September 3-9, 2007 Myanmar's first international weekly © Volume 20, No. 382

Construction boom leads to quality concerns

By Thet Khaing
These detached houses in Ashae Pyi Thar Yeik Mon, Dagon township, were built in 2004 by Chan Tha Construction but it remains unclear if they will stand the test of time.

CONSTRUCTION industry experts say many private builders may have overlooked an important necessity – building high-quality properties – in their bid to build accommodation for Yangon’s burgeoning population.

U Aung Moe, a senior engineer at Ah Yone Oo Construction, says it worries him that many new or relatively new buildings in Yangon have deteriorated only about a decade after they were built.

“It is a safety concern for people living in those buildings,” U Aung Moe says.
“There are many buildings in Yangon that still look solid, even after 100 years, but we will have to wait to see how long these newer buildings will last.”

Private builders, he says, tend to compromise on the quality of their workmanship by using cheaper construction materials to lower their costs. This is done, he says, to make the buildings more commercially viable.

“However, there are a lot of other ways to make a building commercially viable and still guarantee the safety of any occupants,” he says.

“In my opinion you can always use lower-priced materials for exterior and interior decoration to cut costs, but builders should never do cut corners on the actual structure,” he says.

Ah Yone Oo Construction has built many new, modern buildings in Yangon – including Sedona Hotel, Summit Park View Hotel and the new Singapore embassy. The company has also been involved in the construction of the new American embassy on Pyay Road, which some sources say cost about US$60 million.

With so much building going on, by his company and others, U Aung Moe thinks municipal authorities should set up a regulatory body to closely monitor construction of residential buildings to guarantee safety.

However, U Lazarus, managing director of Yadnar Shwe Htun, a company that has built more than 40 residential apartments in downtown Yangon over the past seven years, says residents should bear some responsibility for the deterioration of new buildings.

“In my opinion, newer buildings in Yangon are safely constructed and most damage is caused during renovation work that is done improperly after the apartment is handed over to the new owners,” he says.

He also says the quality of property development has been improving over the past five years because municipal authorities have paid closer attention to quality control, pointing to soil tests as an example.

“Soil tests to determine the safety of every building’s foundation have become compulsory for every new building in the past three years,” U Lazarus says.

Daw Soe Soe Win, development manager at Chin Su Myanmar Company, says the company, which is focussing on building affordable shop houses in Hlaing Tharyar township, is not using reinforced concrete in the construction.

She says the idea is to maintain quality but lower the price. And it seems to be working with consumers, although time will tell whether or not the buildings can survive the ravages of time.

“We have made strong sales of those shop houses since we started building them last year. They are a quarter of the price of the bungalows and shop houses we built earlier in that area,” Daw Soe Soe Win says.

“Apart from their cheaper price they are suitable for most consumers who want to buy a property where they can live and do business,” Daw Soe Soe Win says.

She says the company has been developing residential zones on more than 200 acres of land in Hlaing Tharyar, about 15 miles west of Yangon, since 1994.

Whether builders in Yangon’s construction industry can attain the goal of providing safe, cheap housing for the population is something that only time will show. But safety provisions – like compulsory soil tests – are certainly a step in the right direction.

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