SINGAPORE: The construction industry is looking to improve work processes by adopting prefabrication methods in more projects and using digital tools to allow various parties involved in the building process to share information.
These are part of a new Industry Transformation Map (ITM) for the construction industry, launched on Tuesday (Oct 24) by Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee at the opening of the Singapore Construction and Productivity Week.
The transformation aims to streamline construction processes and ultimately create new and better jobs in the sector. ITM targets to have 80,000 personnel trained in new construction technology and green building capabilities by 2025, up from 32,600 currently.
A Built Environment SkillsFuture Tripartite Taskforce has also been set up to look at providing more structured internships and take the lead in training more new graduates.
Speaking at the launch, Mr Lee said that the roadmap would help to upgrade the entire industry at a time of “difficult market conditions.”
"It is about utilising more effective and productive construction methods, embracing more digitalisation and strengthening our local workforce so that more Singaporeans can benefit from these opportunities,” Mr Lee said.
He noted that while Singapore was “a bit behind” in some of these areas, the Republic has always been nimble and responsive to challenges. “We will not just catch up, but aim to leapfrog our competition,” he added.
The construction roadmap is the 11th to be launched since plans for ITMs were announced in last year’s Budget. In total, these maps, which are tailored to the needs of each industry, will be developed for 23 sectors which contribute most significantly to Singapore’s economy.
MORE PREFABRICATION HUBS TO BE BUILT
One key approach in the ITM is the adoption of what’s known as Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) technologies, noted the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).
In traditional construction, most work is done on site and can be labour intensive. However, DfMA technologies move work that is traditionally done on site into a controlled factory environment, which allows for greater automation and the creation of new, better jobs in the factory, said BCA.
The onsite installation process then becomes more efficient, the agency added. It will be safer for workers and for residents around the construction site, it will be cleaner and quieter.
To this end, the Government aims to adopt such technology in 40 per cent of construction projects by 2020, up from 10 per cent currently.
The Government will build up to 10 Integrated Construction and Prefabrication Hubs – or complexes where building components can be put together in a factory environment – by 2020, depending on the need of the industry.
Currently, there are three of such hubs in operation and two are under construction.
As spaces in cities become tighter, we do see that the ability to store up construction materials on-site and provide for transport and equipment will be reduced," said BCA CEO Hugh Lim.
"Using modular construction, the builder has the opportunity to complete the modules off-site, transport them on-site just in time, offload them immediately and bring them exactly where they’re supposed to go. So that helps in space management and reduces the number of workers he needs on-site, and ultimately he can do the job quicker and cleaner," he added.
BCA is also partnering the industry to develop a series of guidebooks on DfMA technologies. These guidebooks will provide simple and practical tips as well as good practices for the various technologies.
DIGITAL INTEGRATION OF CONSTRUCTION PROCESSES
The Government also hopes to drive the adoption of Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD), which uses cloud and digital technology to allow the various parties working on a building project – from developers, consultants, builders, tradesmen to facility managers – to share information. This shared information is created through Building Information Modelling (BIM), which is a 3D model of a building with embedded information.
This approach, said BCA, will help minimise mistakes, delays and rework, speed up the construction process and also provide useful information about the building for future maintenance or retrofitting.
BCA said it will continue to develop standards for IDD to ensure interoperability and encourage the adoption of shared platforms and solutions in both public and private sector projects.
CREATING BETTER JOBS IN THE SECTOR
With the transformation of the sector, there will be redesigned jobs involving higher skills, more competitive salaries and a better work environment, said BCA.
For example, new roles like production engineers and supervisors overseeing manufacturing of prefabricated concrete walls have been introduced to the sector, and they work in a more conducive indoor work environment as compared to conventional construction work.
The traditional worksite would also become more streamlined, added BCA, with fewer but more highly skilled workers needed to operate smarter machines and tools.
CONSTRUCTION ITM A “FIRST STEP”
The construction roadmap is a “first step” in the transformation for the entire built environment sector, with plans to develop the real estate, security, environmental services and landscape sectors in the works, Mr Lee also announced.
“Eventually, we can bring all these plans together horizontally so that we can provide all-in-one integrated services for building projects,” he said, adding that this would serve as a competitive edge for local firms.
For the ITM to be implemented successfully, BCA said the continued collaboration by all parties, including construction companies, unions, institutes of higher learning and the Government, is crucial.
Feedback from the industry will continue to be incorporated into the ITM.
Additional reporting by Wendy Wong.