As we commemorate Women’s day this week, we want to take notice of women with different careers in real estate to recognise and celebrate their efforts. One of such women is Brendah Emeetai, a civil engineer and architect.
While growing up, Brendah Emeetai spent most of her free time at construction sites. “I loved going to watch what the builders were doing,” she recalls with laughter.
And on some occasions, the workers would ask her to run a few quick errands such as fetch site materials, help carry water, bricks, among other chores that would not strain a child. There were even those who would explain to her the nitty-gritties of their work.
Her attachment to construction sites puzzled a few family members, including her mother who always wondered why Emeetai was always around builders. Little did they know she was dreaming of one day becoming an architect. “You know that common question people ask children what they want to become when they grow up? I would always respond architect. I knew from my own research that the word was related to construction,” she says.
No wonder, she later enrolled for a two-year diploma course in architecture at Uganda Polytechnic Kyambogo, graduating in 2002. In addition to the diploma, Emeetai is also a civil engineering graduate from Kyambogo University after attaining the qualification in 2008.
Career after university
Shortly after leaving university, Emeetai sprung into private business by working for mostly clients who had been recommended to her by other parties. Along the way, though, she felt the need to go into mainstream employment in order to gain more exposure and experience. Emeetai was lucky to get employment in different organisations where she worked from 2003 to 2008. “I got some of these jobs while still pursuing my studies,” she says.
In 2009, she got a job in National Housing as a site foreman. Then, between the years 2012 and 2013, she served as an architectural assistant at National Housing. It was also during this period that she briefly served as a project engineer. Emeetai eventually resigned in September 2014, and, ever since that time, she is focusing on doing private work majorly consultancy, site supervision, design and construction.
As much as Emeetai’s bigger qualification is civil engineering, the 39-year-old says she prefers being called an architect. Her own definition of an architect is a professional who looks out for things like function and purpose. “I, for instance, look at things like whether the window is the appropriate size for the room? Is the window big enough to supply natural light? Does a house need steps? Things like that…”
Biggest career highlight
Somewhere in Kitintale, a suburb located outside the city centre is a five-leveled structure which is home to In-line Print Services Limited, a ompany owned by businessman, Charles Mugerwa. Emeetai says Mugerwa first approached her in 2016 to design and build the facility.
“I remember him asking me whether I was ready to do the work and I said yes. However, deep down, I wondered how I was going to pull off this huge project,” she says, adding: “There were in fact nights I would stay up late thinking about the work. Sometimes, I would even jump out of bed, sit on my computer and re-design some things after feeling that the earlier designs were not either adding up or working.”
Although she was playing the role of both architect and civil engineer, Emeetai did get help from some architects and senior engineers, including her husband, who is also in the same profession. “That project was like my baby in that even when I decided to involve other professionals, it was for guidance purposes,” she says.
The building plans were approved by the city council in February 2017 and by June 2017, the building was complete. “I am very proud of this project that every time I see the building, I think I have made it in life,” she says.
Challenges on the job
Among the several challenges Emeetai faces in her profession, she says often, whenever anything wrong goes with the construction project, she is among the first people to be blamed. “The client may actually say it is your fault, yet, it is not,” she says. “Some of these projects go wrong either because the client did not listen or insisted on having something done in a particular way.”
As a way of limiting the blame game scenarios, Emeetai says she has learnt to draft written agreements with her clients so that in cases where the client is insisting on a certain part of the project is done their way, it will be put in writing so that if anything goes wrong, the professional is not the one to be crucified for the mistake.
Then, regardless of the fact that clients pay for services of either an architect or civil engineer, Emeetai says there are occasions where they may not trust them to do a great job. And in such scenarios, the client even starts accepting advice from third parties while ignoring that of the professional.
“This is what even prompts clients to do things like buying construction materials themselves. The problem with this is that the client may miscalculate by buying inappropriate building material like poor type of sand or bricks, which in the long run results in losses,” she says.
Emeetai says it is important for clients to trust professionals they hire to undertake their respective construction projects.