Speech by MOS Tan Kiat How at the Professional Engineers Board (PEB) Virtual Day of Dedication

Thursday, 17 December 2020

I am very happy to be joining all of you virtually for the first time on your annual Day of Dedication.

Let me begin by congratulating the 101 newly minted Professional Engineers (PEs), Specialist PEs, and ASEAN Chartered PEs, and the 12 graduates receiving the PEB Gold Medal Award for outstanding performance.

We are excited to welcome a new generation of engineers that will bring fresh ideas and a renewed drive to advance the engineering profession in Singapore.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Built Environment Sector

As Er. Ho has mentioned earlier, 2020 has been a challenging year. COVID-19 has dealt a heavy blow to the built environment sector, including the engineering profession.

That said, COVID-19 has also presented us with a window of opportunity to transform this sector decisively. This means “re-engineering” for the new normal, particularly in the areas of productivity, digitalisation, and resilience.

COVID-19 has forced us to re-examine the way we build. 

For instance, the crisis has reinforced the need to adopt Design for Manufacturing & Assembly (DfMA) technologies, which is a key growth area. By shifting on-site works into a controlled environment such as a manufacturing plant, we can prefabricate building components before assembling them on-site. This allows projects to be completed faster, cleaner, quieter, and with better quality. The reduced reliance on workers on-site also enhances our resilience to future pandemic events.

PEs have a crucial role to play in supporting our drive for higher DfMA adoption, through re-engineering the traditional construction process to facilitate DfMA implementation. 

More importantly, we need our PEs to continue to safeguard our high standards of building safety. We urge PEs to keep abreast of the latest construction technologies and develop deep engineering capabilities.

COVID-19 has also provided strong impetus to step up our digitalisation efforts. Digitalisation has allowed engineers to continue collaborating on projects with their stakeholders virtually, even during the Circuit Breaker period.

Apart from enhancing resilience, digitalisation is key to improving our productivity. For example, Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD) promises to streamline the entire construction process by fully integrating the building lifecycle via digital information. This is a digital spine running through the entire value chain of our built environment sector. This means that the accuracy of construction plans is improved, conflicts are resolved at the design stage, and there is better coordination of the production, delivery and installation of building modules. This saves time and reduces abortive work downstream. We encourage PEs to embrace IDD. PEs could explore the use of collaboration platforms and 3D modelling software, which help to facilitate cross-domain collaboration with stakeholders across the entire value chain.

COVID-19 has transformed the way we live, work and play. We will need the help of engineers to adapt our built environment to this new mode of living. We need our buildings to be pandemic-resilient, through improvements to ventilation and designs that allow for greater flexibility in how spaces are used. These call for innovative, forward-looking engineering solutions. 

At the same time, we must not lose sight of the need to address the longer-term, existential threat of climate change. As we aspire to raise the sustainability standards of our built environment, we need to step up our R&D and deployment of green technologies in buildings. We need to ensure that our construction and engineering practices are environmentally friendly and resource-efficient. We also need to develop our climate adaptation infrastructure to protect our coastlines and mitigate the Urban Heat Island effect.

The challenges of COVID-19 and climate change present opportunities that allow for professional growth.

PEB has worked hard to create new opportunities for engineers, for example by establishing a new branch of Specialist PEs in Tunnel Engineering this year. This will help to build a professional cadre of tunnelling specialists who can improve the safety and quality of complex tunnelling works in Singapore.

We encourage all PEs to upgrade themselves so that you can tap on these opportunities, and help Singapore become a greener, more resilient city.

Distinguished PE Award

This year’s recipient of the Distinguished PE Award, Er. Lee Chuan Seng, has blazed the trail in many of the areas I have touched on. 

Er. Lee has earned a reputation for championing sustainability initiatives in the built environment sector. Er. Lee played an integral role in driving the development of the Green Mark scheme, as Founding President of the Singapore Green Building Council and Chairman of the BCA Green Mark Advisory Committee. 

Er. Lee also has a stellar track record in the public sector. At present, he is the Chairman of NEA, and the Scientific Advisor to MND, having also previously served on the BCA Board and the PEB Board.

Er. Lee’s passion for sustainability and exemplary contributions to both the industry and public sector are truly an inspiration to engineers and all of us.


I am also pleased to have witnessed the signing of the MOU between PEB and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) on 9 December 2020. 

We are glad that the courses to be offered under this MOU will help prospective PEs and Specialist PEs gain the necessary knowledge to prepare for registration.


Let me conclude by expressing my heartfelt appreciation to the PE community for keeping the built environment industry going amidst these difficult times.

Together, we will work towards a more productive built environment sector, making the best use of digital tools, to build a green and resilient Singapore. Together, we will emerge stronger.

I would like to wish all of you a meaningful Day of Dedication. Thank you.

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