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Building smart for the future

Australian built environment companies have contributed to Singapore's landscape and through innovation and strategic partnerships, grow their capabilities and business across the region.

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Artist's impression of the upcoming Paya Lebar Quarter, one of Lendlease's latest projects in Singapore.

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The Global Switch data centre in Woodlands, for which Aurecon was contracted to provide mechanical and electrical engineering services to its contractor. It is the first project in Singapore to use prefabricated mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) modular techniques on a large scale.

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The strong calibre of Singapore's workforce has also been crucial to Aurecon's success, says Aurecon's Philip Motteram.

AUSTRALIA and Singapore, both developed countries, share many similarities and opportunities for collaboration to develop and advance the built environment sector, as new challenges arise from global economic and social change.

"In many ways, the challenges facing our economies, and those of the region are ones that need the best built environment solutions," says Australian High Commissioner Bruce Gosper.

He also acknowledges the need to leverage expertise from emerging technology such as cleantech, property tech, data analytics and Internet of Things (IoT), geospatial services and mapping and sensor development to support the industry too.

"Infrastructure and major construction can increase productivity, but increasingly we are seeing the integration of digital infrastructure and the built environment driving growth in key sectors," he adds.

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Some of Australia's globally recognised construction companies such as Lendlease and Aurecon have long gained a foothold in the Asian market by first establishing bases in Singapore nearly 50 years ago.

Property infrastructure group Lendlease's first project was building HDB flats for Singapore and it opened its office here in 1973. It now employs more than 800 people in Southeast Asia, including 500 in Singapore.

"Lendlease identifies Singapore as a key gateway city, one that can typically withstand property and economic cycles. This greatly helps in increasing resiliency to our portfolio of projects, including Paya Lebar Quarter," says Mr Justin Gabbani, chief financial officer, Asia.

The soon-to-open Paya Lebar Quarter is a S$3 billion, four-hectare development comprising three commercial towers, a retail centre and 429 apartments. Lendlease's portfolio also includes malls such as 313@somerset, Jem, Parkway Parade and numerous other retail and office buildings in Singapore.

Innovation is an integral part of the company's ethos, and it worked with Jones Lang Lasalle to promote and support proptech startups through its Propell Asia accelerator launched in June 2018. A first-of-its-kind proptech accelerator, it provided mentoring and education to selected startups.

The startups received a S$20,000 cash grant and pitched their products to an industry audience at the end of the programme. "Innovation is one of our core values and it is change that adds value for customers and Lendlease. It is second nature here," says Mr Gabbani.

The company has utilised various new processes such as Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD) at the Paya Lebar Quarter site, tapping on the use of technologies such as drones and Building Information Management (BIM) technology to increase efficiency and accuracy.

FOCUS ON INNOVATION

At engineering and infrastructure advisory company Aurecon, too, innovation plays a big part as it delivers projects such as Global Switch's new data centre in Woodlands.

It is the first project to use prefabricated mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) modular techniques on a large scale. It applied a new Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) methodology that increased productivity, improved quality and made the construction process faster and safer.

"We believe that our innovations should be shared with industry too and we've hosted seminars discussing our best practices and lessons from this data centre project with our peers and clients, thereby boosting the industry's confidence in adopting prefabricated MEP systems for higher efficiency and quality," says Philip Motteram, Aurecon's Technical Director - Built Environment (Singapore).

He adds that the strong calibre of Singapore's workforce has also been crucial to Aurecon's success, in addition to its strategic position as a gateway to South-east Asia.

In March 2018, Aurecon opened a Regional Centre of Excellence for Digital Engineering, supported by the Economic Development Board. It will invest S$3 million over three years to accelerate digital engineering and its adoption in the construction industry in Asia.

The Centre's experts, who are members of Aurecon's Digital Futures team, utilise data analytics, artificial intelligence and IoT to provide innovative solutions for Asian construction firms.

"The decision to establish our Digital Futures team into Asia was driven by increasing regional demand for digital transformation in the building and construction sector. The engineering and construction industry is not spared from digital disruption, which is changing the way we work and live Whether it is a Smart Building or a Smart Nation, we need to reimagine engineering so as to shape and design a better future," says Mr Motteram.