strategy, the heads of the government have identified the four pillars of the economy as the agricultural sector, the garment sector, the construction sector and the tourism sector,” he said. “As per my personal observation, the construction industry is very appealing to investors right now, and it’s also in demand from people living in the country.”
Dara went on to say the government needs to consider what the best investments for the country are before moving forward.
“Doing so doesn’t mean that we’re only choosing major investors, but we want all the investment projects to be productive and of high quality, and this type of practice will draw in more attention from credible investors, which will then ignite transparent and vigorous competition,” he said.
The industry was not without its dangers, he added, telling Post Property that some major construction projects have shown signs of disrupting local populations and questions have been raised about the quality of the materials used for some developments. Aside from those concerns, there was also worry that the modern buildings and construction projects were lacking a distinct Khmer identity to them.
“These are just some flaws existing in the mechanism and components of the quality of construction or even the quality of the real estate project itself,” Dara said. “Other than this, there is still inadequacy on the part of expert officials and independent experts in monitoring and managing projects as well as construction sites until completion. If everything is satisfactory during the whole process, they should release a certificate signifying that the building has abided by safety measures and technical standards 100% to ease the minds of the people occupying the space.”
Dara added that the lack of proficiency in monitoring construction projects and overseeing investments like this have led to injuries and accidents that have sometimes been fatal.
“Not to mention the security system of the place and its emergency interventions. In case of fires and other disasters, who would be there to put out the hypothetical fire? And are the security systems in place sufficient or effective?” he asked.
Ouk Vannarith, an architect and former professor of architecture living in France, echoed concerns over monitoring. While congratulating the country for its rapid development, he cautioned builders and the government to focus on every aspect of a city’s structure as opposed to just the height of its buildings.