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It has been an interesting, progressive start to 2017 in the construction and engineering world in Singapore. Singapore’s built environment is known for its high safety standards, governed by a robust regulatory system and supported by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) which means that there are always new projects and standards driving activity. This, coupled with economic cooling measures being relaxed, spells good news.
The BCA projects that the total value of construction contracts to be awarded in 2017 will reach somewhere between S$28 billion and S$35 billion. This, on face value, reflects a 34% increase on last year alone – a cause for celebration in a market commonly considered to be slow and stagnant. What is more encouraging is that the lion’s share of these projects have or will come from the public sector; consequently, we will see private sector investment increase as 2017 pushes hard into the 2nd half of the year; yet more encouraging signs.
So, as you can see, there is far more happening in the market than we would be led to believe by the media. The number of projects going to design stage or site are up, capital is being spent and Singapore is increasing its activity in the built environment. We can support this with the raw data that Cobalt Singapore has produced from new vacancies we have been instructed to work on this year. Our Engineering & Construction desk has seen a sharp increase in both jobs and placements making this our best first 6 months of a year since opening our office in 2012. We have experienced a substantial increase in Net Fee Income this year compared to last – again encouraging signs and something we expect to continue as the year progresses.
New technologies are being embraced
Projects are getting more complex and larger in scale which places extreme pressure on the tried and tested traditional construction methods. At the same time the growing demand for environmentally sensitive construction means that traditional practices must change. This, combined with the Singapore market being amongst the most competitive and price conscious in the world, is encouraging firms to look to new technologies and a push to improve.
Here are 3 technologies that are leading this change:
- Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD)
Whilst the Lion City is going through some remarkable transformations, regulations are in place to ensure that these developments are carried out in an environmentally sustainable manner. The BCA’s green mark scheme encourages and incentivises the use of green building design and methodologies. The scheme was well received by the private sector and has raised awareness of ESD among the developers, consultancies and contractors, highlighting not just the long-term benefits in cost savings but also through the awarding of the coveted Green Mark Platinum rating.
- Digital Construction Technology
Digital construction is the use and application of digital tools to improve the process of delivering and operating the built environment. In general terms that will translate into making the design, construction and operation of our built environment safer, more efficient and more collaborative. It will ensure that we get a better outcome at every stage of an asset's lifecycle. Over the last year, Building Information Modelling (BIM) has gained much popularity in building and construction industry practice with the BCA spearheading funding incentives, E-submission guidelines and intensive training programs – we have experienced a subsequent increase in BIM roles.
- Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC)
PPVC is the new kid on the block! And it is not as new as you might think, as the BCA brought in new measures in 2014 stipulating its use as mandatory on certain Government Land Sale sites. What does this mean? Well, this increased use, even compulsory use, on some projects has seen productivity and efficiency improved by up to 50% and 60% respectively with manpower and time savings the big winners. This of course is reflected in cost which can only be a win-win for our clients across the country.
In comparison to other countries, Singapore has seen its ranking drop in the Arcadis International Construction Cost analysis 2017, which compares the relative cost of construction across global tier one cities. Singapore is now down to a ranking of 15 below the likes of New York, Hong Kong, London and Macau. It still has some way to go to be more cost effective to build in compared to Tokyo, Dubai and Seoul.
In summary, the market is ripe and projects are landing with more regularity. Those professionals who are willing to embrace new technologies will be attractive to employers and get to work on the most complex, forward-thinking projects. Encouragingly, we are seeing sustained pockets of growth in hiring activity and expect this will increase as the year draws to a close.
Co-Authored by Marcus Davies Bateman, Singapore Director & Aji Abu, Head of Engineering – Singapore
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