Creating the future of construction with prefabrication

10 Aug 2023

By BCA

Constant whirs and hums are typical of construction sites. But though it may sound like any other building project, this particular work site does not look like one – far from it. 

Instead of construction workers, automated robots and machines do the heavy lifting while their human counterparts supervise them. 

Welcome to HL-Sunway Prefab Hub, Singapore’s sixth and largest Integrated Construction and Prefabrication Hub (ICPH). Spanning 3.8ha, about the size of seven football fields, it can produce entire sets of beams, columns, rooms and other building components with stunning speed and accuracy – up to 100,000 cubic m of precast components per year, to be precise, or enough to complete about 17 blocks of flats.

The prefab hub in Punggol Barat Lane is a significant step for the local built environment, and complements the manufacturing and prefabrication goals outlined in BCA’s Buildability Framework and the Built Environment Industry Transformation Map.

Improved productivity and green features

Launched on July 21, HL-Sunway Prefab Hub is a joint venture between building materials and powertrain solutions provider Hong Leong Asia and Malaysian conglomerate Sunway Construction Group Berhad. 

“Sunway and Hong Leong Asia enjoy a very long and close partnership,” said Mr Stephen Ho, CEO of Hong Leong Asia. “Our collaboration allows us to focus on integrating construction processes in a lower carbon footprint environment and, at the same time, enabling high throughput and productivity.”

The facility boasts 54 loading bays and 26 production lines, as well as state-of-the-art technology systems like a smart storage and retrieval system for building components. With a height of 14.7m, the hub also offers ample headroom for 40T heavy-lifting cranes, which enables it to build a wide range of products. These attributes mean the HL-Sunway Prefab Hub is the first ICPH here that can cast the full range of components required for Housing Board projects.

High floor height 14.7m
High floor height of 14.7m, ample headroom for flexibility to work on different products

Besides harnessing natural ventilation, the ICPH also boasts other environmentally friendly features. Instead of conventional spray systems for raw material receiving hoppers, it uses misting sprays that cut water consumption by up to 80 per cent. The hub’s rooftop space is also fitted with over 1,700 solar panels, with solar energy making up 25 per cent of the ICPH’s energy needs. This is equivalent to planting 7,700 trees in carbon offsets. 

“This hub represents the seamless integration of cutting-edge technology, intelligent design and the expertise of our skilled workforce,” said Tan Sri Dato’ (Dr) Chew Chee Kin, President of Sunway Group.

The efficiency reaped translates into time and cost savings, with labour productivity jumping by up to 80 per cent.

Nationwide building effort

Given its turbocharged capabilities, the HL-Sunway Prefab Hub can help build about 17 blocks of HDB flats per year. This means Build-To-Order (BTO) flats can be delivered much faster as more precast building components can be made locally, ensuring more sturdy supply chains and minimising disruptions. Such efficiency and resilience are what BCA has been pushing for, especially after the pandemic upended the global supply chain and delayed many projects, including BTO flats.

“The precast industry will be a key driver in supporting the transformation of the entire built environment sector,” said Minister of National Development Desmond Lee at the hub’s opening. “This will significantly change the way we plan and build construction projects. One important area is in the adoption of robotics and automation in the construction process. By doing so, we can enhance productivity and reduce our reliance on manpower.”

Concrete Spreader MachineConcrete Spreader Machine, concreting of large panel slabs

Enhancing Singapore’s ICPH capabilities will also benefit those who work in the built environment sector. For instance, more automation and technology-based construction methods mean an increasing need for skilled workers to operate, supervise and manage them. This creates more job opportunities with higher salaries. 

In short, ICPHs like the HL-Sunway Prefab Hub are part of an ambitious effort to boost local production capabilities and complement the wider construction ecosystem in Singapore. The government is already working to further boost construction production capabilities by developing Integrated Construction Parks (ICPs). These are strategically planned units of land that are designed to house construction facilities and resources near one another for better productivity.

The first, in Jurong Port, progressively began operations starting from end-2022. The Pulau Punggol Barat area has been earmarked for another ICP site. 

Together with the ICPHs that are now in action, the built environment sector here is set to reach new heights. 

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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.