Speech by MOS Tan Kiat How at the Architectural Specifier Market and Singapore Institute of Architects Practice Convention

May 4, 2022


A very good morning to all of you. It is my pleasure to be here for the second Architectural Specifier Market (ASM), held together with the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) Practice Convention for the first time.

Before I start, I would like to congratulate Ar. Melvin Tan and the new council members, who have been recently elected to SIA’s 62nd Council. I look forward to working with you and your team in strengthening the architectural fraternity and charting the path forward, as we recover from the pandemic.

Staying Ahead in Times of Uncertainty

COVID-19 has severely disrupted the Built Environment sector over the past two years. Projects were delayed, firms were under serious financial strain.

The Government had put in place a wide range of support measures to help the industry during the pandemic. The industry also stepped up to the challenge of tackling COVID-19 and its disruptions.

And thanks to the close partnership between the Government and the industry, we are in a much better position today.

We have taken decisive steps forward but are not fully out of the woods yet.

At the same time, we must remain adaptable, as there are significant uncertainties on the horizon, such as – The Ukraine-Russia conflict that has far reaching implications for the international world order, as well as more direct and near-term impact on energy cost and supply chains, major power rivalry that is being played out in our region, pressing challenges related to climate change and the urgent steps needed by economies to pivot towards more sustainable trajectory, threats of future health pandemics, and many other issues that require us to be nimble to adapt to changing circumstances.

Importantly, we have to be resilient as nation, able to take shocks and bounce back stronger as we have done so throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Built Environment sector has an important role to play in this. Let me share some thoughts on how the Built Environment sector can strengthen our resilience and emerge stronger.

First, we can adopt a more collaborative approach to cope with future uncertainties.

One way is to encourage more equitable risk sharing. The Government takes the lead by including contract clauses to effect equitable risk sharing among project parties for new public sector construction and consultancy tenders, in the event of a pandemic. During the pandemic, the Government had put in place unprecedented legislative mechanisms through the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act (COTMA). This provided relief for contractors and enabled equitable co-sharing of increased costs due to prolongation and manpower costs by project parties due to the pandemic.

We encourage the rest of the industry to also do so. This will strengthen our resilience and ensure that no one part of the ecosystem bears a disproportionate amount of risk.

Second, we can accelerate transformation efforts by embracing automation, digitalisation and new technologies.

I am glad to see many architectural firms like Ong & Ong apply these principles to their projects, such as – implementing a Cloud-based Common Data Environment (CDE) to improve collaboration amongst project stakeholders, and using Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to provide better visualisations of their projects.

Such efforts by our firms are critical to the resiliency and competitiveness of the industry as a whole. Not only will this free up architects’ time to do more value-added work. It will strengthen the resilience of our firms as our local workforce shrinks, and also improve collaboration between the various stakeholders.

This way, the industry will be better prepared to tackle future challenges and seize new market opportunities.

Third, greening our buildings is important to mitigate climate change and make our city more sustainable. For this reason, I am glad to know that one of the highlights of this year’s ASM is to champion sustainability and climate resilience in the Built Environment sector. This will support our efforts to meet our “80-80-80 in 2030” targets set under the latest edition of the Singapore Green Building Masterplan.

And so, I hope that all of you will continue to push the boundaries to design green buildings. There are many exciting developments and research in this field, such as – the Building Attached PhotoVoltaics (BAPV), which use building façades to generate energy on site, and the Passive Displacement Cooling (PDC) systems, which use less energy than traditional aircons by circulating air through convection.

I hope you can take this opportunity to learn more about the latest technologies and innovations over the next two days.

A Future with Opportunities

Aside from challenges, our architects can look forward to an exciting period of transformation in our urban landscape.

In the coming years, we will be rejuvenating key precincts in Singapore for future generations to enjoy. The rejuvenation of Geylang Serai into a more vibrant precinct that retains the traditions of Malay culture and identity is one such example. At the same time, we will continue to celebrate existing developments that make Singapore distinct and unique. An example is the recently conserved Golden Mile Complex.

In the longer term, we are also envisioning what Singapore will look like for future generations. As part of the Long-Term Plan Review, URA partners key stakeholders like architects, community organisations and the public to come up with ideas for our future urban landscape, such as – creating a variety of housing options for a diverse population with growing aspirations and adopting a science-based approach for our green and blue spaces.

I thank our architects for contributing to the Long-Term Plan Review. With your creativity, talent, and ideas, we can better prepare ourselves for an uncertain future. The URA also looks forward to sharing the findings in the upcoming Long-Term Plan Review public exhibition in the middle of this year.

Aside from the Long-Term Plan Review, there are also exciting developments, including the future town that will be sited where Paya Lebar Air Base and its surrounding industrial developments are currently at. The SIA and the Singapore Institute of Planners (SIP) have been working with URA to develop conceptual ideas and proposals for this area.

These are just some of the exciting opportunities ahead. We hope to continue working with our architects on many of them.

Challenges in the Architectural Profession

Before I wrap up, I would like to briefly touch on the challenges faced by the architectural profession, such as the imbalance in rewards and liabilities across the Built Environment sector, challenges faced by smaller firms and attrition of young architects.

We have worked hand-in-hand with the fraternity to address some of these concerns.

For instance, to address fee-diving, we are working to shift the emphasis in public sector tender evaluations towards quality. BCA introduced the enhanced Quality Fee Method (QFM) for the public sector consultancy tenders a few years ago. This makes consultants’ past performance a mandatory criterion and removes outlier bids from the computation of the average fee for QFM evaluation. This has led to a decline in the tenders awarded to outlier bids from 41% in 2018 to 27% in 2020, and to the lowest bids from 46% to 32% during the same period. And we will continue to work closely with the industry to refine the framework where necessary.

Aside from fee-diving, another issue the fraternity is facing is the difficulty in retaining young architects and involving architects earlier in Government projects. This is indeed a challenge that several professions across the Built Environment sector face.

On the part of the Government, we want to support young architects in their career journeys. This is why we have put in place a range of measures to better attract, upskill, and retain talent. For example, the Skills Framework provides information on training programmes, emerging skills and career pathways for those in architectural consultancy and design. We are also looking forward to working with members of the SIA to develop accreditation frameworks for our architects.   

Tackling these challenges will be a collaborative effort with the Government and the industry.  I am heartened that many of you are stepping forward  by investing in good HR practices to create a conducive work environment and supporting professional development. For example, DP Architects was awarded the SkillsFuture Employer Award in 2019 for their efforts in building a workplace learning culture. Many Built Environment firms were also recently featured as Singapore’s top employers by the Straits Times.  Your efforts to build a conducive work environment are crucial to attract, nurture and retain talent in this industry.

On our end, the Government will continue to support and partner our architects to transform Singapore’s urban landscape together.


Let me conclude.

I thank SIA for your effort in putting the ASM and the Practice Convention together. It is a rare opportunity to bring our architects and product specifiers to brainstorm, learn, and innovate together.|

With that, I wish you all a fruitful discussion ahead.