Singaporean firms rise to the challenge of urbanisation in Asia

10 Sep 2019


Attended by more than 80 regional developers, BE Connect is a platform designed to introduce regional buyers with integrated solutions across the entire built environment value chain. 


While Singapore has always been a prime example of a fast-changing urban city, other countries such as Vietnam and India are also facing a similar challenge: the pace of urbanisation in Asia is increasing, and with it comes new resource challenges.

Professionals from across the region had an opportunity to share their challenges and present their solutions during the inaugural BE Connect held during the International Built Environment Week (IBEW) 2019.

Attended by more than 80 regional developers, BE Connect is a platform designed to introduce regional buyers with integrated solutions across the entire built environment value chain.


In his opening address, Minister for Family and Social Development & Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee highlighted three challenges of urbanisation in Asia, as well as the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between various local companies and regional counterparts.

Three main challenges of urbanisation in Asia

The first challenge, Mr Lee said, is the scarcity of space.  Asia has urbanised rapidly; while this has helped alleviate poverty, it has also led to a need for more housing, and better infrastructure.

The second challenge is climate change. Its impact includes extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels. The built environment sector should take steps to mitigate climate change and adapt to its consequences.

The third challenge is the effect of an aging population. This will have repercussions on the workforce, if construction methods don’t change. Built environment professionals should embrace infocomm and construction technology to create new niche areas and jobs from improved building processes.

How Singapore addresses the key challenges

Mr Lee also highlighted Singapore’s response to the challenges, the first of which is redevelopment and land intensification.

In Singapore, the approach is to integrate transport nodes with office, residential, and retail developments. This allows people to “work, live, and play under one roof”. Close integration mitigates the need to commute for long distances.

He also noted that Singapore has greened almost 40% of its buildings by Gross Floor Area since the BCA Green Mark scheme was launched in 2005. This target is now 80%, which the country will seek to reach by 2030.

To overcome the shrinking workforce, Singapore has championed technology adoption by the industry, with Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) as an example. Minister Lee said that DfMA is a game changer – it has improved the quality of construction, while reducing waste from abortive work.

Another successful approach by Singapore’s built environment sector is the use of Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD). This uses Building Information Modelling (BIM) platform, an integrated system of infocomm and smart technologies to drive the entire built environment value chain.

Mr Lee also emphasised the importance of “real time monitoring, predictive maintenance, and automation”. He recalled a conversation with facility management companies, in which he was told that a building’s lifetime costs could be four times more than the construction cost.

This can be mitigated with the good use of technology right from the start, so that high downstream costs are addressed at the design phase.


MOUs signed between Singapore firms and regional counterparts

At the event, Minister Lee also witnessed the exchange of MOUs between Singaporean built environment firms and others in the region. In total, 16 MOUs on urban solutions were exchanged, with an estimated contract value of around $30 million.

Some notable MOUs included:

  • G-Energy Global, an energy service company, to provide services for FICO group’s hotels and office in Thailand
  • GWS Living Art, a green roof and green wall company, to work on CapitaLand’s Datansha development in China
  • Ong&Ong to work on a masterplan for MX Group’s Smart Township in Vietnam
  • Surbana Jurong to work with The Orange Smart City, a 1,000-acre green and smart township in India

On CapitaLand’s Datansha development in China, Mr Zac Toh, Director of GWS Living Art said, “Signing the MOU is the best case possible when going into a foreign market. Because when we go into a foreign market, it is actually like starting a new business in another country. With the MOU signed, it opens up a lot more doors for us in the future.”

Ms Xu Xiaolei, Director of Guangzhou New Boundary Real Estate, which is also involved in the Datansha development, agreed that her company has benefitted from the MOU. She said, “GWS Living Art recommended us the green roof which can be manufactured externally and then brought to the site to be installed. It is also easier to maintain, just twice a year. Therefore, we believe that green-roofing operations is a good project. As yet, we have not seen such solutions available in Guangzhou.”

The invited attendees also witnessed Singapore case studies on smart township, integrated healthcare, and built environment innovation.


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.