Speech by MOS Tan Kiat How at the Professional Engineers Board Day of Dedication 2021
Dec 2, 2021
Good morning. I am happy to join you today to celebrate the Professional Engineers Board’s 50th anniversary.
I congratulate PEB on this important milestone. Since PEB’s formation in 1971, Professional Engineers have played a crucial role in Singapore’s development, working with the government to transform our city into a thriving modern metropolis. Your high level of professionalism has safeguarded public safety, instilling public confidence even as we build up our cityscape. Your engineering creativity has allowed our city state to overcome land and resource constraints to complete many complex and innovative projects.
For example, Marina Barrage clinched four local and international engineering accolades for its innovative design as a source of water supply, a flood control measure, and a destination for various recreational activities. The numerous tunnels in our transport network have only been made possible by overcoming challenging ground conditions in our increasingly congested underground space. These are significant engineering achievements that have shaped our built environment over the years.
Impact of COVID-19 on PEs
Today, the Built Environment sector continues to face challenges due to COVID-19. Consultants, including engineers have had to provide additional services for construction projects that had experienced delays due to COVID-19. The Government has been working with the sector to manage these challenges. In particular, we earlier announced that public sector agencies will be providing their consultants with ex-gratia payments for the additional services rendered over the prolonged construction period.
While we continue to support the sector through this crisis, COVID-19 has reinforced the need for us to transform the BE sector. We are building on a good foundation. The sector has been working on its transformation agenda since the launch of the Construction ITM in 2017. I am gratified to hear many industry partners tell me that these efforts have helped them better weather the impact of COVID-19.
In our next phase of our transformation journey, it is important for every link in our value chain to work together to achieve system-wide improvements. It is no longer sufficient for us to rely on individual firms or sub-sectors. For example, developers and consultants should incorporate maintainability considerations in upstream design to reduce the downstream maintenance workload for facilities managers. That is why we have been encouraging developers to do more as service buyers to foster greater collaboration along the value chain and move the needle for transformation.
We have recently announced the new Built Environment Transformation Gross Floor Area (GFA) Scheme, to support project teams who work together to achieve enhanced standards for productivity, digitalisation, sustainability, and quality. We will also extend this new GFA bonus scheme to Government Land Sales (GLS) sites for a time-limited period until the second quarter of 2022, before new requirements based on the enhanced standards take effect.
Embracing Industry Transformation
We are also looking at how to encourage firms to collaborate and transform together, and eventually uplift the entire eco-system. As part of these efforts, we will need PEs to play your part by embracing digitalisation, automation, and sustainability.
First, digitalisation. Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD) acts as a digital spine to bring the Built Environment value chain together, including PEs. This enables efficient project coordination and reduces abortive work. For example, the IDD software compiles information from various stakeholders, including the project’s Building Information Modelling (BIM) model. This creates a single source of truth that enables developments to be designed and constructed more accurately.
We are making a big push for the widespread adoption of IDD with the new CORENET X platform. This is a one-stop platform for consultants to submit a single coordinated BIM submission to regulatory agencies and receive a coordinated response in return. In a similar vein, the back-and-forth between agencies and consultants can be greatly reduced, resulting in greater efficiencies in the work process. CORENET X will be launched in the second half of 2023. I urge PEs to actively continue to upskill yourselves, to be able to benefit from IDD and CORENET X. Do keep a look out for webinars that will be organised next year.
Second, automation. We are looking to shift more construction works off-site through Design for Manufacturing & Assembly (DfMA), into a controlled factory environment indoors. The use of DfMA is more productive and allows firms to become more manpower lean. PEs also stand to benefit from DfMA as they can conduct inspections in a safer working environment. We will need PEs to continue to keep yourselves updated about the latest DfMA trends, so that you can help facilitate their adoption to accelerate industry transformation. One way to do so is by attending Continuing Education and Training (CET) courses in this area.
Third, sustainability. There is growing demand for greener buildings, both locally and globally. This will create opportunities in the Built Environment sector. Earlier this year, we launched the latest edition of the Green Mark scheme, one of the world’s leading green building certifications. The refreshed scheme raises the standards of energy performance and places greater emphasis on other sustainability outcomes, including maintainability and climate resilience. As PEs, you play an important role in designing energy- and resource-efficient buildings. I encourage all PEs to familiarise yourselves with the refreshed Green Mark scheme, to seize the opportunities, both in Singapore and in the region, that will arise from the global shift to a more sustainable and low-carbon Built Environment.
Talent attraction and retention
The sector is also stepping up efforts to attract and retain talent in the engineering profession. For instance, to attract new talent, PEB and BCA offer scholarships to encourage young talent to join the industry. Students can also participate in BCA’s iBuildSG Built Environment Formation Programme, which prepares them for work during their internship and inspires them to pursue a career in the BE sector.
To retain existing talent, we need to facilitate career progression pathways. To this end, the Singapore Institute of Technology, in collaboration with PEB, has begun offering courses this year to help PEs to advance themselves to become specialist PEs in tunnel engineering. I witnessed the MOU signing between PEB and SIT last year. I am glad to note that close to 120 PEs have since completed these courses. BCA, SkillsFuture Singapore, Workforce Singapore and industry stakeholders have also developed a Skills Framework for the Built Environment. This can help companies and engineers to identify career progression pathways and the relevant skills to achieve them.
I invite Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) to work with firms to leverage the Skills Framework and redesign engineering jobs to support the BE sector transformation efforts. This can result in better-skilled and more productive jobs. Firms can then look into providing more career advancement opportunities and improving the work-life balance of employees. PEs, such as yourself, can also help by providing feedback and co-creating solutions.
That said, I have also received feedback that there are poor industry practices that constrain firms’ ability to provide better wages and more flexible hours. BCA is working with industry stakeholders to tackle these challenges. For example, we have heard that firms compete to secure projects using low fees, and may sacrifice quality in the process. To help ensure sustainable consultancy fees for public sector projects, BCA has enhanced the Quality Fee Method in 2018 and 2020 to place greater emphasis on quality, and to discourage low outlier fee bids. With these enhancements, the majority of tenders for public sector projects have been awarded to bids with top quality scores, which may not be the bid with the lowest fee.
We have also heard that consultants are expected to perform non-consultancy services as part of their contracts with the clients. BCA is working with public agencies and TACs to address feedback on such contractual provisions. We will continue to work with the industry to support the engineering profession. TACs can also take the initiative to educate the industry on the appropriate scope of consultants’ work and good procurement practices. For example, stating required services clearly in the tender documents can help consultants to price their bids more accurately.
Innovative PE Award Recipients and new PEs
We encourage PEs to continue to push the boundaries for transformation. I am heartened that our PEs have answered this call. I would like to congratulate the two recipients of the Innovative PE Award this year, Er. Chen Yuefeng and Er. Chong Chin Hin, whose innovations have led to improvements in productivity and have been widely implemented by the industry. I would also like to congratulate the 75 new PEs, specialist PEs, and ASEAN Chartered PEs, and the 12 outstanding graduates receiving the PEB Gold Medal Award.
Finally, I would like to thank the PE community for dedicating your service to Singapore’s development, acting with prime regard to public safety and interests, and minimising the impact of engineering works on the environment. I look forward to your continued contribution to Singapore for the next 50 years and beyond. Thank you.