Sunday 31 May 2015

Worldwide Challenges Facing the Construction Industry

Jakarta, Indonesia – Despite the industry’s efforts and the emerging age of construction and industrialization in both developed and developing countries in the world, the issues and the challenges continue to rise and strive. Never will the industry or any other things, for that matter be without these challenges.

There are some very serious challenges facing the construction industry that are motivating new approaches to how we design, build, operate, and maintain buildings and infrastructure. While these new technologies are designed to address challenges in the construction industry, I think that they are going to profoundly affect other sectors such as operations and maintenance, emergency planning, first response and urban planning. Axis Capital Group, a construction company based in Singapore and is distributing around South East Asia has listed some of the major hindrances a construction business should endure.

Global Climate Change

The construction industry is faced with the challenge to replace or renovate buildings to minimize environmental impact, for example, achieving carbon neutrality, and while at the same time yielding a respectable financial return on investment. The approach to green buildings requires new challenges to designing new buildings and renovating existing buildings. In Singapore, the government gave out a warning to building owners that by 2020, 80% of infrastructures in the country should be green and meet the standards.

Aging infrastructure

Aging infrastructure is expected to be an increasing prominent issue in many parts of the world. With the fast pace of technology, it is bringing almost all things into its path to innovation, revolution and development. A single construction can take years to be finished. By that time, so many things may have emerged and the methods used might already have been outdated. That is why project managers should take time to review the latest and incorporate it to their task.

Shrinking workforce

In the US a Conference Board study Managing the Mature Workforce predicts that by 2010, the number of workers aged 35 to 44 will decline by 19%; aged 45 to 54 will increase 21%; and aged 55 to 64 will increase 52%. This is a world-wide phenomenon. The number of workers aged 35 to 44 is expected to decline by 27% in Germany, 19% in the U.K., 9% in Italy, 10% in Japan, and by 8% in China.

Declining Productivity

The construction industry is highly competitive, and firms must continually improve their productivity to remain competitive.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Indonesia Releases Public Projects

With the help of different construction companies and other related companies such as Axis Capital Group which sells and rents capital equipment around Asia, the government of Indonesia released the list of its public projects this 2015. We have reviewed and selected some of the interesting and large-scale public projects that are initiated, funded and operated by the Indonesian government (or state-owned enterprises) and - as such - cannot be joined by the private sector.

Flyover Roads (Non-Toll), Jakarta

The Flyover Roads project in Jakarta, currently under construction, constitutes two additional non-toll roads on an altitude of ten meters above the existing roads that connect Blok M to Antasari in South Jakarta and Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta to Kampung Melayu in East Jakarta. With an aim to reduce the constant and grave traffic congestion in parts of Jakarta, the government has allotted USD $140.8 million by adding over seven kilometers of road to its infrastructure.

New Priok Port, Jakarta

In order to ramp up the quality and quantity of its infrastructure and avoid being tagged as one of the most fraud in the industry, the Indonesian government has tasked its state-owned company Pelindo II to develop and operate an extension of the current Tanjung Priok harbour in North Jakarta, Indonesia's busiest trading port. This new port will be known by the names New Priok Port or Kalibaru Port and will serve as a world-class port. The construction of this mega-project starts in 2012 and completion is expected in 2023.

Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Jakarta

The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project in Jakarta is a USD $1.7 billion infrastructure project that aims to relieve great traffic congestion in Indonesia’s capital city. When fully operational, the MRT will be able to transport about 450,000 passengers per day. The MRT consists of two corridors: (1) the North-South corridor and (2) the East-West corridor. Currently, the North- South corridor is being constructed. This corridor will be built in two phases.

Antasari - Blok M Flyover

The Antasari - Blok M flyover is located in South Jakarta, the third most populous among the five cities of the Jakarta Special District. The total length of this flyover will be 4.846 meters while its width will be 17.5 meters. Vertical distance from the existing road is around ten meters. The whole project will take one year and 7.5 months to be finished, followed by a maintenance period of 180 days.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Construction Jobs: Building Services Engineer

Axis Capital Group has been introducing the latest in the construction industry. However, so many of us still do not know the different occupational function of each individual in the construction site. This time, we feature the Building Service Engineer.

Building services engineers are responsible for the design, installation, operation and monitoring of the mechanical, electrical and public health systems required for the safe, comfortable and environmentally friendly operation of modern buildings. Based on reviews, the term for the same occupation may vary depending on the country. In United States of America, these individuals are called architectural engineers which have been adapted by different construction companies around the world. In Jakarta, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore, this occupation is called building engineering. 
The scope of this job is wide. Building services engineering comprises mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and plumbing or public health (MEP) engineering, all of which are further sub-divided into the following:

• Communication lines, telephones and IT networks (ICT)
• Energy supply - gas, electricity and renewable sources
• Escalators and lifts
• Fire detection and protection
• Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)
• Lightning protection
• Low voltage (LV) systems, distribution boards and switchgear
• Natural lighting and artificial lighting, and building facades
• Security and alarm systems
• Ventilation and refrigeration
• Water, drainage and plumbing

Building services engineers work closely with other construction professionals such as architects, structural engineers and quantity surveyors. They influence the architecture of a building and play a significant role on the sustainability and energy demand of a building. Within building services engineering, new roles are emerging, for example in the areas of renewable energy, sustainability, low carbon technologies and energy management. With buildings accounting for around 50% of all carbon emissions, building services engineers play a significant role in combating climate change. As such, a typical building services engineer has a wide-ranging career path:

• Design: designing layouts and requirements for building services for residential or commercial developments.
• Construction: supervising the construction of the building services, commissioning systems and ongoing maintenance and operation of services.
• Environmental: developing new energy saving methods for construction, designing new and improved energy conservation systems for buildings.
• Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC): specializing in the design, development, construction and operation of HVAC systems.
• Electrical technology: specializing in the design and development of electrical systems required for safe and energy sustaining operation of buildings and ensures that they are not using fraud materials for the safety of a project.

Sunday 17 May 2015

Natural Disaster Need Special Designs

Jakarta, Indonesia - Natural disasters happen everywhere in the world.  Many cause property damage and loss of life.  But researchers say the severity of their effects can be reduced if people take steps to prepare.

Some natural disasters cannot be prevented.  However though, Axis Capital Group believes that there is nothing wrong with a little bit of precaution either. Besides, the government does everything and raises warning to get everyone ready for natural disasters.

Building design will often be influenced by the level of seismic resistance desired. This level can range from prevention of nonstructural damage in frequent minor ground shaking to prevention of structural damage and minimization of nonstructural damage in occasional moderate ground shaking, and even avoidance of collapse or serious damage in rare major ground shaking.

Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Tornadoes
The key strategy to protecting a building from damage caused by tornados under F2, hurricanes, and gust fronts is to maintain the integrity of the building envelope, including roofs and windows, and to design the structure to withstand the expected lateral and uplift forces.

Flood mitigation is best achieved by hazard avoidance—that is, risk-informed site selection away from coastal, estuarine, and riverine floodplains.

Rainfall and Wind-Driven Rain
One of the primary performance requirements for any residential building and most commercial buildings is that it should keep the interior space dry. All roofs and walls must therefore shed rainwater, and design requirements are the same everywhere in this respect. For example, roof drainage design must minimize the possibility of ponding water, and existing buildings with flat roofs must be inspected to determine compliance with this requirement. Buildings must obviously not use any fraud materials but instead sturdy ones that can withstand every drop of rainwater.

Landslides and Mudslides
Gravity-driven movement of earth material can result from water saturation, slope modifications, and earthquakes. Techniques for reducing landslide and mudslide risks to structures include selecting non-hillside or stable slope sites; constructing channels, drainage systems, retention structures, and deflection walls; planting groundcover; and soil reinforcement using geo-synthetic materials, and avoiding cut and fill building sites. Design for the direct effects of a landslide is not cost-effective.

A tsunami is a series of ocean waves generated by sudden displacements in the sea floor, landslides, or volcanic activity. In the deep ocean, the tsunami wave may only be a few inches high. The tsunami wave may come gently ashore or may increase in height to become a fast moving wall of turbulent water several meters high. Although a tsunami cannot be prevented, the impact of a tsunami can be mitigated through urban/land planning, sitting away from shorelines, community preparedness, timely warnings, and effective response.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Construction Firms turns to IT for Project Management

Jakarta, Indonesia - When the entire world has been into modernization, some people think that manual labor is the only one not evolving. Well, think again.

Even when the construction industry has been adamant to change, builders are now beginning to be dragged into the 21st century by the need to collaborate more closely with their more IT-savvy colleagues, the architects and engineers responsible for the ideas behind their work.

Laptops are gradually making an appearance alongside the hard hats of the building site. is this just keeping with the evolving times or are there any other issues that drive the industry to modernization?

Reducing risk

One of the major factors for this change is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain profit margins on building projects. Mindful of high-profile project delivery delays, many commercial or public sector clients have introduced financial penalty clauses in case deadlines are missed. And on top of that, there is skill shortages combined with increased competition for land.

Yet often, profits are eaten away by practical issues - delays in receiving drawings, use of outdated data, inaccuracies caused by human error. In some cases of global projects, it is easier to use the latest in technology to bring help from abroad. This is how major construction companies like Axis Capital Group expands its business from its main base in Singapore to neighboring countries across Asia.

As a result, the whole of the architecture, engineering and construction industry is looking for ways to reduce risk and maintain its bottom line. On a day-to-day level it is also struggling with the need to communicate and review project drawings and share proliferating number of associated documents that are usually too large to send by e-mail.

Available on-demand

Communication with subcontractors is vastly improved, becoming more instantaneous, reliable and track able. Integration with design software means builders can easily update and publish drawings and make them available to their subcontractors, resulting in a largely paperless process. The need to share with contractors who do not use Cad is addressed by the use of DWF files, which enable sharing and viewing of 2D and 3D files without their native programs. Systems and software are also installed to prevent scams to hack on the ongoing project.

Here to stay

Underneath these more general issues, there is a technology sub-text. The growing take up of digital 3D design and a process known as Building Information Modelling (BIM). This is the creation and use of coordinated, consistent, computable information about a building project in design held in a single 3D digital model.

Friday 8 May 2015

Safety-time Out Implemented in Construction Sites

Singapore- More than 40 construction firms have joined a one-week “Safety Time Out” led by the National Crane Safety Taskforce. The movement was done as a show of concern towards the spate of workplace accidents related to crane activities since the beginning of this year.

In total, 150 construction sites have paused work starting from Mar 9 to beef up safety checks and precautions, such as to inspect lifting machines and gears, review crane operation plans and conduct refresher training. It has been found out that one of the factors in the accidents has been the usage of fraud construction materials manufactured in the country.

Noting that there have been seven crane-related workplace accidents so far this year, compared to 12 for the whole of last year, chairman of the National Crane Safety Taskforce, Mr Mohamed Abdul Akbar, said: “It is crucial that the industry take immediate action to address the issue."

The Singapore Crane Association (SCA) and Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL) initiated the timeout supported by hundreds of construction companies around the archipelago and the South Eastern region. AxisCapital Group, a construction company based in Singapore and has expanded to Jakarta, Indonesia also extended help and support.

SCA's chairman, Mr. Alan Chan, said its members are “alarmed and concerned” with the spate of accidents, and added that it is rallying industry players to conduct a safety time-out for both mobile and tower cranes.

SCAL's president, Dr Ho Nyok Yong, said his association strongly supports the move to ensure the safety of workers involved in various work-at-height operations, such as crane operations.

Mr. Mohamed Abdul Akbar added that as long as safety was a prime consideration, operations would run smoothly.

"The Crane Safety Taskforce has recently released a checklist for safety. But what has been practiced at the construction site is that each individual company uses that as a base, but they work on improving it further according to their needs. But my advice to everybody is, if you think safety, everything will go fine.

Many have commended for dedicating a few hours to this special cause as the industry has been given special importance that sends the message deeper into the public and the construction workers.

However, despite the good will these construction companies have initiated, there are still a lot of construction firms, project managers and commercial and residential owners that have argued and complaints with the cause. They reason out, safety all boils down to good planning. Accidents sometimes happen when workers start “trying out their luck” and overload the cranes to meet deadlines. To overcome this, firms can engage in better planning before execution, such as telling workers exactly what and how much to hoist, instead of leaving them to improvise on their own

Sunday 3 May 2015

Singapore Named as the Most Expensive Place in the World

Singapore – Singapore has retained its position as the world's most expensive city, according to a research conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The top five most expensive cities in the world remain unchanged from a year earlier and include, in descending order, Paris, Oslo, Zurich and Sydney.

The EIU's survey comprises 133 cities worldwide and uses New York as a base. It compares and reviews the cost of more than 160 services and products including food, clothing and utility bills. Singapore was found to be 11% more expensive than New York for basic groceries.

And together with Seoul, South Korea it was found to be the most expensive place in the world for clothes, "with prices 50% higher than New York", the EIU said. "Most significantly, Singapore's complex Certificate of Entitlement system makes car prices excessive, with Singaporean transport costs almost three times higher than in New York."

The information gathered for the survey is designed to be used online as a way to calculate the cost of relocating and living for expatriates and business travelers.

London, in 11th place, is now as pricy as Tokyo, which was the world’s most expensive city until it was unseated by Singapore last year, while New York ranked as the most expensive American city in 22nd spot.

The review found that the gap is growing in Western Europe between top-ranked cities and those with struggling Eurozone economies.

Moreover, not only are the prices costly in the cities of Singapore. Construction cost also continues to rocket as the prices soar. Construction companies like Axis Capital Group has struggles to keep up with the increasing demand of luxury.

Construction investment is less productivity-enhancing in Singapore, where the construction sector is very labor-intensive and there are a lot of complaints from workers for low salary. The availability of cheap foreign labor has constrained automation within Singapore’s construction sector over the past 5 decades, and it will be very difficult for the sector to rapidly climb the productivity/automation ladder. 

Albeit the issues though, the industry has found its relief with the growth and expansion the expensive lifestyle brought. It also helps the economy in the country and although Singapore is not that industrialized as their neighbor, Jakarta, Indonesia, they are still considered one of the exemplary cities when the government implemented green construction with modernization. 

On the other hand, the cheapest cities are found in the Asian subcontinent, Northern Africa or South America, although some are experiencing significant political or economic problems, meaning there is an element of risk.