Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) CEO Sipho Madonsela says the manner in which business operates has shifted and the need to heed the call for a “new normal” is now.
His statement comes amid the continuing spread of Covid-19 throughout South Africa and while the measures taken to try to halt the spread of the pandemic have had a significantly negative impact on the economy and people's livelihoods.
Madonsela points out that the engineering and the built environment sectors are faced with a huge challenge, the exacerbating risk of Covid-19, especially when it comes to water, wastewater treatment and sanitation.
“With millions of people in urban areas still living in informal settlements without running water, [with shelter] often built less than 1 m apart from each other and poorly ventilated with small windows, effectively implementing physical distancing may be a challenge in these communities.
“These context-specific challenges call for our industry to contribute toward making available modified and enhanced public infrastructure facilities to mitigate the spread of the Covid-19,” he adds.
Madonsela further highlights that this is the new normal for the engineering sector and that there is a need for the industry to pull together its expertise so that there is maintenance and development of infrastructure not only for economic stimulation but to better serve South Africa’s people and keep them safe.
With numbers of patients skyrocketing, stopping the spread of Covid-19 is an immediate concern and as an industry that is already well-acquainted with health and safety measures, the built environment professionals will surely rise to the challenge of doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the virus.
“As the engineering fraternity, we should be committed to working together in addressing these context-specific challenges. The expertise of members from consulting engineers will be instrumental in rehabilitating and restoring unused fixed buildings for housing homeless and destitute persons especially those from crowded areas.
“Some of these sites will be available to people living in informal settlements. There is also a need for expertise in the establishment of temporal mobile site accommodation and hospitals/clinics and its equipment,” says Madonsela.
Moreover, he remarks that guidance is needed on redesigning stadiums into quarantine wards and building new quarantine buildings and facilities for Covid-19-affected persons.
“The pandemic has also challenged us to rapidly embrace digitalisation and consider ways of ensuring that work can still be done while taking precautions to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“With the arrival of Covid-19, social distancing and working remotely has been the best practice, although, many companies lack the technology infrastructure to offer that option without disrupting ‘business as usual’; however, one unexpected outcome of this pandemic is that companies and organisations have realised the benefits of fast-tracking digital transformation.”
ECSA believes the pandemic has brought to the fore the immediate need for technology to facilitate new ways of working. The pandemic is accelerating and reshaping the future of doing business.