SPEECH BY Y.BHG. PROF. DATO’ OMAR OSMAN, VICE-CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITI SAINS MALAYSIA AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE 5TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE AND WORKSHOP ON BUILT ENVIRONMENT IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES (ICBEDC) 2011
Assalamualaikum Warahmatulahi Wabarakatuh
Yang Berusaha Professor Ir. Dr. Mahyuddin RamliDean, School of Housing, Building & Planning, Universiti Sains Malaysia,and the Advisor to the ICBEDC 2011 Organizing Committee
Yang Berusaha Assoc. Prof. Dr. Abu Hassan Abu BakarChairman of the 5th International Conference and Workshop on Built Environment in Developing Countries (ICBEDC) 2011 Organizing Committee
Honourable Dr. Nicholas ChilesheRepresenting Pro Vice-Chancellor & Vice PresidentInternational & DevelopmentUniversity of South Australia
Honourable Associate Professor Jon KelletHead of the Planning Discipline, School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia
Principal Officers of Universiti Sains Malaysia, Distinguished Keynote Speakers and Guests, Conference Presenters and Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to first commend the School of Housing, Building & Planning and the Organizing Committee for their tireless endeavour in successfully organizing the 5th International Conference and Workshop on Built Environment in Developing Countries (ICBEDC) 2011. Kudos to the organisers for this truly valued and fruitful effort! Allow me to also welcome and thank the collaborative partners from the School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia for their invaluable joint effort in actualizing the fifth edition of this ever growing annual conference. This collaborative venture, started off last year, is hoped to continue to blossom into an unending co-operative academic covenant between both our universities as we seek to enhance, improve and ultimately excel in our pursuit of academic and research oriented undertakings.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Organizing Committee and Universiti Sains Malaysia, it gives me the utmost pleasure and joy in welcoming all of you to the fifth International Conference and Workshop on Built Environment in Developing Countries, ICBEDC 2011. The fifth edition of this annual conference marks a milestone of sorts for the entire ICBEDC series of conferences. Since 2007, this conference has endeavoured and strived to bring issues concerning the Built Environment to be discussed and scrutinized by not only academicians, but also by practitioners and industry players alike. Over these five years, ICBEDC has gained not only momentum but also significant standing within this region as an academic discourse platform that tries to champion the call for a sustainable Built Environment. The theme that has been adopted for this year’s conference, ‘Rehumanizing the Built Environment’, is merely a reflection of what we truly need in today’s challenging global landscape: a return to basic and fundamental development initiatives that focus on the most vital component of all; mankind.
It is evidently clear that of late, the balance of physical development measures have often gone askew, inclining more towards reaping financial benefits and materialistic accolades. This has often painted a bad portrayal of the Built Environment, where a host of problems and adverse effects on the natural environment have been, rightly or wrongly, connoted with the construction industry. The time has now come for all of us to rebrand the Built Environment, from a sector that is thought to exploit our natural surroundings to one that will be forever remembered for providing communities with what they require the most; abodes, facilities and infrastructure. This is where the human factor weighs in; by allowing the Built Environment to once again embrace its original noble intent of sheltering the masses, the balance that has so often eluded us might be attainable. Restructuring and reengineering a long established industry such as the construction sector, is nonetheless, easier said than done. It is therefore pertinent and crucial, platforms such as ICBEDC be used as a means to revitalize the Built Environment. The injection of the human factor will undoubtedly bring on several other advantages such as a more sustainable construction approach that hinges on the fundamental notion of serving the people, rather than servicing the industry. It is this end that we all aspire for, and it is our belief that ICBEDC will, even in the slightest way, conjure and pave the way for this to materialize.
Making the needs and requirements of humans as the main thrust of the built environment is not something that necessitates re-inventing the wheel. As the very evolution of the construction industry was sparked off by man's ingenuity in creating a safe shelter and harbour, enabling the human factor to once again play a pivotal role in our industry related research, actions and decisions, may not really be too uphill a task. There is an old Turkish proverb that goes, 'Man is harder than iron, stronger than stone and more fragile than a rose'. Man has been known to be creative, innovative, manipulative and resourceful; but at the end of the day, man can all too easily be struck down and hurt. It is this capricious combination of intellect, brute strength and fragility that makes any man simply a mortal human. As such, there needs to be a revamped and different perspective when it comes to the Built Environment and all its related activities. No longer should the concerns and predilections of the elite few, fuel this industry; rather, every endeavour should be scrutinized with a filter that enables the common masses to reap the benefits of progress and development.
Therefore, rehumanizing our Built Environment is akin to making this industry once again accessible, valuable and central to the general population. By allowing the real actual needs of today's society to dictate the viability and more importantly the sensibility of any physical development project, we can strive to make the Built Environment all the more sustainable. Our first task however, is to recognize and gauge contemporary problems within this industry. Global solutions and practical approaches that may alleviate the current maladies that befall our communities have to be sought and expanded on. New, innovative and ground breaking ventures or endeavours should be cultivated within the industry. All these efforts may only be initiated and ultimately achieved if there is a serious concerted attempt to acknowledge, evaluate, scrutinize and analyze these issues head on. This series of ICBEDC conferences, I believe, is one such noble attempt.
As such, it is heartening to see this great commitment shown by all of you here, participants of this year’s conference, not only in your show of numbers but rather the underlying support to address head on issues and maladies afflicting the Built Environment today. It is in this similar vein, we here at Universiti Sains Malaysia operate our workings and undertake our efforts. By firmly believing that the omnipresence of the human factor, be it in education or any other aspect of life, will enable us to filter out the bad and retain the good, a more holistic conduct of life will simply become the norm of society. Thus, this effort to organize the 5th ICBEDC by our very own School of Housing, Building and Planning is nothing less than an embodiment towards achieving this noble aim. Our gratitude also goes out to our collaborative partners from the School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia for their assistance and cooperation is realizing ICBEDC.
To all our participants, either my fellow Malaysians or from abroad, I applaud each one of you for taking the effort in making ICBEDC 2011 a success and at the same time wish everyone a delightful and memorable academic sojourn here in Universiti Sains Malaysia and the wonderful island of Penang.