Experts endorse Singapore's approach towards tackling construction productivity
Fri, Aug 20, 2010

THE Building and Construction Authority's (BCA) current three-prong strategy focusing on raising workforce quality, providing incentives for development, adopting technology and capability building, as well as enhancing buildability, was a good start, said the first ever International Panel of Experts (IPE) for Construction Productivity and Prefabrication Technology.

The IPE also lauded the BCA's efforts to promote improvements to productivity for the construction sector, and agreed with the broad direction of the proposed Construction Productivity Roadmap.

According to IPE Chairman and CEO of BCA, Dr John Keung, this first IPE meet gave an insight on how different countries manage productivity and its common challenges, such as site management and convincing the industry to plan processes meticulously.

"BCA will take all their recommendations into consideration and collaborate closely with the industry, to integrate our efforts to achieving higher productivity," said Dr Keung, in a statement released by BCA.

The IPE - comprising leading experts in the field of design and construction management and productive methods such as prefabrication - convened in Singapore for its inaugural meeting which ended yesterday.

In order to track productivity improvement, the IPE noted the use of value-added labour productivity as a measure. It suggested the need to incorporate productivity indicators at the project and trade level.

Besides that, it recognised that Singapore employs a large number of foreign workers. Hence, the IPE recommended the need to retain and upgrade them as they will continue to form the bulk of the construction workforce.

Touching on local manpower development, the IPE said it is necessary to consider the need for a more formalised "apprenticeship" programme for locals to build their competence and retain them in the industry as well.

Better integration between designers and contractors is also key to higher productivity. They mentioned Building Information Modeling (BIM) as a vital tool because it unites all the project parties along the design and construction chain. The Panel recommended the public sector projects to take the lead and use BIM in their projects.

In addition, IPE found it necessary to consider a phased approach for the rest of the industry to implement BIM.

Having modular coordination, which involves designing in standard modules, would improve productivity without compromising flexibility in designs. This way, designers and developers could still retain a distinctive design in their buildings.

The IPE also discussed the greater use of precast and prefabrication to reduce manpower, save time and costs.

The industry should consider the idea of optimal system construction that incorporated precast, prefabrication, system formwork and so forth to raise productivity, given the project's site constraints and availability of resources, said IPE.

Similar to what is being done in Europe, it recommended the industry to raise awareness on the importance of good design and the built environment among the younger generation. At the tertiary level, precast design and technology could be incorporated into the curriculum of relevant courses in institutes of technical education (ITE), polytechnics and universities.

For three days, the IPE engaged in rigorous discussions with the BCA and key representatives from the building and construction sectors, together with relevant public agencies, with a view to accelerate the momentum in building up a productive, professional and technologically-advanced construction sector.

Apart from reviewing Singapore's approach, some of the IPE also shared their expertise in productivity improvement at a seminar on Enhancing Construction Productivity held today.

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