KUALA LUMPUR: The construction industry should adopt industrial building systems (IBS) to help reduce dependence on labour and address the lack of manpower, Construction Industry Development Board chief executive Datuk Hamzah Hassan said.
He said IBS involves getting construction materials ready ahead of time before bringing them to the construction site, which would help save time.
These materials include window panels, staircases and doors, which could be constructed offsite without depending on site workers to build them.
This labour practice should be adopted to help reduce the dependency on labour or manpower to 15% by 2009, he added.
Master Builders Association Malaysia secretary-general Alan Lim Say Kok said labour dependency at construction sites was about 50%, depending on the type of development.
Presently, IBS are commonly used in mass housing projects carried out by the Government, but the association wants to change the mindset of other developers of commercial and high-cost residential areas to adopt this approach, he said after the official opening of the International Construction Conference 2003 yesterday.
Lim said adopting IBS might not reduce construction costs at present, but could lower costs in the long run if more industry players were to take it up.
He said work such as bricklaying, concreting, plastering, and setting frameworks could be replaced by IBS.
Deputy Works Minister Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin, in his keynote address, said more than 70% of foreign workers were employed to work onsite, and that many projects still had their building materials made onsite.
The issue of lack of manpower in the construction industry cannot be overcome permanently by sourcing for cheap labour in neighbouring countries.
Although this may solve immediate delivery systems, this solution will be accompanied by a host of other social and technical problems, he said.
He said old construction practices, which have not been successful in attracting the local workforce, could be replaced by IBS and lower labour dependency.