Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at the REDAS 62nd Anniversary Awards Presentation and Dinner
Nov 24, 2021
I am delighted to join you tonight for REDAS’s Anniversary celebration.
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the Built Environment sector. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for stepping up during this crisis, to respond to the evolving situation, for putting up with the many twists and turns and changes in rules to keep everyone safe and to support public health resilience.
The pandemic has also accelerated the Built Environment sector’s transformation. Tonight’s theme – “Resetting the Real Estate Industry” – is therefore very apt.
Supporting the Recovery of the Built Environment Sector
The Government continues to support the sector’s recovery. Agencies have facilitated an industry-led initiative to bring in foreign guest workers safely. The pilot was successful, and the industry has scaled up the process to bring in more workers to complete projects. From 1 November 2021, we have resumed entry approvals for vaccinated workers.
We have also rolled out support measures for companies in the construction sector. These include the Construction Support Package, Foreign Worker Levy waivers and rebates, and wage subsidies under the Jobs Support Scheme. Furthermore, we have introduced measures under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act to facilitate cost-sharing across the value chain.
Pushing Forward with Built Environment Sector Transformation
As the sector strives to emerge stronger from the pandemic, we should push for greater resilience. We need to future-proof contracts, to address uncertainties in risk allocation arising from events such as pandemics.
The public sector has taken the lead to adopt pandemic-resilient contracting practices. The standard public sector construction contracts were amended, to allow claims for Extension of Time, and Loss and Expense, for a pandemic. These contracts also provide provisional sums for cost items that can be anticipated due to a pandemic.
This was the product of a New Contracts Workgroup, comprising public and private sector stakeholders. I would like to thank all the members of this Workgroup, and encourage private sector developers to consider adopting these new contracting practices. In fact, many of you already work closely with your main contractors to make adjustments during this crisis, and I thank you for taking the flexibility.
This Workgroup is also reviewing contract provisions in standard consultancy agreements and will announce recommendations in due course.
In addition, we need to push forward with transforming the sector. Developers can take the lead to foster greater collaboration all along the value chain, and move the needle for transformation, which will improve the sector’s resilience. For example, driving the adoption of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (or DfMA) and Integrated Digital Delivery (or IDD) will reduce our reliance on migrant workers. Pushing ahead with our Green Buildings effort, such as through adopting sustainable construction practices, will also help in our efforts to mitigate climate change. The Government will continue to partner the industry to support these important efforts.
Therefore, I am glad to announce new initiatives, which will accelerate the transformation of the Built Environment sector, in line with the Construction Industry Transformation Map (ITM) and the Singapore Green Building Masterplan.
First, the new “Built Environment Transformation GFA Incentive Scheme”. For a period of five years from today, private developments outside of the Government Land Sales (GLS) programme can enjoy up to 3% bonus GFA, if they achieve enhanced standards in productivity, digitalisation, sustainability, and quality. Compared to other bonus GFA schemes, developers have greater flexibility to utilise this bonus GFA within the development. This will support our progressive developers, who proactively push the boundaries.
Second and related to the first initiative, we will extend this new GFA bonus scheme to GLS sites for a time-limited period. From now until the second quarter of 2022, such developments may enjoy up to 2% bonus GFA. Thereafter, we plan to raise the minimum requirements for GLS sites in terms of the levels of productivity, digitalisation, sustainability, and quality. Hence, the new bonus GFA scheme will encourage the industry to achieve the enhanced standards, before the new requirements take effect.
We have made this move in close consultation with industry stakeholders, including REDAS members. I thank you for your partnership in taking decisive action to enhance productivity and accelerate our transition to a low-carbon Built Environment.
How Real Estate Development should Evolve with Singapore
As Singapore evolves, our built environment must also adapt. For instance, hybrid work is becoming the new normal. This underscores the importance of our decentralisation strategy, which brings jobs closer to homes, while we inject more mixed uses in our city centre. Moreover, we will need to rethink how we design our homes, and our neighbourhoods, to support remote work – whether it is Work-from-Home or Work-away- from-Office. Workplaces may also need to be reconfigured to provide more modular configurations and collaborative spaces. We have been engaging developers on the impact of hybrid work on development plans, and look forward to continued conversations.
Next, our ageing population. One key opportunity is to expand the array of housing and care options for our seniors. To this end, HDB, MND and MOH have launched the pilot Community Care Apartments this past February. The pilot has been well-received, and we are studying plans for a second pilot site. We are keen to support private sector models of assisted living, and we look forward to facilitating developers’ innovative proposals.
We also enter a new era for our built heritage, as significant post-independence modern buildings come of age. For example, Golden Mile Complex was recently conserved. To make its adaptive re-use more viable, we have offered significant incentives. This exemplifies our overarching approach to built environment and heritage – that conserved buildings can and should meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs. Moving forward, we hope developers can lend your expertise, and work with us to give such national icons a new lease of life, so that future generations can recall our Singapore story and feel them.
Furthermore, the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) has reinforced the urgency of sustainable development. As we all know, climate change is an existential threat for a low-lying city-state like Singapore. Your innovative building designs to improve energy efficiency and use cleaner energy, help mitigate our greenhouse gas emissions. Demand for green building solutions is expected to grow. We hope developers can continue to design new buildings with higher sustainability standards, and retrofit older buildings to improve their energy performance. This will contribute to a low-carbon future, while giving your developments a competitive edge.
Finally, developers are partners in building a more caring and inclusive Singapore. More disadvantaged Singaporeans face complex and intertwined challenges, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. For example, beyond financial issues, they may require psychological and emotional support. The People, Private and Public sectors all play an important role in providing holistic support to those in need.
The ComLink programme, for instance, is a key channel for us to aggregate support across sectors, to serve families with children in public rental housing. In fact, I just came from Taman Jurong, where we launched ComLink@Jurong West, bringing many partners together; harnessing the spirit of partnership, the passion and determination to ensure that in our city state, we don’t have stretched-out inequalities; bringing the resources of those who have more in a more productive and impactful way to support those who have less.
We look forward to REDAS’s support in initiatives like ComLink, where we account for your contributions and ensure they make a real impact. With your support, we will proactively reach out to these families, provide close case support to coordinate interventions and galvanise the community to offer customised services. This will help them in their journey towards sustainability, self-reliance and social mobility. I look forward to partnerships with REDAS, in support of vulnerable groups in our society.
The Built Environment sector has played a crucial role in our country’s development. We look forward to our continued partnership to build a better future together.
Congratulations to REDAS on your 62nd anniversary. Congratulations on the conferment of this distinguished Board. Thank you and have a good evening.