Remember those Lego bricks you used to play with as a child and stack into miniature toy buildings? What if we told you that the same thing is actually happening in real life, and that the HDB flat you’re living in was built the same way?
Introducing Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (or PPVC), a construction method that first "builds" rooms in an off-site facility, and then transports to the construction site to be assembled into a building—just like Legos.
PPVC construction in Singapore
PPVC is one of the game-changing technologies that support Singapore’s Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA), a key pillar of our Construction Industry Transformation Map (ITM). The whole idea is to significantly speed up construction in this traditionally manpower-intensive industry.
Since the introduction of PPVC construction, developers have been picking up the technology in constructing new homes in Singapore. The shift in adoption of PPVC construction is also partly due to the BCA regulation where developers of selected sites in government land sales must adopt the PPVC construction method.
PPVC in public housing (HDB flats)
That means that PPVC projects include not just private condominiums, but HDB flats as well. In fact, the PPVC method was piloted in Valley Spring @ Yishun, a BTO project that began in March 2017.
Today, the HDB is one of the major developers using the PPVC construction method. New HDBs are increasingly using prefabricated PPVC modules where possible. According to HDB, as many as 70% of entire structural concrete used during the construction stage is from these prefabricated modules.
PPVC in private condominiums
Private developers are also turning their focus to the PPVC construction method. For instance, The Clement Canopy is a 40-storey residential condominium that was built using the PPVC modules.
This was the first structure in Singapore to be built using an all-concrete version of the PPVC. Interestingly, it was also the tallest structure ever to be built using concrete PPVC. That goes to show that buildings using PPVC construction are not only more efficiently built, but also very safe.
There’s also the Stirling Residences condo, which is slated for completion in 2022. With two 40-storey and one 38-storey towers, this development is the largest-scale PPVC high-rise building in Singapore. Featuring a forest theme, the condominium is located in the Queenstown area (Stirling Road, off Commonwealth Ave).
Interested in buying a unit? Browse Stirling Residences condominium properties on PropertyGuru now.
According to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), there are currently a total of 58 main contractors, and architectural and C&S engineering firms with PPVC projects in Singapore (Feb 2020).
How does PPVC construction work?
The concept is actually pretty simple:
First, 3D modules of rooms in your home are prefabricated (read: built) at a separate fabrication facility.
This improves workmanship because the rooms are made in a dedicated factory, under a controlled environment that can ensure stringent quality control. Finishes like copper piping, partial tiling, window frames and a waterproofing system are also done here.
This is like the building of your Lego bricks.
Next, these rooms are transported from the fabrication facility to the construction site where your HDB is located. For example, a 3-room unit with a single toilet may be built with three different 3D modules: a toilet and two room modules.
This is like the stacking and assembling of your Lego bricks into a building, where the different modules are then joined together to form each unit in an HDB block. Pretty cool, isn’t it?
Planning to apply for an HDB? Here’s all you need to know about BTO, SBF and ROF.
Types Of PPVC construction modules: Reinforced concrete vs steel
There are two types of PPVC construction modules that developers can use: reinforced concrete and steel. The choice of material is a key consideration because it will decide the size and number of modules needed for a project.
This will affect the total weight, which is especially important for planning since these modules need to eventually be transported to the construction site.
Reinforced concrete PPVC modules
Reinforced concrete PPVC modules have concrete walls and floors. They are generally heavier and smaller, thus requiring more modules.
Steel PPVC modules
Steel PPVC modules are supported by steel frames with lightweight walls, and have either concrete or lightweight flooring. These are lighter and larger, usually requiring fewer modules.
Benefits Of PPVC Construction
Besides sounding cool, there are actually multiple benefits that comes with using the PPVC construction method to build our high-rise homes.
Higher productivity means you can get your HDB flat faster
Firstly, HDB flats can be built much more efficiently using the PPVC construction method. In the past, every component of your HDB flat needed to be built on-site. Now, the PPVC construction method can start earlier, and by the time the modules are delivered to the construction site, all that’s left to do is to stack them up.
That’s a simplified overview, but you get what the gist. According to the BCA, PPVC construction can improve productivity by up to 40%, with savings in terms of both manpower and time. That’s significant!
Higher productivity may also mean cheaper homes
Besides the fact that you can get your HDB flat in less time, PPVC construction also comes with the added possibility of cheaper homes.
If the main contractors building your homes don’t have to spend as much on manpower and can finish projects faster, this can translate to cost savings for them. These cost savings could in turn be passed on to you as a homeowner.
Better quality homes for HDB owners
As mentioned, the individual room modules produced using the PPVC construction method are fabricated in a controlled factory environment. Having a controlled environment for production means that the modules can be made to perfection and subjected to less human error. In short, it’s now much easier to build homes of higher quality than in the past.
Less noise and pollution for your future neighbours
When we think about construction sites, the first thing that comes to mind is the noise and pollution that it brings.
Let’s say that there’s a new BTO launch happening two streets away from you. Chances are, you’ll be dreading the noise and dust expected to come your way in the next 3 to 4 years before the BTO is complete. You might end up having to fully shut your windows the whole day, or put layers of plastic covers over your furniture to prevent dust buildup.
With PPVC construction, there’s significantly less hacking and drilling as these are all done in the off-site factory. This translates to less noise and dust pollution for your future neighbours, which is definitely welcome.
Improved safety at construction sites
PPVC construction makes it much simpler for homes to be constructed. This means that less man hours are required at the site. Naturally, this translates to better safety at construction sites where most site accidents are likely to happen.
Can PPVC construction be counter-productive?
Although PPVC construction promises greater efficiency in getting your new flat ready, there are still some black swan events that can make it counter-productive.
Covid-19 is one such example. The lockdown in Malaysia and China has affected manufacturing and shipping activity around the world, including the prefabrication of PPVC modules and the shipping of PPVC modules to Singapore. The circuit breaker measures in Singapore have also resulted in the halt of construction projects across the island.
The government has allowed for partial PPVC installation, but there might still be a slim chance of receiving your keys later than expected. Let’s hope this pandemic ends quickly so that homeowners can look forward to their new homes sooner.
Pro tip: Don’t want to be waiting years for your new home? Well, there are plenty of move-in ready resale flats you can find on PropertyGuru.
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