Director Speak: Interview of Dr. Anil Sawhney from RICS School of Built Environment

You had developed a model during your World Bank assignment. What’s that core premise of the model and how has it changed the industry?

I, along with my colleague Professor Kenneth Walsh from San Diego State University, under the aegis of the World Bank developed a model for international comparison of the construction sector. The work was performed as part of the International Comparison Program (ICP) from 2002 to 2006. The ICP is the largest global statistical endeavor established to produce comparable country-specific macroeconomic data for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its main components-including household consumption, gross fixed capital formation (construction and equipment goods), and government outlays. The ICP was established in 1968 by the United Nations Statistical Division.

In ICP, GDP comparison is achieved through price-level comparison that captures the purchasing power of national currencies. The most commonly used outputs of the ICP are Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) statistics for GDP and its various components. PPPs are calculated as the ratios of actual prices in national currencies. We developed a spatial and temporal comparison technique for the “comparison resistant construction sector” as part of this work. The methodology, called the Basket of Construction Components (BOCC), was vetted and approved by the ICP Technical Advisory Group at the World Bank before final adoption during the 2005 round of ICP. Over 100 countries from around the globe utilized the BOCC approach for spatial comparison of construction prices along with construction productivity. Our work allowed development of PPP for the construction sector of the participating countries.

What are the 5 things that are needed to improve India’s urbanization plan?

India’s urbanization story is a theme of numerous reports, international conferences, and widespread discussions and speculations and will shape the future of its citizens with far-reaching global implications. I believe that how India performs in the next 20 years is of prodigious geopolitical significance. Beyond the basics, there are five imperatives that I feel will catapult our urbanization phenomena on a path to success.

– India needs a robust locally-driven management and leadership model that can drive the urbanization process in a systematic and participatory fashion. Cutting edge project management principles including lean principles can yield phenomenal results.

– India must deploy its globally recognized Information and Communication Technology (ICT) leadership to bolster the rapid urbanization. ICT can provide the impetus needed in the planning and implementation process of urban India. Technologies such as Building Information Modeling, Big Data, Cloud Computing, Smart Cities, and e-Governance can provide a platform that is rich in data, enables information anywhere anytime to policy makers and citizens alike. Modeling and simulation tools like “SimCity” or “UrbanSim” can fill the vacuum that Indian cities currently face in terms of forecasting the implications of policy on the final outcomes.

– India must create centers of excellence to drive the urbanization. When US needed to regain and show the world its supremacy in the field of semiconductors, it launched a unique center of excellence called SEMATECH. Government, industry, and academia came together in 1987 to start this entity and in its 27 year history the dominance that US gained in the field of semiconductors is for everyone to see. India needs such tri-partite centers of excellence that can produce the much needed research, development and innovation that will drive the pace of infrastructure delivery in India.

– India needs to strengthen the SMEs so that an environment of creativity and innovation is enabled. This will lead to new revenue generation models that in of itself drive the urbanization process in the positive direction.

– India needs to develop a localized, culturally sensitive and contextualized model of inclusive and sustainable urban growth. Sustainability will be the single most important determinant of the success of our urbanization. Given the scale and size of India’s urbanization it is crucial that we embrace “smart growth models” and ensure inclusive and sustainable growth.

“I also look forward to the School of Built Environment creating ‘next practices’ which in turn will lead to ‘best practices’ for the industry” – Kamal Nath, Union Minister of Urban Development, GOI. How do you plan to achieve the same?

Creativity, innovation and collaboration are the bedrock principles needed for the provisioning of the built environment in India. The sector involves a multitude of stakeholders who perform their project-centric work from various dispersed locations-presently in an adversarial environment. Current practices do not promote creativity, innovation and collaboration in the design, construction and operation of our built environment. I envision the “next practices” to encourage the stakeholders to embrace creativity, innovation and collaboration. Fundamentally, this will change the paradigm that drives the current processes and enhance the operational efficiencies of the sector. These new practices will allow a clear line of sight to people, process and organizational issues across the entire lifecycle of the projects delivering better value for money for all stakeholders. These new practices are poised to engulf the built environment sector globally and will provide a catalytic means for “rethinking” how we design, construct, and operate our built environment. Our school is working with the industry to provide the impetus needed to define and amalgamate these new practices. Through well-rounded teaching and learning, research and development, and consulting activities the school stands ready to participate in this transformation of the sector.

Who is the ideal candidate for your program? How would you, in very simple terms, explain the deliverable of the program?

A student who thrives in a challenging environment that is full of opportunities is the right candidate for our program. Many of the concepts taught in our program are at the intersection of technical and managerial subjects so the candidate needs to have a holistic approach to learning and must show an ability to work in teams constituting domain experts and specialists. I see the profile of the ideal candidate to have a graduate degree in engineering, architecture or any related discipline with a deep appreciation for the built environment.

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