Transforming Construction with BuildTech

November 5, 2018

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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Quality Matters

September 19, 2017

As the saying goes, in real estate, it’s all about “location, location, and location”.

But quality matters greatly too.

Every home owner wants to move into a home with good workmanship and minimal defects.

If you are buying something that is already built, you can check for quality by inspecting the unit.

But what happens when you want to buy something off-plan?

You can look through the plans and view the show unit, but there is no way to be sure of the quality of the completed unit.

This is why MND and BCA are putting more emphasis on quality measures of work done by contractors and developers.

One indicator is BCA’s Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS).

It assesses the quality of structural, architectural, mechanical and electrical workmanship. The assessment covers internal finishes, external walls, external works, and material and functional tests like waterproofing work installation etc. The assessments are conducted on a representative number of units in each development.

Another indicator is the Quality Mark (QM), which is an extension of CONQUAS. QM checks cover 100% of the units in a housing development using the same CONQUAS checklist.

Both schemes recognise quality workmanship and finishing by developers and contractors.

So if you are looking to purchase a new unit off-plan, you might want to look at the CONQUAS and QM scores of the contractor and developer, and see how they have performed in previous projects.

Such information is already in the public domain today, but it takes a bit of effort to find the data and make sense of it.

To make it more convenient for home buyers, BCA has revamped its website so that you can easily search for the CONQUAS and QM scores of specific developers and contractors (based on the past projects they’ve done), and compare these scores against industry averages and that of other companies.

I encourage all developers to publish the CONQUAS and QM scores from previous projects in their sales documents. For greater transparency, those with no previous experience and no previous CONQUAS or QM scores should make this known explicitly in their documents.

The CONQUAS and QM scores by themselves are not perfect measures of quality. But they reflect the track record of the contractor and developer, and I believe that’s something home-buyers would want to take into account before making a major decision on their home purchase.

I hope these efforts will help home-buyers make more informed decisions, and also motivate the industry to strive for even higher quality projects.

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Continue the Tradition; Build the Future

October 1, 2015


I’ve just started work at MND.

Boon Wan has done an excellent job in achieving a soft landing for the housing market. But the job is not done. I will continue the work, and I hope Singaporeans will give me suggestions and feedback so we can be even better.

Housing, in particular HDB homes, will always be close to the hearts of Singaporeans.  Even as we address immediate needs, we will be confronted with new demands and challenges.  Providing quality and affordable homes remain a key priority. Improving our HDB towns built in the 70s and 80s to meet changing needs will also be my focus, so that Singapore remains an endearing home for everyone, always.

MND is not just about housing. It also touches on many aspects of Singaporeans lives – be it food, animals, construction, conservation, green spaces or physical landscape.

One thing that MND has always done is to work closely with its stakeholders. That’s something I’ve done regularly in MCCY, and it’s certainly a practice I’d like to continue at MND.

JurongLakeGardensExhibitI had a first-hand experience of how much we can achieve together as a community in July this year, when the Singapore Botanic Gardens was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The successful inscription was the result of the collective efforts of experts and community groups who gave their suggestions and support.

Another exciting MND project is the Jurong Lake District. We have been gathering ideas and feedback extensively to shape the area into a vibrant live-work-play destination.

We will continue to talk to many more Singaporeans in this and other projects.

In the immediate term, my priority is to see through the successful implementation of the 2-Room Flexi scheme and recent policy changes (which will take effect for the November BTO exercise). Work has also started on the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. We will announce the details in due course so that families with young children in rental flats can become home owners again.

I will continue the tradition of listening, consulting and engaging all stakeholders. And I will also keep this blog alive as a way to reach out to everyone.

I invite you to join me on this journey – to make our city more liveable, to make our homes more endearing, and to make our future more vibrant and secure.

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Greening the World

October 15, 2014


The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and BCA have extended the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between them for three more years, to 2017.  Their collaboration in setting up the BCA Centre for Sustainable Buildings (BCA CSB) has been of mutual benefit.

The MOU extension will allow BCA CSB to support and assist UNEP to work with countries in the region to green their buildings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The BCA CSB is the first centre collaborating with UNEP in Asia, and one of the few such centres in the world. This partnership is an endorsement of Singapore’s leadership and efforts to drive sustainable development.

This year, BCA CSB’s various workshops to share best practices and train the trainer attracted many participants from our region, including policy-makers, academics and practitioners.

BCA CSB has also documented BCA’s experience of retrofitting an existing building at the BCA Academy into a Zero Energy Building – a first in South East Asia, raising awareness about sustainable building developments.

Picture2These initiatives underscore our commitment towards supporting green efforts within Singapore and the region, and will contribute to global efforts to reduce carbon emissions from buildings.

In Singapore, the building sector uses up one third of our total electricity supply. When the BCA Green Mark scheme was launched in 2005, there were only 17 green building projects. Today, it has grown to over 2,100 projects, and represents the greening of more than one quarter of Singapore’s total gross floor area.  Much has been achieved, but much more still needs to be done.

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Game-changing Technology to Up Productivity

August 14, 2014

We need game-changing construction technologies to boost our construction productivity and reduce our reliance on construction workers.

A 10-storey building extension to the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Hotel, owned by OUE Limited, will be constructed using Prefabricated Pre-finished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) method.

This is a proven game-changing technology elsewhere but still relatively new in Singapore.  We hope it will become common practice soon.

The public sector is also joining in the productivity drive.

NTU will be constructing its sports hall using Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). This is another game-changing technology.

PPVC and CLT enable manpower and time savings of up to 50% and 35% respectively, as compared to conventional construction methods.

PPVC relies on building components which are manufactured in a factory, thus reducing the need for workers, and cutting down on noise and dust at the construction site.

CLT is a new construction material which is safe and is commonly used in Europe. CLT meets the same fire safety requirements as concrete and steel.  Our Singapore Civil Defence Force has assessed the material and is allowing the use of CLT for buildings up to 24 metres.

We are speeding up the adoption of such game-changing technologies.

First, the Government will walk the talk and deploy such technologies in selected public sector projects.

Second, we will now make it a requirement for successful bidders of selected government land sales sites to adopt productive technologies like PPVC and CLT.

Third, BCA will provide funding support to adopters of such technologies.

Fourth, BCA and the industry are working closely with SPRING Singapore to develop Singapore Standards on the codes and guidelines for these new technologies.

Fifth, the BCA Academy will roll out a series of workshops and seminars on new technologies to build up expertise in the industry.

The desired outcome of these efforts is for our construction industry to be cleaner, quieter and faster, without compromising on safety and quality.

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Please check your windows and save lives

June 5, 2014


Please check your windows and save lives

In the first 5 months of this year, Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) records show that there were 27 cases of fallen windows.  While there were no injuries, we were simply lucky.  The next case of fallen window may not be so.

Cases of fallen windowsWindows fall because of wear and tear, and lack of proper maintenance. This is why we need our homeowners to check their windows, at least twice every year.  To make it easier to remember, we mark window safety days on 6/6, and 12/12 (June 6 and Dec 12).

Please do so on June 6.

Checking and cleaning the windows is fast and easy.  You can do it with 3 simple steps.  It will take less than five minutes.

Please visit BCA website or HDB website to learn more about window safety and window maintenance tips.

It may just save a life.

 3 steps to safer windows

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Let’s get used to robots in construction sites

May 20, 2014


One of the most labour-intensive processes in construction is tiling.

Each year, over 40 million tiles are laid in new construction projects here. There is therefore great potential to automate the tiling process and make it more labour-efficient.

Our researchers at the Singapore-ETH Centre Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) and ROB Technologies have conceptualised and developed a robotic tiling prototype for automated floor tiling. This is still at the research stage. But if the robot becomes commercially available, the estimate is that the robotic tiling machine can lay tiles two to three times faster than the human tiler. An added advantage is that robots can deliver high precision and consistent quality.

Such a robot will be able to work alongside workers at a construction site and do the menial tasks of laying floor tiles while workers focus on higher-value added work such as refilling and grouting the tiles, and cutting odd-size tiles to fit the corners.

The arithmetics are impressive. While it takes two tilers two working days to complete a 3-room HDB flat, the same two tilers in two working days can do 4 such flats, if they have the help of four robots. This is a four-fold jump in productivity!

With backbreaking tiling work done by the robot, and manual labour reduced by as much as 75%, this advanced technology can also reduce the risk of worksite accidents.

Robotics is not new, but we hardly see them in our construction sites. The Building and Construction Authority will be happy to provide some funding support to help change the status quo.


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