SINGAPORE — By the time they are hoisted up by cranes and assembled “Lego-style” to form a building, these prefabricated units are already fitted with carpeting and other plush fixtures found in a hotel room.
Using this prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC) method, the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport hotel has nearly halved the needed manpower to construct its new extension, and reduced the time required for on-site works, to a third of the time needed by conventional methods. Other projects adopting the PPVC construction method include Nanyang Technological University’s North Hill Hostel, a City Development Limited executive condominium The Brownstone EC at Canberra Drive, and JTC Space@Tuas.
The extension of the hotel, developed by OUE Limited, will be the first private sector commercial building to be completed using the PPVC method.
The units were fabricated in Shanghai, China, before it was shipped to Singapore, to be assembled on site. An average of 10 PPVC modules are assembled per day from 10pm to 5am. During a construction milestone event today (Feb 11), OUE said the PPVC method significantly reduced manpower required on site by 40 per cent, from 75 workers, when using conventional construction techniques, to only 45 workers with the PPVC method.
Now, it only takes just three or four days to construct a floor, compared to 14 to 21 days using conventional construction methods. Although changes to the room designs have led to a six-month delay for the project’s completion, OUE Limited said the project would still be completed more quickly using PPVC method, compared to conventional construction techniques, as it would only take four months, instead of 12, to complete on-site works.
The Government has been promoting the use of prefabrication methods in construction as a way of driving up productivity in a traditionally manpower-intensive industry. Earlier this year, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said it is looking to expand an existing construction productivity framework to civil engineering projects by the second half of this year, which includes requirements like adopting a greater degree of mechanisation and prefabrication to reduce the amount of excavation and concreting.
While the PPVC method costs more — by about 10 to 15 per cent — Ms Irene Meta, senior vice-president of OUE Limited’s development and projects, said today the company was keen on using “cutting-edge technology” in construction. Also, the small size of the site in question, which entailed “stringent traffic control restrictions”, meant that it made sense to use the PPVC method, she added.
The project was supported by one of the funding schemes under the Building Innovation Panel, a multi-agency effort that supports firms tapping innovation to boost construction productivity. The Productivity Improvement Project scheme co-funds up to 70 per cent of the qualifying costs, subject to at least 20 per cent productivity improvement, as well as varying caps.
Speaking at the event today, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said: “With greater adoption of PPVC and new technologies, the cost differential will come down. As mentioned in the briefing, the premium is due to prototyping, but with more repetitive adoption, with greater economies of scale, the cost will come down and technologies like PPVC will eventually become very economic, even without the grants. So we see the grants as a temporary measure in order to kick-start the industry to catalyse adoption.” The extension will add 243 rooms to the hotel’s current 320 rooms. Construction is currently completed up to its fourth floor, and is expected to complete by June.