Push for prefab, digital tech use as blueprint is refreshed for built environment sector

Avenue South Residence took just 18 months to be built with a Lego-like stacking and assembling process. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - A pair of residential towers in the Outram area took just 18 months to be built with a Lego-like stacking and assembling process.

It would have taken almost double the time - around 30 months - to be completed if construction was done via traditional building methods.

The 56-storey high Avenue South Residence, a 99-year leasehold condominium development in Silat Avenue, now holds the title as the world's tallest residential building constructed using the prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC) method.

The push to adopt the PPVC method and use of other digital technologies is part of the refreshed industry transformation map for the built environment sector launched by National Development Minister Desmond Lee on Tuesday.

By using the PPVC method, manpower productivity at the 1,074-unit Avenue South Residence has improved by about 40 per cent, while nearby residents experience less of issues such as pollution and noise as the apartment modules are built off-site.

The PPVC method is one which involves precasting 3D modules such as a bathroom and installing fittings in an off-site factory-like facility.

These modules are then delivered to the site, hoisted up to stack on one another and installed.

At Avenue South Residences, more than 3,000 large apartment modules complete with floor tiles, toilet bowls and sinks were built in a factory in Tuas before being transported to the construction site to be stacked to form the two 192m-high blocks.

On Tuesday at the International Built Environment Week (IBEW) 2022 held at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Mr Lee said construction activity in Singapore has returned close to pre-Covid-19 levels and the manpower situation has stabilised.

Large-scale projects in the pipeline such as Changi Airport Terminal 5, Jurong Lake District, Greater Southern Waterfront and works on the site of the Paya Lebar Airbase also present opportunities to explore new ways of working together and transformation for the built environment sector, he added.

One such way is through an integrated construction park concept where different construction facilities such as terminals, storage yards and ready-mix concrete batching plants can be housed together.

For instance, raw materials such as cement, sand and granite can be stored in close proximity and transported to the ready-mix concrete batching plants using a conveyor system instead of vehicles hauling them from different locations across Singapore.

The first integrated construction park located at Jurong Port will progressively begin operations at the end of this year.

The refreshed built environment industry transformation map launched on Tuesday covers the planning and design, construction, and the operations and maintenance stages of a building's life cycle.

It builds on two previous industry transformation maps launched for the construction sector in 2017 and the facilities management sector in 2018.

Nine upcoming public sector projects have been identified by seven government agencies to pilot collaborative contracting at the planning stage, before any construction work even begins, said Mr Lee.

To upkeep ageing buildings while addressing the challenges of an ageing workforce, the sector has to adopt smart facility management technologies, he added.

This includes the use of smart sensors that track and optimise the use of resources such as water and electricity.

A new target has been set for about 80 per cent of public sector buildings to adopt smart facility management technologies by 2030, up from 50 per cent. A target of 40 per cent is set for private sector buildings in the same timeline.

Mr Lee said the refreshed industry transformation map will guide the development of the built environment sector in the years to come.

"Through this, we aim to build a sector that is productive, resilient and contributes to building a more sustainable environment that promotes well-being and combats climate change. And one that possesses deep capabilities to support our domestic demands as well as those of international markets in time to come," he added.

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