Additional $20 million of Funding for Research & Innovation Projects in the Built Environment Sector

  • The Government is committing an additional $20 million of BETA catalyst funding to sustain Research & Innovation efforts under Phase 2 of the BETA programme. 
  • The Construction Technology Innovation Laboratory (CTIL) exemplifies a long-term collaborative model for R&I and how progressive firms making significant investments in R&I can build long-term capabilities and a competitive advantage.

CTIL signing

A Research Project Agreement was signed by (seated from left:) Mr Park Jae Hyuk, Director, SEN SG; Mr Elavarasu Somasundram, CEO, TTJ Design and Engineering; A/Prof Ivan Lee, Vice President (Innovation), SIT;  Mr Yong De-Rhong, Executive Director, Woh Hup; and Ms Tan Man Ee, COO, NatSteel. The witnesses included (standing from left): Mr Kelvin Wong, CEO, BCA; Prof Chua Kee Chaing, President, SIT; Senior Minister of State Mr Tan Kiat How; and Mr Eugene Yong, Deputy Chairman, Woh Hup. (Photo: BCA) 

Mr Tan Kiat How, Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Communications and Information and the Ministry of National Development, announced that the Built Environment Technology Alliance (BETA) programme will be extended into Phase 2 with an additional $20 million of BETA Catalyst Funding to support industry-led Research & Innovation (R&I) efforts from progressive and committed BE alliances. 

Launched in 2020, Phase 1 of the BETA programme was led by progressive, needle-moving Built Environment (BE) sector firms that were ready to commit resources and pursue promising technological advancements in key construction domains.

An example is a project undertaken by the Construction Technology Innovation Laboratory (CTIL) that was launched by Woh Hup (Private Limited) and the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) in January 2021. The project “Innovative Construction Technologies for Deep Foundation and Excavation” which comprises three sub-projects, seeks to develop an ensemble of underground construction technologies. This project is undertaken by Woh Hup in collaboration with its three value-chain partners – NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd, TTJ Design & Engineering Pte Ltd and SEN SG Pte Ltd (see Annex for details).

A Research Project Agreement was signed between SIT, Woh Hup, NatSteel Holdings, TTJ Design & Engineering and SEN SG at the CTIL Technical Seminar held at SIT@Dover on 13 July. 

“We are constantly exploring innovative solutions that can translate into improvements in the construction process. We have partnered SIT in several research projects prior to setting up CTIL but there are limitations to what we can achieve on our own. We believe that the CTIL provides a common platform to better engage industry experts and like-minded partners to work collaboratively to develop capabilities and bring forth positive transformation of the BE sector,” said Woh Hup’s Executive Director, Mr Yong De-Rhong.

“SIT is delighted at the opportunity to work with industry leaders like Woh Hup, NatSteel, TTJ Design & Engineering, and SEN SG, to pull together the industry and SIT’s expertise to address key industry challenges for building structures and underground works, and translate such innovations into practical solutions for on-site adoption,” said SIT President, Professor Chua Kee Chaing

“This project exemplifies a long-term collaborative model for R&I, that will show the way forward for the rest of the industry. Woh Hup recognises that transformation requires the success of all players, as each construction project is dependent on the collective expertise of a long and complex value-chain of partners and today’s Research Project Agreement (RPA) signing ceremony formalises their mutual partnerships on this project. The Building & Construction Authority (BCA) hopes to encourage more forward-looking firms to adopt the same mindset and model when embarking on R&I,” said BCA CEO, Mr Kelvin Wong.

Progressive firms that make significant investments in R&I can build long-term capabilities and a competitive advantage. For example, this project is expected to deliver savings in a critical and relatively under-researched segment of underground civil engineering works as well as improve productivity and on-site safety. The construction cost associated with basement works can range between 4.5% - 20% of a project’s total development cost. In public infrastructure projects, the cost of underground works can easily exceed 50% of the total cost. The research being carried out could have a deep impact on the BE sector by transforming the way we build. 

Industry transformation is vital to ensure the resiliency of the BE sector. BCA will continue to press on, together with industry partners to leverage new R&I and technologies to enable the industry to emerge stronger.

Annex: Factsheet on Construction Technology Innovation Laboratory (CTIL) Project “Innovative Construction Technologies for Deep Foundation and Excavation” 

The project “Innovative Construction Technologies for Deep Foundation and Excavation” seeks to develop an ensemble of underground construction technologies. Due to the complexity of deep foundation and excavation works, a single innovation is unlikely to improve its overall productivity. The project thus combines research in inter-related areas to bring about a systems-level productivity improvement across three sub-projects that features one industry collaborator working on each.

Sub-Project 1: Innovative Earth Retaining & Stabilising Structures (ERSS): Post-tensioned Waler System

Industry Collaborator: SEN SG Pte Ltd

Conventional braced excavation systems require a complex system of structural support elements, including sheet piles, walers and struts. The sub-project’s earth-retaining and stabilising structure (ERSS) makes use of an innovative configuration to reduce the need for intermediate supporting structures, thus increasing working space and resulting in improved site productivity. 

The project is expected to result in 25-30% cost savings in civil and structure works, due to improvements in excavation productivity with more open space created on the project site.  Building on proprietary technology developed in South Korea, the project will also customise the ERSS to suit local conditions, with enhanced safety and built-in redundancy.

Sub-Project 2: High Performance Plunge-in King Post for Top-Down Building Construction 

Industry Collaborator: TTJ Design & Engineering Pte Ltd

King posts are commonly installed to support the ground floor of building development so that superstructure and subterranean works can proceed concurrently, but existing processes to install king posts are labor-intensive, subject to manual techniques and costly errors. 

This sub-project will develop high performance steel (HPS) king posts that are up to 57% lighter than conventional king posts, and proposes solutions to automate the manufacture of HPS king posts. The reduction in weight and time-savings during the manufacturing process is expected to result in 10-12% cost-savings from fabrication to installation. 

A cost-effective and simple to use smart positioning system will also be developed to guide the installation of king posts. This is expected to reduce installation time by approximately 20 days and save up to 1000 man hours for a mid-sized project using 100 king posts.

Sub-Project 3: Economic Corrosion-Resistant Concrete for Deep Foundation Elements with B600 Rebar 

Industry Collaborator: NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd

Concrete structures typically feature rebars as a reinforcement, which increase the tensile strength of the structure. The use of Grade 6006 rebars is gaining interest, as its higher strength can reduce the number of rebars used. However, Grade 600 reinforced concrete needs to overcome serviceability and durability regulations before being widely adopted by the industry. 

Through investigating various additive proportions, this sub-project aims to develop an optimal and cost-effective novel concrete that is crack and corrosion resistant, enabling the use of Grade 600 reinforced concrete. The sub-project will also simulate the design performance of the concrete under different underground conditions, for use in deep foundation works. 

If Grade 600 reinforced concrete is successful, this could result in up to 20% reduction in steel tonnage, leading to a 15-20% improvement in construction productivity.

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