Concrete plans to sustain construction

Your future home is likely to be constructed with less concrete as the Government seeks to step up the use of alternative and sustainable materials such as steel, glass and aluminium.

The aim is to reduce the use of concrete as a key construction material by 30 to 50 per cent over the next five years, through a Sustainable Construction Master Plan laid out by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

The plan comes in the wake of disruption in the supply of sand and granite — key components of concrete — following restrictions imposed by the Indonesian government.

The restrictions caused the price of concrete to jump from about $70 per cubic metre to between $180 and $200 now.

Steel is at least 10 per cent more expensive than the current cost of concrete, but BCA chief executive Dr John Keung said the gap between the two raw materials is “fast narrowing”.

Unveiling the BCA plan yesterday, Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu said the construction industry, in the long term, “must adopt sustainable construction in a comprehensive manner to reduce its vulnerability to disruptions in supply of essential materials”.

Over the next three months, the BCA will work with industry partners and relevant agencies to review existing rules and regulations.

For example, the BCA hopes to introduce a new code to encourage the use of recycled building materials — such as recycled concrete — in construction.

The BCA is also working with relevant agencies, such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Fire Safety and Shelter Department, to accord priority to amendment plans for on-going projects that are switching to sustainable designs and materials.

Construction standards will also be reviewed, including those for manufactured steel.

Currently, the steel allowed here for structural construction is based on British standards. But the BCA said it would release, in the next three months, a change in guidelines which will allow for other standards of steel and the import of steel from sources such as the United States or Japan.

Industry experts agreed that the move towards sustainable construction methods would be good for the industry.

DP Architects director Tai Lee Siang said the use of steel would bring about a cleaner and faster construction process. “In terms of long-term sustainability and recycle ability, steel is also better than concrete,” he added.

Mr Desmond Hill, president of the Singapore Contractors Association, said he would like to see developers become more flexible in the use of recycled building materials for non-structural components. This would help promote the use of sustainable materials in construction, he said.

On the manpower front, the BCA will run more courses to equip practitioners with better understanding of sustainable construction.

It is also in discussion with local universities to strengthen the curriculum on structural steel design.

Ms Fu also added that mining activity could start at the Kekek Granite Quarry in Pulau Ubin in three to six months. Reopening the quarry is part of the government’s plans to make up for the granite shortfall facing Singapore.

Source: Today, 24 April 2007

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