RICS warns of ‘unprecedented change’ as global population booms

By Oscar Rousseau on November 4, 2018

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is pushing for greater collaboration in the Middle East to help lower costs, deliver projects more quickly, and resolve protracted disputes.

Global chief executive of RICS, Sean Tompkins, calls on governments in the Middle East to find better ways of stimulating collaboration in the construction sector – for the good of all parties and for the future of the profession.

“We have a construction industry globally that is really set up to argue and fight during the process of projects, and that comes right at the point of procurement – how projects are initiated, how they are procured and set up,” Tompkins tells Construction Week.

RICS aims to encourage governments to “find ways to improve collaboration” in the industry, which could help to “improve the construction cost overall and reduce the time it takes to deliver on projects”, Tompkins says.

“One thing we have been looking at, which is really important, is that when there is a dispute, how do you make sure that it is not just wrapped up in the courts for years? This may be halting progress and may not be providing an important piece of infrastructure.”

He continues: “There are alternative ways that you can set these things up, [such as by using] alternative conflict avoidance mechanisms. At RICS, we would really argue that these types of things need to be looked at and embraced within contracts in order to create greater collaboration going forwards.”

RICS is one of the oldest built-environment professional institutions in the world and was formed in the UK 150 years ago. It has launched an industry-wide consultation called Future of the Profession, which explores how the industry can adapt to the disruptions that society will face as a result of rampant urbanisation and technological change. The consultation ended in October and Tompkins hopes it will “provide a real blueprint for the changes that need to take place in this industry”.

The world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, and close to two-thirds of people are expected to live in cities by that time. Tompkins describes this as “an unprecedented pace that will hit every city in the world”.

He says “most cities are struggling to cope” with this rate of change in terms of infrastructure, housing, and social cohesion.

“That is the big element of change, and what is happening in the construction industry is that for many, many years, our existing business models have struggled to keep up with the current pace, and here is a requirement for a pace way faster than anything we have ever considered. This is where the challenges are going to come from,” he explains.

“This is where technology [such as] big data [and] artificial intelligence […] will come into the industry as a way of improving and projecting that pace at a much quicker rate. We have to be ready for that and seize it before other people with other business models do.”

While Tompkins admits meeting the demands for infrastructure and housing “will require money”, there are other ways in which RICS claims it will be able to help future-proof the construction sector: “What the world looks for are areas with great transparency, high standards, good ethical behaviour, and professions that you can trust – and that is what we stand for.

“On that level, providing those standards, providing people with competencies, is something that we are supplying to the world in order to deal with these challenges.”

Tompkins says he would like to see “different leadership” in construction that embraces innovation to ensure that the sector is prepared for the biggest challenges currently facing the industry.

The Future of the Profession consultation by RICS is only the first step on an uncertain and challenging road, Tompkins says. Nonetheless, it is one that the industry will need to take note of, if it is to be equipped with the tools and technical expertise necessary to meet future urbanisation head on.

READ: RICS chief calls on governments to help fix construction disputes

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