The current coronavirus pandemic presents significant challenges for everyone involved in the building construction lifecycle – from pre-construction through to facilities management. It is also an opportunity to assess whether accepted business practices are the best way to operate, or if they are simply the remains of decades of business development.
In both Singapore and Australia, building and construction is a key driver in the economic recovery from COVID-19; however, each nation has taken a different approach to dealing with community transmission and readjusting to new ‘back to work’ jobsite compliances.
While both have adopted a suppression strategy to the pandemic (flattening of the curve) for the general population, they have overlaid back-to-work differently – with specific programs for designated industries as they ease restrictions. Singapore has rapidly hastened the adoption of digital solutions in order to work smarter, faster and greener. Australia has accelerated it digital transformation efforts, reviewing and revising workflows and processes in order to keep as much of the industry in operation throughout the pandemic.
While different approaches, technology is playing a valuable part with both nations requiring less interaction on the jobsite and implementing new regulations in order to accommodate for COVID.
Here is a look at how these two nations are advancing the construction industry during pandemic times and how technology can help.
Singapore – Leading the Way Through Technology
The Singapore Government has long had in place programs and incentives to encourage best-in-class work practice within the built environment. Since mandating Building Information Modelling (BIM) in 2014, the Government has encouraged all players within the industry to adopt a digital strategy with incentives such as the BIM Fund, Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD) and Productivity Innovation Project (PIP).
The pandemic further changed the industry, so the government has used its strong technology and innovation foundations. As part of the country’s circuit breaker measures.
In March, the Building and Construction Authority announced the BuildSG Transformation Fund (BTF) in an effort to further transform efforts within the industry, consolidate existing funding schemes and introduce a new Off-Site Construction Special Scheme (OCSS) for eligible Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) facilities.
Once the easing of circuit breaker initiatives began in June The Ministry of Power put in place measures to minimise the risk of a widespread re-emergence of COVID. These Safe Management Measures are designed to ensure COVID-safe workplaces for workers, workplaces and those that become unwell at the workplace.
Certain industries, such as those in the built environment have additional measures to adhere to in order to accommodate unique workplace practices such as the large foreign worker system. They needed to meet the COVID-Safe Restart Criteria – as set out by the Building and Construction Authority.
In the last days of June, the Singapore Government again demonstrated its commitment to the built environment sector with the SGD1.36 billion-dollar construction support package to offset these additional compliance requirements and help construction firms resume work safely and quickly.
Part of the funding will go to construction firms to help them procure additional material/equipment, such as PPEs, masks, barricades and additional portable toilets, to comply with safety measures requirements.
Australia – Keep on Keeping on
The engineering and construction industry have not seen the same immediate fall as many other industries in Australia with most construction sites able to operate during the shutdown of non-essential services.
Government’s at federal, state and local levels have remained committed to keeping the industry moving forward through the first months of the pandemic.
The first move was to improve service delivery, with federal, state and local governments working together to overhaul administrative processes – some decades old in order to streamline internal functions and improve service delivery in a COVID environment.
In April, the Premier of New South Wales, like other states announced the first 24 projects to undergo a fast-tracked assessment process as part of the NSW Government’s new Planning System Acceleration Program. This program is designed to fast-track shovel-ready jobs, in order to boost recovery and keep people in jobs as well as boost the construction pipeline. Leading to Infrastructure jobs such as the Snowy Hydro 2.0, Western Harbour Tunnel and Bunnings’ Warehouse Leppington to start earlier than planned.
The Federal Government also announced a building stimulus package in June to accelerate residential housing construction industry. AUD25,000 grants will be allocated to homeowners for renovations that qualify, on their homes in an effort to boost demand within the construction sector and tradespeople.
Changes have also been made to how building sites operate. Until the pandemic is over, NSW Construction sites have extended hours on weekends and public holidays under new rules introduced by NSW Government.
Connected Construction – The Way Forward
Singapore and Australia have approached COVID ways of working within the construction and built environment differently with technology playing an important part. From the Australian Government becoming less reliant on paper-based systems in order to fast track infrastructure work to the Singapore Government’s on-site applications and protocols.
There are many ways to deploy innovation and adopt new technologies to manage the challenges brought on by COVID – from pre-construction through to operations and facilities management, including:
- Leveraging tender management software to help teams stay organised, win more profitable work and support procurement.
- Tracking quantities as design development occurs to provide construction teams immediate, accurate updates to project budgets at every design release.
- Adopting cloud-based software to help both reduce onsite interactions and improve accuracy.
- Utilising field productivity software, to increase labour productivity and identify and resolve issues faster; as well as enable greater collaboration between the planning team, site, sub-contractors and the Client.
- Support end-to-end project lifecycle. Store and share data to serve as the single source of truth for project data – across the full construction lifecycle.
Organisations have overcome the initial phase of the COVID-19 crisis and stabilised somewhat their financials. The focus now is to build business resiliency – the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining the organisation’s central purpose.
Many organisations will recognise an opportunity to ‘flatten the curve’ or minimise the impact of an economic downturn by leveraging technology.
These same organisations will double down on technology investments to emerge on the other side of the curve resilient, more digitally fit, and ready to capture their share of new opportunities.