On Tuesday, the Kingdom held its first forum on tall buildings, in which some industry insiders raised doubts over the sustainability of raising these structures in Cambodia, while others highlighted their important contribution to the national economy and to abating the capital’s housing woes.
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The Tall Buildings Forum was organised by the European Chamber of Commerce and the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat to discuss building design and regulation, as well as technical constraints and challenges to raising tall buildings and their impact on Cambodia’s development model, among other topics.
The event, which was held at Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, is part of a EuroCham initiative to bring together professionals and officials to hold discussions on a variety of topics in the construction and real estate sectors. The forums, which are held roughly every two years, serve as platforms to engage experts in a conversation over the evolution and future of these industries.
Tassilo Brinzer, vice chairman at EuroCham, cast doubt on the sustainability of the local construction sector.
“After more than a decade of significant growth, the real estate and construction sector today is facing questions over its sustainability.
“While it is contributing to a significant part of Cambodia’s GDP, one can indeed wonder whether the fundamentals are sound enough to sustain further growth in the future.”
Mr Brinzer said the population in Phnom Penh will continue to grow, which warrants the construction of houses and office space, but wondered whether the construction of more tall buildings is justified.
“A legitimate question that the professionals in the construction sector can raise is whether Phnom Penh, with its particular context and its specific needs, has a market for tall buildings.”
He also questioned whether current regulation is in line with the fast pace of development the city is experiencing.
“One can also wonder if the current legal framework, which dates back to a time when urban growth was moderate, is still adapted to the sector’s rapid pace of development,” he said, adding that more up-to-date regulation was needed to attract investors and “ensure more systematic physical and financial safety and sustainability.”
Speaking at the forum, Pen Sophal, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Land Management, said the construction of tall buildings plays an important role in the country’s economy growth.
He said raising tall buildings contributes to land efficiency, environmental conservation and economic growth and helps cope with the high demand for housing.
He explained that under the government’s master plan for the capital, Phnom Penh has assigned zones for the construction of high-rise buildings.
“There are also several zones were tall buildings are not allowed, including the area around Wat Phnom, the Royal Place, Independence Monument and the airport.”
He announced the government will release master plans for the cities of Kep, Kampot and Siem Reap, as well as Kandal province, later this year.
Lao Tip Seiha, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Land Management, said they are now working on a new Construction Law to manage the sector.
“We need to manage the sector to better guide its development, ensure its sustainability and attract more investment,” he said.
Cambodia has a total of 1,049 tall buildings, Mr Seiha said. During the first five months of the year, 53 projects to build tall buildings in the country were approved.
According to the Ministry of Land Management, investment in the construction sector amounted to $6.79 billion in 2017, an increase of 22 percent year-on-year. The construction sector has created, on average, 255,000 to 260,000 jobs per day, with Phnom Penh alone accounting for 130,000 to 135,000 of those positions, the ministry said.