HDB Inks $10.7m R&D Collaboration to Raise Construction Productivity & Build Stronger Communities
The Housing & Development Board (HDB) inked two new research and development agreements with the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) today, at the International Housing Forum on sustainable urban development. Officiated by Minister for National Development & Second Minister for Finance, Mr Lawrence Wong, the $10.7 million investment will leverage the power of Big Data, data analytics and smart technology to boost construction productivity and safety, as well as to develop a new social framework to build stronger communities.
2 The two new agreements, each spanning three years, are:
(a) A $4.7 million collaboration with the NTU to develop a Smart Integrated Construction System (SICS). This system will harness smart technology, through the use of smart sensors and automation, to transform traditional construction work processes and boost productivity.
(b) A $6 million Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the SUTD to embark on a study called the New Urban Kampung research programme. The study will adopt cutting-edge modelling tools to analyse shifts in socio-demographic factors, and create new housing solutions in tandem with residents’ evolving needs and aspirations.
3 HDB’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Cheong Koon Hean said, “The fast-changing urban landscape brings along with it increasingly complex housing issues and needs. To meet these challenges, HDB wants to advance the “science” behind how we plan, design and build our HDB towns and estates. With behavioural science studies and data analysis, we can better understand our residents’ needs and changing lifestyles and their likely responses to our plans and initiatives. Smart construction solutions will also enable us to build more productively and achieve better quality. The new R&D partnerships will further augment our Roadmap to Better Living in HDB Towns, as we work towards creating homes of the future.”
4 HDB and NTU will develop a Smart Integrated Construction System (SICS), aimed at facilitating data-sharing and synergising construction processes across industry partners through a central digital platform. The platform will be powered by a smart tracking system to better manage the logistics of construction inventory such as precast components for HDB buildings. The key features of the SICS system are:
HDB Integrated Building Information System (IBIS) – The core of the SICS, this central digital database serves as a collaborative workspace. Using 3-dimensional modelling of HDB projects as a common platform, industry partners in the entire construction supply chain can log in real-time information and progress updates on the project from their dispersed locations. This streamlines information and speeds up data-sharing amongst the different partners, including architects, contractors, pre-casters and construction material suppliers, enabling them to better keep track of budgets and timelines.
Smart Tracking System – Supporting the IBIS, the smart tracking system will virtually manage the logistics of construction inventory as they move from various suppliers to the construction site. Smart sensors with geo-tagging capabilities will be attached to building components to help contractors manage the flow of construction materials into the work site, and swiftly identify and correct lapses such as wrong deliveries. This will minimise disruptions to the construction process and enable it to progress smoothly.
The Smart Integrated Construction System enables real-time data sharing among industry partners for greater productivity and efficiency
Smart Crane System – This will automate the manual hoisting process of building components on site. Through smart sensors embedded in the precast components and a network of sensors placed around the construction site, the Smart Crane System will be able to calculate and determine the quickest and safest hoisting path to mitigate potential collisions and swaying, thereby reducing construction time and improving safety.
Using smart sensors, the Smart Crane will be able to determine the quickest and safest hoisting path of building components on site (Image credit: Nanyang Technological University & Witteveen+Bos)
5 To ensure that HDB continues to provide a quality living environment that is in keeping with the changing needs of society, HDB will collaborate with SUTD on a social behavioural study – the New Urban Kampung research programme. This in-depth multi-disciplinary study will combine the fields of behavioural studies, Computational Social Science and Urban Informatics, to predict how the demographics in HDB towns are likely to evolve, and attempt to forecast residents’ behaviour and responses to initiatives introduced in their living environment, through a combination of big data and advanced modelling tools.
6 Divided into 4 parts, the collaboration will culminate in the development of a New Urban Kampung framework to steer future town planning and housing design that will improve the overall quality of life for residents:
(a) Gain a deeper understanding of HDB residents and their preferences
The study will seek to gain deeper insights into the composition of HDB residents beyond traditional demographic statistics such as age, race and income, and uncover emerging lifestyle trends, liveability definition and sentiments towards the community. This will be done through a combination of data from traditional census and surveys, with big data gathered through sensor networks placed around the estate (e.g. human traffic and movement sensors) and social listening. The insights gleaned will guide HDB’s planners and architects in formulating more targeted and customised improvements in HDB towns.
One possible outcome could be re-thinking the types of facilities required within a particular precinct to meet the changing needs and preferences of residents. For example, with residents becoming increasingly more digitally-connected, void decks could be equipped with Wi-Fi-enabled workspaces for residents to gather and study, organise workshops, or hold classes. Such initiatives will also encourage residents to make fuller use of communal spaces and take ownership of such spaces, fostering a stronger sense of belonging in their estates.
(b) Identify new quality of life indicators that reflect residents’ needs
As the socio-demographic makeup of HDB towns evolves, traditional quality of life indicators (e.g. healthcare, sanitation, safety etc.) may not adequately reflect the specific needs of HDB residents. Thus, research is needed to derive new quality of life indicators along two dimensions: Material conditions and resources within a neighbourhood (e.g. thermal comfort, access to amenities, urban greenery etc.), and psychosocial factors (e.g. cohesion among residents and sense of belonging). This will help guide future design and planning strategies to boost residents’ well-being.
(c) Find new ways to strengthen community-centric designs
A strong sense of belonging to a strong community positively influences residents’ views of their estate, and increases the sense of comfort that they associate with their home and neighbours. Hence, a key facet of the study will be to find new ways of incorporating community-centric design into the heartlands, beyond the current provision of communal spaces such as gardens, playgrounds and fitness corners.
Firstly, through harnessing big data from sensors (i.e. human traffic or location sensors), the research could explore the impact of a precinct’s design on residents’ interaction and behaviour. This would help fine-tune the design of communal spaces for stronger community interaction. For example, movement trends captured by motion sensors on smart lighting in the estate could help HDB better understand how residents move around and utilise the community spaces in their estate. Residents could then be engaged to co-design those under-utilised spaces.
Secondly, the behavioural studies will provide insights into the common interests of residents. This could inspire new ways of bringing communities together, such as through smart applications and gamification. For example, if the data shows that residents in a particular estate are fond of cycling, customised cycling apps could be introduced to cultivate a cycling community in the estate. Such an app could link together residents who enjoy cycling, and allow them to publish their cycling mileage and make recommendations on scenic or safer cycling routes.
(d)Forecast the effects of new HDB living initiatives
Existing environmental modelling tools, such as the City Application Visual Interface (CAVI), are well-developed to assess the effectiveness of sustainability-driven initiatives in HDB towns and estates. By integrating urban analytics into the tools, large amounts of social data could be analysed and simulations could be run on new HDB living initiatives to predict residents’ receptiveness before test-bedding them in real-time.
7 As the urban landscape in Singapore evolves, HDB will continue to tap on the power of technological innovations, and partner with industry experts to create well-designed, community-centric and sustainable homes for Singaporeans.
 The Smart Integrated Construction System project is funded by the MND Research Fund, while the New Urban Kampung Research Programme is part of the ‘Cities of Tomorrow’ R&D Programme funded by the Land and Liveability National Innovation Challenge (L2NIC).
 In partnership with Electricite De France (EDF)