04 October 2022
Singapore has been increasing its adoption of modern methods of construction (MMC) since 2016, when the BCA (Building and Construction Authority) released a construction roadmap that is designed to increase productivity through technology and innovation, in order to build better quality structures in shorter timeframes.(1) One of the initiatives that reinforces the country’s commitment to drive MMC is the recently announced opening of Singapore’s first ‘integrated construction park’ at Jurong Park in December 2022, which highlights the optimisation of land use and acceleration of automation, as well as encouraging companies to adopt ‘Design for Manufacturing and Assembly’ (DfMA).(2) Following the release of Linesight’s Off-site Manufacturing Report , Associate, Steve Raye, looks at the key benefits of DfMA and how the Singaporean government drives the adoption of this method through development support schemes.
As a key pillar of Singapore’s Construction Industry Transformation Map (ITM), the BCA refers to DfMA as a “game-changing method of construction that involves construction being designed for manufacturing off-site in a controlled environment, before being assembled on-site".(3)
The increased push for DfMA may be attributable to the market uncertainty with respect to supply chain constraints. As noted by Linesight Director, Michael Murphy, in a recent The Straits Times article, “The ongoing lockdowns across China due to new waves of COVID-19 will also disrupt production and export in the coming months”.(4)
In addition to addressing supply chain issues, DfMA also has the ability to enhance overall productivity, with the following advantages:
Among the key drivers highlighted in Linesight’s report, we focus on three main criteria in line with Singapore’s BCA:
Typically, prolonged construction durations (i.e., delays) lead to increased costs. The use of DfMA, however, helps to reduce this risk because part of the construction is undertaken off-site, thus reducing construction time and manpower required on-site. As an example, in the construction of a five-storey building, you would normally need to wait for the concrete structure to be completed before you can start working on activities such as interior fit-outs and kitchen fixtures, etc. By adopting DfMA, the construction of prefabricated, modular components may be done simultaneously, then delivered and installed on-site, when structural components are finished. DfMA essentially reduces the time to market by streamlining the manufacturing and assembly processes.
Prefabrication facilities typically provide an environment where stringent quality control processes can be implemented, thus resulting in improved workmanship. Manufacturing and/or assembling components off-site usually allows for more spacious work areas, and use of larger and more automated machines.
Adopting a DfMA mindset when designing means that consideration is given to reducing the number of parts required, as well as what the assembly sequence entails. The result is that product quality and reliability typically increase with DfMA, as there are fewer parts at risk of breakage or loss in the assembly process.
Having less activities happening on-site has the potential to reduce the risk of injury, thus improving health and safety, and resulting in less disruption to the site as well as its surrounding areas (reduction in 'dis-amenities' as per the BCA). As an example, activities on-site will be focused on bolting rather than cutting, and most of the work in prefabrication facilities is done at the ground floor level, removing the height risk that exists when working across multiple levels.
In addition to the above drivers, DfMA reduces the quantity of skilled foreign labourers required on-site. This is of particular significance, because in spite of the reopening of borders, some Singaporean construction firms continue to experience skilled labour shortages, as new workers entering the country tend to have less experience and require further training.(5)
The Singapore goverment strongly supports the increasing adoption of DfMA technologies in projects. In the BCA’s pipeline, there are 109 upcoming public and private projects in Singapore prescribing DfMA technologies, for construction tenders that are expected to be called in 2022 and 2023.(6) Furthermore, the BCA is targeting an increased adoption of DfMA from 44% of gross floor area built today to an ambitious 70% by 2025, which is ultimately expected to help construction companies boost productivity and reduce foreign labour dependency.(7)
The BuildSG Transformation Fund (BTF), managed by the BCA, supports companies and individuals with transformation plans for Singapore’s built environment. BTF has allocated a total of SG$770 million funding spread across 17 schemes.(8)
Each government scheme targets a transformation area - below are a few examples:
DfMA adoption should be a key consideration at the outset of project planning, given the clear benefits around speed to market, improved design quality, and reduced health and safety risks. Furthermore, the support from the Singapore government is advantageous to developers, as it can potentially offset additional costs as part of implementing the DfMA approach. However, while there is an increased push towards MMC in general, it is important to recognise that there are also a variety of factors that come into play, including the type of project and sector it belongs to, as well as time and budget constraints, before an informed decision can be made. Linesight is currently working on DfMA projects in Singapore, with our team well-placed to expertly advise and support on in this decision-making process.
(4) Straits Times
(5) Today Online