2nd Reading Speech by MOS Zaqy Mohamad on the Building Control (Amendment) Bill

Friday, 6 March 2020

Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Minister for National Development, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a Second time.”


Singapore has developed rapidly over the past 55 years. We need to ensure that our building infrastructure remains well-maintained and safe. This is particularly important for older buildings. Today, about 70% of our building stock is more than 20 years old. In addition, our buildings, old and new, will need to be made more accessible to meet the needs of an ageing population, as well as persons with disabilities. 

It is in this context that we are proposing amendments to the Building Control Act, to strengthen the building control regulatory framework, and to improve accessibility of our built environment. 

Currently, the Building Control Act sets out the duties of relevant parties such as owners, developers, builders and professionals at the design and construction stages of a building. For example, at the design stage, the developer is required to submit building and structural plans to BCA for approval. At the construction stage, a Qualified Person is required to supervise the works to ensure that buildings are constructed according to the approved plans. 

But after a building is completed, there are also requirements to maintain the building so that it is safe to use. These requirements pertaining to maintenance are currently in the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act, or BMSMA in short. It gives the Commissioner of Buildings the power to compel owners to carry out repairs to a building that is not properly maintained. It also gives the Minister the powers to enact regulations pertaining to the operation and maintenance of lifts and escalators, or L&E.

One of the key aims of this Bill is to consolidate the design, construction and maintenance requirements over a building’s lifecycle under the Building Control Act, by porting over the relevant provisions from the BMSMA, at clauses 21, 45 and 48. The BMSMA will be renamed the Building (Strata Management) Act to better reflect its revised scope. This consolidation will facilitate BCA’s oversight over the various building-related processes. It will also allow us to strengthen the building control regulatory framework to improve safety and accessibility in a holistic manner. 

Besides this consolidation, the Bill contains amendments to the Building Control Act broadly covering the following three areas. First, it will strengthen regulatory control over the lift and escalator industry, allowing us to mandate a Progressive Wage Model for this sector. Second, it will provide for a building facade inspection regime. Last, but not least, it will accelerate the accessibility upgrading in existing buildings. 

Let me go through these in turn.

Lifts & Escalators

Regulatory framework

First, on lifts and escalators. There are about 70,000 lifts and 7,000 escalators in Singapore today. We need to ensure that they are designed, installed and maintained properly, so that they are safe to use. This is important as we rely on them in our everyday lives, to get to home, to get to work, or simply to get around town.

Currently, the regulatory regime focuses on L&E maintenance and operation. For example, BCA mandates their maintenance frequency and outcomes, requires annual inspection and testing of the L&E, as well as for owners to apply for a permit to operate annually.

Upstream, BCA requires professional engineers to certify that the design and installation of L&E are done according to industry codes and standards.  

We propose to strengthen BCA’s upstream regulatory oversight for L&E, to reduce the likelihood of deficiencies in design or installation which may give rise to downstream safety incidents. Broadly, we will do this by extending the existing design and construction regime for buildings to L&E installations as well. This approach is consistent, given that lifts and escalators are integral parts of our buildings.

a. First, clauses 2 and 3 will empower BCA to require L&E professionals to submit design plans for L&E works to BCA for approval just as they would for building works. L&E professionals will then need to ensure that the L&E are installed according to the approved plans. Penalties for L&E offences will be aligned with those for existing building offences of a similar nature. 

b. Second, the Minister will have powers to enact regulations to prescribe the key requirements of L&E design and installation, as well as the corresponding duties of stakeholders. For example, we intend to require L&E professionals to ensure that the lift model and its key safety components are certified by independent certification bodies, as part of the new plan submission process. 

At the same time, we will also enhance BCA’s ability to improve safety for both new and existing L&E installations. We will do this in several ways. 

a. First, under Clause 21, relevant parties such as L&E owners and contractors will be required to notify BCA of any safety-related defects they may become aware of. For instance, contractors may come across manufacturing defects during the maintenance of a particular lift. They will need to inform BCA so that BCA can get the L&E owners to rectify the defects in this lift, and to check other similar lifts to make sure that such defects are not systemic.

b. Second, Clause 20 will allow the Commissioner of Building Control to issue orders to L&E owners to prevent safety incidents from occurring. For instance, when a check has revealed that there is an imminent safety risk arising from poor design or installation, the Commissioner of Building Control can issue an order to the owner to stop operating the lift or escalator until the risk has been mitigated or removed. This will supplement existing powers to require L&E owners to address maintenance-related issues. 

c. Third, Clause 16 will allow the Minister to mandate the retrofitting of existing L&E, for example, if certain models of L&E or their components are prone to incidents that affect public safety.

The Bill also increases the range of levers available against errant L&E contractors.

Currently, the Commissioner of Building Control can censure or suspend the contractor, revoke the contractor’s registration, impose composition sums, or prosecute them. This range of measures is not adequate. For instance, suspending or revoking the registration of a contractor may have unintended safety implications if L&E owners are not able to find an alternative contractor to maintain their L&E. On the other hand, simply censuring or imposing financial penalties may not be sufficient to resolve the underlying concerns for public safety. An errant contractor could continue to take on more L&E jobs without carrying out internal improvements to meet the required standards.

Thus, Clause 36 introduces a registration scheme for L&E contractors and sets out additional regulatory sanctions. Under the new section 29R, BCA will also be able to disallow an errant L&E contractor from taking on new L&E jobs for a specified period, or cap the number of new L&E jobs that can be taken for a specified period, or mandate that employees are retrained to specified standards. Basically, it goes beyond machineries, and also involves the standard of employees that is required to maintain our lifts and escalators.

Progressive Wage Model (PWM)

Clause 36 also introduces a new section 29Q which is needed for the L&E industry to be able to attract and retain competent technicians and engineers to ensure that our lift and escalators are safe. 

The L&E industry faces challenges of an ageing workforce. It also has difficulty in attracting new entrants, especially younger technicians. In January 2017, an L&E Sectoral Tripartite Committee (STC) was formed to look into the sector’s manpower challenges. This committee, co-chaired by NTUC and BCA, comprised representatives from government agencies, industry association and unions, as well as service buyers and providers. 

One of its key recommendations was to introduce a progressive wage model, or PWM, for the lift industry. The PWM seeks to increase basic wages across the board for local lift technicians, particularly at the lower levels. The recommended wages are pegged against comparable technician jobs in other sectors. The PWM also creates clear career progression paths and ensures that wages are commensurate with the job responsibilities and competencies. 

The Government accepted the STC’s recommendation in Sep 2018, and announced that we would work towards mandating PWM adoption for lift maintenance firms. From May 2019, Government Procuring Entities have taken the lead by only awarding lift maintenance tenders to firms that have adopted the PWM. BCA has been working with industry stakeholders to implement the PWM and the associated training and certification framework. The results have been encouraging, and lift firms representing 95% of the market share have committed to adopt the PWM.  I thank the industry for its support for the PWM and the efforts to uplift the wages of our lift technicians. We encourage the remaining firms to adopt the PWM early as well.

Under the new section 29Q, BCA is conferred powers to mandate PWM adoption as a registration requirement for L&E firms. We aim to mandate PWM for the lift industry in 2022. 

Going beyond the lift industry, MOM has recently announced the Tripartite Cluster for Lift and Escalator Industry, which will look into a PWM for escalator maintenance technicians. We expect the Tripartite Cluster to provide its recommendations by the end of the year. 

Mechanised Car Parking Systems (MCPS)

Besides reviewing the regulatory framework for lifts for people, we also reviewed the regulatory framework for Mechanised Car Parking Systems (MCPS). These are automated car lifting systems that transport a car, without its driver, to and from a parking area. 

BCA does not regulate the operation and maintenance of MCPS today. However, BCA has found that these systems could potentially pose danger to users. For instance, some MCPS do not have measures to prevent unauthorised access into the transfer areas, which pose a safety concern should users get trapped in the parking area. Thus, Clause 45 amends section 49 to enable the Minister to enact regulations for MCPS to enhance user safety. Our current intent is to regulate only areas where users directly interface with the equipment, such as the car transfer area and the operating panel for parking and retrieval.

Periodic Facade Inspection

Let me move on to the second key area of the Bill – how we will improve the safety of our building facades. Currently, owners and persons responsible have a duty to ensure that building exteriors are kept in good and serviceable repair, and that exterior features are securely fixed. In this regard, general maintenance works are already carried out regularly on building facades. These works can include simple rectifications, general cleaning as well as painting of external walls. However, there is a need for us to further improve facade maintenance standards. Over the last three years, BCA received reports of almost 30 incidents involving falling facade elements each year. Most of these were related to the wear and tear of the facade materials or connections.

Thus, we will put in place a more structured approach towards the inspection and maintenance of building facades. This will help guide owners in meeting their existing duty regarding facade maintenance. Clauses 23, 24 and 25 amend the present Part V of the Building Control Act to introduce a new Periodic Facade Inspection regime that will require owners to engage professionals to check their building facades regularly. This will help to detect signs of facade deterioration early, and facilitate timely repairs to reduce the likelihood of facade failure. 

The regime will apply to buildings that are more than 13 metres high, or roughly four storeys, once they are over 20 years old. Inspections must be conducted by trained personnel every seven years. This takes into consideration the expected lifespan of some facade materials. It is also aligned with the typical length of Repair and Redecoration cycles for HDB estates and condominium developments, to save costs and reduce inconvenience to residents.

BCA will introduce inspection guidelines, and strengthen R&D efforts to look into more effective and productive ways to carry out facade inspections. 

In addition to the new facade inspection regime, the Bill will also introduce requirements for the relevant parties to report safety-related defects as well as incidents relating to facades. This is similar to our approach for L&E. 


Mr Speaker, I will touch on the third key area of the Bill, which is to enhance accessibility of our built environment.  

We first introduced accessibility requirements for new buildings in 1990, with a Code of Barrier-free Accessibility in Buildings. In consultation with representatives from social service agencies, trade associations and chambers as well as government agencies, the Code has undergone several revisions over the years to ensure that the provisions address the evolving needs of Singaporeans, taking reference from international standards. Besides new buildings, the Code also applies to existing buildings that undergo addition and alteration works, or A&A works.  

However, the current requirements only apply at the specific locations in the building where the A&A works are undertaken. For instance, if A&A works are carried out to renovate the washrooms on the upper floor of a building, we can require that those washrooms be made accessible. However, we cannot require the building owner to provide an accessible route connecting the building entrance on the ground floor to the lifts, if no A&A works are carried out there. Thus, for many buildings built before 1990, such basic accessibility upgrading is only carried out on a voluntary basis. So we are amending this to make sure that we can provide a more holistic treatment to this clause.

Tong Building, IOB Building and Bukit Merah Community Centre are amongst some examples of buildings that provide basic accessibility features on their own accord. These features refer to an accessible building entrance, an accessible route at the entrance level, and at least one accessible toilet in the building, with lift access if the accessible toilet is on another floor. We should do more to ensure that our existing buildings are made accessible to all, whenever A&A works are undertaken. Today, almost all of our public sector buildings and infrastructure that are frequented by the general public have achieved at least basic accessibility.

To accelerate accessibility upgrading in our existing buildings, especially the private ones, Clause 17 introduces a new section 22DA that  empowers the Commissioner of Building Control to require the owner of a building without basic accessibility features to provide these features when the owner or someone else undertaking A&A works to that building that require plan submissions to BCA, is given approval for those A&A works, regardless of where those A&A works are carried out in the building. The new section 22DA will apply only to commercial and institutional buildings with Gross Floor Area (GFA) of more than 500m2. Examples include offices, hotels, schools, and shopping centres. We will exclude smaller buildings, such as shop houses, from these requirements due to their space constraints. 

The Bill will also make other changes to improve and clarify the Builder licensing scheme and to facilitate BCA’s operations. 

Licensed builders need to have an “approved person” who is responsible for the management of the business. To ensure proper accountability, Clauses 31 and 32 amend sections 29F and 29G to stipulate that only a Director or a Board member can be an “approved person”.

These amendments will also allow more types of businesses to apply for a Builder licence, including sole proprietors and partnerships comprising corporations. This will provide greater flexibility for the industry. For example, smaller firms will be able to form partnerships to take on projects beyond their individual capacity. 

Clause 34 amends section 29J to widen the range of regulatory sanctions that the Commissioner of Building Control can impose on builders. This includes restricting the builder from taking on any new project, or any new project above a certain value. The rationale for this change is similar to what I had earlier described to enhance the measures to regulate L&E contractors.

A few clauses will improve the clarity of the legislation to facilitate the administration of the Act. Clause 8 amends section 11 to make it clear that builders need to notify the Commissioner of Building Control of the appointment or termination of a specialist builder within 14 days, and that builders are accountable for the works that they subcontract out. Clause 27 amends section 29A to make clear that builders need not be licensed if they are always carrying on their business as sub-contractors. Clause 20 will require owners in non-strata titled buildings to jointly appoint a Qualified Person (QP) for the purpose of complying with BCA’s orders, if such orders are served on multiple owners. This will avoid a situation where each owner engages its own QP, which may result in different recommendations and delays in complying with BCA’s orders.


BCA has consulted industry stakeholders including building owners, contractors and professionals on the key changes through more than 10 engagement sessions over the last four years. The industry stakeholders were supportive of the changes. BCA will continue to work closely with the industry to implement the changes proposed in this Bill, which will enhance safety and accessibility in our built environment. 

Mr Speaker sir, I beg to move.

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