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Aftershocks & Opportunities Shaping the AEC Industry in Australasia Post-Event Coverage

03 Sep, 2020

BST Global’s Javier Baldor & 3 Built Environment CEOs Across Australasia Respond to Aftershocks & Opportunities

Many regional economies have already commenced reopening on a phased basis in the current pandemic environment, and architecture, engineering and environmental consultancy firms are taking varying strategic measures to overcome continuing challenges. As built environment firms around the world continue to discuss rebuilding from the global pandemic, we sat down with four industry powerhouses — including Greg Lowe of Beca, Heang Fine WONG of Surbana JurongAshley Wright of GHD and Javier Baldor of BST Global  to understand the unique challenges and opportunities presented to those in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.   

In the 1.5-hour panel discussion, the group covered off on the current state of business, the future of work and silver linings. Here’s an overview of some of the highlights.


The Current State of the Business

  • Ashley: “I think this has really shown us what’s possible when everyone comes together with a common purpose with a mindset to succeed and operates as a team … in many ways, we are closer than what we had been. 
  • Heang Fine: “To transform ourselves immediately from our day-to day-business, which is really quite face-to-face in operations, to completely remote … it’s quite challenging times … we have to find strength in new ways.”   
  • Greg: “We have a lot to look forward to. We are all learning how to be more agile; we are all learning how to take advantage of our digital investments. We have to really understand what markets are doing, influence markets where we can and respond to that change as organizations. 
  • Javier: As a technology company, we are also very fortunate to have in place the infrastructure, communications and technology plan formed to really pivot from our brick-and-mortar business on March 13 as we knew it when we announced effectively that we were adopting a complete work-from-home approach globally.  

The Future of Work

The New Normal 

  • Ashley: “There’s also no doubt that the pace of digital transformation, not only in our business but in our clients’ and our other stakeholders’ business, has all dramatically accelerated — and we are all having to adapt to that.    
  • JavierThe advancement of our digital strategy was foremost. We are able to globally change and adapt our business to be 100% digital from how we deliver project support to our clients, and manage distributed software design and development teams.” 

Coming Together 

  • Heang Fine: In our trade, we all seem to forget that we deliver projects as a team … it has been personally very inspiring for me as a leader to see how people can come together and make things happen when conditions are far from conducive.”      

Remote Work 

  • Ashley: “Ultimately, we are social beings, so it’s probably more likely that we will see some balance.” 
  • Greg: I think we are all experimenting with what this means and I’m seeing attitudes [about working from home] change a little.”   
  • Heang Fine: “Moving forward, all of us really need to redefine the meaning of ‘coming to office’ … and the next thing we need to change is we need to trust our employees to deliver the output we require.” 

Company Travel 

  • Greg: “I think there are two aspects to that: One will be need and one will be cost.  
  • Ashley: I go back to some of the authenticity of some of the discussions I’ve had with fellow CEOs from client bodies that weren’t even happening face-to-face. There’s something about donning the suit, and the tie and professional persona that’s created a formality in relationships that’s clearly been broken down through this pandemic.” 

Employee Vacation 

  • Heang Fine: “We are very conscious in these times that there is additional stress. We try to encourage our staff to take their leave as they work from home.”   

Artificial Intelligence / Technology  

  • Ashley: “We’re very keen to utilize technology to help our people not only self-action items in their roles but to free them up from some of the more mundane elements of the tasks.”   
  • Greg: We’ve been on a journey, all of us, around automation for a long time. The more we can automate, and the more we put into automation process around things like design and development of deliverables, that speeds of the process of removing repetitive activity from our people and increases in the end our overall productivity.” 
  • Javier: That technology cocktail, I believe, will include elements that have been mentioned around AI but also machine learning that is applied to big data sets and delivered in consumer-grade applications anytime, anywhere in the cloud. This affordably will drive, I believe, unprecedented efficiencies and new business opportunities.” 
  • Heang Fine: Technology will play a huge role in the transformation of the built environment.”

The Silver Linings

New Ways of Spending Time 

  • Ashley: “ This has been the longest time my family and I have been together in about 13 years, and we’ve found it a privilege to spend that time together.  

Learning as a Leader 

  • Heang Fine: This crisis really emphasizes that as a leader, you need to energize your team to deliver successful outcomes for your clients, even under very extreme and difficult environment.”     
  • Greg: One of the things we’ve seen is a big increase in the level of trust. We trust our people more because we can’t see them so frequently, our clients trust us … at leadership level, I’ve become more willing to really recognize that things are going on in places that you can’t see them but you’ve got confidence they are happening.” 
  • Javier: “I’ve learned quite a bit in this period as well, mainly to slow things down, particularly during uncertain times, and to remind calm. Next, to think and communicate very clearly.  

Final Thoughts 

  • Heang Fine: “In Surbana Jurong, our motto is ‘building cities and shaping lives,’ and the things we are doing during this COVID really brings forth the mission for a lot of our architects, engineers, project managers, contractors, administrators and so on.” 
  • Ashley: Everything is possible; if we trust and adapt, we will thrive.” 
  • Greg: I think we have very reason to be very positive about the future.” 
  • Javier: A few words come to mind for me: relentless, optimism and resolve. I believe we all need lights in our families, in our companies, in our countries and our world at large I might add, particularly during challenges times like thisOptimism and resolve to me are the fuel for these lights.

BST Global, in partnership with Consult Australia and Environment Analyst, was proud to host this event. BST Global Director Eileen Canady served as event moderator 

Want to learn more? You can find the full recording here. 


Meet the Author


BST Global designs, develops and deploys the AEC industry’s first suite of AI-powered project intelligence™ solutions. Beyond our flagship ERP offering, we provide work management, predictive insights and resource management solutions to complement a firm’s existing ERP. More than 120,000 architects, engineers and consultants in 65 countries across six continents rely on BST Global’s solutions each day to successfully manage their projects, resources, finances and client relationships. With unrivaled industry knowledge, BST Global serves as a trusted partner to its loyal clients and remains at the forefront of innovation. For more information, visit
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