RICS campaign highlights notable surveying achievements of great benefit to communities

As part of its 150th anniversary celebrations in 2018, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) pays tribute to the greatest achievements of the past 150 years through its Pride in the Profession campaign, which showcases projects that have made a significant and positive impact on society.

Says TC Chetty, RICS Country Manager for South Africa: “To celebrate this milestone, we are showcasing the significant and positive impact surveyors have made to society. We’ve already dug into the archives to find some exceptional examples, and by promoting these remarkable people and projects we want to demonstrate how varied and rewarding a surveying career can be. We welcome any input regarding other notable achievements.

“In a world where many countries are beset by a dire need for clean, safe drinking water, notable among these achievements is a model designed by chemical engineer and senior university lecturer, Dr Askwar Hilonga, in Tanzania a country where about 46% of the population does not have access to safe water. His innovative water filter project has turned contaminated water into clean, safe drinking water and made it accessible at low cost to the poorest of the poor in his community. The water filters are rented out to local shop owners at an affordable rate, or sold to entrepreneurs.

“Utilising nanotechnology, he developed what he calls the Gongali model, which in 2015 was awarded first prize for engineering innovation by the Royal Academy of Engineering Africa. This award recognises ambitious and talented sub-Saharan African engineers from all disciplines who apply their skills to develop scalable solutions to local challenges, highlighting the importance of engineers as enablers of improved quality of life and economic development,” says Chetty.

In addition to the provision of safe drinking water, Dr Hilonga’s invention and business model has created numerous benefits and spin-offs, with 17 water kiosks established, run by local entrepreneurs, while 276 nanofilter units have been sold in direct sales and employment created and sustained for 118 women and 52 men. All in all thousands of members of the local community have benefited directly from the project.

Other achievements celebrated by RICS include that of Frank Lund of the UK, Fellow of RICS, who provided clean water globally to victims of human conflict and natural disasters. In partnership with Geoff Witcom and John MacDonald, he designed the revolutionary Aquabox. These distinctive blue boxes, launched in 1992 with Rotary International, are packed full of humanitarian aid items and sent to victims of human conflict and natural disasters worldwide.

The genius behind the Aquabox – which is Lund’s idea and design – is that once emptied of its contents, it acts as a reusable water filtration system, providing clean water for communities in need. One community-sized filter system can produce an impressive six litres of clean water a minute, which means that over its lifespan the Aquabox can produce a million litres of water. To date, more than 110 000 containers have been distributed across the globe to those most in need.

As a result of his work, Lund has helped supply clean water to communities in the Philippines, Cameroon, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Mexico, India, Haiti, Somalia, Peru and, most recently, Syria.

His outstanding contributions to Rotary International, and society at a large, have not been unrecognised – in both 1998/9 and 2005/6 the foundation awarded Lund, Witcom and MacDonald special honours.

Also in Africa, Jimmy Omotosho led a team of surveyors who conducted the Nigerian state of Lagos’ first valuation of infrastructure assets in 2016. This huge undertaking included the valuation of 698 roads and bridges covering a distance of 687 km.

The valuation revealed that the government owned 1.7 trillion Naira, or US$4.7 billion’s worth of assets, and allowed them to perform an overall assessment of the past year’s spending by the state. It showed, for example, that in 2016 the Lagos health infrastructure had received a boost, with the government procuring modern equipment to facilitate treatment in hospitals. Similarly improvement works were conducted on 300 of the state’s roads and schools enjoyed new classroom blocks. In sharing the financial statement with the public, the government demonstrated a higher degree of accountability and transparency, which in turn boosted the confidence of both civilians and lenders to the state.

With a better understanding of the value of their assets, the Lagos state government was also able to make more informed decisions around spending for the following year, driving future prosperity through security, infrastructure development and job creation. This first of a kind project carried out by Omotosho and his team of surveyors gave the government crucial information to facilitate better decision making and improve transparency.

Adds Chetty: “Another achievement deserving of acknowledgement is that of RICS Fellow, James Nisbet of the UK, who revolutionised the engineering industry through the expansion of classrooms sizes, allowing schools to have a greater intake of children at no additional cost.

“Developing the Elemental Cost Planning technique in 1951, he demonstrated its ability to benefit wider society when he managed to cut the costs of primary schools from £200 a place in 1949, to £140. His designs allowed space outside classrooms to be reduced to create bigger classrooms, thereby allowing existing schools to take in extra pupils at no additional cost.”

His technique was further developed by the Building Cost Information Service at RICS, which has included a national online database of over 16 000 cost analyses for specific elements of design, enabling accurate cost estimates for projects across the UK.

Elemental Cost Planning also gave birth to the Standard Form of Cost Analysis (SFCA), which is vital when comparing the costs of separate building functions and allowing information from existing projects to become the benchmark for future ones.