Construction sector to build innovative culture

Contractors' body plans to offer more training in areas like virtual design, showcase new technologies

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat (centre) with Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL) president Kenneth Loo (left) and SCAL first vice-president Ng Yek Meng at the association's 81st birthday dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel last night. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Mention the construction industry and some may think of hard hats and boots, but there are plans to encourage innovation by providing more training in areas such as virtual design and construction.

This was one of the measures announced last night at the annual dinner of the Singapore Contractors Association Limited (SCAL), whose members have together built more than 75 per cent of Singapore's buildings and infrastructure.

The association, which now has about 3,000 members, also plans to showcase new construction methods and technologies at a proposed construction hub expected to be built in the next three years.

At the dinner at Shangri-La Hotel, SCAL president Kenneth Loo told around 800 guests that the association plans to bring the industry forward by enhancing adult training courses under its training arm, SCAL Academy.

There will be more training available in digital technology and innovation, in areas such as design for manufacturing and assembly.

Mr Loo said: "The construction landscape is fast changing as innovative and new construction methods, coupled with digitalisation, provide solutions for higher efficiency, raising construction productivity, and at the same time eliminate exposure to dangerous tasks for workers."

At the dinner held in conjunction with its 81st birthday, the association also launched the SCAL Safety Awards to recognise subcontractors registered under the Singapore List of Trade Subcontractors for good safety records.

The first awards will be given at SCAL's annual dinner next year.

These will give recognition to registered subcontractors that have shown commitment and dedication in raising workplace safety and health practices and standards in their organisations, Mr Loo said.

The association announced last year its plan to develop a construction hub to bring together its training facilities and showcase new technologies.

At the hub, SCAL will also provide services such as business helpdesk and networking.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was a guest at the dinner, said: "New technologies are disrupting traditional business models and the pace of change is accelerating. Moving first and moving fast is key to staying competitive."

He gave the example of building information modelling, a technology that can be used to plan and optimise fabrication processes of building components.

"The construction process can be virtually mapped out to identify potential conflicts before actual work is started on-site. These can translate into time and cost savings," he added.

Mr Heng urged firms to build new capabilities to stay relevant and competitive.

"I encourage more firms to take a bold step and explore new possibilities in improving their construction processes," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2018, with the headline Construction sector to build innovative culture. Subscribe