IBEW 2020 Week 5: Forging a stronger, more resilient built environment sector

7 Oct 2020


In embracing new technology and innovations, a mindset change on the part of industry players and customers is key to unlocking the twin targets of increased productivity and low reliance of labour.  

As the Digital International Built Environment Week (IBEW) 2020 drew to a close, thought leaders and captains of Singapore’s built environment sector came together in various sessions to give their take on the future of the industry.

Key themes in the discussion include how new technologies and digitalisation can be leveraged to deliver greater productivity, more skilled workers and safer workplaces.

Charting the way forward

Mr Tan Kiat How, Minister of State (MOS), Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of National Development, delivered the opening address at CEOs in Conversation, urging built environment firms to embrace industry transformation and build future business resilience from lessons learnt in the pandemic.

MOS Tan also spoke of several new initiatives which have been launched to increase the industry’s competitive advantage.  These included the new, one-stop BE Living Laboratory Framework (BE LLF), which was introduced to support Singapore construction companies keen to pilot innovative proposals and trial new technologies in a real-world setting.  Essentially, BE LLF provides an encouraging regulatory and enterprise environment that gives companies  “room to play” as they testbed innovations in our urban and living spaces.

Another key priority was equipping workers with relevant skills to meet the industry’s future needs. The BE Skills Framework, jointly developed by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore (WSG) together with the industry, trade associations and chambers, unions and education institutions, will provide key information such as career pathways, occupations and job roles, as well as the skills required for the sector.

CEOs in Conversation: Forging a stronger, more resilient built environment sector

Closing the IBEW was the CEOs in Conversation, which brought together key industry and thought leaders Mr Lim Ming Yan, Chairman of Singapore Business Federation (SBF) and WSG; Mr Hugh Lim, CEO, BCA; Mr Neil Yong, Executive Director, Woh Hup; and Mr Frank Khoo, Group Chief Investment Officer, City Developments Limited.

The session, moderated by Mr Mukund Sridhar, Partner, McKinsey & Company, opened with a cautiously optimistic stocktake of Singapore’s construction industry. While a recent SBF survey of local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) showed construction and engineering registering the steepest fall in business sentiments, an uptick is expected as the sector restarts in the midst of the pandemic.

The panellists agreed unanimously that COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of new ways of thinking and doing in the local built environment sector. Mr Yong pointed out that responding to the pandemic situation has required private enterprises like Woh Hup to become more strategic in thinking and more deliberate in action.

Mr Hugh Lim highlighted that a good example is adopting Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) to give companies’ further competitive edge. Firms using advanced methods like Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) deliver high quality products in a shorter amount of time.

In embracing new technology and innovation, Mr Khoo opined that a mindset change on the part of industry players and customers is key to unlocking the twin targets of increased productivity and reduced reliance of labour.

Mr Lim Ming Yan added that digitalisation will need to happen across the whole value chain to reap its full benefits. A good example is how smart facilities management can help create higher-skilled jobs on top of meeting sustainability goals.

Mr Hugh Lim stressed the importance of creating an ecosystem which allows entrepreneurs and innovators in the Buildtech space to thrive. Platforms such as the LLF, Built Environment Accelerate to Market Programme (BEAMP) and facilities like SkyLab have been put in place by BCA to help incubate potential ideas and bring them to life.

Wrapping up the session with a nod to the future, the panellists envisioned an industry where digitalisation and advanced construction methods have permeated the entire built environment value chain in Singapore. With the optimisation of technology, the construction sector will also see a shift towards a highly-skilled workforce and safer workplaces.

Summary of Week 1 of IBEW
Summary of Week 2 of IBEW
Summary of Week 3 of IBEW
Summary of Week 4 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.