Singapore Government Makes a Big Push Towards DfMA

In March last year, then Minister of State for National Development Zaqy Mohammad announced in Parliament that the Singapore Government would target a 70% adoption rate for DfMA, or Design for Manufacturing & Assembly, in the Built Environment Sector by 2025. Current Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How confirmed in Parliament a few days ago on March 05 2021 confirmed that DfMA adoption has doubled since 2017 and is on track to be 39% in 2020.

These are aggressive targets and achievements, and DfMA is being prioritised by the government, and the Ministry of National Development (MND) in particular, to answer uniquely local challenges to the Singaporean built environment sector: namely, the growing demand for energy-efficient infrastructure, the heavy dependence of the local industry on foreign workers, and the need for cleaner, quiter, and productive construction in the city.

Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, or DfMA for short, is an engineering and design methodology aimed at increasing construction productivity by adopting a holistic approach to the project and prefabricate components ahead of assembly with the objective to lower costs, make assembly easier, and reduce labour intensity on site. All of these are obvious benefits to the local construction industry, especially in light of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. It involves major technologies such as:

  1. Advanced Precast Concrete System, which involves prefabricated concrete that adheres to the “3S” principles–Standardisation, Simplicity, and Single;
  2. Mass Engineered Timber, which is the use of engineered wood products that are enhanced for structural integrity; and
  3. Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction, which creates 3-dimensional modules are prepared off-site with fixtures and finishings and then assembled on-site.

The government recognises the value of DfMA as a productivity enhancer in Singapore while simultaneously hedging against the challenges from COVID-19 and the future. Consequently, it has made major resource and financing commitments to empower Singaporean businesses to adopt DfMA. In March 2020, $120m was allocated to encourage the adoption of DfMA in projects launched by the end of that year. This month, in March 2021, MND has confirmed that the flagship $850m Construction Productivity and Capability Fund (CPCF) will be extended until March 2022, and local construction firms can access up to 80% financing from the government to enhance their productivity improvements involving DfMA and other digitalisation technologies.   

Another reason why DfMA is the apple of the government’s eye is because it fits in well with broader digitalisation strategies being employed–namely Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD) and Building Information Modelling (BIM). BCA has rolled out substantial training resources for BIM and DfMA and MND has set aside $19m until January 2023 to support SMEs in adopting digital tools and accessing training for employees to realise the exciting synergies from DfMA and BIM.

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