SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) plans to raise construction productivity of public housing by up to 25 per cent by 2020.
This is expected to help ease the current manpower crunch as Singapore moderates foreign worker growth.
It could also possibly mean a shorter wait for a new flat.
Buyers have to wait for an average of three years before receiving the keys to their Build-To-Order (BTO) flats.
But this may be set to change as HDB looks to improve construction productivity, as part of reviewing the approach towards the design and construction of public housing.
HDB said its construction productivity is already higher than that of the private sector.
Last year, HDB took 2.27 man-days to build one square metre of gross floor area, which is 37.4 per cent more efficient than the construction productivity of 3.12 man-days per square metre in the private sector.
This was announced at the first professional engagement and knowledge-sharing forum organised by HDB.
The forum was attended by some 310 professionals and builders.
"The fact that SMEs are facing a severe manpower crunch is real and painful, but the policy of moderating foreign worker growth is also a reality," said Mr Lee Yi Shyan, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development.
"Given the strong projected demand of the construction industry in the foreseeable years, we have to find unconventional ways to sustain industry growth."
He continued: "We need to ask ourselves: Can we build better flats at affordable costs by better integrating the work of various professionals in the value chain for higher productivity and shorter completion time? How do we eliminate wastage and reduce the need to rework designs and construction?"
HDB also launched a new Construction Productivity Framework.
The framework encourages more innovative construction methods, like promoting mechanisation at the work site and automation at pre-fabrication plants.
The framework also aims to improve work processes and systems through utilising the Building Information Modelling system - that allows professionals to work on a project digitally, before it is built.
All project submissions to HDB will have to be in the framework's format from 2015.
As part of the drive to improve productivity, HDB also conducted a pilot project in Sengkang to test out alternative construction methods.
The result of that pilot project - HDB was able to cut construction time from 27 months, to about 25 months.
The project, Rivervale Arc, has eight blocks of 18-storey buildings.
This is an approximate 15 per cent gain in productivity.
A hybrid construction model was adopted, where less pre-fabricated components were used.
This meant reducing the amount of pre-fabricated parts to about 50 per cent, compared to 70 per cent in other developments.
"The pre-fabricated concrete components are delivered from the factory to our construction site and we have to wait for the tower crane to lift them into position," said Mr Woon Wee Phong, the director of Well Tech Construction.
"So this process takes a very long time. With fewer pre-fabricated components, we can better optimise the manpower onsite."
Well Tech Construction is the contractor involved in the pilot project in Sengkang.
The number of workers on-site was also adjusted to fit the requirements at different stages.
"From this pilot project we realise the hybrid construction has a potential to be cheaper, faster and saving in man-days of construction," said Mr Neo Poh Kok, the director of building construction management at HDB.
HDB will adopt hybrid construction for 16 projects, which will be awarded in 2013.
"To improve our productivity, we have to mechanise and reduce our reliance on manpower," said Mr Ooi Chiew Teong, project manager of Ken-Pal Singapore.
"We will be able to cope because the government has certain things in place, like helping out in subsidies on mechanisation."
HDB will also continue to explore other ways to improve productivity.
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