Singapore’s largest integrated construction and prefabrication hub opens

Hong Leong Asia Ltd (HLA) and Sunway Construction Group Berhad (SunCon) have officially opened the HL-Sunway Prefab Hub, the largest integrated construction and prefabrication hub (ICPH) in Singapore.

The 3.8-ha facility will produce a wide range of building components, including prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC) components, precast bathroom units, precast household shelters and large panel slabs. It is capable of supplying up to 100,000 cu m of precast elements for 2,500 dwelling units annually.

Located in Punggol, the new ICPH has been built under HL-Sunway JV Pte Ltd, a 51-49 joint venture between R3 Precast (a building materials business of HL Building Materials Pte Ltd – a wholly owned subsidiary of HLA) and Sunway Concrete Products (S) Pte Ltd (a wholly owned subsidiary of Malaysia-based SunCon).

The HL-Sunway Prefab Hub is the sixth ICPH in Singapore, and the largest in terms of size and production capacity, said Desmond Lee, Singapore’s Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration, at the opening ceremony on Friday (21 July). It is the first ICPH that can produce the full range of components used in HDB (Singapore’s public housing) projects. Thus, the facility is potentially able to support upcoming build-to-order (BTO) developments across the country.

Mr Lee revealed that HDB is also exploring greater standardisation of precast components. “This allows its builders to procure components of standardised dimensions and connection details from more sources. If one source gets disrupted, builders can easily switch to alternative sources and be assured that the new components will fit into their building plans.”

Such efforts will benefit precasters too, added Mr Lee. “Standardisation can speed up the production process by reducing the downtime required for change of moulds or manual adjustments. It also allows precasters to reap economies of scale and lower their production costs, enabling the industry to further develop capabilities in emerging areas.”

Rising efficiency with automation

In line with the local built environment sector’s transition to higher construction productivity and a healthier and cleaner work environment, indoor machining such as rebar mesh fabrication machines are installed at the new ICPH to increase productivity and safety. At the same time, this streamlines manufacturing processes whilst reducing quality non-conformances and increasing the overall production throughput.

Neo Choon Keong, deputy CEO for industry development at Building and Construction Authority (BCA), said, “ICPHs are in support of industry transformation, in particular the move towards advanced manufacturing and assembly. The ICPHs will help to raise construction productivity through wider adoption of prefabrication, and enhance precast supply resilience. To achieve the full benefits, the industry must design and construct with greater standardisation of the precast components, to make construction more manufacturing-like. This will enable the adoption of robotics and automation solutions in both off-site production and on-site installation.”

Another highlight of the HL-Sunway Prefab Hub is the automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS), a robotic warehousing system that enables precast components to be automatically stored and retrieved without the need for manual labour. With 26 production lines and two automated precast production systems, overall productivity is expected to improve by up to 80% when the facility is operating at full capacity.

“Through the use of cranes and mechanical arms, precast components are automatically moved from the production line to storage racks, resulting in a remarkable 80% increase in labour productivity,” said Mr Lee. “This will also create good jobs for Singaporeans. 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.”

Tan Sri Chew Chee Kin, president of Sunway Group, commented, “Sunway and Hong Leong Asia share a common vision and aspiration in our journey towards innovation, efficiency and sustainable development for the built environment. This hub represents the seamless integration of cutting-edge technology, intelligent design, and the expertise of our skilled workforce. It signifies a paradigm shift in the built environment sector today by harnessing the use of prefabrication and modular construction methods.”

Moving forward, Mr Lee pointed out that “the demand for precast will increase as Singapore continues to push for design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA) as the default method of construction. For instance, BCA enhanced the Buildability Framework in April 2022 to require all large building projects to adopt DfMA technologies.”

The establishments of ICPHs will boost the resilience of the local construction industry, Mr Lee reiterated. “The supply disruptions we experienced during the pandemic underscore the importance of maintaining some precast production capabilities locally. Building up our ICPH capabilities has allowed us to localise the production of critical components. This makes our supply chains more resilient so that construction works can continue, even if imports are disrupted.”

Green features

Apart from its manpower-efficient automation technologies, the HL-Sunway Prefab Hub is a Green Mark Gold certified building, awarded by BCA under the Green Mark for Non-Residential Buildings NRB: 2015 scheme.

The ICPH employs greener practices for construction processes. The tower batching plant with a flying bucket has adopted green building best practices with enclosed raw materials storage and misting spray to lessen dust pollution. Its holistic system design approach also provides a wastewater recycling function which will reduce the water footprint and improve operational sustainability at the facility.

The rooftop solar photovoltaic panels supply 25% of ICPH’s energy consumption and is expected to generate 1,165 MWh of electricity a year, enough to power 288 four-room HDB households.

Furthermore, the facility has been designed to include natural ventilation and use of daylight to maximise airflow and mitigate heat, which will help to ensure the comfort of its workers.

Stephen Ho Kiam Kong, CEO of HLA, said, “HLA is delighted to have had the opportunity to integrate digital and green technologies into our suite of building solutions that not only build resiliency into our supply chain but also drive the transformation of the built environment. HL-Sunway Prefab Hub ushers in a new chapter of the built environment sector’s green journey and we are pleased and honoured to be a key player for sustainable, advanced manufacturing in Singapore.”

All images: HL-Sunway JV