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Towards Safe and Green Building

As the regulatory organization overseeing the building and construction sectors in Singapore, BCA also maintained a strong commitment as a promotional organization for industry. Koh Lin Ji, Group Director of BCA, shares some insights on the technology development and their key role in ensuring the high standard and practice of buildings and construction industry in Singapore.

Tell me about Building and Construction Authority of Singapore.

Building and Construction Authority of Singapore (BCA) is a very unique organization because we are the regulatory organization as well as promotional organization overseeing the construction sector. From the regulatory front, we make sure all our buildings in Singapore are safe and they implemented our green building codes, to ensure that buildings energy efficiency are met, and at the same the buildings given accesses to all kind of people, regardless of ages and physical abilities, in other words, they have the universal design features. To ensure the buildings safety is our critical mission. Beside the regulatory function, like I said we also a promotional organisation, we help to improve or raise the productivity of construction industry. We also have the training arms, which is BCA Academy, which basically have a whole suit of training programs, ranging from trade level to the managerial level, from 3D orientation of site safety to a full master program in green facility management or green building design.

Beside the training arms, we also have SD250 million construction productive fund to help our contractors, to upgrade them to become more efficient and more productive through the use of technologies to reengineer their companies. Another facet of promotional arms is we also help firms to venture the businesses in this region.

You talked about 3 important factors, the regulatory arm and promotional arm and third you must be having in-house technical groups. I would like to understand the regulatory arm, you have been talking about green buildings, smart buildings and there are also many technologies involved. Any regulation on technologies that being used?

Let break up them into 3 different areas. First is building safety. We have moved on to adopt the Euro Codes. We ensure all buildings in Singapore meet the safety requirement and we also legislated that all buildings design should meet minimum building energy efficiency. We have regulated it since 2008 that every building built after 2005 have to meet the minimum building energy efficiency or an emission code. In 2012, we also legislated that major buildings also have to meet certain regulatory requirement, means their COP must be below than 0.65 kilowatt per ton refrigeration. We also have moved on to request that all buildings’ architecture and M&E design must be submitted in BIM forms. In other words, we use our regulation system to support the green building movement as well as to raise their productivity. For promotion side, we encourage our construction companies to use the modern technology. For instant, we encourage the usage of pre-cast and pre-fab to be utilized in our construction site. In fact, for design we insist that building design must be done based on the modular pre-cast technology.

So, you are using pre-fabricated materials?

Yes, at present we are talking about 50% of the component by volume, pre-fabricated in factory and installed on-site, for public housing is up to 70%. So, other than pushing for the pre-cast and pre-fab technologies, we also encourage our firm to use RFID as well as bar code so that they will be able to identify to which site every component goes, and this must be computerized. Hence, it become more coordinated and less rework. We also encourage the use of CCTV and sensing, they can monitor what is happening on site from their office. In fact, we have been using the modern technology to ensure our construction site are productive and safe.

You have been talking about CCTV and RFID, you also must be using some GIS map to ensure there is some safety measure. Is it the scenario?

Yes, we encourage them to use GIS technology and at the same the education. For example, Woh Hup Construction, they site are very well managed. Through the usage of modern technology, they also train their workers about site safety. For the past 3 or 4 years, they have no accident event on site, timely and with good quality. That’s resulted from the use of proper modern technology with a good supervision system.

In order to serve our public well, we actually put all the information into map, we work together with SLA, IDA and other agency as well. For example, if you go to SLA’s One Map, you could find information about building to see which building having the universal design concept and which building has been certified as Green building. We use all these technologies to enhance the livability of our people in Singapore.

I also would like to understand, is there any regulation for indoor mapping as well?

We do have this system. In Singapore, there is a requirement for all public access building like this convention hall, to be inspected every 5 years. This inspection have to done by the qualified engineers to ensure the safety of the building and this also applied to residential building to be inspected every 10 years. In the map, you can see which building still haven’t undergo the Periodic Structural Inspection and you also can see the history of the building. This system help us in managing our building to ensure the safety measures are carried out.

This is very important, how is the structural of auditing bodies in Singapore?

First, the building design must be done by a professional and registered engineers, after that it will checked by the accredited checker (professional engineers with experience more than 10 years), they will do an independent calculation, after that these two sets of calculation will be submitted to BCA and will be checked again to make sure there is no discrepancies. If there is any discrepancy, recalculation have to be made before it can be approved for the construction.

For Periodic Structural Inspection, basically we requested the owner or operator of the building to engage with these professional engineers. This report then will be sent to us based on their professional justifications. These inspection works are done by the accredited engineers and we will check on the critical elements. In Singapore, the current building stock is about 270 millions square meter, it is not possible for us to do all these physical checks.

During this auditing process, is there any usage of modern technology like UAVs, with all the modern sensors which give you real time information?

The modern technologies are well-used in our construction side. For example, the usage of Photogrammetry technology.

You build the mega structure at the prime center of the city. You can see everywhere the commercial advertising such as giant billboards. Is there any regulation for these commercial activities?

In fact, we are the authority on that matters. The location of the advertisement boards to be placed are depend on the owner’s decision, our scope is to ensure all the advertisement placed either by the roadside or the buildings are safe to the public.

You offering your help to Indian Government in building up the smart city, tell me about that.

We work with Indian authority and their private sectors as well. My own reading about India is we should look for low-hanging fruits. There are technologies available in the market. We can have a smart city without much investment from the government. What I am talking about is the phase development. We are not talking about smart city in developed countries. More important now is to create a livable and healthy environment to Indian public. There should be a good urban planning, the amenities like the school, shop and hospital should be within reach of every household. They house should be affordable and have the green elements. The access of the citizen to the public services should be more convenient. For instant, applications for water and electricity installation can be done electronically without much cost. These kind technologies are available out there. After that we can go further to another aspect like traffic monitoring and other aspect of urban living. There are also solution for e-government, whereby you could get to public services, like paying your bills and taxes online. These are the economical solution.

Do you feel Indian government and authority should start using the technologies that you are having now like BIM, GIS and Green technology?

We are happy to share our experience in Singapore. We also would like to work together with Indian stakeholder but there must be in Indian context. I believe there are technologies which is applicable to worldwide use. We are more than happy to share our experience with Indian stakeholders on our implementation on some of the technologies that can make urban living more livable, healthy and productive and efficient.