Singapore Government to step up construction productivity using technology

Construction workers at the worksite of the new State Courts complex located in Havelock Square.
Construction workers at the worksite of the new State Courts complex located in Havelock Square.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Construction site productivity has increased by an average of 1.3 per cent each year since 2009, but there is still room for improvement as manpower will remain a "key constraint", National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday (Oct 18).

The Government plans to increase productivity by up to 3 per cent annually until 2020, and it will do so in several ways, Mr Wong added. He was speaking at the launch of the Singapore Construction Productivity Week at Singapore Expo.

For one thing, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has developed a new construction and productivity research and development (R&D) road map. Under this, the construction industry will step up on 35 technologies in seven R&D clusters in the long term.

These areas include design for manufacturing and assembly (or building offsite); automated equipment and robotics; info-comm technology; building information modelling and virtual design and construction; 3D printing; advanced construction materials; and productive civil engineering solutions.

More than 400 industry players, public agencies, institutes of higher learning and research institutes were consulted for this road map.

The Government will also look at specifying productivity outcomes such as manpower savings for future Government Land Sales sites, but without mandating any specific productive technology.

Currently, the use of specific technologies such as prefabricated pre-finished volumetric construction has been mandated for selected Government Land Sales sites. But the new tendering requirement will allow "more innovation and scope" for firms to come up with productive technologies, said BCA chief executive John Keung.

To improve collaboration, the BCA will also be launching a code of practice later this month to guide the industry in including information needed by contractors in building information modelling models. Such a move will help as some contractors currently find it hard to use such models developed by architects and engineers, as they often lack construction details.

There will also be more emphasis on productivity in the latest edition of the Construction Quality Assessment System (Conquas), which measures workmanship quality in new buildings. Firms will be given bonus points for using productive methods. Adverse feedback from end-users on major defects during the defects liability period will also be considered during scoring.

Mr Wong said such measures can help in raising productivity and overcoming manpower constraints.

Dr Keung said that productive methods have many benefits, including saving time, minimising construction noise and improving worksite safety.

He stressed that building quality will not be compromised in the process. Referring to productive methods such as prefabricated concrete modules, which are manufactured in a factory setting where one can control quality, he said: "Speed and quality are not contradictory. They can be done together if you do it the right way."