International Design in the Philippines

Meet Endika Ampudia, a Spanish national with a masters degree in architecture and urban planning. (Architects in Spain are required to study urban planning) Endika first arrived in the Philippines in 2013, but as a volunteer and intern for the GK Enchanted Farm as a part of  his International MBA program. It was during this trip that Endika started to see potential in the Philippines.

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After working abroad for over a year, Endika returned to the Philippines. In the beginning it was just collaborating with architect friends designing some residential projects. They did well and this led to another project, and another. Soon after, Manam Design International and MAD (Manalo Ampudia  Dimalanta) Construction were born.

When asked about what he sees in the Philippines, Endika says that it’s a very healthy market. Restaurants make improvements every 5 or 7 years, houses keep renovating and condominiums also continue to redesign. Although large projects may slow down, he believes that small to medium projects will continue to flourish. On top of this, he and his partners have another market – Endika’s Spanish connection allows them to bid for designs in his homeland.

Despite the robust industry, there are many challenges along the way. Endika finds himself doing different facets of work from costing, suggesting designs to his partners, helping writing contracts and talking to customers.

Managing budgets of different projects is also tough, as costs can balloon to unsustainable proportions with just one mistake.  Another challenge is managing time, as clients usually want things done fast, done cheap and done with high quality.

Strengths:

A core strength of their organization is their ability to deliver. Endika notes that a lot of projects don’t do well because contractors take shortcuts or don’t follow agreements. “People call us because we are serious. You have our word.”

Endika and his partners make sure that their people are also taken care of – workers are paid properly and funds are allocated towards the right parts of the project. One of the keys to their success is having a strong foreman on each project. The foreman is central to coordination, financial management and supervision.

Asked about his wish for the Philippine construction industry, Endika was very direct, “More skilled labor and the increased use of pre-fabricated items. They save time, money and increase the quality of work.” He points out that the use of prefab items reduces the tools and consumables needed. This is also where a lot of people scrimp on the budget. In terms of skilled labor, he noticed that there are A LOT of construction helpers in the country, and most of them learn on the job. Since they don’t have any technical skill, they tend to make many mistakes and are of limited use on site until they improve. While Endika notes that there are Filipinos who are naturally skilled in different construction jobs, this is more of the exception than the norm, and addressing this with a proper training system might be beneficial for all. He notes that in Spain, professional schools for technical labor are common and create a lot of value for laborers, designers and project owners.

Customer Relationships:

The most fulfilling part of Endika’s job is seeing the satisfaction of his clients after accepting a quality job. People are an integral part of the work so an amiable personality is a plus.

To make sure he achieves this, Endika goes through a process of consultation. He wants to get things right with the client and reassure them that he understands their design preferences. He starts by assessing them, showing them pegs, listening to what they like and dislike. Part of the job is understanding the client. Once the designer knows what the client wants, things become easier and move faster.

What Can You Share With Others:

Asked about advice he can share with those who want to get to the next level in the industry, Endika shared, “Learn from the best and be open.” He explains that those who are willing to try new things are those that innovate. He also believes that price should not be the sole basis of the decision.  You get what you pay for and the experience of the construction team handling a project is central in executing a quality project. The more experience, the better the chances for excellent execution.

Endika suggests that people research and make comparisons based on previous projects. Customers must be aware of quality and construction professionals must be careful with the price they charge. Saying no to projects because the price is too low is okay. There is a lot of work that goes into building something and it would be detrimental to all parties to undervalue the time of those managing the project. If people are not paid well, then it’s difficult to become sustainable, or expect quality work.

Where is the Industry Headed and Suggestions for Improvement:

Endika has a unique perspective on the industry’s direction as he believes that people will begin to specialize. The industry is booming and many are doing construction, some better trained than others. In the end, only those who can provide quality will survive. “Sometimes a bad project (with revisions) costs the same as a good project.” With the construction industry projected to grow at 10% per annum for the next four years, its clear that Endik is looking long term and decades ahead.

Another direction that is inevitable is sustainable construction. “We have no choice. Philippines cannot continue polluting rivers, air and sea. Energy consumption in the country is also high (due to high demand in air-conditioners) If you improve the construction and urban design quality, you will reduce energy consumption. ”Sewage treatment plants and sidewalks are natural steps that the country can take to improve – it’s just a matter of time.

Some other suggestions Endika makes to improve the city and country’s sustainability are:
  • Organize and improve public transportation that can reach everyone and is capable to absorb the demand.
  • Strictly regulate and enforce laws regarding streets accessibility, parking, and foot traffic.
  • Activate plans and organize a system for waste management of all types.

Timely suggestions from a credible practitioner – suggestions that we can all learn from and consider as we design for the future.

If you want to continue to talk to Endika about design and sustainability, or are curious abut his work, you can email him at endika.ampudia@gmail.com

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