Transforming Construction with BuildTech

Tech is the buzzword across all sectors of the economy. We are all familiar with terms like FinTech for the financial industry, PropTech for the real estate industry, and MedTech for medical devices.

But what about BuildTech? While construction is one of the least digitalised industries worldwide, digitalisation will offer many opportunities for the industry to transform. The need to boost construction productivity, enhance safety, and reduce abortive work, has attracted the attention of regulators, research institutes and investors worldwide. This has led to venture capitalists investing in BuildTech. New start-ups are emerging in this space with potentially game-changing solutions that use a combination of advanced software technology and cutting-edge hardware.

For example, Transforma Robotics, a local start-up firm, has developed a robotic platform equipped with advanced sensing, data analytics, and artificial intelligence capabilities to objectively assess workmanship quality against established specifications, and detect defects such as cracks and wall unevenness for rectification. This will enable contractors and quality inspection teams to improve their productivity by up to 50%, thus freeing up their teams for higher value-added work.

BuildTech is not only being driven by start-ups. Our larger home-grown contractors are also leveraging new technologies to improve construction productivity and expand their businesses overseas.

For example, Tiong Seng Holdings has invested in off-site construction techniques that speed up construction, reduce manpower, and cut down on noise and dust at construction sites. Using Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) (or commonly known as the ‘Lego’ method), modular building components are manufactured in a factory and assembled on-site. In fact, Tiong Seng has recently successfully completed the construction of a residential building in Myanmar using this method. Tiong Seng has also just signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) to set up a factory and offer pre-cast construction components in China. We encourage other local companies to seek similar business opportunities abroad.

The government has embarked on the Construction Industry Transformation Map with our tripartite partners to develop an innovative Built Environment sector.  We will do more to strengthen the industry, and help our firms to venture abroad. In particular, companies and start-ups can look forward to several new programmes, which they can tap on for mentorship, test-bedding opportunities, access to networks, and funding support.

HDB will be launching the Cool Ideas Enterprise at its Innovation Festival on 28 November.  Under this initiative, HDB will welcome ideas from enterprises and work with them to develop practical solutions for our housing estates. This will benefit both our enterprises as well as our residents.

BCA will be launching an accelerator programme to support BuildTech companies and fast-track their solutions to market. The programme will support a range of activities including interest matching to industry hosts, access to investor funding and business networks, and the provision of mentorship to companies. More details will be announced next year.

At the same time, we are partnering trade associations such as the Singapore Construction Association Ltd (SCAL) to help our firms build capability in productive technologies such as Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, and Integrated Design Delivery. For example, SCAL has provided platforms and forums to provide the latest updates on construction technologies and share best practices among industry stakeholders.

Where technology is concerned, construction is starting from a relatively lower base, compared to more mature areas such as finance and healthcare.  But this means that there are potentially bigger upsides. Given the sector’s size, small improvements can translate into substantial benefits for companies and workers. To reap the most benefits from these new technologies, we need all hands on deck, and support from all stakeholders. Then we can build a stronger eco-system of innovative construction firms with the capabilities to undertake quality projects in Singapore and abroad.

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