The Built Environment: The overlooked sector

Built Environment

This column, the first of the many to come, is envisaged to raise awareness and trigger debate on issues needing urgent address to the wide cross section of readers in their various forms such as practitioners, consumers, owners, regulators, authorities, financiers as well as being informative and educative, all within the Built environment and draw attention of relevant authorities to come together with other stakeholders to redefine the future as desired by all.

Built Environment definition.

The built environment is human made space in which people live, work, produce, recreate on a day to day basis. It can also be simply described as human made surroundings that provide setting for human activity. It has a rich diversity of disciplines which include Environmentalists, Spatial Planners, Land Surveyors, Engineers, Architects, Quantity Surveyors, and Valuers and their combined effort gives the output evidenced in Construction and Real Estate which gives direction to the Built Environment.

The above mentioned professions are grouped in their main areas of operation with the first being preconstruction/planning which comprise of services like site identification, feasibility studies, concept design, spatial planning, land cutting, apportionment and zoning, architectural services, costing etc,.

The next operation is construction involving the actual construction and its management. Upon completion, facilities maintenance and ancillary services which involve activities to maintain and renovate the property. Lastly is the disposal, which involves selling of the final product and its subsequent change of hands creating a market. This brings to the fore other professions such as the estate agents and conveyancers. The mentioned operations, happen within the confines of the laws relating to the activities, ownership and finances are required to support and enable the operations.

Built Environment and Economy

The level of activity in this sector arguably reflects the performance of any economy and traditionally, it is acceptable as a measure of wealth and means in which wealth is stored and protected. Further, the sector represents a substantial amount of capital in the form of investment for any economy and is the bedrock that supports the financial services sector from the perspective of collateral provided against loan advances. The sector contributes directly to GDP and ultimately its supply chain creates employment.


Broad challenges that are unavoidable in any discussion pertaining to the built environment include the ever increasing population, globalization, resource scarcity and climate change.

Population is growing through natural means and migration, with globalization, boarders are fast disappearing and the need for accommodation is rising on the background of limited land to develop the housing which unfortunately is competing with other uses like agricultural for food production. Construction materials from the bricks and tiles made of clay or blasted rocks (cement), the sand abstraction, steel processing, timber production, power requirements etc., are all but finite resources which in one way or the other, their production impacts on the environment resulting in climate change, a process that realistically reverses all the gains just as we witnessed the effects of Cyclone Idai. In a nutshell the future is not as we used to think of it and this requires a paradigm shift in dealing with the built environment. A deliberate conscious effort is required to balance out various conflicting interests.

Thus as the world continues to evolve, as driven by the waves intersections of technology, demographics and globalization, business as usual is not an option.

Buildings of the future will have to stand up to new different challenges but bearing in mind that many of these already exist as their lifespans are long, the need for innovation and creativity to make the built environment fit for purpose cannot be over emphasized, hence the need for collaboration both between various groups of professionals within the built environment sector and external stakeholders that would then enable sustainable development to take place.

Solutions are proffered from a position of either financial prowess, technical knowledge and expertise and above all the hunger and desire for a better tomorrow and the later will always guarantee success.

Priorities take their toll on the overlooked yet critical sectors and from where the writer stands, the built environment sticks out as the most neglected sector yet without it no nation will ever prosper. This is in no doubt a national agenda item as in its discussion one cannot separate involvement of Government at both national and local level, Society, Customer, Environment and Business. The unique dynamics of the Built Environment make the planning, delivery and management of property demand long term vision which unfortunately may be difficult to establish in a rapidly changing world.


Further challenges which this column would seek to discuss include professional competences, planning and enforcement, use rights and ownership, access to capital and economic barriers, market organization and funding, energy use in buildings and construction, waste management and noise pollution, unsustainable construction materials and responsiveness of building to site conditions amongst other issues affecting the development of the nation from the built environment perspective.

The writer will endeavor to discuss issues cross cutting the built environment highlighting the global best practice, experiences in other successful nations and the reality of our situation drawing attention to the urgent need for specific action required to address the gap.

A progressive world operates optimally accommodating divergent views as such readers are free to submit their comments to the editor and or writer’s email. All efforts will be made to sustain the column for the benefit of the various professions involved in the Built Environment and its stakeholders.


– Integrated Properties CEO : Dr. Mike Eric Juru –

– Financial Gazette Extract –