How technology can help tackle quality and safety challenges in Singapore’s construction industry

Quality and safety challenges affecting Singapore’s construction industry today have the potential to be solved by technology. Innovative tools, systems, and data analytics (including AI) combined with matching policies, communication strategies and protocols, promise major improvements in how we assess and warrant construction quality and safety.

We are excited to announce the release of our latest report, created in partnership with The University of Melbourne, “The role of Technology in Supporting Construction Quality & Safety – September 2023”.The report looks at current trends in the role of technology in support of construction quality and safety in Australia and Singapore and includes a survey of 100 industry members across both countries.

A distinct set of challenges for Singapore

The report found two sets of distinct challenges in both Australia and Singapore when it comes to the take-up of technology to address quality and safety in construction, with different industry drivers resulting in different trends and approaches.

In Singapore, the construction industry is focused on a very small landmass with a significantly growing population. Combined with a skill-drain resulting from many experienced workers from Malaysia and China leaving the country during the pandemic, Singapore is now faced with a low-skill construction workforce with varying safety standards to their own.

Given the fast turnaround of staff, workers need to be trained continuously and monitored tightly to avoid injuries or even fatalities onsite. The comparably low skill of some workers onsite also results in a lot of manual and labor-intensive effort required to control and monitor their safety and workmanship. In addition, there is still limited ‘buy-in’ into digital workflows by contractors, who perceive them as ‘good to have’ rather than ‘must haves’.

Singaporean government agencies work closely with industry bodies and representatives to improve construction quality and safety using high-end technology and digital workflows. In Singapore, the Building Construction Authority (BCA) promotes Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD) and a new e-submission system Corenet X.

With much centralised or connected support offered by local authorities, one might assume that Singapore’s technology uptake is skyrocketing. Yet upon further scrutiny, many gaps are still apparent. Construction industry representatives often struggle to see the value argument for digitalisation of their workflows. Digitized workflows frequently don’t extend to the entire supply chain – and in particular the local subcontractors whose BIM skill level often lags.

Capturing ‘as built’ information Singapore’s biggest quality and safety issue

The survey focused on five key aspects in relation to quality and safety issues faced by construction organisations day to day. In Singapore, the biggest issue was found to be difficulty in capturing ‘as built’ information (66.7%).

According to Edmund Leong, Straits Construction, “As of today, I don’t think there is a clearly defined ‘as built model’ for our industry in Singapore. Communication for as-built information is still primarily done via 2D drawings.” The Singaporean construction industry does not yet seem to have consistent and well-acknowledged workflows to facilitate this.

For both Singapore and Australian construction companies, one of the biggest challenges cited was difficulty in managing and maintaining data, as well as difficulty in accessing data.

Around two thirds of Singaporean stakeholders confirm that capturing what happens onsite is a major issue, whereas just over half of respondents question the due diligence of processes and the clarity of the decision-making processes associated to construction quality and safety. Accessing, managing, and maintaining associated quality and safety data is seen as less of a problem with only around 40% listing those as an issue.

Technology can assist with all these challenges, helping to transform the industry when it comes to the management and improvement of construction quality and safety processes.

The role of technology in providing a solution to challenges around quality and safety in construction

According to the survey industry respondents, an overwhelming 75% in Singapore see the role of technology either as essential or very important when it comes to construction quality and safety management. Industry leader feedback clearly outlines the benefits technology can offer them in streamlining their work processes. This may include to the increased use of BIM, the use of Common Data Environments such as Autodesk Construction Cloud (ACC), or others.

Seng Kwong GWEE, REDAS, explains, “Currently, REDAS is embarking on an IDD dashboard which allows developers to have a single source of truth under a single pane of glass. Developers are not touching the geometric data in the BIM. For them, it is more about analysing cost, time, quality, and safety to help them make better informed financial decisions. The dashboard will assist them to better manage their current quality and safety issues better as the data collected will be captured more accurately from the source and reflected on the dashboard immediately to allow them to resolve these issues quicker.”

What’s next for Singapore’s construction industry?

Straits Construction’s Edmund Leong clearly sees a combination of site-data capture and AI on the horizon as he points out: “We may increasingly use 360-degree images to help us anticipate or confirm the status of works completed. I think we will see a lot more useful interpretation of imagery and associated feedback coming from AI in the future.”

Technology has the potential to assist in tackling many of the challenges faced in construction by connecting people and workflows across teams and organisations. Tools that enable innovation, systems and data analytics combined with matching policies, communication strategies and protocols, promise major improvements in construction quality and safety. As an industry, we need to continuously encourage the dialogue between industry bodies and policy makers, as well as those in the field, to draw on technology advances that are most beneficial.

Download and read the full report here.

Sasha Menon

Regional Content Marketing Manager, Autodesk