Largest construction and prefabrication hub in S’pore can support upcoming BTO projects: Desmond Lee

An automated concrete spreader at the HL-Sunway Prefab Hub, a new integrated construction and prefabrication hub that opened on Friday. PHOTO: HL-SUNWAY JV

- By Rosalind Ang, UPDATED JUL 22, 2023, 12:05 AM

Largest construction and prefabrication hub in S’pore can support upcoming BTO projects: Desmond Lee

SINGAPORE - A new integrated construction and prefabrication hub (ICPH) – the largest in Singapore – will enable more precast building components to be made locally and potentially support upcoming Build-To-Order (BTO) projects across the island. 

The HL-Sunway Prefab Hub can produce up to 100,000 cubic m of precast components per year, enough to complete about 17 blocks of flats, said Minister for National Development Desmond Lee at the opening ceremony on Friday.

It is the first of six such hubs here that can produce the full range of components used in Housing Board projects, such as household shelters and prefabricated bathroom units, he added.

The facility in Punggol Barat Lane, which spans 3.8ha, is a joint venture by mainboard-listed Hong Leong Asia and Malaysia’s Sunway Construction Group. Hong Leong Asia owns 51 per cent, and Sunway Construction Group owns the remaining 49 per cent. 

The hub uses technology to automate the production of building components. One such feature is an automated mesh fabrication system to produce welded steel bar mesh used to reinforce concrete used in construction.

There is also an automated storage and retrieval system, which is a robotic warehousing system that stores building components. These components can be retrieved by machines when they are needed for projects.

Mr Lee, who is also Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration, said the supply disruptions experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic underscore the importance of maintaining some precast production capabilities locally. 
Building up Singapore’s ICPH capabilities has allowed Singapore to localise the production of critical components, he added. “This makes our supply chains more resilient so that construction work can continue even if imports are disrupted.”

With the large number of BTO projects under way or in the pipeline, HDB is exploring greater standardisation of precast components, Mr Lee said.

Builders will be able to procure components with standardised dimensions and connection details from more sources. If one source gets disrupted, builders can easily switch to other sources without disrupting their building plans.

Standardisation can also speed up the production process for manufacturers of precast components by reducing the downtime required to change moulds or make manual adjustments, said Mr Lee.

“It also allows precasters to reap economies of scale and lower their production costs, enabling the industry to further develop capabilities in emerging areas.”

Greater use of automation and innovation in the construction industry will create more job opportunities for Singaporeans, he added. 

“Increased automation and digitalisation will benefit our workers by opening up opportunities for them to move from more physically demanding roles to higher-skilled jobs that pay better.”

At the HL-Sunway ICPH, for example, the use of cranes and mechanical arms automates the movement of precast components from the production line to storage racks. This increases labour productivity by 80 per cent, said the minister.

The use of automation in ICPHs also creates a safer and more pleasant work environment for engineers and production workers, he added. “This can help attract a new generation of talent into the construction industry.”

A truck loader at HL-Sunway Prefab Hub lifts large panel slabs for delivery to construction sites. PHOTO: HL-SUNWAY JV

Hong Leong Asia chief executive Stephen Ho highlighted energy-saving and sustainable features of the new hub, such as a wastewater recycling function built into the tower batching plant, which enables wastewater to be reused.

Over 1,700 solar panels have been installed on the roof of the hub, “harnessing solar energy for our operations which will substitute 25 per cent of our energy consumption”, said Mr Ho.

The reduction in carbon emissions is equivalent to the planting of 7,700 trees, he added.

Hong Leong Asia did not provide the cost of building the facility.

Shares of the company closed 1.6 per cent down at 61 cents, before news of the opening of the facility was published.