Wednesday, 26 April 2017

NTU's new sports hall The Wave built using mass engineered timber

Push for more efficient building techniques
By 2020, four in 10 projects will benefit from new methods that require fewer workers
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2017

Singapore hopes to multiply the number of buildings it will churn out using more efficient techniques that require fewer workers.

By 2020, four in 10 construction projects, including Housing Board flats, will use these newer technologies - up from the current one in 10.

Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong announced the target yesterday, saying existing methods are not sustainable in the long term. They are labour intensive and would lead to a "far larger pool of foreign workers than we can possibly accommodate in Singapore".

"The shortage of workers ends up becoming a bottleneck and a constraint in our development - we end up having to defer projects," he said at the launch of a new sports hall at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

The sports hall, called The Wave, is made mostly of mass engineered timber. Parts are prefabricated, speeding up construction, while yielding a 25 per cent savings in labour.

In particular, the 72m-long, wave-like roof was put together by only 14 workers in about three weeks. Conventional methods would have taken 30 workers and up to three months to complete, said Mr Kang Choon Boon, managing director of B19 Technologies, the contractor for The Wave.

Mr Wong said if Singapore adopts similar technologies, many more projects can be carried out with the same number of workers. Public agencies will take the lead in adopting these technologies.

Many public agencies are already doing so for their projects, said Building and Construction Authority (BCA) chief executive officer John Keung.

But industry insiders say achieving the Government's goal would be an uphill task.

For one thing, the new technologies are more expensive. For instance, The Wave cost $35 million to construct. Traditional methods may require more workers, but are cheaper.

Already, the construction sector - the worst performing in Singapore, forecast to grow just 0.3 per cent this year - is watching its bottom line closely. Small contractors, in particular, have been hit hard by a slowdown in business volume and tighter manpower constraints.

Singapore Contractors Association president Kenneth Loo reckoned that it will take more than three years to achieve the Government's aim. "While some of our members are ready, it will take some time to build up across the whole industry," he said.

For costs to come down, more companies must use the technologies, said the BCA, which has the $800 million Construction Productivity and Capability Fund to subsidise such initiatives.

"This is a demand and supply problem," said Dr Keung. "When you have more of such projects, you have an economy of scale and, over time, costs will definitely come down."

Cost stands in the way of efficient building techniques
By Charmaine Ng, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2017

Key challenges have to be overcome before the construction industry can meet the target set by the Government - to quadruple by 2020 the number of projects that use more efficient technologies.

The biggest is the high costs involved for contractors, including the buying of machinery and computer software, training of staff and, in some cases, costs incurred for storing and transporting prefabricated units to the site, said Singapore Contractors Association president Kenneth Loo.

This is particularly so for small and medium-sized enterprises, he added.

Property consultant Nicholas Mak of SLP International said: "If it is cheaper to use the traditional method, they will use the traditional method. And if construction costs are higher, these will be passed down to the property owner."

To defray some of these costs, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has committed around $450 million out of about $800 million from the Construction Productivity and Capability Fund as at the end of last year. The fund was introduced in 2010.

More than 9,000 companies, about 90 per cent of which are small and medium-sized firms, have benefited, a BCA spokesman told The Straits Times.

In February, a $150 million Public Sector Construction Productivity Fund was also set up to allow government agencies to implement innovative building methods for construction projects.

On top of the prefabricated mass engineered timber used in Nanyang Technological University's new sports hall, other time- and manpower-saving construction methods include prefabricated pre-finished volumetric construction, which involves building modules in factories before assembling them on-site; structural steel, which is fabricated in factories before installation on-site; and modular mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, which involve prefabricating and joining mechanical pipework and fittings off-site.

But the assembling of prefabricated components is another challenge as it often requires a high level of precision to prevent problems, such as water leakage and other construction defects, said Mr Mak.

With a projected 60 per cent of demand in the construction sector in the next few years set to originate from the public sector, BCA head John Keung said the Government must rise to the challenge of adopting new construction technology.

"Public agencies must walk the talk, must take the lead in driving this change," he said.

​​NTU opens The Wave, a mega sports hall built using sustainable technologies​
BCA: More support and incentives to transform built environment sector -pdf

No comments:

Post a Comment