EuroCham Construction Forum 2019 gave updates and perspectives on the construction field in Myanmar

EuroCham Myanmar, together with leading European companies represented in the Construction and Infrastructure Advocacy Group, organised the first EuroCham Construction Forum at Grand Mercure Yangon Golden Empire Hotel in Yangon on 22nd January 2019.

The Forum had the theme ‘Moving Forward: Sustainability & Innovation in Construction’, and featured the topics of ‘Infrastructure Development’, ‘Building Technologies’ and ‘Heritage Preservation & Sustainable Construction’.

The general aim of the forum was to advocate for higher standards in the construction industry through discussing European best practices. Moreover, the objective of the forum was to present an update on how the construction industry of Myanmar is moving forward, and to discuss the importance of a sustainable and innovative approach in supporting this transition. This forum also served to raise the concerns of the EuroCham Construction & Infrastructure Advocacy Group and industry representatives to relevant stakeholders and media.

Opening Remarks

Mr. Filip Lauwerysen welcomed the attendees to the first Eurocham Construction Forum. “Europe is the ASEAN largest trading partner and, together, we hope to contribute to the development of Myanmar in a sustainable and innovative way to continue designing Yangon as an attractive city for current and future generations.”

U Min Htein, Director General of the Department of Urban Planning and Housing Development of the Ministry of Construction commented on the importance of local architecture and heritage. However, U Min Htein remarked that heritage has received little attention so far in terms of development, requiring more support in this area.

On this line, U Ko Ko Gyi, Vice-President of the Myanmar Engineering Society, celebrated the shared knowledge and experiences with EuroCham and highlighted the importance of the recent Memorandum of Understanding. U Ko Ko Gyi hopes this forum to serve as inspiration for a sustainable development in Myanmar.

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Infrastructure Development

Mr. Johannes Golüke, Senior Consultant, presented Roland Berger's outlook on the transportation infrastructure needs in Myanmar, including the challenges and opportunities that investors face in the country. He emphasized the importance of sustainable transportation infrastructure development for companies in Myanmar. However, the major challenge in the realisation of the projects remains the source of financing. The government and donor countries cannot take on the financing alone. Mr. Golüke greatly emphasized the pivotal role of well-developed private-public partnerships (PPP) for Myanmar’s sustainable development.

Panel 1

In this panel, U Kyi Zaw Myint, Deputy Director General of the Department of Bridges of the Ministry of Construction, considered that the following steps in Myanmar’s infrastructure development are to analyze the correlation between the economic development and FDI in terms of GDP. Also, he stressed the infrastructure development is correlated to the economic development process, therefore, FDI investment will flow-in simultaneously with Myanmar’s economic development.

Mr. Golüke highlighted that investment should become incentivized. He pointed out the imbalance in FDI sources, leading to a homogeneous investment landscape. European businesses should continue to focus on quality and sustainability of infrastructure projects.

Ms. Nevcan Güngör, Chief Investment Officer at Shwe Taung, talked about the importance of PPPs and the newly established Project Bank, with the obstacle of the proper allocation of incentives. She outlined the significance of the coordination between the government and the private sector to incentivize FDI. “There is a need of a holistic approach to assess the economic, social and environmental impact for the long-term, as cheap assets in the beginning can be costlier in the future” she commented.

U Saw Htwe Zaw, Central Executive Committee Member of the Myanmar Engineering Society, discussed the great opportunities for Myanmar and expressed to see great potential in the new Project Bank initiative.

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Building Technologies

Mr. Luu Le Minh Khai, EcoBuilding Director at Schneider Electric Vietnam, spoke about the innovative digital transformations that increasingly shape the way buildings and homes are designed. These innovations include ‘Smart Buildings’, ‘Internet of Things (IoT) Platforms’, and the progression of ‘Smart Homes’ to ‘Smart Communities’. With increasing urbanisation, IoT becomes essential and smart community solutions are widely implemented in buildings across South East Asia. Mr. Khai stated, “With the growth of the population the electricity consumption is expected to increase by 60% in the next 20 years, which makes it very important to invest in clean alternatives.”

Ms. Anna Choi, Head of Digitalisation at Schindler presented Schindler’s perspective on the importance of ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Smart Buildings’ as well the opportunities provided by implementing digital technologies such as the ‘IoT’, advanced analytics and machine learning for operating buildings. She outlined how digital and disruptive technologies are changing quickly and permeating daily life.

U Thant Sin Htut, Assistant Sales Manager at Jotun Myanmar, presented protective coatings and their crucial contribution to advanced building technologies. Coatings significantly influence the sustainability of structures and optimize indoor environmental quality.

Panel 2

In this panel discussion, Ms. Choi stated that there are challenges but also plenty of opportunities. As the country develops, it is the best time to use technology efficiently to solve the assessed issues. She commented on the importance of looking at the life cycle cost as a cost that seems expensive in the short run, but will pay-off in the long run.

U Ye Lin, Joint General Secretary of the Myanmar Construction Entrepreneurs Association & Managing Director of Dana Sar Yar Construction Co., argued that it is challenging to achieve a high level of technological standard when there is a lack of funding. Even though new projects are being pushed forward, affordable projects are prioritized. Mr. Lin also pointed out the need for more education on the possibilities of advanced building technologies.

U San Kyu, Central Executive Committee Member of the Myanmar Engineering Society, commented on the importance of promoting new technologies but that green technologies are not the prime concern of the government at the moment. Mr. Kyu suggested promoting new technologies through standards and regulations.

Mr. Luu Le Minh Khai, EcoBuilding Director at Schneider Electric in Vietnam remarked the evolution and increased feasibility of smart solutions. There are currently cheaper and easier technologies available, which may greatly benefit society and bring significant returns in the future.

Daw Myint Myint Sein, Director of the Department of Buildings of the Ministry of Construction, stressed the need for new technologies and the necessity to move forward to using better and more adequate technologies.

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Heritage Preservation and Sustainable Construction

Mr. Claudio Mura, Architectural Design Manager at Archetype Myanmar, discussed the intangible values such as visual links with the surrounding building environment, the historical and cultural connections with local communities as well as embedded architectural significance. He commented that Archetype Myanmar’s objective is to preserve, restore and protect these buildings. Mr. Mura remarked that one of the main challenges are the structural needs of the building, as well as the building regulations.

Mr. Torsten Nowack, General Manager of Sika Myanmar and Mr. Matthew Reuter, General Manager at Stonewest Hong Kong, presented the significance and impact of heritage friendly construction materials as opposed to regular materials. They highlighted the complexity of operating with high quality materials and showcase how the preservation of heritage project structures may benefit from such. They also outlined the difficulties, challenges, impact and benefits of sustainable masonry and how current building standards have little relevance to good conservation practice.

 Panel 3

In the third panel discussion, Claudio Mura outlined the importance to raise social awareness of heritage construction. Mr. Mura commented that many different factors are the drivers of the restoration process. He also suggested that increased efforts for preserving heritage constructions are needed.

Daw Moe Moe Lwin, Director and Vice-Chairman of the YHT, talked about the many layers of Myanmar’s heritage. She commented that the historical importance of these ancient buildings should be subordinated to the community and on how the building plays a role in the cultural context. To her “there are buildings with ‘soul’ that mean a lot to the community, to the people”, and identification of heritage depends on what it represents to the population. She additionally commented that many heritage properties are regretfully still being lost, where she highlights importance of government intervention to prevent heritage demolishing.

Mr. Daniel West, Managing Director at SPA Design & Project Services addressed the relevance of specific people or teams that specialize in the particulars of heritage preservation. He suggested that craftsmanship is playing a role to preserve heritage constructions, pointing out that those projects require dedication and time.

Mr. Matthew Reuter saw that educating clients on economic viability and advantages of restoring an old building is principal. As Mr. Mauro, Mr. Reuters believes in the raise of awareness and social education of major importance for the maintenance of these buildings. He believes that although many buildings have been lost, there are still so many present that give a lot of hope for legislation to contribute to their preservation. He agreed that there is a need on “knowing what not to do” in the heritage construction and outlined the large amount of culturally relevant buildings left.

U Khin Maung Maung, Central Executive Committee Member of the Myanmar Engineering Society remarked that religious monuments are still preserved, but some others are affected by the lack of skilled workers and funding. Mr. Maung agreed with the other panelists on the remaining “magical” heritage in Yangon that must be preserved.

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Closing Speech

Daw Sandar Aung Rebiere, Co-Chair of the EuroCham Construction & Infrastructure Group outlined the importance of the role of Eurocham in promoting compliance and transparency in a sustainable development in Myanmar. She also remarked the recent Memorandum of Understanding between the EuroCham Construction & Infrastructure Group and the Myanmar Engineering Society (MES) and thanked the MES for their contribution to the Forum. ‘We all have the responsibility to ensure that the construction industry in Myanmar is moving forward sustainably, and compliant with the highest standards of responsible business’. Ms. Rebiere concluded quoting "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do".

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