Report launch highlights key need to build sustainable communities

23 Sep 2021

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FIDIC launched its fourth State of the World report, Building sustainable communities in a post-Covid world, at a webinar on 23 September 2021, which looked at what sustainable communities will look like in a post-Covid environment.

The world has changed as a result of the global pandemic and this latest FIDIC report grapples with the key issue of how to support the development of sustainable communities - not just sustainable cities, but communities. The report also highlights that the Covid crisis has shown that the interlinks between such communities are not only important, but they cannot and should not fail or be left to chance to the extent they were during the pandemic.

The webinar, attended by around 200 global construction and infrastructure professionals, was chaired by FIDIC chief executive Dr Nelson Ogunshakin and was introduced by FIDIC president Tony Barry. Speakers at the event included Jeshika Ramchund, lead engineer - developments at Bosch Projects in South Africa, Joseph Daniels, CEO and founder at Project Etopia Group in the UK, Maria Rozpide, director of consulting and environmental assessment at Typsa in Spain and Graham Pontin, head of economic and strategic policy at FIDIC.

Opening the webinar, FIDIC president Tony Barry said that post-Covid, although some aspects of life will shift back towards what was considered the norm, in reality many aspects will not. “Whilst there may be moves back to where we once were, more than two years of social change will inevitably change how people want and wish to live,” he said. “This report therefore explores this issue. How do we build sustainable communities? And not just sustainable cities, but communities. Covid has shown that the interlinks between such communities are not only important, but they cannot and should not fail or be left to chance to the extent they were during the pandemic. Our State of the World report explores these connections, how they develop and looks at how the pandemic has affected views on what truly sustainable communities may look like,” said Barry.

Introducing the report, FIDIC’s head of economic and strategic policy Graham Pontin said: “The report highlights the central point that sustainability and especially sustainable communities need to be integrated into all projects and thinking. Above all, communities are essential and it’s crucial that actions going forward involve and are based on communities’ needs and engagement with sustainability.” Pontin made the point that connections are also important, not only within communities but also between them. “Traditionally it has been simple to consider these as roads and railways, but increasingly these connections are online,” he said. “Covid has emphasised what isolation can do to communities and therefore, these connections are more important than ever.”

Jeshika Ramchund, lead engineer - developments at Bosch Projects, highlighted that engineers had a key role to play in connecting communities to move towards sustainability and that the challenge varies across different countries with different development profiles. “Engineers can do more and we need to be able to drive public awareness around how we can help to change people’s behaviour. We need to amplify our voice more, drive collaboration and highlight the interdependencies that affect the sustainability agenda,” Ramchund said.

Joseph Daniels, CEO and founder at Project Etopia Group said that access to information and affordable technology was crucial in enabling people to have the data to make better and more sustainable decisions. It was also important to educate people of the consequences of their actions, he said. “Engineers and scientists make up a small section of the population but they have a key role to play in getting information across and explaining messages to people in an accessible format.”

Asked about how the engineering sector could help to provide better knowledge sharing to connect communities, Maria Rozpide, director of consulting and environmental assessment at Typsa, said that the industry needed to take a holistic and approach to sustainable development. “We should always consider where projects are taking place, the complexities of the stakeholders and communities involved and have a wider global vision to what we do,” she said.

Rozpide also said that sustainable communities will require both infrastructure and buildings to be sustainable but also to work together. In this regard, highlighting whole-life costs was crucial and engineers had to play a key role in that. “We also cannot ignore economic questions and we need to join the debate on that,” she said.

FIDIC president Tony Barry made the point that unsustainable projects were now been seen by investors as too risky and they would be looking to their advisors, especially engineers, for the best advice. “Assisting our clients to help them de-risk projects will become increasingly important in the future, driven by financial demands,” he said. Agreeing with Barry, Joseph Daniels said that there needed to be more of a discussion with developers about the products they were bringing to market and whether these were sustainable and really providing lasting benefits to customers.

Summing up the event, Barry said that the challenges facing the industry and indeed the world were great but there was real opportunity in all this for engineers. “I am absolutely sure that humanity has the ability to make the changes that will be needed to build sustainable communities – we just need to find the motivation to do the right thing and make the change,” he said.

The next FIDIC webinar is an event organised by the FIDIC contracts committee on “All you need to know about the FIDIC Short Form of Contract (Green Book) 2nd Edition” on Tuesday 5 October at 12 noon CET.

Click here to book your free place at the FIDIC Green Book webinar.

Watch the webinar recording on the link below.

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