Low hanging fruits on construction law are ripe for the picking

Andre de Jong Chairman of EuroCham’s real estate and costruction committee
Andre de Jong Chairman of EuroCham’s real estate and costruction committee. Pha Lina

Low hanging fruits on construction law are ripe for the picking

The long-awaited Construction Law for Cambodia is currently being drafted. While this legislation will provide an overarching law for the building industry, a national building code with individual prakas will also be required to address building standards pertaining to project management, work site safety , fire safety and building control, just to name a few.

While a building code is a way off from being legally enforced, there are safety measures that companies can adopt to conform with international standards that are not overly technical or require years of training. According to Andre de Jong, EuroCham’s RECC Chairman and Managing Director of Bosch, these are what are called ‘low hanging fruits,’ which could be implemented quickly and efficiently.

“The construction industry is facing a long and interesting path. The private sector and government is working closely together to implement construction standards of which EuroCham and other business associations in Cambodia are taking part,” he said.

“If there is no construction standard or rules on how to play the game, each investor and builder can choose its own way to construct a building. Without standards it is free choice of what standard to adopt and if budgets are constrained this could lead to non-safe buildings,” he added.

“An overarching or mother of construction law is still being drafted but at the same time, prakas, or decrees, are being developed on individual areas to speed up implementation. You can’t just drop the construct law on the market and expect them to implement it straight away. It needs to be done in phases. Training to become a building inspector for example can take up to four years. Therefore the implementation of the construction law is a long and complex process which needs to be done bit by bit,” de Jong said.

According to de Jong there will soon be a prakas that pertain to project management on construction sites which has been developed in consultation within the industry for sites larger than 3000 square metres and seven stories and higher. This will ensure all projects engage an architect, project manager and building inspector which will help to make construction sites safer.

“The project management prakas refers to other prakas that do not even exist yet – but this a good thing. This means the government is looking forward while developing the construction law and considering all elements when implementing a national building code,” de Jong said.

De Jong also said that the ‘low hanging fruits’ on the construction law tree, such as adequate fire safety protocols could be implemented quickly with success in the short term. Compared to more technical activities such as conducting building inspections, which require special technology, the development and implementation of fire drills and evacuation plans and installation of smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and heat sensors, is relatively simple.

“It would be great to see some of the recommendations from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) UK report on building standards applied here in Cambodia. This will have a long term impact on investment and development within the country.

[Because] as an investor you want to avoid risk and currently building standards are not clear. This will also boost investor confidence which is good for the Cambodian economy,” he said.

At the end of the day de Jong said that everybody is responsible for safety but it is critical that the government enforces it. “Building inspections could be done by both private companies as well as government bodies but when it comes to enforcement, this is up to the government,” he concluded.

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