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It’s time to establish Building Surveyor (BS) Act in Malaysia

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The construction sector in Malaysia is witnessing rapid growth (Frames For Your Heart - Unsplash)

By: Assoc. Prof. Sr. Dr. Au Yong Cheong Peng

The construction sector in Malaysia is witnessing rapid growth, characterized by a surge in infrastructure projects, residential developments, and commercial ventures. The sheer scale of the property stock in Malaysia is staggering. According to the Valuation and Property Services Department, in 2023, the property stock exceeded 7.5 million units, encompassing various categories such as 6.2 million units of residential properties, 564,800 units of shops, 370,010 units of serviced apartments, and numerous other types of properties including shopping centres, arcades, hypermarkets, office buildings, industrial properties, and hotel rooms. With such a vast array of properties, the demand for building maintenance and management is on the rise.

Assoc. Prof. Sr. Dr. Au Yong Cheong Peng

Despite this demand, issues concerning building maintenance and management persist. Malaysia has long struggled with a poor maintenance culture, with one of the contributing factors being the absence of a proper inventory system to catalogue assets requiring maintenance. Even when such systems are in place, owners often lack insight into the conditions and maintenance needs of their assets. Regular updates on the condition status of assets are imperative, achievable through building inspections or condition assessments. These inspections play an important role in identifying necessary repairs and establishing budgets for asset maintenance, ultimately enabling effective maintenance planning.

In this context, the responsibility for building inspections falls on qualified individuals. The Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia (RISM) affirms that a Building Surveyor (BS) is authorized to inspect and assess building conditions, conduct risk assessments, diagnose building defects, and propose appropriate remedial actions. Building Surveyors are also tasked with preparing maintenance management programs and overseeing asset, facilities, and refurbishment works when necessary. Consequently, the roles of Building Surveyors are indispensable to the ongoing development of the construction industry in Malaysia.

The professional field of BS was introduced to Malaysia during the British colonial era, initially focusing on the maintenance and management of colonial buildings and infrastructure. Following Malaysia’s independence, the profession began to adapt to the nation’s developmental needs. Over time, Building Surveyors expanded their scope to encompass various aspects, including construction, maintenance, and management of buildings. To equip aspiring professionals with formal qualifications and specialized knowledge, Bachelor Degree programs in Building Surveying are now offered at three local public universities: Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

Currently, the profession is regulated by the RISM. Unlike other construction-related professions such as Architects, Quantity Surveyors, and Town Planners, the Building Surveyor profession in Malaysia has yet to establish an Act or professional board.

Consequently, public awareness and recognition of the importance of the Building Surveyor profession remain relatively low. However, the contributions of Building Surveyors to the construction industry are significant and should not be overlooked. They play a crucial role in maintaining and enhancing the condition of existing buildings across Malaysia. Moreover, Building Surveyors in Malaysia possess the capability to extend their roles beyond traditional building surveying tasks, engaging in areas such as property and facilities management, project management, and dispute resolution, providing valuable technical expertise. Presently, there are a total of 1,404 members registered under the Building Surveying Division of RISM.

Therefore, it is imperative to establish the Building Surveyor Act and a Board of Building Surveyors in Malaysia. Through these regulatory measures, the government can mandate regular building inspections or condition assessments. The outcomes of such inspections have the potential to significantly enhance maintenance management practices for buildings throughout the country, paving the way for a new era of growth in the construction sector.

The author is the Head of Department of Building Surveying, Faculty of Built Environment Universiti Malaya, and may be reached at auyongcp@um.edu.my

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