The Built Environment: The overlooked sector.

  • 12 months ago
  • 0

There are challenges the world over and all countries are in a similar predicament of having to deal with
multifaceted problems. No single standard solution can be applied to eradicate whatever unbearable
situation is before us, and the only way forward lies in small steps taken at various sectorial levels.

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 latter 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 no
doubt a national agenda item as in its discussion one cannot separate the involvement of Government at
both the national and local levels, Society, Customer, Environment and Business.

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

Categorization of Services
The above-mentioned professions are grouped in their main areas of operation such as
Preconstruction/planning comprises services like site identification, feasibility studies, concept design,
spatial planning, land cutting, apportionment and zoning, architectural services, costing etc,. The next
operation is a construction which involves the construction and its management. Upon completion,
facilities maintenance and ancillary servicesinvolve activities to maintain and renovate the property. Lastly
is the disposal, which involves the selling of the final product and its subsequent change of hands, creating a market. This brings to the fore other professions, such as 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. Traditionally, it is
acceptable as a measure of wealth and means by which wealth is stored and protected. Further, the sector
represents a substantial amount of capital in the form of investment for any economy. The sector
contributes directly to GDP, and ultimately, its supply chain creates employment.

Future discussions
This column, the first of the many to come, is envisaged to trigger debate, and raise awareness on issues
needing urgent address to the broad 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 the attention of relevant authorities to come together with other
stakeholders to redefine the future as desired by all.

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

The unique dynamics of the Built Environment make the planning, delivery and management of property
demand long-term vision which, unfortunately, may be challenging to establish in a rapidly changing

Broad Challenges
Broad challenges unavoidable in any discussion about the built environment include the ever-increasing
population, globalization, resource scarcity and climate change.

The population is growing through natural means and migration; with globalization, borders are fast
disappearing, and the need for accommodation is rising on the background of limited land to develop
housing which unfortunately is competing with other uses like agriculture for food production.
Construction materials from the bricks and tiles made of clay or blasted rocks (cement), sand abstraction,
steel processing, timber production, power requirements etc., are all but finite resources which, in one
way or the other, their production impacts climate 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.

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 overemphasized, 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.

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

Further challenges that this column would seek to discuss include professional competencies, 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.

A typical world operates optimally, accommodating divergent views, and 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 nation at large.

Mike E. Juru, the CEO of Integrated Properties, whose views expressed in this column are his own and in no way reflect the thinking of the various professional bodies and associations that he works with. Mike can be contacted on his email

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