Building a collaborative working environment

10 Sep 2019


Through IBEC, we are seeing a sea of change in how the industry is coming together. Everyone is encouraged to do well, and do better. 
- Ar. Tai Lee Siang

IBEC 2019’s Leadership Plenary highlights urgency for deeper collaboration in the built environment sector to better address user and environmental needs.

Rapid urbanisation, climate change and an ageing population are some of the salient issues facing Singapore’s built environment sector. These issues are huge and complex, requiring the sector to embrace collaboration so that user and environmental needs are met.

The success of building a collaborative working environment hinges on three key factors – (1) early involvement of all project stakeholders, including consultants and contractors; (2) deeper engagement between the public and private sectors; and (3) organisational and mindset change.

Embracing change

On systemic change, Mr Wong Mun Summ, Founding Director, WOHA Architects Pte Ltd, said, “Singapore is coming to a point where we can no longer work in silos. We need to move and cut across horizontally. That’s something which will be harder, but is necessary if we want more collaboration and create innovation.” He also added that it is vital for all project stakeholders to come together and work towards a clear vision and objective right from the start.


Indeed, disruption has become a hot buzzword in almost every sector, including the built environment.

From administrative processes to project execution, new technologies are displacing old methods of doing things at a faster pace than ever before, and companies and individuals have had to scramble to keep up.

Technology is proving to be a driving force of change in the built environment sector as well. For example, to boost productivity and encourage collaboration, project teams at Beca Singapore leverage the cloud system to share and view files anywhere and anytime. Similarly at Woh Hup, the management is also working towards digitalising their processes to reduce paperwork.

These were the conclusions of built environment industry leaders at the Leadership Plenary session during International Built Environment Conference (IBEC) 2019. The session distilled insights from the speakers on how they see the sector advancing together. It also served as a summary of key discussions at the IBEC.

Shifting priorities

Ms Cindy Lim, Managing Director of Keppel Urban Solutions said that the definition of value creation has to change. The built environment sector has to take into consideration non-commercial aspects such as the impact on society and environment.


She added that the current procurement system also needs to be reviewed. A project should not simply be awarded to the vendor who quotes the lowest cost, as this poses a major barrier to the advancement of the sector. “Companies should look at their business models from a long-term perspective to drive sustainable transformation,” she said.

Mr Lee Ang Seng, Managing Director of Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner (SE Asia) Pte Ltd called for a mindset change. He urged all stakeholders to look at the bigger picture, move out of their comfort zones, and embrace different, even radical, models of collaboration. He said, “I am heartened that BCA has taken the first step to create a collaborative model of work for projects, but I would really like to see the private sector follow suit.”

Catalysts for systemic change

While change is usually triggered by external catalysts, such as government policies, the speakers agree that the built environment sector can do more to lead and effect change.

Mr Wong shared that one can be a change catalyst through role modelling. He cited a collaborative example of one of WOHA’s earlier projects, Newton Suites. By engaging the developer and then-chief planner in a shared vision, the project went on to become the first in Singapore to integrate sky gardens and vertical landscaping into the building.

Ms Lim shared that business competition and the desire to meet customers’ needs are equally powerful reasons for companies to innovate. Mr Neil Yong, Executive Director, Woh Hup (Private) Limited added that trust between all stakeholders must be present in order for true collaboration to be achieved.

Whether systemic change will happen in the near future or over the longer term, only time will tell. What is evident, however, is the built environment sector’s desire to transform through deeper collaboration and to invest more in its people.

Architect (Ar) Tai Lee Siang, Executive Director of BuildSG at Building and Construction Authority, summed up the discussion: “Through IBEC, we are seeing a sea of change in how the industry is coming together. Everyone is encouraged to do well, and do better.

“Although the issues [facing the industry] are not fully resolved, we have a shared vision that we need systemic change in certain key areas. Most importantly, we need collaboration. To achieve all these, we need to continue to invest in our people.”


About International Built Environment Week

The International Built Environment Week (IBEW) is the first fully integrated event in Asia Pacific that covers the entire built environment life cycle and value chain.  Organised by the Building and Construction Authority together with Reed Exhibitions and supported by 12 Trade Associations and Chamber, the event offers the perfect platform for industry leaders and professionals from the global built environment to exchange ideas and experiences, widen networks and discover new business opportunities. 

The inaugural IBEW was held from 3 to 6 September 2019 at Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Singapore.  Themed ‘Transforming the Way We Build’, the event showcased today’s best practices and tomorrow’s innovations in the areas of environmental sustainability, construction productivity, digitalisation and smart facilities management.

Key highlights included a three-day International Built Environment Conference, specially-curated tours to some of the best-in-class projects in Singapore, four co-located trade shows, networking events and student engagement programmes.  IBEW 2019 also featured special events such as the Breakfast Talk for CEOs, an exclusive forum for C-suite executives from the built environment; and BE Connect, an international business-matching platform for buyers and investors from the region to network and engage with top urban solutions providers equipped to meet their interests.

The second edition of IBEW will be held from 1 to 4 September 2020.  For more updates of IBEW 2020, visit www.ibew.sg.


The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) champions the development and transformation of the built environment sector, in order to improve Singapore’s living environment. BCA oversees areas such as safety, quality, inclusiveness, sustainability and productivity, all of which, together with our stakeholders and partners, help to achieve our mission to transform the Built Environment sector and shape a liveable and smart built environment for Singapore.