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Aspiring Chartered Surveyor, talks about her vision of 'Cultural Transformation'.......

At DiverseCity Surveyors, we are taking this unique opportunity to conclude a week of global recognition for our female counterparts in Surveying roles, with a focus on a future leader. Empowered by her piercing smile, I was fortunate enough to have met and been introduced to Ms Shakirah Akinwale following a recent Advisory Committee meeting with our industry partner Building People. It was abundantly clear to me that 'Shax, as she is fondly known, had a passion for the Surveying profession and one that warranted further exploration. So I'm taking this opportunity to invite the Surveying profession to meet this young talented female, who also aspires to become a Chartered Surveyor. It's my duty to promote and where possible nurture such talent, so here is a personal account, in her own words; an in insight into someone who's name is likely to become one that many will remember for all the right reasons....

On a mission of 'Cultural Transformation'

My love for buildings came from my love for nature, people, and how we interact with our environment. I was always aware of the huge effect buildings have on us - we moved around alot growing up. I had a strong sense of justice, and could not understand inequality, especially loving maths. It was confusing because in life, we refine and develop different formulas - they become our processes and patterns, the laws we abide by, etc. Not all formulas are equations but they can be, and if they start with one side unbalanced - nature says to balance them. I was taught to learn from nature, and I believe the older we get, the more we forget that. Nature is a delicately engineered balance of many interconnected systems.

Credit: RICS

Engineering makes sense, and if nature is engineering, it is the model that technology is based upon. Nature is connected, and even though society has created many differences, I always see the connections. Coming from a disadvantaged background always made me focus on the solutions for problems. I studied architecture and was critical of details, I sought the stories told by both function, and form coming together to provide solutions. Buildings not only serve basic functions of shelter and comfort, but they contribute to our wellbeing, our productivity and our sense of safety. Taking this further, buildings have the opportunity to enhance these same qualities, but despite the best of intentions, these benefits often fail to be realised in the final building.

I felt out of place during my studies, and even more so during employment. I was interested in the information, the story of each element and how it fit into this wider context of its built environment. I used algebra to create formulas to design parametrically, link data points to data tables, to automatically update accommodation schedules as the design changed. I was shocked at the number of practices that still developed packages in 2D, when I knew they could do so much more with building information modelling (BIM). As a design manager I often worked with the commercial team, and found repeated patterns to automate and speed up our tender returns. There is always a more efficient, a better way of doing things, when you have a fuller and more informed picture - and this is where the importance of information comes in. With BIM we additionally benefit from intelligence, interoperability, prediction and automation.

Credit: UKBIM Alliance / CDBB / BSi

I came to find key industry players' focus on profit over purpose and value, contractors cutting corners and shirking contractual obligations. Subcontractors pressured to behave similarly just to keep up, and it’s a vicious cycle we need to break. Our use and application of technology is just as fragmented, so the understanding of its prerequisites and benefits are also misunderstood - it’s seen as a completely different department or discipline. Document management, handover documentation all last minute activities, common and cloud based data environments like Aconex misused and wasted. Clients rarely factor achieving sustainability into viability. I wanted to speak the Clients language in terms of cost, technology and compliance, so I took a Masters to study the value of sustainability. It wasn't a choice for me, but an inevitable step because I wanted to influence sustainability from the top. Clients have the most to gain and lose, and when it wasn't a priority for them, no one prioritised it over the profits they stood to make.

Credit: RICS

Some of us use the latest technologies, while many of us cannot afford to, deem themselves too small or perceive operational disruption as too great. The benefits and potential opportunities with sustainability and technology goes well beyond the improvement of buildings. We must improve the connections between the parties and the phases of the development of a building. Technology more easily connects different disciplines, but the understanding, and methods of people and organisations often oppose this - so benefits remain unrealised. Technology makes it easier to tell buildings true stories to stakeholders, through whichever medium is preferred or compatible.. Technology allows theory to connect with reality, based on the information we put into it, and the similarity of the virtual process with its real counterpart. Buildings can be simulated before they are ever even built, tested with any condition we can programme. I became the techie everywhere I worked, not because of technology, but because I helped improve productivity amongst my peers. We were effective with the technology we had available and this also reduced burnout, and inconsistencies.

Credit: CDBB

Digital twins were inevitable, combining information and technology so we may derive life and world saving intelligence. This digital transformation, and cultural shift is hindered by our misaligned interests, failure to quantify value against capital cost, and skills gaps where we need maximum participation. Where each member along each phase understands the value and responsibility of the information they contribute. Sustainability cannot remain an option if we are to make our world a better place. Our purposes should drive profit, and profit strengthening our purpose. We must educate, equip, invest, sacrifice and occasionally accept profits aren't always immediate, or monetary.

Being sustainable is a way of life, a mentality and we have to embody it in principals that ripple through every aspect of our lives and business. The relationship between technology and sustainability is like the industrial revolution to the modern world. Without technology, we cannot hope to welcome a more sustainable world, and without equipped people to leverage such technology, the technology becomes redundant in the best case, expensive and exclusive in the worst. Previous frameworks, methodologies are based on old ways of thinking, but we have a duty to the new world, and future generations. We must understand that like science, we keep learning, and discovering better ways - which means we don't have all the answers yet. We must also ensure this pool of resources and source of discovery is diverse and inclusive, like the world it serves - then continue to adapt to these possibilities as the world grows.

Credit and immense thanks to Ms Shakirah Akinwale


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