SINGAPORE: The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has said that it will introduce a new framework to ensure buildings are easy and safe to maintain. It is also working to tighten the facade maintenance regime “to ensure that facades and exterior features are well-maintained, regularly inspected and remain properly secured”.
During a media interview, BCA's outgoing chief executive officer Dr John Keung said that the authority started working on a design-for-maintainability framework about two years ago and he hopes to have it rolled out by end-2017.
As to why, Dr Keung said that building maintenance is both a safety and productivity issue that “takes up a lot of manpower”.
“We are consulting the industry before we roll out the guideline to get the architects and engineers to see what we can do upfront - to design buildings in such a way that it is easy to maintain,” he said. “Maintainability is the next big thing.”
Some of the measures the framework will look into include how buildings can provide easier access for cleaning, as well as the types of building materials and paints that require less maintenance.
Last year, BCA rolled out its "Design for Maintainability" checklist, a voluntary set of guidelines to help designers incorporate maintainability considerations in their designs.
“OUR BUILDINGS ARE GETTING OLDER”
Dr Keung said that Singapore's high-rise, high-density environment makes facade maintenance even more important: “In the past when our buildings were still young, we had less of such problems. But going forward, as our buildings are getting older, you need to do a lot more to make sure that the facades are properly maintained."
He gave an example of New York City’s facade maintenance regime, which he called “rigorous”.
“The reason is simple. Because their buildings can be 50, 100, 150 years old, things do fall off,” Dr Keung said.
BCA added that the BCA Academy is developing courses on facade inspection, which will be launched later this year.
LIFT AND ESCALATOR MAINTENANCE
In February, a committee to look at attracting and developing more lift and escalator technicians was set up. Last year, new lift and escalator safety regulations were also introduced.
However, beyond regulatory and manpower efforts to enhance lift reliability and safety, the industry should turn to technology to improve these efforts, according to Dr Keung.
To improve lift inspection efforts, he said that several Government agencies - such as the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and JTC Corporation - have been looking for examples from Japan, where several companies use a remote system to track the performance of lifts offsite.
Japan has to do so, because the country’s labour cost is “very high”, said Dr Keung. “So that drives them to reduce the need for workers (for lift maintenance and inspection work).
“We do not have the same situation here, (but) going forward we cannot run away from a very tight labour market. So the way forward is to use as much technology as possible to help us do all these work instead of adding more workers.”
BCA ACADEMY EXPANDS RESEARCH FACILITIES
From Jun 1, Dr Keung will step down as the BCA’s chief executive officer after more a decade in office. He will become the dean of BCA Academy.
In his new role, the 64-year-old will oversee the development of two new buildings over at the academy as part of plans to expand its research facilities. They will be used to house new laboratories, classrooms, and research and development facilities.
A seven-storey, medium-rise building will be built using Mass Engineered Timber, while a twenty-storey high-rise building will be built using Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction technology.
Dr Keung said that BCA is currently calling for a tender on the buildings’ designs and hopes to have them ready in the next two to three years.
The medium-rise building will be a “zero energy” building, meaning that it will aim to generate as much energy as it consumes, while the high-rise building will be a “super-low energy” building.
Currently, such buildings are up to 30 per cent more energy-efficient than similar buildings, Dr Keung said.
“We want to walk our talk. We cannot be asking the industry to do it and we don’t do it ourselves,” Dr Keung said, referring to getting the industry to pursue more sustainable and productive construction techniques.
Dr Keung added that the academy is looking at increasing the student intake and the number of programmes offered. He also hopes to increase the number of tie-ups between students at the academy and the researchers.
He highlighted two institutes under BCA where he hopes more of such collaborations can occur: The Built Environment Research and Innovation Institute (BERII) and the Built Environment Technology Centre (BETC).
BERII currently focuses on research areas such as green building solutions and construction productivity, while BETC looks at issues such as developing underground spaces and protecting Singapore’s coastline.