Phnom Penh’s skyline continues to be transformed by new office towers, dual-use developments and apartment blocks. There is no doubt the construction sector is on the way up but, as the industry is in its infancy, it is interesting to note what standards exist to regulate development, and how do they compare with practices in the developed world.
There is a distinct lack of building regulations in Cambodia, where laws and regulations are young and emerging. There is an adopted set of standards which currently follow American and other leading standards from around the world, but I have found them difficult to locate with low levels of enforcement by building inspectors.
While this might seem to leave too much room for developers to take dangerous shortcuts, the reverse is often true. Developers are choosing to institute their own regulatory structure based on standards in use elsewhere and which surpass those available locally.
Tom Sterling of Sterling Project Management is a leading figure in the construction sector and a member of the Cambodian Board of Engineers, a body established two years ago to champion the development of building codes in the Kingdom.
Sterling said engineers, architects and property professionals have begun “striving to unify a set of international standards” to ensure best practices across the sector.
For now the emphasis remains on self-regulation by developers. Vattanac Tower, for example, was designed by TFP Farrells Ltd, internationally renowned architects with offices in London and Hong Kong. The tower’s Hong Kong-based mechanical and engineering contractor, J Roger Preston Ltd, oversees everything from air-conditioning and lift service to lighting and plumbing.
Ove Arup and Partners, also based in Hong Kong, cover construction management, structural design, fire safety, security and IT issues.
Sam Ang Vattanac of Vattanac Capital said construction of the tower will follow international building codes established by professional consultants and that Vattanac Tower will be built according to Hong Kong building codes, supplemented in some instances by standards in use in the United Kingdom.
A list of codes governing development in Hong Kong can be found on this website: www.bd.gov.hk/english/documents/index_crlist.html
Why bother to self regulate? The motivation is borne out of competition. Developers are driven by returns on investment, which means they are driven to meet the demands of consumers. Given the choice, consumers will opt to rent or buy space in buildings that meet the highest international standards – the better the building, the higher the rent or sale price.
Following Building Codes at the outset of design as opposed to retrofitting is far more cost-effective, saving money in maintenance costs and lower insurance premiums – plain common sense.
In other words, those who take short cuts will pay for it in the long term. Those who build to the best international standards will benefit from better values, better occupancy and that all too important but intangible credential, which is credibility.
Daniel Parkes is the Cambodia Country Manager for CB Richard Ellis