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The International Built Environment Week (IBEW) 2020 kicked off on 1 September with a month-long of industry engagement and networking.

Opening the digital event, Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration, said the government will set aside $20 million to help the built environment industry adopt digital tools to keep workers and work sites safe. He also announced the development of the Intelligent National Productivity and Quality Specifications (iNPQS) platform, a cloud-based system comprising templates of project specifications cocreated with industry partners for the industry.

The Spotlight Plenary, themed “Emerging Stronger Through Innovation”, saw industry experts and business leaders discussing the impact of the pandemic on the built environment industry and ways companies could address challenges by being nimble to change, including leveraging technology across the entire value chain.

Typically, the built environment industry is “the first to experience any upturn but also the last to feel a downturn”, said Mr Wong Heang Fine, Group CEO of Surbana Jurong. Thus, while the industry is already feeling the pain from the pandemic, he expects the greatest negative impact to hit in 2021.

Business leaders including Bernie Devine, Regional Director of Yardi Systems and Damien Dhellemmes, Cluster President of Schneider Electric for Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, agreed on the importance of focusing on digital innovation to drive change and prepare for new opportunities post pandemic. Companies should leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) to business processes to solve problems and deliver better services to customers. Changing the mindset of employees is also crucial to encourage innovation so that they are not afraid to fail, Mr Devine added.

Real Estate industry: Opportunities and Challenges Post-COVID

Industry leaders from Singapore and the region also converged at the Regional Real Estate Developers’ Associations Plenary to share insights on challenges facing the property industry and how business practices will likely evolve as a result of the pandemic.

With Asia accounting for about half of the world’s population, the region’s economic growth is expected to drive wealth and consumption in the long term despite current volatility. Major beneficiaries of this growth include infrastructure developers and the real estate industry.

Rapid urbanisation across Asia has accelerated climate change, a challenge that the real estate sector must mitigate, said Architect Tai Lee Siang, Executive Director of BuildSG at the Building and Construction Authority (BCA). Other major issues include manpower shortages and limited improvement in productivity and technology over decades, he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the property industry hard. Across Asia, construction came to a virtual standstill earlier this year while occupancy rates for retail and office properties continue to plummet. This has accelerated the industry towards digitalisation and adopting improved construction methodologies to emerge stronger.

For example, Malaysia’s construction companies are increasingly keen to adopt Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) to reduce dependency on foreign workers, said Dato Ir. Soam Heng Choon, President of the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association Malaysia. “Most of the PPVC (Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction) that is used in Singapore is manufactured in Johor Bahru, so why not use that in Malaysia as well?” he said.

Across Asia, the industry is eyeing an urban renewal post pandemic. This includes the development of greener buildings characterised by improved ventilation to reduce the incidence of disease transmission, a greater focus by governments on initiatives to improve air quality and adoption of new technologies to improve productivity.

Thinking out of the box

The Built Environment Accelerate to Market Programme (BEAMP), a joint initiative by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), Enterprise Singapore and JTC Corporation, brings innovators and companies together to solve pressing problems faced by the industry.

A total of 14 innovators pitched over two days during Week 1 of IBEW 2020, showcasing promising solutions for the built environment industry. Thereafter, innovators networked virtually with investors, potential customers and pilot hosts who were keen to provide site trials for solutions under development. A remaining eight innovators will pitch at IBEW 2020 this week.

International Built Environment Week 2020: Emerging Stronger through Innovation

From digitalisation and sustainability to advanced construction and smart facilities management, be a part of the global discussion on the built environment’s trends and industry updates today. Sign up for IBEW online now – registration is free.