Speech by SMS Lee Yi Shyan at the BCA-REDAS Built Environment & Property Prospects Seminar 2015

Jan 8, 2015

Singapore over the last 50 years

Thank you for inviting me to be part of this annual Prospects Seminar.

This year, we celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday. Many in this room have grown up with Singapore. You have seen how the tiny little island surged forward from a third world to the first in a matter of few decades. In fact, many of you would have had a hand in shaping Singapore’s skyline and streetscape.

Just right here along the Singapore River, it was once overcrowded with bump-boats, squatters, hawkers and primitive industries. The waterway was not a reservoir but a convenient ground for all kinds of unwanted discharge. Today, the Singapore River boasts an attractive waterfront environment for housing, recreation, entertainment and commercial developments. It is part of a photogenic civic district filled with vibrancy and history.

4. Many places in Singapore went through thorough make-overs like the Singapore River. Fortunately, while we make physical progress, we retain the core values which help the progress of this city. Our pursuit of excellence in urban planning and renewal continues, even though the circumstances we have today to evolve this city are vastly different from those five decades ago. We approach the development of our built environment with a lot more resources, technology and expertise. 

What we have achieved

This leads me to the subject close to my heart - our pursuit of excellence in the built environment today. Since the first Construction Productivity Roadmap was launched in 2011, we have rolled out various initiatives, such as raising the minimum standards for building designs and embracing labour-saving technologies. From 2010 to 2013, site productivity has improved by about 1.2 per cent per year. But we need to ride on the momentum we have created and do more.

For instance, developers and consumers are more open to the use of drywalls now. In 2014, about half of all new residential non-landed projects used drywalls compared to only about a quarter in 2010. The adoption rate of system formwork has also grown from 30 per cent to 72 per cent over the same period. In addition, more than $270 million of the Construction Productivity and Capability Fund has been committed in supporting more than 5,700 firms, 85 per cent of which are SMEs.

Our end goal is to see a more efficient industry structure. We should orientate our industry towards Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) in order to achieve higher manpower savings while raising the quality of finished components. Our construction sites will become safer, cleaner and quieter. 

To help the industry gain experience in Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, BCA will continue to provide funding support. Already, NTU is building student hostels and a sports hall using the PPVC and Cross Laminated Timber methods respectively. Additionally, Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Hotel is building its extension using PPVC.

In addition, City Developments Limited is the first developer in Singapore to use PPVC for a large scale residential project – an Executive Condominium project at Canberra Drive. Some 3,300 room-sized modules will be built offsite and assembled onsite. Two other Government Land Sales sites at Yishun Avenue 4 and Jurong West Street 41 will adopt the PPVC construction method.

To build up experience and new capability, we target to have 40 to 50 projects adopting PPVC and CLT over the next 5 years. Thus, we want to encourage more developers to embrace these new methods of construction. 

BCA is now working with the industry on the second Construction Productivity Roadmap to bring the industry to the next level of excellence. One of its key focuses will be workforce training and development. When we introduce new materials, technologies and methods of construction, we will need to make sure that our workers are trained for them, know what to do onsite, do their best and achieve the high quality of finished work. We also need to de-bottleneck supply capacities associated with the greater adoption of DfMA construction methods.

Sustained construction demand

Last year was a good year for the built environment industry. Construction demand hit a record high of $38 billion. For 2015, BCA has projected a range of $29 billion to $36 billion worth of contracts to be awarded. 

Construction demand over the next five years will remain strong. BCA expects contract values to range from between $26 billion and $37 billion per year. Major healthcare and infrastructure works, such as the remaining contracts for the upcoming MRT lines and Changi Airport Terminal 5 provide support for the industry demand. The healthy pipeline of construction projects over the next five years therefore presents an environment for us to press on with the re-structuring of the built environment industry, in search of excellence.

On this note, I would like to wish everyone Happy New Year. Thank you very much.