Property developers must take the lead in industry transformation as S'pore seeks to innovate better: Heng Swee Keat

One approach for innovation involves adopting a "start-up mindset".
One approach for innovation involves adopting a "start-up mindset".ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Property developers in Singapore have to set the pace for industry transformation in the post-pandemic world, where an increasing premium will be placed on sustainability and resilience.

Calling on developers to build a sustainable, caring and liveable city, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Jan 18) urged them to "step up the pace of transformation and bring other industry players along".

Speaking at the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore's (Redas) anniversary celebration, held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, he added: "Thankfully, we have strong foundations to build on."

In his speech, which was streamed online, Mr Heng said Singapore must set its sights beyond Covid-19 and ask itself what it should do differently, especially in relation to its industry transformation maps (ITMs).

"We will need to refresh our ITMs, and explore how we can work and collaborate differently to innovate better," he said.

One approach for innovation involves adopting a "start-up mindset" similar to what the eight Alliances for Action under the Emerging Stronger Task Force have done. These industry-led coalitions are focused on speed and action, rapidly prototyping new ideas and scaling up those that are successful.

For instance, Redas is leading a trial with a digital dashboard that allows developers to monitor building projects based on live data, Mr Heng said. If successful, this dashboard project will be extended to all developers.

Other issues require sustained investment and effort over many years to yield an impact, he added.

He gave the example of making the built environment more climate-resilient, noting that studies have shown that Singapore is heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world.

Although greenery - which many developers have incorporated into their designs - helps to a certain extent, Singapore needs to do more, Mr Heng said.

"New solutions could include the use of cool paints and reflective glass coatings to lower absorption of heat energy from the sun. If the sector can grow its capabilities in sustainability, it will give you a competitive edge when you expand overseas," he said.

The Government has consistently invested about 1 per cent of its gross domestic product on research and innovation, with urban solutions and sustainability one key area in the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Plan for the next five years.

The minister urged developers to take the lead in such research efforts, beyond government investment.

And as Singapore looks at new ways of doing things, it must not lose sight of its ultimate goal to improve people's lives - including enabling young Singaporeans to own their own homes, he added.

"This is why we pay close attention to the property market, to ensure that it remains stable."

Mr Heng noted that asset prices around the world have been on the rise despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

In Singapore, the property market is starting to see renewed positive sentiments and some gathering of momentum in prices, he said. "We will remain vigilant as the economic outlook remains very uncertain. We do not want to see the property market run ahead of the underlying economic fundamentals."