Infrastructure and cities development is vital to support growth, says new RICS president

RICS President, John Hughes.

Infrastructure is vital to the successful growth of sustainable cities, according to recently inaugurated Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) President, John Hughes, the first RICS president based in Canada.

“We must develop more commercially innovative approaches to delivering projects that are affordable and on time,” says Hughes, who has over 40 years’ experience in the industry and is a founding partner of Hemson Consulting Ltd, an advisory firm specialising in planning policy, municipal finance and related issues.

“To meet this challenge the shortage of skills and capacity must be addressed together with the rights of land owners, and others who are affected by projects. RICS has a public interest perspective and provides international standards that increase transparency which can help to balance the needs of different groups.”

In regard to Africa, James Kavanagh, Director, RICS Land Group recently commented that the developing world is undergoing a revolution in rapid, unstructured and unregulated urbanisation as rural populations flock to ever growing mega-cities. They are keen to access better education, health care, employment and a new future for their children.

Adds TC Chetty, South Africa Country Manager for RICS: “In many ways, some developing countries are becoming victims of their own economic success with new opportunities for their people, increased agricultural productivity and better infrastructure. This is across the board of health, social care and education, transport, energy and telecommunications.

“However, with urban growth comes pressure – on scarce resources, creaking urban systems – including waste and transport – on health care, land and property – formal and informal – and pressure on energy supply.

“These pressures are not just applicable to the developing world but also to the developed. So how are we as professionals going to help our urban spaces deal with this potent brew of competing interests and pressures?

“Climate change resilience, affordable and sustainable housing, and appropriate building standards also have to be brought into the mix. Urban areas can be epicentres of far-reaching change, whirlwinds of activity and learning, and drivers of change. But if they’re uncontrolled, they can also act as a distillation of significant risk and potential instability.”

RICS says the statistics on urbanisation speak for themselves; in 1950, less than 30% of the world’s population lived in urban areas, but the world has already passed the pivotal point where this figure has risen to more than 50%. In 2050, city dwellers are expected to account for more than two-thirds of the world’s population.

Africa and Asia will be the fastest urbanising regions with the urban population projected to reach 56% in Africa by 2050 and 64% in Asia compared to 40% and 48% at present.

Most of this investment will be needed in emerging and developing economies. The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa estimates that Africa will need to invest up to $93 billion a year until 2020 for capital investment and maintenance. Currently only $45bn is financed, which leaves an infrastructure gap of $48bn a year.

Hughes became president in the year Canada celebrated the 150th anniversary of Confederation. In 2018, RICS – a global professional body working across land, real estate, construction and infrastructure – will also celebrate its 150th anniversary.

The anniversary offers an opportunity to celebrate RICS’ past, while ensuring the profession is ready to meet future challenges in the built environment. The celebrations include a global competition to identify solutions to the most pressing challenges facing rapidly growing cities.

RICS will redouble its efforts to fulfil this commitment when it convenes the third Summit of the World Built Environment Forum in London in April 2018. Under the theme ‘Urbanisation, Innovation and Civilisation’, the summit will focus on the commercial strategies needed to harness the enormous potential of the 21st century’s people and places.

Joining Hughes in the RICS presidential team over the next year are RICS president-elect Chris Brooke, who is based in Hong Kong, and RICS senior vice president Tim Neal, based in London.