More plastics?

Our construction industry has to catch up in terms of productivity. If we benchmark ourselves against Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, we are lagging behind inconstruction productivity.

There are many reasons for under-performing. But whatever the cause, we must fix the problem and raise our construction productivity.

Greater standardisation and off-site precasting of building components are important strategies. There are also other avenues to complement these efforts, which involve some innovation. Every effort counts.

Take the example of water pipes. A typical HDB block with 100 flats would use about 3 kilometres of water pipes.

Traditionally, many buildings use copper pipes. These pipes are jointed using welding. This requires skilled labour and is time consuming.

This is an opportunity for productivity gain.

HDB now uses a more productive method to join copper pipes. Through a “press fit” method, they crimp together the pipes to be jointed. The press fit method does not involve skilled labour nor high temperatures; it has led to substantial productivity gain. Although this is good, HDB continues to explore the use of other materials to push for higher productivity.

In Europe and the US, the industry uses the flexible plastic water piping, for indoor water piping. They use a material called cross-linked polyethylene, or PEX for short, which is a durable and light plastic.

Being plastic, PEX is very flexible and needs less joints compared to the conventional copper piping system. Installing PEX piping also doesn’t require welding.

These advantages mean the time taken to install PEX piping is 40% less than copper pipes using the conventional welding method.  As an illustration, two workers can install PEX piping for 3 toilets in one day, compared to only 2 toilets when using copper piping.

One local plumbing SME contractor, OSK Engineering is a pioneer in using PEX systems and has received funding support from BCA’s Construction Productivity and Capability Fund. The PEX system is now part of PUB’s approved list of indoor piping systems. Currently, more than 20 private sector developments, including, factories, offices, hotels and housing projects, are using the PEX system for their indoor piping needs.

BCA will continue to work with the industry, raise awareness and promote labour-saving technologies. Productivity is the way forward for the industry.  Every bit counts towards better construction productivity.

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