Working Round the Clock to Ensure Safety

April 30, 2014

Working Round the Clock to Ensure Safety

articleIn February, a 70-ton aircraft tow truck accidentally drove into and dislodged a column supporting a section of Changi Airport Terminal 2’s transit hall. This is potentially dangerous. After closing off that section of the building, officers from the Building & Construction Authority (BCA) and Changi Airport Group (CAG) swung into action immediately. We could not afford to waste time, as public safety is mission critical.

For 48 hours, BCA officers worked round the clock with CAG to restore the building’s structural integrity. Mr Ong Chan Leng, a Professional and Chartered Engineer from BCA, led the on-site team.

In parallel, back at HQ, another team of BCA officers worked non-stop to retrieve building plans and records from their archives. This provided important support for on-site engineers so that they could make accurate assessment of the extent of the damage and the risk to safety.

The shoring work was complicated and tedious because of the high ceiling height and space constraint. The damaged column had to be removed and a new column, reconstructed.

Going forward, CAG is reviewing additional mitigating measures to be put in place in all our 3 airport terminals. We must try to prevent a repeat of this incident.

Public safety is of utmost importance. I am glad that when the unexpected happens, our officers are able to rise to the occasion. The good teamwork between BCA and CAG is also commendable.

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Thrill without Tears

April 11, 2014

Thrill without Tears

There are about 80 amusement rides in Singapore. Adrenaline seekers have many exciting options from indoor skydiving to reverse bungee jumping. Last year, a new water ride called the Torpedo at Wild Wild Wet was unveiled to the public.

BCA officer doing maintenance checksPublic safety is however paramount. In Singapore, BCA regulates amusement ride safety, through the Amusement Rides Safety Act. The regulation covers installation, operation, modification, maintenance and repair of amusement rides. Prior to the opening of each ride, BCA engineers work with the operator to ensure that the ride complies with the safety standards imposed by us. BCA conducts surprise inspection audits, or “mystery shopper” inspections. Spot checks on operators’ daily maintenance routine are also conducted.

Safety regulations are not static. They have to evolve to meet new safety standards, respond to new incidents and keep pace with introduction of new rides. For example, water-walking ball operators can now operate in pools with water depths of up to 1.2 metres, but with additional safety measures, such as having a lifeguard on duty.

Rides need to comply with regulations in BCA's Amusement Rides Safety ActMost recently, BCA completed a review to further improve safety standards and the revised regulations came into operation on 1 April 2014.

With this latest round of amendments, amusement rides at private clubs and private residential estates are now included and regulated under the Amusement Rides Safety Act.

We will stay updated with best industry standards and latest safety technologies. Thrill seekers should also play their part by following safety guidelines.

Together, we can enjoy thrills and still stay safe.

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A Granite Surprise

March 13, 2014

A Granite Surprise

Six weeks ago, there was a sudden disruption of granite supply from Indonesia. Fortunately, we are prepared for such surprises.

First, we have a national granite stockpile to help the industry tide over any temporary disruption. Second, we have always required all importers to have a small supply from distant regional sources, even during normal times. This is an important diversification strategy. Third, we have a drawer plan to respond to such temporary disruptions.

The Government put the drawer plan into action. We activated the release of granite from the national stockpile. We encouraged the importers to ramp up supply from their distant sources.

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Five weeks after the activation of the plan, I am glad that the situation is returning to normal. Since early March, we have seen a steady resumption of granite supply from Indonesia. Supplies from other sources are coming in readily. And there has been no request to draw down from the national stockpile for the last 13 days.

Accordingly, the Government will suspend the application for granite stockpile release from 14 March 2014

This episode is a useful reminder for us not to take things for granted. We have limited resources. At any time our dependency for any natural resource is at stake. A source diversification strategy has helped the construction industry tide over this brief period of granite supply disruption. And together with our national stockpile, it has buffered us well.

But we must not be complacent. We will replenish the stockpile. More importantly, BCA will continue to promote the use of steel, drywalls and recycled concrete aggregates, so as to reduce our reliance on imports of natural aggregates.

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Government is profiteering? Of course, not!

March 4, 2014

Government is profiteering?  Of course, not!

Just now in Parliament, MP Er Lee Bee Wah commented on coffee shops profiteering by raising beer prices well above the increased excise duty. This is a fair point.

However, she wandered off by asking if Government was also profiteering when it raised the granite stockpile price from $30 to $50 per tonne. Of course, not!

articlesThe Government did not set up the granite stockpile as a business. The issue of profit is not a relevant consideration because the motive in setting up such a stockpile is to help the industry cope with sudden shortages in granite. Release of the stock-pile is a contingency measure to help the industry cope while they contract and import from alternative sources of supply. The stockpile cannot be a convenient permanent alternative source of supply for the industry.

We import granite mainly from our immediate neighbours, as well as from other regional sources. Recently, there was a sudden, hopefully temporary, disruption in supply from Indonesia. We decided to release the stockpile at $30 per tonne to help industry tide over the disruption.

As it is not clear if the disruption was temporary or permanent, we urged the industry to ramp up supply from sources further afield. As these sources would be more costly, we served notice to the industry in early February by indicating that the stockpile price would be raised after one month. In this way, we ensured continuous operation for the industry for one month with pricing stability at $30 per tonne, while they start to make arrangements to ramp up supply from other sources.

In setting the stock-pile price, the consideration is not about profit margins but about ensuring the industry is incentivised to actively source for alternative supply sources. If the stockpile price is set too low, there will be no reason for importers to go for other (more costly) sources. And if they do not do so, we will rapidly deplete our stockpile and there will be no buffer to help the industry should a similar disruption of another supply source occur.

The new stockpile price is not to profiteer but to incentivise importers to procure and buy from distant sources, to ensure that our construction industry can continue seamlessly, despite the Indonesian disruption. The industry should fully understand this as we have made it clear from the outset when the granite stockpile was released to assist them in the transition to ramping up supply from distant sources.

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Be Considerate to the Neighbourhood

October 24, 2013

Be Considerate to the Neighbourhhod

London 'fryscraper' building. Photo: AFPLast month, a London “fryscraper” building made news around the world. It reflected so much sunlight that its rays could even fry an egg nearby!

Over in Hong Kong, the impact of glare from its tallest building, International Commerce Centre (ICC) inconvenienced residents and was a subject of debate in their Parliament.

In Singapore, we are also beginning to get some feedback on unwelcome glare from sunlight reflected from metal roof of other buildings. One resident said that he has had to wear sunglasses in his own home!

With more buildings being clothed in glass and metal, and covered with metal roofs, this is an issue of concern. How do other cities respond to this?

Sydney regulates the daylight reflectance of all facade materials. Its regulation requires that light reflectivity from building materials used on external facades must not exceed 20%.

For buildings in the vicinity of arterial/major roads and Sydney Airport, there must additionally, be proof of light reflectivity, given safety concerns.

Building designs are increasingly more complex and elaborate. With an increasing number of developers and architects exploring the use of less conventional materials, some form of check and balance is necessary so that design does not come at the cost of comfort and safety.

BCA will soon be updating its building regulation to include reflectivity requirements for all kinds of facade materials. Currently, such requirements only pertain to glass.

This is a useful regulatory update to ensure that new designs do add to the neighbourhood, allowing all residents, users and commuters to enjoy, without causing any inconvenience or hardship to anyone.

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Mechanised Parking Coming to HDB Estates

October 6, 2013

Mechanised Parking Coming to HDB Estates

As car ownership increases, car park shortages become a problem in HDB estates. We have raised the norms for car park provision in new estates. For old estates, we are adding new car park lots where land is available. This is however not always possible.

GPC MPs have suggested that we build some mechanised car parks where land is limited and existing car parks are severely short. They even joined HDB to study such automated systems overseas. See how it works through this video.

As MPs on the ground, the GPC members are aware of the inconveniences caused to residents by localised parking shortages. I deeply appreciate their keen interest and offer of moral support and assistance.

The study is now complete and we have decided to try out some pilots in Bukit Panjang, Changi Village and Yishun, where there are severe parking shortages but there is no space to add more car park lots. The pilot will allow HDB to gauge public acceptance of the system.

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Start Being Green When Young

August 13, 2013

Start Being Green When Young by Minister Khaw Boon WanMarsiling Sec Sch students sharing their greening effortsWe promote sustainable development. And the cultural change needs to start from young.

To get this going, BCA launched its inaugural BCA Greenovate Challenge. It is to get secondary students thinking of green building solutions and applying them in their schools.

The competition generated much interest from 14 schools, with the students looking for interesting and innovative measures to save energy and water for their schools.

Marsiling Secondary School came in first. I visited them to check it out.

The students worked with the Energy Service Company which was assigned to them to audit their energy usage. This practical tie-up with the industry gave both students and teachers an opportunity to learn from real world experts about energy efficient strategies and consumption.

Armed with the school’s energy audit, students came up with good ideas. One practical action was to adopt solar leasing whereby photovoltaic panels were rented to harness the sun’s energy. The energy harvested was then used to offset part of the electricity needs of the school. They worked with a commercial partner to install, pro bono, a large quantity of solar panels and procure the solar energy harvested at a reduced rate. This arrangement made money sense.

The students also experimented with pre-cooling ambient air for greater efficiency of the air-condition compressor. The school experienced over 30% energy savings! For schools with extensive air con usage, this can translate into $60,000 savings yearly!

Our younger generation are taking an active interest and concrete steps to preserve the environmentAnother winning factor for Marsiling Secondary was their innovative way of harvesting rainwater. The students joined ten one-cubic metre recycled plastic containers with PVC pipes to create a water storage area. The school can harvest 1,371 m3 of rainwater for gardening and washing of toilets per year. The school has decided to increase the capacity of the system.

As one student whom I chatted with said, “Mother Earth is ours, therefore we have a responsibility to look after her.”

Next month, BCA will be hosting the International Green Building Conference, as part of the Singapore Green Building Week. We expect to receive more than 10,000 local and international participants from over 30 countries.

Marsiling Secondary has been inspired by the inaugural BCA Greenovate Challenge. They will now be applying for BCA’s Green Mark certification for Existing Schools.

Meanwhile, BCA plans to adapt the Greenovate Challenge into an annual programme.

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