Globally every single industry has been hit hard by this pandemic. The real estate market is also not an exception. The businesses are still going on in this sector, however, if the pandemic keeps on putting everything at a halt, that could spell disaster for the global market value. If we look at Bangladesh’s perspective, most of the real estate businesses are saturated in Dhaka and Chittagong. Many big projects were ongoing and due to the lockdown, the activities came to a complete shutdown and are being delayed for sine die in many cases. That has exerted a negative impact on the market. Around 30-40% of the business will be facing dire consequences due to this kind of limbo. Also, if you look at this sector, it has a complex supply chain. The real estate sector is a juggernaut; with so many elements associated with it, namely cement, steel, wiring equipment, and many more. All these businesses are counting numerous losses every day. That has worked as a spiral effect on the business.
If we look at the current market, this sector employs almost the same number of people as the RMG sector. With more than 0.1 million white-collar workers and 3.5 million blue-collar ones, this sector has been employing a large number of people and that all might have a big blow should we fail to sustain the tenacity and resilience in the sector. If we look at the GDP contribution of the sector, in our country that is almost 7-8%. In other countries, for example, Philippines, Pakistan, and Vietnam the GDP contribution of the real estate sector is 2%, 2% and 4.51% respectively. From that perspective, it won’t be an overstatement if we say the Indian Sub-continent will be the hardest hit if this sector collapses. However, a matter of hope is that in our country, big name real estate companies have been doing good business for many years. Their pricing and quality assurance have helped them survive repeated blows in the market. This is why I am hopeful of bouncing back in business. Besides, post Covid Bangladesh is expected to become a major global manufacturer hub and thus should also support the industry.
We have a lean organization. With a solid human resource and practical operational activities, we have been operating for many years. You must know that in real estate business, we need to continuously improve and change ourselves with changing taste and global context. Besides, a good communication flow is a must. We try to talk to our clients. They have been very much loyal to us, supportive to us even during such trying times. This has encouraged us to observe the situation some more, instead of making abrupt moves. One thing is for sure, we are not going to cut down prices. This industry already operates in a thin margin. We don’t intend to compromise with quality and want to carry on with the legacy that RPL has always boasted about.
If you look at this from historical perspectives, this sector has been in the business arena from right after our independence. Now with all these calamities unfolding an utter uncertainty on this sector, we would look forward to the business-friendly government to usher in reforms such as:
I have always been an eternal optimist. I believe in seeing the glass half full. I believe every crisis comes with a silver lining and those who are smart, they can manage to make it to the end of the tunnel where there is light to guide them towards a new direction. There is no denial of the fact that COVID-19 has posed an unprecedented calamity on businesses, but those who show resilience and withstand this calamity will thrive post corona. We are confident that we shall survive and upon the end of this pandemic, we should be able to cater to the demands as they come. My career spanning three different continents has enabled me to see several trying times and I have always seen how companies that are value-driven could make it. At RPL, we have been delivering quality real estate solutions over a decade and our clientele speaks volumes about how true we have remained to keep our promises.
I am a taskmaster. Those who work with me appreciate it as this sector requires continuous monitoring. I know the name of all my teammates and what particular job they are assigned to. This ensures a good flow of communication between us. They always have access to me to discuss their problems or maybe an innovative solution. Thus, my leadership style has been such that I try my best to ensure their professional growth. I believe in collaborative effort, whereby the success belongs to the team and the failure is mine. At the end of day, the delivery is done by the team and they are the one to be appreciated, and I ensure that.
Exclusive Interview of Wahidur Rahman Adib, COO ( Design) of Rangs Properties Ltd.
INSPACE Architects Ltd is setting the benchmark for Modern architecture in Bangladesh
Can you elaborate on what is INSPACE Architects design philosophy?
We aim to conceptualize this specific trait in our buildings – “Simplicity is the key”. Our buildings are simple, functional, modern in design – these are reflected in both interior and exterior. We start from inside, if inside is well designed then it is given that the exterior comes out well. To summarize, our philosophy is functional, simplistic, modern and unique.
What sets INSPACE apart from other firms in the industry?
Let’s talk about our professionalism, where our expertise lies as a consumer -centric firm. INSPACE’s journey began from Rangs Properties Limited and Rangs Group. Since its inception, Rangs Properties Limited has created buildings that are functional and built to a certain standard. From the beginning we have worked directly in the real estate sector. From apartments to commercial buildings, we have expertise in different platforms. We try to visualize the building from 360 degree perspective and understand the needs of the clients.
We tend to foster one’s talent via experience to enhance and legitimize their expertise. Even after handover, we think of ways that could add value to the building by creating and incorporating new features to it yearly. We try our best in this aspect.
In an urban jungle like Dhaka, what are some of the criteria that are common between commercial and residential clients?
There are a lot of good architects working in Bangladesh. The young generation is doing exceptional work. Our pioneers have taught us a lot too.
I have been working in this company for almost 15 years. 15 Years ago, we went through a transitional phase, where most of the buildings had 6 floors, setback rules were different, the heights of our buildings were less. We could not predict the mass growth of this city. Apart from that the needs of the people were different.
Our current clients for either commercial or residential spaces are more conscious about utilizing the space efficiently. They are well aware of the recent worldwide modern movement, and their needs are inspired by this trend, emphasizing on simplistic structures. It took a bit more of an effort for us to make our clients understand the concept of minimalism, space optimization prioritizing the functional aspects along with proper synchronization of structural & Electro-Mechanical solution. That is where lies the common ground between commercial and/or residential clients.
Do steps in the design process differ depending on whether space is residential or commercial?
We have our own rules and regulations, guidelines provided by IAB and from the government, which we need to follow. It starts from the floor-area ratio. Once we have a land, before deciding whether it is to be for commercial or residential usage, we have to calculate how much buildable areas we are getting considering the regulation.
Of course, we start the design process for residential and commercial spaces a bit differently. For commercial buildings where there will be retail outlets and offices, we need to develop proper parking systems and drop-off areas. Office users tend to spend most of their day at the office, so we tend to think of providing facilities similar to homes, such as gym and recreational spaces, to improve their efficiency while making it exciting to come to work. We incorporate such facilities into commercial buildings. The function of residential buildings are completely different compared to the commercial ones. Before starting, if the real estate belongs to a company, then we need to keep their needs, their deed of agreement in mind. We sit with the landowners to get a better understanding of their requirements and needs. At the same time for the residential buildings we prioritize internal functional arrangements while maintaining a contemporary elevation. Whereas, in commercial buildings we prioritize the maximum utilization of space, safety and efficiency. We ensure intelligent electromechanical solutions to be able to provide the best of whatever we are able to provide.
Are fire escapes incorporated in residential buildings now?
Of course, these are also outlined by the rules. If it is a high rise building, more than 10 floors or there is a certain numbers of occupant, it is mandatory to provide a fire escape.
What criteria does INSPACE use to establish priorities and make design decisions?
When we design a building, the first thing we prioritize is its functionality. It must encompass aesthetics, functionality, safety and security to ensure that people will enjoy the space.
The rules and regulations in Bangladesh that we base our work on now, has a lot of scopes, compared to the regulations of the past. In the current context, the rules itself provide us with adequate heights. We are doing a design in Gulshan 32, there we were lucky to get 300 feet height, which allowed us to incorporate units of different sizes in a single edifice. After completing the design, it brought upon a lot of changes to our way of thinking, it opened us to the possibilities of ways we could design, and our client accepted the project well. Currently, in every design, we think of how to take the benefits of height clearance to make building more functional, lucrative and more enjoyable.
How do you prioritize green when you design a building?
It is fun to work with green, we can do so much from several angles. We can make the roof completely green, or place trees in huge terraces. It is pleasant to sit near a tree. We can easily make aesthetic usage of a tree. Previously we would install aluminum panels, tiles or other materials, which we would think would give the building a better look. A better option now is to use green to create a modern ambiance, which would also contribute to the environment. Therefore in our buildings, we incorporate the concept of green . For example the fencing we are doing now consists of the vertical green, which is pleasing to look at and well appreciated. So, we are dually making an aesthetical use of the green while making it a smart solution to the loss of green from our environment.
Does INSPACE integrate low or no-cost sustainable design strategies into projects?
In Bangladesh, there are several good real estate companies. Those who create top-class buildings have fewer examples of working with people from different walks of life in our society. We had several projects that were economical, and we have plans of doing more. In doing so, as an architect, I need to create an economical design, as well as an economical structural solution, electromechanical solutions and materials, respectively. The methodology should also be considered which would reduce the construction cost to make it more affordable.
Can you talk about some of the sustainable design strategies?
Let’s think about the paint we used to use as exterior finish material of the building. It would require to get repainted within years, which is not sustainable. Similarly, when a building gets constructed we think of using those materials that would increase the building’s longivity.
During the selection process, we think of the fair face that can be easily maintained. a specific treatment needs to be performed on the fair face, so that the fair face remains similar over the years, even if our weather conditions are not optimal.
So when it comes to sustainable design, the way we go about it for a high rise building is different from that of a residential space. Similarly, when we do space selection, it is a traditional concept to have a pool in the roof. We thought of bringing the pool to the ground level, we have incorporated this in one of our projects named Symphony (Banani). At the same time we also ensured the privacy of pool users. It provides a sustainable atmosphere for the resident who can enjoy the pool view while entertaining guests. In addition to that, the nearby gym and lounge give the surroundings an active and lively ambiance. In a nutshell, an interactive space along with the building materials can make a building more sustainable.
Another thing we are working on is, the lighting solution – how would the building look aesthetically pleasing during both day and night. if you see the developed cities, they enjoy the building more at night compared to daytime. We have some upcoming high end projects and we intend to create the same lighting solutions there too.
If the rules and regulations enforced by the government on the architects would be revised it would provide the architects with a lot of scope to work with the building.
If we could gain some freedom there to increase the scope of our work, as an architect I think it will be possible to create more sustainable buildings.
If sustainable design technologies are implemented, do upfront costs exist that may affect the construction project?
Of course, we want to create sustainable projects, but in doing so there will be some impact on the cost. In the long run, we are benefitted by the creation of a sustainable space. Due to Bangladesh’s weather conditions, we need to focus on using appropriate materials that would help us build timeless architectural marvels.
I have a dream, and I have been working with my team members for the past 14 years now. My teammates are passionate, who work for the sheer desire to create a building with increased longevity. We want to work in a way that would contribute to our society by fulfilling the needs of our clients, who are from all walks of life. We work with the same intensity irrespective of the size of the projects.
Finally we want to create originally brewed bold buildings that will be known and recognized worldwide.