PETALING JAYA: Top on the list of the new government’s agenda is streamlining and synchronising affordable housing supply and demand mismatch, as well as resolving house ownership and affordability issues.
These, coupled with the need to revolutionise the construction sector to make it more efficient, safe and less reliant on foreign labour, are reasons why the Industrialised Building System (IBS) is being touted as the new way of building, a trend already very much evident in advanced economies around the world.
In Malaysia, Gamuda saw the need to pioneer the building sector using IBS, and it took a few bold steps by incorporating superior technological advancements to address a perennial issue plaguing the construction sector – an over-reliance on manual and foreign labour – and to ensure future sustainability.
In July 2016, the first Gamuda IBS factory in Sepang began operations and according to Gamuda Industrial Building System Sdn Bhd (Gamuda IBS) general manager Tan Ek Khai, it ticks all the boxes related to increasing efficiency and productivity, while reducing the need for physical manpower.
In a recent interview, Tan said IBS brings benefits not only to construction players and property developers, but also to homebuyers.
“With IBS, the construction period can be shortened significantly, with savings in labour and lesser wastage of building materials. The quality of the products is also superior.
“For homeowners, they can get their keys a year earlier. For those who are renting, they can save a year of rental. The amount can be quite substantial if you are renting in the Klang Valley and other cities in Malaysia too.
“There are also savings in terms of interest costs when you are able to get your homes earlier,” said Tan, adding that developers also enjoy an improvement in capital efficiency.
The Construction Industry Development Board Malaysia (CIDB) expects a 5% reduction in construction costs by 2020, if the use of IBS is made mandatory by then.
“Even if there are no savings in cost, just the capital efficiency can help developers. This efficiency is also the reason why we (Gamuda) made this investment,” he shared.
Tan said the company has invested about RM500mil to build two Gamuda IBS plants, one in Sepang spanning 28 acres, which is currently operating, and another one in Banting with 66 acres that is expected to be ready by year-end. Both these factories will operate 24 hours and have a combined output of 8,000 units annually.
“In just 24 months after the first factory was set up, the country’s first digital and robotic facility delivered on its promise – 994 units of affordable strata homes in two development projects across the Klang Valley have been successfully completed,” he said.
This translates into a 12-month saving as strata units usually take 36 months to build using the traditional method of construction.
According to Tan, 714 units across three blocks going up to 18 storeys at a mixed development in Rumah Selangorku (RSKU) Jade Hills, Kajang, took just 12 months for the basic structural completion, while another 280 RSKU units in a 12-storey development in Kundang Estates took six months to be built in an “organised Lego-like manner”. This was made possible with the installation of panels completing one floor per week.
Currently, the ongoing project undertaken by Gamuda IBS is the 864-unit affordable housing project for Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS) in Cyber Valley. Construction started in January 2018 and the project is expected to be ready by December 2019.
“With the delivery of the first batch of affordable homes, we are now assured that IBS is the only route towards improving safety standards, reducing environmental pollution and wastage, improving efficiency, reducing the need for foreign and manual labour while upskilling our people on the latest digital technology,” he shared.
“We want to make it clear that at Gamuda IBS, we are not subscribing to the conventional IBS which still needs substantial manpower. What we are doing here is digital IBS, using Building Information Modelling (BIM), which is actually a digital construction method,” he explained, adding that the tracking system will also improve the back-end processes.
Meanwhile, Tan said with Gamuda IBS’ second factory, slated to be ready this October, they can manufacture one apartment unit measuring 850 sq ft per hour.
This is timely, given the Government’s plan to build one million affordable homes over the next 10 years. He said the Banting factory will feature superior technology and a broader product range, which will include bathroom pods that are built as a single unit under a controlled factory environment and then transported and installed at site.
“For some of the builders who claim that they can construct a floor per week, it is just the carcass of the building or the basic structure of the building.
“With Gamuda IBS, we have clustered in our panels together with electrical conduits, some of the door frames and window frames.
“This will also include our bathroom pods which are fully fitted out.
“With our second factory, we will be able to have bathroom pods which will be fully fitted – sanitary wares, basins and glass finishes included,” he said, adding that the bathroom pods can also be customised for landed properties.
Tan said having the more advanced technology also means there is no limit to what the right IBS factory can do – Gamuda IBS, for instance, can build anything from strata to landed homes, as well as public facilities and amenities ranging from schools to hospitals to factories, customised to clients’ needs and specifications.
“Clients can rely on our proven track record as an innovative engineering and construction firm that has constantly embraced innovation and technology to develop the nation,” he added.
Tan said safety is also enhanced as heavy lifting is done by robots and machines under the Gamuda IBS method.
“The number of activities at construction sites will be reduced. Besides improving safety for the workers, this will also reduce errors and mistakes. With less activitity at construction sites, this helps to reduce pollution,” he said.
Apart from the high safety standards employed, workers at Gamuda IBS are also housed in proper Centralised Labour Quarters, similar to those seen in their MRT projects which further asserts the group’s commitment to transform the industry into a safe, clean and highly efficient sector.
“We are essentially looking at a cleaner, greener and sustainable way of building. This would eventually result in a transformation of the construction sector.
“The use of digital automation also ensures the highest quality, while the RSKU units also boast spacious layouts, sans beam and max ceiling volume,” he said, adding that the processes involving innovation and automation also show that Gamuda is riding the waves of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 with much ease.
On competition, Tan said he is confident as Gamuda IBS does enjoy some first mover advantages.
“For a robust and sustainable industry, other players also need to adopt a similar IBS system. At Gamuda IBS, we will continue to focus on productivity and ensure that we can train and upskill local workers.
“We are at the growing phase, actively delivering homes. With the pledges from the Government to build more affordable homes, there is a need for more players,” he said.
More importantly, Tan expects to collaborate with other developers who are keen on employing the IBS method of construction.
“We can customise to their needs and specifications as our technology allows us to do this easily. Gone are the days where precast products only result in boring and standardised high-rise units,” he added.
Tan is confident that with Gamuda IBS’ proven track record, it will be able to significantly contribute to the government’s aspirations of providing affordable housing to Malaysians in an efficient manner.