Tuesday, March 9, 2010

BCA pushing industry into being leaner and greener

Buildability score, energy efficiency certification being revised upwards

THE Building & Construction Authority (BCA) is set to make changes to some of its regulations to push the construction industry towards green building and greater productivity.

The mandatory minimum energy efficiency standard that must be met before a new building can receive a Green Mark certification will be raised by 10 per cent from today’s standard. The energy efficiency standards for other Green Mark levels – Gold, GoldPlus, and Platinum – will also be upped.

BCA will also increase the regulated minimum buildability score so that firms will have to use labour-efficient construction technologies. The industry regulator said that it has not yet decided on the new minimum score, which now stands at 75 – a significant climb from 61 in 2001.

‘The industry can seek government funding to build capability in areas such as prefabrication, precast technology and other construction technology to meet the new buildability requirements,’ said Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State at the Ministry of National Development. She announced the changes in Parliament yesterday.

During the Budget announcement on Feb 22, the government said that it will set aside $250 million to steer the construction sector towards higher productivity. This followed the Economic Strategies Committee last month highlighting the need for strong measures to boost Singapore’s productivity level.

Giving more details yesterday, BCA said that the funds will be used to cover three broad aspects: to co-fund manpower development; to provide funding support to encourage companies to adopt technology and equipment that could lead to significant productivity improvement; and to provide financial support to builders to help them develop capability in more complicated civil engineering projects and building projects.

BCA hopes to get the construction sector to raise the quality of its workforce, design buildings that are easier to construct and adopt more advanced construction technologies. The government has said that it will raise its foreign worker levies from July this year. Yesterday, Ms Fu said that it is estimated that the higher levies could result in 1-2 per cent rise in construction costs for the industry – although the actual cost impact will vary from firm to firm. On the other hand, the $250 million fund will work as a carrot and support the construction firms as they try to adopt productivity improvement measures.

Further upstream, developers and architects will have to design for greater buildability. BCA also wants to raise the energy efficiency standard for new buildings by 10 per cent – which means that the power consumption for new buildings that are Green Mark-certified will be about 10 per cent lower as compared to their older counterparts.

Developers said that they welcomed the move and added that the new target is within reach.

‘The revised standards will definitely improve the long-term sustainability of Singapore and contribute towards our overall energy efficiency goal of 35 per cent savings by 2030,’ said Tan Swee Yiow, Keppel Land’s chief executive for its Singapore commercial business unit.

Added a City Developments spokesman: ‘While the development of green buildings may cost more, by adopting the low-energy passive facade design, we do not foresee the need to increase our present green building investment of between 2 per cent and 5 per cent of our construction cost.’

Source: Business Times, 9 Mar 2010

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