Presidential initiatives bring academia to the heart of construction
Two recent events have placed CIOB at the fulcrum of worldwide academic and company research in the built environment.
CIOB President, Professor Ghassan Aouad, who is also President of the Applied Science University in Bahrain, brought together his extensive network of academic, industry and diplomatic contacts to meet at two events in May. The events were designed to elicit a dialogue about sustainability and how it can be achieved in a European and Middle-Eastern context and about the vulnerability of construction management as an academic subject.
The two events, one in Bahrain and one in Manchester, were attended by a stellar list of nearly 300 academics, diplomats and industry figures including the British Ambassador to Bahrain and nearly a dozen other ambassadors including those from Palestine and Iraq.
Those attending made it clear that Professor Aouad has exceptional skills in bringing together academia, professional bodies and industry to forge ever more useful collaborations.
In Manchester, more than 60 top academics working in universities across the UK came to meet their friends and hear about the increasing vulnerability of construction courses. There was also a presentation on the way Research Excellence Framework (REF) was conducted in the UK by Professor Alan Penn, chair of the REF panel on Architecture, Built Environment and Planning.
Professor Aouad concluded by re-emphasising the importance of academia, industry and professional activities working together. He also stressed the importance of addressing the vulnerability of construction and built environment education in British Universities.
The second event, the Forum on Sustainable Buildings and Infrastructures, in Bahrain featured an even broader range of attendees from right across the Middle East. Almost two hundred delegates from Bahrain, Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, UAE and the UK attended the event which was hosted by the CIOB in association with the Applied Science University, Bahrain and Bahrain Society of Engineers. The event took place at the state of art campus of Applied Science University and it was an occasion to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the University.
The welcome address was made by His Excellency the British Ambassador to Bahrain, Iain Lindsay OBE who made the point that chartered status is a sign of excellence and of having the knowledge and skills to be recognized as competent and that these skills and expertise are essential to providing an economically and environmentally sustainable built environment. Other speakers shared good practice in sustainability and the latest thinking on sustainable cities and how this could be interpreted in the Middle East.
The programme for the event featured Mike Salmon of Drake and Scull who many will remember as the hugely popular Past President of CIOB Middle East. Mike spoke about the importance of motivation in achieving sustainability in the Middle East and tasked delegates with considering how they can tap into what individuals actually think about sustainability.
Don Ward, the Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence UK, spoke about the use of LEED and BREEAM in the UK and the Middle East and described how the idea of sustainability which was primarily about saving the planet in the 1990s has changed as we have recognised that there are economic and social benefits to sustainability too.
Professor Waheeb Alkhaja, MD of the Applied Science University underlined the role that universities can play in achieving a culture of excellence. “Preservation of life on our planet and the preservation of the environment are top priority. We aim to make ASU students capable of serving their home community in this essential area.”
CIOB President Professor Ghassan Aouad presented work on the role the CIOB can play in creating a culture of sustainability with particular emphasis on Carbon Action 2050.
A panel discussion after the keynote speakers featured contributions from the Managing Director of Nass Contracting, David Anthony, UKTI representative Yara Tawfeek alongside Chris Blythe, Chief Executive of CIOB and Rick Hopper, MD of Atkins Bahrain and Kuwait. It reached the conclusion that water and energy are too cheap in Bahrain and that this has held back the development of resource efficient buildings and infrastructure but that local legislation is now taking steps to redress the situation.
The plethora of codes that can be chosen to work with in the Middle East, which come from many different parts of the world, was felt to be an issue for those not expert in sustainability and building requirements. However, the way self-certification has been implemented for some aspects of building regulations in Bahrain was felt by the panel to be a very good idea and highly applicable to the UK and elsewhere, provided that a sufficient level of inspection could be achieved.
The conference was closed by Professor Aouad who emphasised that extremely well-educated people are leaving the universities in the Middle East who must be attracted into the construction industry and that it is equally important that the legal regime be improved to allow them to build the most sustainable buildings they can.
Two film crews from local TV channels were among the press delegation at the event and at the dinner hosted afterwards by Professor Waheeb in the University’s magnificent Dome Room. The MC of the event was Ms Ruqaya Mohsen, Director of Public Relations at Applied Science University, Bahrain.
Professor Aouad awarded three special fellowships of CIOB at the beginning of the event. The new special fellows are: Professor Waheeb Alkhaja, Managing Director of the Board of Directors of the Applied Science University Bahrain, Dr Nabil Al-Tawil, Director of Hill International, based in Abu Dhabi and Dr Assem AlHajj Academic Head at Heriot Watt University, Dubai.
Mutual understanding promoted in Middle East
One of the most important aspects of Professor Aouad’s Bahrain event was that it brought together two Institutes and committed them to working together to improve the built environment. Eng Masoud Alhermi, President of Bahrain Society of Engineers (BSE) joined Professor Aouad in signing a Memorandum of Understanding between the CIOB and the BSE agreeing to make joint working between the two bodies to promote sustainability effort in the coming years.
Chris Blythe has been awarded an honorary degree by the University of Wolverhampton and is now an Honorary Doctor of Professional Practice.
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