Good urban design to become even more important: Heng Swee Keat

"The growth of Asia will result in rapid urbanisation and more demand for infrastructure and buildings," said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.
"The growth of Asia will result in rapid urbanisation and more demand for infrastructure and buildings," said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Singapore needs to continue finding "innovative and sustainable ways" to improve its urban design, given its space constraints and competing needs for residences, industries, leisure and amenities, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Tuesday (Oct 2).

This was one of three areas, on top of productivity and technology, which the Republic can capitalise on, he said at the launch of a three-day event on architecture and building services in Marina Bay Sands.

"The growth of Asia will result in rapid urbanisation and more demand for infrastructure and buildings," said Mr Heng. “In Singapore we have growing opportunities, but beyond Singapore, there are growing opportunities to meet new needs in Asean and other parts of Asia and in the world, and to cooperate across borders.”

Asean is projected to become the fourth-largest single market by 2030, he said, and Asia is expected to continue being the world's fastest-growing region.

Work to improve regional collaboration is already taking place, with an Infrastructure Asia office set up by statutory board Enterprise Singapore to help match demand and supply in infrastructure projects by bringing together local and international players, among other initiatives, he said.

Here, there are three areas which Singapore can target, Mr Heng said.

First, good urban design will become even more important as it can boost a city's character and identity as such spaces become more similar in an increasingly globalised world.

"Singapore faces land and space constraints, with competing needs for residences, industries, leisure and amenities," he added. "But good urban design enables us to turn this into an advantage, enhancing our vibrancy and attractiveness as a city."

Second, advancements in urban design will require more productive methods, he said.

There has been good progress on this front, with site productivity in the construction sector rising 12 per cent from 2010 to 2017, he added. Site productivity is measured by dividing the total constructed floor area by manpower used on site.

Construction firms are also taking on more efficient means such as prefabrication, said Mr Heng.

The adoption of the "design for manufacturing and assembly" concept, which moves work traditionally done onsite to an offsite factory environment, doubled from 10 per cent in 2016 to almost 20 per cent last year, he said, as Singapore looks ahead to a target of 40 per cent adoption by 2020.

Third, Singapore also needs to keep up with the accelerating pace of technological advancement.

“To continue building Singapore into a green, highly liveable and smart city, our stakeholders in our design and built environment and facilities management must come together and collaborate,” said Mr Heng.

At Tuesday's event, Mr Tony Khoo, president of the Singapore chapter of the International Facility Management Association, said of his industry: "The breakdowns in our MRT trains and HDB lifts had really highlighted the critical role we play in the daily lives of our fellow Singaporeans."

The industry remains under the spotlight several years on, and facility management has been identified as a critical industry that needs to be reorganised and modernised, he added, as he called on his counterparts to "step forward and change for the better".