First, it was HDB flats. Now, childcare centres are also being built more quickly via prefabrication in a move to ease the supply crunch.
NTUC First Campus, the biggest childcare operator here, has recently built a childcare centre in Sengkang by a method that has been used for decades to help shave the time to construct flats.
The childcare centre - believed to be the first such facility to use the prefabrication method - was finished in just 41/2 months.
It would have taken six to eight months to build if conventional methods were used, contractors estimate.
Prefabricated construction involves having parts - such as walls or doors - assembled elsewhere, then transported to the construction sites to be installed.
This enables buildings to be constructed much faster, and with fewer workers.
The move to consider prefabrication comes amid surging demand for childcare centres in newer estates such as Sengkang and Punggol where young families have moved in over the years. The waiting period for childcare places in these estates can be up to two years.
Operated by NTUC First Campus' My First Skool, the childcare centre at Block 269, Compassvale Link, can accommodate 200 children and is located next to an existing one. The latter, also run by My First Skool, has been full since 2011.
Building parts like its beams and cladding walls as well as the windows and doors are prefabricated.
In Singapore, prefabrication building - introduced in the 1980s - has been a key plank of the Government's push to raise productivity in the construction industry.
Despite tighter controls on foreign manpower supply, the Housing Board will still be able to meet its targeted delivery of 26,000 to 29,000 flats this year and next year, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan last year. This is because 70 per cent of a housing block is built by prefabrication.
Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh said he had put in a request to the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) for a childcare centre in Sengkang to be built "as fast as possible" after receiving feedback on the long waiting time for childcare places. The ECDA, a government agency, oversees the pre-school sector.
Dr Ho Nyok Yong, president of the Singapore Contractors Association, said: "(Prefabrication) is one of the efficient and economical ways to go if we want to ramp up childcare places rapidly."
He was referring to the ECDA's target of adding 20,000 childcare places by 2017.
The ECDA said it considered prefabrication as a building method for the new Sengkang childcare centre as it is "cost-effective" and enabled "timely completion".
Other childcare centre operators said they are keen to adopt the method to build new centres. Said Dr T. Chandroo, chairman of the Association of Early Childhood and Training Services and Modern Montessori International: "We are interested because you can erect fast but we must look at the cost elements as well."
Parents hope that the quicker building process will ease their worries of securing childcare places for their children.
Housewife Ong Shi Yee, 37, who is a Sengkang resident, took two years to enrol her three-year- old son in a childcare centre in the estate.
"I was very anxious because the waiting list took forever and I had to be proactive in calling them time and time again to check," she said.
Additional reporting by Priscilla Goy