Climate change, Covid-19 will shape future of Singapore’s built environment: Desmond Lee

By
/ EdgeProp Singapore
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October 2, 2020 6:00 AM SGT
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - The future of Singapore’s urban development will be influenced by permanent changes caused by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the global consequences of climate change, says Singapore’s National Development Minister Desmond Lee.
He was speaking on Sept 29 at the Real Estate Developers’ Association of Singapore (Redas) virtual Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, which were held via video-conferencing. It was the first time Lee spoke at the Redas event as the Minister for National Development, as he was appointed in July this year.
Urging closer partnership between government and private developers, Lee says: “In a deepening crisis like this, it is all the more important that we work together.” The local real estate sector has been hit hard during this crisis period, especially the construction sector which contracted 97.1% q-o-q in 2Q2020, says Lee.
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Desmond Lee - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
Lee: This pandemic has strengthened our resolve to quicken the transformation of our entire construction and built environment sector, so that it becomes more integrated and resilient. (Picture: Redas)
“We have provided significant financial and relief support to help our construction firms tide over this difficult period. We have also provided a six-month extension to developers on the project completion period and additional buyer’s stamp duty remission timelines,” he adds.
Lee highlighted that the industry still faces challenges on numerous fronts, such as work suspensions, supply chain disruptions, and cash flow issues. Public health measures have also affected operations at developers’ sale galleries, and physical home viewings were disrupted during the “circuit breaker” period, he adds.
But he also acknowledged that some developers have taken the initiative to further reduce in-person interactions where possible, for example, conducting balloting and selection of units online. Lee called on developers to focus on supporting their contractors and minimise delays to projects.
“In a serious crisis like this, what we seek to ensure is that no one in the built environment value chain has to bear an undue share of the burden imposed by Covid-19. This is so that we can recover from the impact of the pandemic and preserve industry capacity for us to continue building and improving Singapore,” says Lee.
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Looking ahead, the minister called on all players in the built environment sector to be ready to take on future “black swan” events. This means re-evaluating the procurement and management of construction supplies, driving digitalisation, and adopting more advanced building technologies.
Redas - EDGEPROP SINGAPORE
This year Redas hosted its annual mid-autumn celebration virtually, and members tuned in to watch the event live on Sept 29. (Picture: Redas)
“This pandemic has strengthened our resolve to quicken the transformation of our entire construction and built environment sector, so that it becomes more integrated and resilient,” says Lee. He urged developers to continue leading the charge in research and innovation efforts, and promote the adoption of new processes, technologies, and designs.
Looking ahead, future urban planning will have to consider the extent to which the Covid-19 pandemic may permanently impact people’s lifestyles and the way we work, says Lee. Some changes may be permanent structural shifts and the industry must be responsive to these changes, he adds.
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“For example, many of us are working from home because this is a public health requirement. But when Covid-19 eventually passes, it may well be that some companies choose to retain significant flexible work arrangements, for business resilience. The mindset and expectations of employees may also change. With more people working from home, we can expect there to be changes to their commuting, retail consumption and lifestyle patterns,” says Lee.
He reiterated the global effects of climate change and Singapore’s vulnerability as an island city to its consequences such as rising sea levels and increasing temperatures. He noted that several developers were already at the forefront in pushing for greener and more sustainable buildings, but there is potential to do more in developing innovative sustainable solutions.