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Digitization pioneer named ‘2019 Outstanding Engineer’

The Professional Regulation Commission recognized Dr. Ernesto de Castro, the strongest advocate for the use of Building Information Modeling in the Philippines, as the 2019 Outstanding Civil Engineer.

De Castro, 73, is the founder, chairman and president of Esca Inc. which provides BIM services to local and global companies.  He believes that BIM—the digitization of building models representing the physical environment­—will disrupt the local construction industry.

The PRC, during the awards night at Manila Hotel on June 20, recognized de Castro as “a professional civil engineer in design, construction and project management of major building landmarks and infrastructure projects; structural engineer; pioneer in engineering outsourcing services; pioneer in digital design services and integrated project delivery; board examiner; chairman of the Philippine Contractors Association Board; construction arbitrator; educator; entrepreneur; and leader in the digitization of the construction industry.”

 Dr. Ernesto de Castro, the 2019 Outstanding Civil Engineer
De Castro heads Esca Inc. and Esca International—engineering companies that provide modern end-to-end engineering solutions for projects in the country and overseas.  “[He is] the strongest advocate for the wider adoption of BIM, virtual design and construction and digitizing the built environment,” the PRC said.

During the awards night, the PRC acknowledged the achievements, commitment and the contributions of Filipino professionals to their respective fields as well as to the whole nation.  The event was led by PRC with the participation of various professional regulatory boards and the members of accredited professional organizations. 

De Castro is one of the country’s leading minds in engineering.  He served as the chairman of the Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines, the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers and the Society of the Philippine Accredited Consultants. He has also taught at the University of the Philippines College of Engineering and College of Business Administration and served as the dean of engineering and chancellor of the University of the East, Caloocan.

His goal is to make the Philippines a global center of excellence for engineering services by 2022. He says he wants the construction sector digitized to produce better-quality buildings and structures with greater efficiency, transparency and speed at the least cost.

“I am more interested in technology and the new technology in building is what we call BIM or Building Information Modeling.  This technology is where you digitize the whole building.  When you digitize the whole building, you have all the information in your fingertips,” de Castro says in an interview at his office in Cubao, Quezon City.

“If we transform construction, we can make it better and faster.  This is what you call digitizing everything.  Once everything is digital, the information is very easy to get, very fast and very cheap.  That’s the only way we can join the smart community­—when we digitize construction,” says De Castro.

De Castro, who also serves as the chairman of the board of consultants for the implementation of the Building Code of the Philippines, believes that BIM will disrupt the local construction sector.

“Among all the industries, construction is behind in the use of digital technology. We have to do something already, otherwise we may be left behind,” he says.

Esca which was named after de Castro offers structural design, civil engineering and project and construction management services to local and foreign companies.  It also has an academy that trains engineers on the use of BIM and has an international outsourcing division that provides engineering services to global clients, mainly in the US.

“I started it as an outsourcing business.  It is what I am doing for the engineering design.  We outsource to the Middle East and the US,” says de Castro.

His daughter Jean Jacquelyn Nathania de Castro, a corporate lawyer and former host of Bloomberg TV Philippines who is married to fellow lawyer Alfredo Molo III, serves as the chief executive of Esca.

De Castro graduated with BS Civil Engineering degree from UP Diliman in 1967, MS Civil Engineering from the same university in 1968 and PhD in Civil Engineering, Major in Structures from Lehigh University, Bethlehem in Pennsylvania in 1975.  

The UP College of Engineering recognized him as one of the country’s Most Outstanding Engineers of the Century in celebration of its centennial in 2011 while the UP Alumni Association gave him the Most Distinguished UP Engineering Alumnus Award in 2003.  In the US, he was inducted as a life member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Esca, his company, has provided engineering services to major commercial and institutional landmarks of SM, Robinson’s Land, Filinvest Land, Federal Land, Megaworld Corp. and other major developers.

De Castro says that the government should institutionalize the use of BIM in the construction of building and infrastructure projects.  “With BIM, it is easier to conduct cost estimate and spot conflicts and clashes among engineers, architects, contractors and suppliers.  It is easier to demonstrate and simulate. The technology is designed for a collaborative environment. This is something that I am introducing to the educational system and to the industry,” he says.

“BIM is already practised by many developing countries including Vietnam and Myanmar.  Here, I did my share by introducing it to some schools such as Ateneo de Naga University, UE Manila and UE Caloocan.  Hopefully, other schools will pick it up because their graduates will be more advanced in learning than the graduates of other schools,” he says.

“It is my personal advocacy to help the engineers of the country,” says de Castro.

He says that with the use of BIM, inefficiencies and corruption in construction could be avoided.  “It will be transparent.  It is digital so it is easy to get the cost estimate and it is very easy to pinpoint responsibilities.  I know it will improve the quality of the constructed projects,” he says.

De Castro says digitization could save time and money because it would avoid mistakes and repetitive works.  “In the experience of other countries, it could reduce the project cost substantially or more than 10 percent,” he says.

“It translates into better transparency, quality and efficiency.  The process is faster and there are fewer wastes and less reworks.  Construction projects become expensive because of reworks.  If you can eliminate waste, projects will be less expensive,” he says.

De Castro promotes the “build it twice” philosophy which means “you build it first digitally so that in the actual construction you already know the whole process”.

“We can detect errors in architectural, structural, mechanical works.   We track savings in time and cost,” he says. “In one of our test cases, the contractor saved P8 million out of a direct cost of P33 million.”

De Castro says he wants local engineering companies to have full BIM operations.  “If a company will become a digital company, they can disrupt the bigger players because they can be more efficient and more agile and they can do much better work at much smaller overhead cost,” he says.

“I really think that we should run faster now with this technology, or we may be left behind by other countries,” he says.

Topics: Professional Regulation Commission , Dr. Ernesto de Castro , Building Information Modeling , 2019 Outstanding Engineer , Esca Inc.
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