IBEW 2020 Week 4: Re-imagining the future of built environment

5 Oct 2020


The construction sector must take an active role in tackling the climate emergency, and in doing so, create spaces and places where humans can thrive.  

Week Four of the Digital International Built Environment Week (IBEW) 2020 saw thought leaders and experts from the built environment sector convene over three engaging sessions. The discussions touched on the technological, policy, enterprise and visionary leadership directions the industry will need to take for society and health to flourish in the post-pandemic world.

What’s next? Future-proofing with emerging BuildTech

Emerging innovations and technologies in construction were presented at this session moderated by Mr Liong Yuen Ming, Chief Technology Officer, Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

According to Prof Andrew Harris, Director, Laing O’Rourke, the world including the construction industry is on the cusp of the next big technological revolution. At Laing O’Rourke, cutting-edge innovations in digital engineering, Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA), 3D printing and robotics are already being applied to real life projects on the ground.

Prof Miroslaw Skibniewski, Professor of Construction Engineering and Project Management, University of Maryland showed examples of how remote-control drones and semi-autonomous robots are already ubiquitous at construction sites, taking over a fair amount of high risk, high volume and highly repetitive tasks currently performed by humans. He also provided a snapshot of how construction in the future could look like.

Er. Winston Toh, Principal Engineer, Housing and Development Board (HDB) presented the research on 3D printing by HDB. More research will be carried out with the aim of deploying such 3D printed Prefabricated and Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) structures for future construction of public housing in Singapore.

BE Sparks – Supporting start-ups in the BuildTech space

BE Sparks, a new initiative by the Ministry of National Development brought together a broad spectrum of corporate venture capitalists (VC), public policy makers and start-ups in the construction space for a panel discussion, moderated by Mr Khoo Teng Lip, Head, ST Engineering Ventures.

Mr Darren Bechtel, Founder and Managing Partner, Brick and Mortar Ventures opened the session by highlighting how the pandemic has accelerated the transformation of the global construction landscape by compressing the industry’s digitalisation process into a very short time. Fellow VC Mr Tyson Woeste, Partner, Fifth Wall predicted that sustainability technology will return to the forefront post-pandemic due to the existential threats posed by climate change.

When sharing their respective journeys in the construction tech space, start-up CEOs and founders Mr Lin Shijing, Hubble, and Mr Anthony Chow, Igloohome, emphasised the importance of localising one’s product to achieve a good market fit and staying true to their value propositions. These values have enabled both companies to rapidly scale their businesses across the region and globally.

Mr Cheng Tai Fatt, Managing Director, Built Environment and Research Institute, BCA, and Ms Yang Yanyi, Deputy Director, Enterprise Singapore shared perspectives on how government agencies are helping local start-ups grow. Mr Cheng shared how BCA drives research and innovation in built environment by setting a clear direction for the industry based on the focus areas of green buildings, design for manufacturing & assembly, and integrated digital delivery. Ms Yang stressed that a collaborative multi-agency approach is key to building up a strong start-up ecosystem. This approach has enabled 3,800 local start-ups to raise S$10.9bn in funding to date.

Re-imagining the built environment in the post-pandemic era

In the final plenary session of Digital IBEW, Ar. Tai Lee Siang, Executive Director, BCA, led a thought-provoking, wide-ranging discussion on the future of the built environment with guest speakers Ar. Seah Chee Huang, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, DP Architects; Prof Dr Chris Luebkeman, Director of Strategic Foresight, Office of the President, ETH Zurich; and Mr Matt Gough, Innovation Director, Mace.

Ar. Seah pointed out that COVID-19 has revealed the flaws in the current system. In designing future cities, the industry will need to return to the fundamentals of building for human health and wellness. Prof Luebkeman added that the pandemic has brought to light new criteria and new challenges for the construction sector. To meet them, the industry needs to be clear in their objectives, whether it is building for longevity, health, to minimise waste or to lower carbon emissions.

The global nature of the pandemic is also an urgent reminder of the larger impending climate crisis. Architects, engineers and builders have a responsibility to factor planetary health in their decisions. To do so, Mr Gough opined that the industry will need greater diversity in thinking to meet new challenges, and to seize opportunities for collaboration using technology.

As a concluding note, the speakers agreed that the sector must take an active role in tackling the climate emergency, and in doing so, create spaces and places where humans can thrive. 

Summary of Week 1 of IBEW
Summary of Week 2 of IBEW
Summary of Week 3 of IBEW
Summary of Week 5 of IBEW

About the International Built Environment Week

The second edition of International Built Environment Week (IBEW) – Asia Pacific’s most comprehensive event on the built environment – was held online from 1 to 30 September 2020.

IBEW is jointly presented by the Building and Construction Authority and Reed Exhibitions Singapore with the support of 12 Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs). This collective spirit across the built environment value chain epitomises the BuildSG movement*.

For more information on IBEW, visit www.ibew.sg

*BuildSG is a national movement to transform the way we build Singapore. It is a collaborative effort by the industry and government for firms to keep ahead of the curve through deep capability building, strong collaborations and co-creating effective solutions for the built environment sector.


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.