Reall, the international funding partner of LinkBuild, conducted a weeklong visit to the Philippines to monitor and gather updates on institution’s activities and programs. The team composed of Reall Partner Investment Managers Prashant Solanky, Adam Dawson and Nat Daniels, carried out several workshops with LB and its other Philippine Alliance partners from December 5 – 10, 2016, discussing particularly LinkBuild’s capacity as a Housing Development Enterprise in crafting its own products and securing its niche in the market. The financial, technical, social and environmental aspects of programme, projects and products were all tackled, recognizing the importance of integrating these elements.
In this discussion, LinkBuild’s and the Alliance’s ongoing and past housing projects were reviewed, differentiating between product typologies that evolved across regions, and looking at the conceptualization and materialization stages and processes undertaken thereof. At conceptualization stage, the participatory process was highlighted given that all housing designs were developed from community inputs, with the guidance of technical professionals from the Alliance.
The concept of developing a ‘product library’ was introduced by Reall to LinkBuild. Having product library will help to systematically archive products developed from previous projects – documenting detailed information on all aspects involving product development, from technical details to strategic objectives and risk plans, and even up to reporting templates used. All this information will serve as good reference for more efficient project conceptualization, development and implementation; where, for example, in planning a new project, a specific product or a particular detail of such product, could easily be drawn from the library and either directly applied or modified to suit a new project, without having to reinvent the wheel. As one of the workshop outcomes, LinkBuild was encouraged to create and develop its own product library.
The discussion equally emphasized the importance of ‘financial development’ as an important component of project development, and which should be prepared alongside the technical requirements. Assessing and mitigating project risks also became part of the discussion, and the importance of having an ‘exit strategy’ in every project was pointed out.
As there is an expectation for LinkBuild to go into scale with its housing projects, the importance of improving efficiency to achieve this, was discussed. LinkBuild was also reminded that when it sells houses, it should not just consider the house as the only product it sells; rather, it should look at the whole development and the quality of the external environment.
A point was also made that scaling-up does not only mean an increase in quantity but also an improvement in quality and grade of products. It may be good for LinkBuild to focus on products where it has most experience in and can do best, such as incremental housing. By doing so, it can create a brand or identity distinct to itself.
In the Philippines, incremental infrastructure development is already in practice; for instance, the phases of road development from graded and compacted to graveled, and eventually to concrete. This is an offshoot of balancing between expediency of community need and limited budget for development. During the workshop, Reall presented some innovations in incremental infrastructure development and some practices in other countries, from which LinkBuild may be able to draw ideas from.
One of the topics discussed at length is sanitation; as this is one of the major challenges in the current LinkBuild land and housing projects. The institution is currently exploring viable wastewater treatment systems that would be best suited for its projects at reasonable cost. Reall also made a visit to LinkBuild’s project site in Talisay City, as well as to a nearby community water system, after which advice was given on how to approach the whole of issue of sanitation design.
Another challenge raised during the workshop was for LinkBuild to look at creating sustainable neighborhoods for its clients. This highlights the importance of creating social and environmental impact by addressing the social aspects of the community - an intangible area of study but an important factor to consider in planning residential developments. The challenge is on how to do housing that does not only focus on the structure and physical infrastructure only, but also creates an environment where people live harmoniously without worries.
On December 10, the last day of Reall’s visit, the team flew to Cebu to visit the Paknaan Core Housing Project in Mandaue City, and the Sitio Caniba property in Talisay City which is currently being acquired by LinkBuild for a housing project with the informal settlers of the property.
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