$2m fund to help firms get quieter construction equipment

Some industry players say government subsidies for quieter construction equipment are a good incentive for contractors to fight noise pollution, rather than the threat of penalties under the existing noise regulatory framework for construction sites.
Some industry players say government subsidies for quieter construction equipment are a good incentive for contractors to fight noise pollution, rather than the threat of penalties under the existing noise regulatory framework for construction sites.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

NEA move will nudge contractors to invest in new machines to overcome noise pollution

Construction companies can apply for a new $2 million fund to help pay for quieter equipment from April 1, as the authorities seek to slash noise levels from work sites.

The new Quieter Construction Innovation Fund will encourage construction firms to continue investing in new machines and methods to reduce noise, which is part of the National Environmental Agency's (NEA) strategy to use technology to defeat noise pollution, said its chief executive Tan Meng Dui yesterday.

"Excessive noise from construction activities such as demolition, piling, excavation and concreting can be a constant bugbear and pose a serious disturbance to people living and working in the vicinity," Mr Tan said in an address to some 200 industry players during the Quieter Construction Seminar at the Ministry for Environment and Water Resources.

He added that the NEA received some 9,500 public complaints last year, roughly equal to 25 a day, on construction noise.

The new fund replaces the original Quieter Construction Fund, which will expire at the end of this month.

The maximum grant per project will also be raised to $300,000 from $200,000.

The fund will introduce a subcategory for quieter equipment for piling and demolition works, which the industry considers the noisiest phase of the building process.

  • $300,000

  • Maximum grant per project under the new fund, which replaces the original Quieter Construction Fund which will expire on April 1.

SERIOUS DISTURBANCE

Excessive noise from construction activities such as demolition, piling, excavation and concreting can be a constant bugbear and pose a serious disturbance to people living and working in the vicinity.

MR TAN MENG DUI, chief executive of the National Environmental Agency.

Firms will be able to defray their equipment costs by up to $300,000 - double the current limit of $150,000 - by purchasing piling and demolition equipment that is at least 10 decibels quieter than conventional machinery.

Contractors can receive increased funding of up to $50,000 - a $30,000 increase from the original fund - when leasing or sub-contracting specialist contractors to carry out such works.

Under the new fund, the minimum amount needed to qualify for funding support for innovative construction methods has been reduced from $5,000 to $3,000.

The amount needed to qualify for funding for localised noise enclosures or curtains will be reduced to $,1000 from $5,000. These noise enclosures are used to block noise from a single machine, for example.

Many in the industry welcomed the NEA move, though some doubted whether the amount set aside for the fund was sufficient.

Some said government subsidies for quieter construction equipment were a good incentive for contractors to fight noise pollution, rather than the threat of penalties under the existing noise regulatory framework for construction sites.

Currently, firms that breach the permissible noise limit rules can be fined up to $40,000.

China Construction senior project manager Poon Sai Kit, 44, said quieter technology could reduce project disruptions and regulatory costs. "Less noise means fewer complaints from residents, and fewer violations of the permissible noise limits too," he said.

But Singapore Contractors Association secretary-general Lee Kay Chai said the amount earmarked for the new fund - $2 million - was inadequate, noting that $10 million was set aside when the original fund was launched in 2014.

Around $5.1 million had been spent at 112 project sites from April 2014 to February this year.

NEA estimates that by the time the original fund expires, construction firms would have tapped $7.5 million or around 75 per cent of the funds set aside under the original scheme.

"Every piece of equipment is very expensive, and if every applicant asked for the full $300,000 subsidy, you will only get six or seven applicants and no more," said Mr Lee, who is also an executive director at Lian Soon Construction.


Correction note: This article has been updated to reflect the correct expiry date of the original Quieter Construction Fund. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2019, with the headline '$2m fund to help firms get quieter construction equipment'. Print Edition | Subscribe