And the MoWHS Minister undertakes a carpentry course for himself
A private company is spreading an initiative to encourage alternative methods of construction that has the potential to eliminate dependency on foreign workers and create job opportunities within the construction sector.
The initiative is expected to help people build homes within a short timeframe, and assist aged people and those with special needs to lead easier lives, with the use of smart technology.
CEO of Bhutan Professional Services, Basant Raj Chhetri, said, “The construction sector was among the worst hit. The need of changing the current methods of construction has been long felt. It was only with the current pandemic that the need to reduce this dependency has been urgently felt within the construction industry.”
“Besides the labour shortage, the other concerns that have been often expressed is with regard to the seismic resilience of our buildings, poor insulation resulting in very high energy consumption for heating, and the industry’s failure to attract youths to take up the vocation,” he added.
It is well established that innovation thrives in times of crises, and when the pandemic exposed these systemic issues, he felt that the current crises in the construction sector can possibly use prefabrication and smart building solutions.
Prefabricated structures, by virtue of its lightweight, are resilient in seismic zones. Prefabrication also addresses another key weakness in the construction industry today, making it more attractive to the youth, as it takes away the dullness of manual labour.
He said, “It also provides greater opportunity for better remuneration, without increasing the cost of construction. Further, the adoption of this green technology will make buildings energy efficient, thereby, reducing the carbon footprint while improving the indoor living standard of our homes.”
The company will build a prefabricated house that can showcase the idea and exhibit the final product to potential customers. It will inevitably take some effort to break down the currently held misconception that prefabricated homes are only for temporary shelters, and are not as durable as conventional buildings.
“We are hopeful of being able to improve the comfort of our homes, and in fulfilling the Royal Vision of home ownership, and creating employment opportunities within the construction industry,” he added.
Dorji Tshering, Minister for Ministry of Work and Human Settlement said that it is good to see Bhutanese coming up with prefabrication work and modern technologies. In 5 to 6 decades since the inception of construction in the country, the construction industry in the country has not reached to the destination where it is supposed to be.
Lyonpo said, “We have reached to a point where there should be development and changes in the construction industry. If we dissect and look closely at a micro level we are still dependent on foreign imports, for upto 85 percent. Everything in the construction industry is import.”
However, he added that to a large extent the road and bridge construction have achieved mechanization, and if continued then there would be the need of buying latest equipment.
On the other hand, when it comes to building construction the industry is lacking behind. Now with the initiative of prefabrication work in the country, they are hoping for certain changes in the building construction sector.
“The ministry is now deeply focusing into enhancement of the construction sector. There is a taskforce constituted looking after the construction industry roadmap. We also have constituted more than 40 specialized firms,” he added.
Lyonpo further said that if they are heading towards the right direction they are coming up with a builder system. The house owners will be encouraged to construct their houses through builders and not themselves.
Government is working on various policies and to implement it they are looking for partnership and support from the private companies, he said, adding that in next few months they are hoping to get more partnership from the private companies to bring changes in the industry.
People must get the taste of working in construction sector, and once they are into it they would be happy to hold on to it forever. This may then contribute hugely to country’s economy, he said.
The mindset of the people should be changed, he said, adding that they must work towards gaining the trust of the people through their services.
Lyonpo is undergoing a carpentry course with the labour ministry, and soon he will be a certified carpenter. “After my tenure from the ministry I might take up carpentry. This is my interest and I would encourage youths to take up the opportunities so that one can be independent and help the country in reducing imports,” he added.
Meanwhile, Lyonpo said that they have a huge demand of foreign laborers in the construction sector, and it is now picking up, but they cannot bring in everyone.
He said, “With the completion of construction of quarantine centers, all the required numbers of foreign laborers might be fulfilled in few months time. However, it may affect some of our local labor force given the cost factors.”
Nevertheless, things must go on, he said.