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ICE HKA engineering insights from a visit to Singapore

04 March 2020

A delegation from ICE Hong Kong Association recently visited engineering organisations in Singapore to gain insights into sustainable development and smart futures. Here we present some of the findings. 

ICE HKA engineering insights from a visit to Singapore

Design, integrated digital delivery and sustainable buildings were all topics for discussion during ICE HKA's visit to Singapore in November 2019 to gain essential engineering insights.

The 2019 ICE HKA Singapore Delegation theme, titled, 'Engineering of Sustainable Development and Smart Futures', gave delegates the opportunity to meet with the authorities, local consultants and contractors, as well as witnessing some exciting projects, including Waste-to-Energy Facility, Desalination Plant and Modular Integrated Construction (MiC).

The trip began with the visit to the Changi Water Reclamation Plant (CWRP). Jacobs Engineering Group Inc., presented the project background and discussed some of the major challenges of the project, including tidal influence during excavation on reclaimed land and interfaces with the plants in operation.

Apart from the treatment elements like lamella clarifier and compartments for membrane filtrations, they highlighted some measures adopted to tackle the above-mentioned challenges, such as using extra-long sheet piles for excavation to protect the nearby existing facilities.

Cost effective technologies

Delegates next visited the Building & Construction Authority (BCA) and listened to their insights regarding the cost effective technologies adopted in their industry.

BCA is a legal authority that manages the construction industry in compliance with ordinances which play a similar role to Buildings Department in Hong Kong. The BCA also directs the industry to follow government strategy.

BCA introduced transformation maps showing three key areas to be promoted to the industry: Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA), Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD) and Green Building. BCA mainly talked about the DfMA in this visit. The concept of DfMA is to optimize construction from manufacturing off-site to installation on-site. One of the methods is to adopt pre-fabricated pre-finished volumetric construction (PPVC), which is also known as modular integrated construction in Hong Kong.

The advantages of using PPVC include time and manpower saving. Some completed projects were shown and around three months and 20% manpower were saved. In order to drive these schemes, the Singapore government has provided financial incentives for the private sector comprising funding for workforce training and advanced technology adoption.

As for the construction side, the delegates visited Teambuild (Fabrication Yard & Erection Site) and Moderna Homes (Fabrication Yard & Erection Site). Both of these site visits introduced two types of PPVC module systems - Reinforced Concrete Module and Steel-Concrete Composite Module. The delegates learnt the advantages of higher construction speed, productivity and quality control.

In addition, the delegates had another two site visits to the environmental infrastructures, Marina East Desalination Plant and 5th Incineration Plant at Tuas. These two projects operate the DBOO model, and both were awarded to Keppel Seghers.

Moreover, the delegates learned about engineering software development by visiting YML Engineering Pte Ltd. (YWL). YWL took the Widening of the Keppel Viaduct project as an example of their schematic design and the considerations against the site constraints.

Within an area between existing carriageways, YWL designed additional structures and an independent foundation system to transfer the load path. Eventually they successfully optimised the design of the viaduct extension with less impacts to the existing structures and traffic system.

Furthermore, YWL introduced the control measures during construction. Pre-cast elements were proposed to reduce the amount of overhead cast-in-situ works.

Integrating digital technologies

The delegates then visited a software development company, Timble. During their visit, they introduced their advanced technologies and digital design software.

‘Tekla Structures’ is software that provides a virtual view to imitate real structural details during design. This enables engineers to design more accurately and to coordinate the structural details with draftsmen and contractors.

In order to keep advancing and to apply STEM concepts to the construction industry, Trimble advocated digital transformation of the construction industry. Trimble displayed another smart technology, the VR inspection device that enables RC details to be read immediately on site. Such innovative technology would eventually improve the connectivity between design drawings and site conditions.

Both Hong Kong and Singapore are developed cities; they possess some similar characteristics, dense population,shortage of land and natural resources, high labour costs and pollution mitigation.

The Singapore delegation provided the delegates with the opportunity to gain an enhanced understanding of sustainable development through a series of technical visits which will enable returning delegates to develop a better future in Hong Kong.

  • Mandy Lai, HKA G&S Immediate Past Chairman