A Post Covid-19 Flight Path for the Aviation Industry

By David Theuma
Principal Project Manager, Aviation
Surbana Jurong

With no clear end in sight of the Covid-19 pandemic, the aviation industry is not ready to take off anytime soon.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has forecasted that the industry will not recover to 2019 levels until 2024, a year later than previously projected.

Regaining passenger confidence will be a challenge for airports and airlines, despite the rollout of vaccination plans in many countries. As the hammer and the dance strategy evolves to contain the spread of the pandemic, airports will have to gear up for the return of travelers over the next 12 to 18 months, when most of the world is expected to have been inoculated against the virus. Based on studies undertaken by Surbana Jurong, one thing is clear – airport operators will have to undertake major changes in infrastructure, operations and design.

Health & Safety in Airport Design and Operations

Safety has always been of the utmost priority in the architecture and design of future airports. With COVID, the safety of passengers takes on a new dimension, with protection from the virus becoming the overriding concern from the time passengers set foot on airport grounds till the time they leave.

People need to be assured of the hygiene of spaces with heavy traffic and will demand focus on health measures. Airports will need to invest in new cleaning technology that allow the efficient and sustained disinfection of surfaces. Authorities will also have to move beyond the use of thermal scanners and handheld thermometers to explore comprehensive passenger wellness screening solutions.

Airport design will have to look at different ways of re-configuring spaces to support infection control measures. For one, planning gate holding areas will need to provide for additional space. Within the retail areas, retailers will need to increase digitisation with contact-less payments, including both tap-and-go credit cards and mobile phone payments. Airport retailers must develop e-Commerce capabilities to address passenger concerns of face-to-face interactions with sales staff and the reluctance to touch or taste products (refer to Illustration 1). Mobile apps that facilitate mobile ordering of food at F&B outlets are already widely implemented.

Aviation design

Illustration 1: Contactless capabilities within the airport. Clockwise from top left: Passport control using facial recognition capability, automated bag drop area, boarding area, and check-in area

Technology is a game-changer in the management of people in a passenger terminal, which can consequentially impact the brand of an airport. With technology, airport operators can manage people flow within the terminals to prevent passengers intermingling and minimise time spent at immigration. Among the most enabling aspect of technology will be an e-health passport that holds records of test results and vaccinations of a traveller.

Airport operators will also have to collect data on passenger density to enable them to better predict movements and implement measures to manage densities at airports. Data will also be crucial to measure the degree of risk in real-time so that airport operators can quickly segregate passengers showing symptoms.

Airports are already adept at re-purposing spaces to handle a sudden increase in passengers but to plan better, they can use technology to calibrate limits on passenger capacity for inbound and outbound flights and tweak schedules in order to flatten passenger peaks – to maintain adequate levels of physical distancing within the passenger terminal.

Using data in this way will be a step up from the automation that is currently in place at most airports. These include submitting vaccination and testing records in advance of arrival to reduce processing time, facial recognition and advance imaging technology body scanners that allow passengers to simply walk through without stopping. Many airports already have paperless ticketing, automated doors, restroom motion sensors, and doorless restroom entries. More automation and touchless technology will need to be applied at various airport processing touchpoints, including touchless self-service check-in kiosks, baggage drops and boarding gates.

Restoring Confidence

Airlines have been a proponent of the minimal risk of transmission during flights whilst airports constantly publicise their efforts on increased sanitisation regimes and reduced face-to-face contact.

At the governmental level, the travel requirements need to be communicated clearly and in a timely manner, allowing passengers to plan adequately when travelling.

Insurance has an important role to play. Some months ago, it was hard to purchase travel insurance covering Covid-19. The recent IATA passenger confidence survey has shown that, on average, half of travelers are willing to travel when insurance is available for Covid-19 related disruptions. IATA has suggested that Covid-19 travel insurance cover for inbound travellers can be used as a destination marketing incentive by some countries, regions and airlines.

Communicating these changes in operations is critical to restoring passenger confidence. When there is a sense of control in travelling, people are more inclined to travel. Passengers also want to know how easy or difficult it will be to travel through various airports – and also their destinations.

Time For Changes to Take Flight

If an airport has been designed to offer a greater level of service, the impact on passenger processing will be less.  On the other hand, if an airport is limited in its service level, as in the case of older and maxed-out terminal structures in some urban centres, passengers will find the travelling experience more challenging and may be less inclined to utilise these airports. These are important considerations airports need to take into account as they plan for the future.

Covid-19 has turned the aviation industry on its head and weakened the business of airports and airlines. The impact is likely to be finite however, taking a long view. It is therefore timely for hubs and carriers to make the most of the current opportunity to re-evaluate their offerings. This is a time for consolidation and those surviving players will be stronger if they make the necessary short- and long-term changes, including painful adjustments, to their model for the future.

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Connect with Us
David Theuma
Email: david.theuma@surbanajurong.com

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Cracking The Code To Smart Industrial Parks

Contributed By:

Energy and Industrial Division, Surbana Jurong Infrastructure

Wang Zhenglin, Manager

Cynthia Tan, Manager

Tara Tang, Assistant Manager

Dennis Tan, Director, Strategic Projects


The rise of the digital economy has prompted countries to review their policies and infrastructure; and has also increased the pressure on companies across all sectors to embrace technologies as well as for workers to learn new capabilities. The adoption of digitalization in the manufacturing sector has further accelerated due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. With technology taking over manual tasks in a more economical and productive manner, many workers performing these roles will find their jobs displaced. The challenge would also be to upgrade the workforce to adopt technology to enhance their skillsets. For the built environment, industrial park developers and policy makers need to adapt their strategy and modus operandi to align themselves with the digital economy. Smart and eco-sustainable industrial parks that can provide a cost-effective, efficient and resilient production space for large pools of local workers can and must become a reality.

Manufacturing as a Key Engine of Economic Growth

Industrial parks can become key drivers of economic activities for developed and developing countries. One distinction of industrial parks over standalone manufacturing facilities is the opportunity for the industrial park developer to curate a mix of like-minded and synergistic industrial clusters, co-located with complementary services and facilities on site to create a true ecosystem; and Jurong Island Chemicals Hub is one such example. Companies on the island enjoy production synergies and efficiencies on the proximity of their value chain and integrated infrastructure such as common pipeline corridors.

Figure 1 Jurong Island Chemicals Hub – Surbana Jurong was involved in the reclamation process to combine 7 islands into one land mass, to form Singapore’s energy and chemicals industry cornerstone with over S$50 billion worth of investments. Singapore is today one of the world’s top exporters of refined oil products, despite having no natural oil or gas resources and limited land.

Starting off on The Right Foot with a Good Development Plan

Industrial park developers are responsible for creating a safe and secure environment for its clients with reliable essential services and infrastructure (such as logistics) so that companies can focus on their core manufacturing activities. Beyond the operational fundamentals, world-class park developers will go one step further to build an estate that supports or champions the causes of companies, such as carbon footprint reduction or circularity in its ecosystem.

This is achieved through development planning which provides an end-to-end development framework for the building of the industrial park and serves as a blueprint for future expansions. The process begins with identifying the value proposition and concept of the industrial park as well as a comprehensive study of the physical and operating environment. The factors which are assessed include the local regulations, surrounding infrastructure and availability of raw materials amongst other things.

Figure 2 Surbana Jurong’s proprietary approach towards development planning for industrial and petrochemical parks

The COVID-19 outbreak has highlighted the necessity to conduct development planning to build a pandemic-resilient industrial park. Realistically, development planning on its own will not be able to eradicate the effects of an outbreak but when done properly upfront – it can certainly help park operators to better control the situation. Strategic land planning considerations can help industrial park developers segregate different communities and reduce crowding. These include implementing controlled access to the estate, separate entry and exit points for different zones, adequate safety buffers between facilities, as well as accessibility to essential services and amenities. Practising flexible land planning, by strategically setting aside plots of land for temporary uses such as emergencies or companies’ construction laydown requirements would also allow park operators to better respond to unplanned events.

A good development plan will help developers identify organizational needs for the future (anywhere from one to twenty years) and having the blueprint allows them to update their plans more easily as the operating environments and trends evolve.

Importance of Sustainability to an Industrial Park

The effects of Climate Change and in recent times, the Pandemic, have brought Environmental, Social and Governance (‘ESG’) issues to the fore. Increasingly, businesses are beginning to embrace this new consensus. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, released an open letter warning companies that it would be “increasingly disposed” to vote against boards moving too slowly on sustainability[1]. BP has also called time on the Oil & Gas era and asserts that demand for fossil fuels has peaked, with the company pivoting towards Power and Renewables[2]. In a similar vein, TOTAL announced its plans to expand its renewable power generation capacity with the goal of generating 15 to 20% of its revenue from low-carbon electricity by 2040. These changes will have a lasting impact on society and the way businesses are conducted.

In Surbana Jurong’s (SJ) industrial development projects, preparing for future industries, the environment and community take precedence. SJ aims to create resilient spaces that integrate the surrounding landscapes and resources management. Circular production models, which focus on enabling the re-use and recycling of materials, will position the development to better address future resource security issues and result in smaller environmental impacts.

[1] https://www.blackrock.com/uk/individual/larry-fink-ceo-letter

[2] https://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/business-sites/en/global/corporate/pdfs/energy-economics/energy-outlook/bp-energy-outlook-2020.pdf


Figure 3 Surbana Jurong partnered with Apollo Aquaculture Group to develop the Floating Ponds urban farm concept – an integrated, self-contained fish farming ecosystem, that helps safeguards local food security and resilience in an increasingly urbanised landscape. The 1.5 ha 8-storey vertical fish farm will be the world’s first vertical fish farm and will produce an estimated 2,400 tonnes of seafood a year. The vertically stacked fish raceways help to multiply the production capacity; while its self-sustaining, closed loop farming ecosystem optimises the use of resources – water, nutrients and energy. The outcome is an ecologically sustainable farming model which is modular, scalable and replicable, e.g. an advanced prototype water-reticulation within the tanks will recycle more than 90% of the water, thereby reducing fresh water topping up.

Where possible, energy sources considered for industry should also be as green as possible. This will add to the viability and attractiveness of the development to industrialists who aspire to achieve carbon neutrality in their manufacturing footprint. Ørsted, ranked top in the Corporate Knights 2020 Global 100 Index of most sustainable corporations, is one such organisation that followed through on its commitment to carbon neutrality by making the decisive transformation from one of the most coal-intensive energy companies in Europe a decade ago to focus entirely on renewables today[1].  23% of the Fortune 500 have made a public commitment to carbon abatement and this number will only increase[2].

 Community engagement and inclusiveness is also a critical angle when it comes to addressing sustainable development. Residents in the immediate area surrounding a development will have to deal with increased levels of noise, dust, and other externalities owing to the development. There have been instances where communities’ feedback led to developments being reviewed. The scrutiny on projects is further heightened in the social media era. It is therefore vital for decision makers and park developers to engage the community on the impact of the project; and these efforts can be bolstered with technologies to increase the transparency of developments, such as virtual dashboards detailing construction progress and emission impacts for example.

[1] https://www.corporateknights.com/reports/2020-global-100/top-company-profile-orsted-sustainability-15795648/

[2] https://assets.naturalcapitalpartners.com/downloads/Deeds_Not_Words__The_Growth_Of_Climate_Action_In_The_Corporate_World.pdf

Figure 4 Surbana Jurong’s member company – SMEC is providing community consultation, design and engineering services for the Barcaldine Remote Community Solar Farm project in Barcaldine, Queensland. The project site of approximately 90ha is intended to contribute more than 53,000 MWh of renewable electricity into the national grid each year; and will benefit communities and businesses which currently suffer from poor power reliability and outages due to its remote location.

A Best-in-Class Development Plan Must be Robust & Future-ready

It should address the following:

  1. Does its physical planning consider environmental factors such as climate change and carbon management?
  2. How well does it adapt to future scenarios caused by disruptive technologies and digitalisation?
  3. What are the energy efficiency and risk management strategies?
  4. How well do the park management processes deal with business continuity and resources sustainability?
  5. How does the industrial park achieve operational excellence?

Gearing Up for the Future with Smart Industrial Parks

With the COVID-19 pandemic creating a slowdown in demand and forcing manufacturers to reduce the number of workers on site, it is now more than ever an opportune time to explore smarter ways of doing things. Technologies can help reduce worker density and free up the workforce for greater value-added roles in the future.

The objective of a smart industrial park is to achieve a positive outcome for users of the industrial park space and the environment. The concept of a smart and sustainable park is a community of industrial and business activities, planned and built with the environment in mind, that cooperate with each other and the local community to share information, materials, energy or infrastructure thus leading to economic gains, creation of jobs, and improvements in the environment.

Figure 5 Surbana Jurong is developing a concept master plan of a 62 ha digital economy hub in Nongsa, Indonesia. The hub is envisioned to be a digital bridge between Indonesia and Singapore, by anchoring digital-related activities in Indonesia while providing Singapore companies easier access to a growing pool of local Indonesian tech talent. With technology and creative industries as key drivers of Indonesia’s economy, the digital economy hub in Nongsa will contribute directly to strengthening and growing Indonesia’s tech and innovation ecosystem.

The journey towards developing smart parks is not a blind pursuit to increase the number of sensors and equipment, but is an endeavour to identify and deploy the most effective solution for the facility based on its unique conditions and the development’s value proposition. Industrial park developers need to plan for smart park-compatible infrastructure to minimise corrective work later which would be costly and disruptive. One such example is the planning of roads and land plots. As fleets of autonomous vehicles become more commonplace, roads within the industrial parks may need to include dedicated lanes until full autonomy is achieved. Another related trend is vehicle electrification, which would require land and space to be set aside for charging facilities at many locations.

These infrastructure requirements will continue to evolve as the industrial park develops and clients’ requirements change; and having timely access to essential park operations data will help the industrial park developer to make informed decisions. It enables oversight on important processes such as monitoring of key infrastructure within the industrial park and external commercial exchanges with customers, and is the key to smooth operations.

Data plays an integral role in the development of smart industrial parks – namely Sustainability, Logistics Efficiency, Safety, Security and Economic Competitiveness. Most industrial parks are experiencing data overload from various infrastructure and systems; and these operations are often operated in silos. Ideally, these data should be integrated with new data from sensors to conduct analytics of various forms including descriptive, diagnostics, as well as advanced analytics, such as predictive and prescriptive analytics involving machine learning algorithms. The following section will provide some examples to illustrate how data and technologies may be deployed to support the 5 key drivers of the smart industrial park.

Figure 6 Five Key drivers of Smart Industrial Parks (Surbana Jurong proprietary)


Climate change solutions exist today, but require the support of appropriate policy measures to succeed. In the last decade, energy transition has progressed significantly across different industrial sectors, from decarbonising energy sources to increasing operational energy efficiencies. Energy transition can be understood as the global energy sector’s shift from fossil-based systems of energy production and consumption, to renewable energy sources like wind and solar, as well as lithium-ion batteries. This is made possible with advancements in technologies and a societal push towards sustainability, and facilitated by the implementation of regulatory policies. The European Union has taken on a leading role to spur the birth of the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050 through its newly announced Climate Law which would impose legally binding climate goals on its member countries[1]. In the same vein, China has also pledged to be a carbon-neutral country by 2060[2]. Apart from China, sixty-six countries have signalled their intent to achieve net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050[3]; and almost 200 nations have committed to curb global warming by substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions[4].

Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (‘UNFCCC’), the Paris Agreement created a framework for governments and industries to combat climate change and adapt to its effects. While the world still has a long way to go in meeting its targets, it is evident that companies are progressively making efforts to switch to renewables and low-carbon alternatives, as well as cleaner industrial processes, especially as regulatory and investor scrutiny increases.

Industrial parks, especially the petrochemicals sector, are one of the most energy-intensive facilities. Park developers can work closely with the companies on site to progress towards the vision of net-zero emissions. Based on the terrain and natural resources available, park developers can plan and build infrastructure to tap into these renewable resources, be it wind, tidal, solar etc; and deploy sensors to monitor their operating status and energy output to facilitate a seamless switch to an alternative energy source in the event of damage or unavailable energy source (e.g. cloudy day, lack of wind) and overcome its intermittency.

[1] https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/eu-climate-action_en

[2] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/23/china-claims-it-will-be-carbon-neutral-by-the-year-2060.html?view=story&%24DEVICE%24=native-android-mobile?__source=androidappshare

[3] https://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/sixty-six-countries-vow-carbon-neutrality-by-2050-un

[4] https://www.straitstimes.com/world/europe/global-action-plan-to-limit-global-warming-adopted-by-almost-200-nations-after-marathon

Figure 7 Surbana Jurong’s member company – SMEC, has been engaged to provide consultancy services supporting the design and construction of a proposed 300KW micro hydro project in Malawi, covering an area of 7.3ha, and funded by the United Nations Development Programme. A micro hydro project is a hydroelectric power scheme that produces up to 100KW of electricity using a flowing stream or a water flow for isolated communities where an electricity grid is not available.

In line with the Paris Agreement, Singapore is continually exploring ways to maximise the use of less carbon intensive fuels and increase energy efficiency. JTC, Singapore’s lead agency for industrial development, has partnered industry players to roll out solar initiatives since 2017, to optimise the use of vacant industrial land and roof space, and to promote the generation and adoption of solar energy[1]. Jurong Island was identified as an appropriate location for the pilot project, due to its availability of large plots of vacant land for the solar PV panels.

Energy efficiency is an increasingly important contributor to climate change mitigation. At the same time, it helps to reduce the life cycle cost of energy. Recognising this as an opportunity for innovation, SJ has partnered Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to develop and testbed a Cryo-Poly-Generation system, an integrated rapidly deployable and highly energy efficient solution to help meet the growing energy needs of urbanization and industrialization. It is a one-stop solution which encompasses the technologies by which power generation, cold energy harnessing, cold export, cryogenic power generation, city gas generation, steam and hot water (Cryo-Poly-Generation) can be jointly generated from one plant based on the needs of the user. High levels of energy efficiency can be achieved by utilizing cold energy from LNG and waste heat from power generation.

[1] https://www.jtc.gov.sg/news-and-publications/featured-stories/Pages/A-Boost-for-Clean-Energy-in-Singapore.aspx

Figure 8 Surbana Jurong is test-bedding a Cryo-Poly-Generation system which will achieve total energy optimisation enabled by small scale off-grid electricity generation and cold harnessing using LNG.

In addition to monitoring and optimising energy usage and management, effective waste management and disposal are also essential elements of a smart park. With a sizeable population living and working in the park daily, the large volume of domestic and industrial waste will need to be treated, recycled and disposed safely with minimal contamination to the environment. Real-time monitoring of the environment can be achieved through a range of IoT sensors for air, water and soil quality to ensure there is no ground water contamination from the discharge of the factories.

An alternative and innovative approach is the deployment of the Fish Activity Monitoring System (FAMS) by Singapore’s national water agency. The system is equipped with video cameras that have image analysis software to automate and centralise the monitoring of fish activity as an early detection of changes in the quality of the treated water[1].

[1] https://oar.a-star.edu.sg/jspui/bitstream/123456789/1283/1/2008%20SIWW%20AFAMSfEDoWC.pdf

Sustainability – Points to Consider:

  • How to motivate every industrialist to champion sustainability in their operations?
  • What aspects of sustainability make the most sense?
  • How does the park owner / developer / operator play a value-adding role?
  • How to set park-level goals?

Efficient Logistics

Park operators can leverage multi-sensory input, such as closed loop sensors on the ground and artificial intelligence (AI) based video analytics, for comprehensive and real-time monitoring of traffic conditions within the estate. With these data, park operators can understand the movement of people, goods and vehicles – how the transportation system is being utilised, how and when congestions occur, and even the number and type of vehicles travelling. These solutions will support park-level planning of the transportation network. With this, park operators can ascertain if there is a need to widen the roads, adjust the number of lanes, or create a dedicated cycling lane – and these are all decisions which would not have been easy to make in the absence of the traffic data.

Underground systems such as the tube capsule may be deployed for freight transport in congested urban areas, covering up to 150km and freeing up precious surface land for higher value-added activities. Automated capsule systems are typically used for pallet sized cargoes and containers.

Efficient Logistics – Points to Consider:

  • How well do we understand the supply chain of the industrialists?
  • Is the transportation plan future-ready?
  • How to build a robust logistics ecosystem within the park?
  • What does the risk management playbook look like?


 The ability to monitor and trace the movement of people has been pivotal in helping to stem the spread of COVID-19. Governments worldwide have been quick to launch various digital tools to achieve this end, and industrial park operators have a similar responsibility if they wish to maintain a pandemic-resilient industrial park.

Figure 9 To help minimise the risk of infection spread at project worksites, Surbana Jurong started trialling a wearable contact tracing device at one of its construction worksites. The technology allows proactive tracking of interactions and movements which could possibly shorten the contact tracing process to under 2 hours and minimise disruptions to operations. This is especially useful at construction sites where there is usually a high volume of movement by different groups of contractors and suppliers.

Ensuring safe manufacturing practices is the responsibility of individual companies. However, it is also crucial for the park operator to have a system-level overview of safety considerations for long-term land planning and emergency response, particularly for petrochemical parks which involve hazardous activities. This can be achieved through a centralised risk assessment system, which integrates the quantitative risk assessments from upcoming and existing facilities, overlaid against GIS data, and with capabilities that include understanding the harm footprints, individual risk contours, and conducting consequence modelling. Data from sensors can be deployed at sensitive locations, such as near or within hazardous facilities and worker dormitories, to measure environmental conditions including wind direction, humidity, air quality and contaminants. The data is then channelled into the blast and plume simulation engines to help the park operator estimate the likelihood of incidents and to understand how incidents might occur and spread. Such information is critical during emergencies to help the park operator decide when to trigger an evacuation, and to coordinate multi-agency, multi-disciplinary emergency response efforts.

As 5G networks with its faster speeds, greater capacity and reduced latency gain traction, we can expect new and improved services especially in the areas of virtual reality, IoT and AI.  An example is the mixed reality maintenance of complex machinery and equipment by experts stationed overseas, which will strengthen workplace safety by reducing manual interference and support flexible remote work arrangements for a more pandemic resilient workplace.

Safety – Points to Consider:

  • How to inculcate a safety mindset in everyone?
  • How good are we at detecting threats to safety?
  • Does the hazards management framework support the growth of the park?


Having control and knowledge over who, what and when people, vehicles and goods entering and leaving the park is fundamental to ensure the security of the park. This is also a top priority for industrial parks with high risk activities (such as petrochemical parks) or high value products. Pre-screening of people and vehicles, and the use of biometrics such as fingerprint and face recognition, Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and under carriage scanners for vehicles, will collectively reduce the risks of unauthorised access to the industrial park premises, and help to monitor the checkpoint to mitigate cumbersome manual checks that are subject to human error.

It is also essential to deploy a platform of video analytics, which will allow each video stream to be processed with different analytics to generate different alerts for different stakeholders depending on the park’s changing security posture. Together with physical access control and video analytics, the park developer can help ensure a secured and controlled environment to minimise disruptions to the supply chain and at the same time allow companies to have assurance on the timeliness of delivery and quality of goods.

In addition to physical security, cyber security is another aspect which should not be neglected. Particularly as the cyber-attack surface has increased with the exponential growth in implementation of IoT sensors integrated with SCADA, Industrial Controls Systems (ICS), IT systems and cloud containers in industrial parks. As a responsible smart park operator, it is crucial to continually monitor and have the resources to conduct a coordinated response to known and previously unknown cyber threats; and these can be achieved through a cyber security operations centre.

Security – Points to Consider:
• Is there an emergency response plan for the park?
• What model is used for scanning and evaluating technology options?
• How to achieve a balanced view in line with the park’s risk profile?

Economic Competitiveness

A command centre is essential for achieving situation awareness in the industrial park and responding with appropriate resources. The command centre is akin to the nerve centre for the park operator, which consolidates all the important data feeds for a holistic view of the park operations 24/7, 365 days a year, thereby enabling quick response to incidents such as traffic accidents, or pipe leaks. The command centre can also serve as the coordination centre with external agencies for firefighting and crowd controls, etc, when needed.

With an aggregated platform to integrate all the sub-systems within the industrial park, from security applications, building management systems to the communicable devices, the park operator will be able to effectively monitor and control these applications and equipment from a single unified surface, respond faster to situations, strengthen security and access control, and lower operational costs. Ultimately, the outcome should be a more controlled park environment with smoother operations, and a more economically competitive industrial park.

Ningbo Petrochemical Economic & Technological Development Zone is one such industrial park that has invested heavily in various systems to monitor and manage various domains of its park operations and is actively utilising data to monitor its key equipment and processes. In 2019, the park was ranked 2nd in the country’s top chemical parks and is a forerunner in establishing smart and green practices in China[1]. Closer to home in Singapore, Hyundai held a virtual groundbreaking ceremony in October 2020, which will produce electric vehicles, and test-bed various smart and advanced manufacturing systems such as IoT and artificial intelligence. The new multi-function facility is expected to generate hundreds of new jobs[2]. These examples suggest that, generally, companies that have invested in and continue to invest in improving their management of existing data, growth of usable data, and usage of data analytics, will continue to thrive even in times of economic uncertainty.

[1] https://cs.zjol.com.cn/zjbd/nb16504/201905/t20190524_10188819.shtml

[2] https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/carmaking-returns-to-singapore-with-new-smart-plant-in-jurong

Economic Competitiveness – Points to Consider:

  • What is best-in-class park management?
  • How does responsiveness translate to tangible benefits to industrialists?

Continuous Adaptation

Recent events have driven home the point that we live in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world. The COVID-19 pandemic, financial crises, climate change, tightening emissions standards, and geopolitical tensions are just some of the events in the past decade that highlight how globalisation can and will continue to disrupt all aspects of our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic is a textbook example of how companies were caught off-guard by the pandemic and scrambled overnight to respond to sudden lockdowns and disrupted supply chains. While no one could have anticipated the outbreak, companies could have mitigated the impact to some extent if they had identified and prioritized mission critical functions and developed business continuity plans beforehand, as part of a Pandemic Influenza Risk Management Plan. Industrial park developers that seek to create an operationally resilient ecosystem, and build deeper relationships than that of a straightforward landlord, should also engage the companies to spearhead and develop business continuity measures at a park-level such as ensuring the delivery of food supplies and clear transportation networks.

Technological advances in an increasingly interconnected world have also heightened the pace of change and complexity of doing business. Without knowing what changes to expect, how can companies set themselves up for success? Strategy is, by definition, all about evaluating the myriad options to derive the best decision. In our VUCA world, this means leveraging technological enhancements to interpret the constant stream of data and continually adapting the strategy.

We need to consider ongoing and anticipated changes in the environment and in our competitors, what needs to change and the trade-offs, how to change, and how each decision will ultimately fit in with the company’s strategic priorities.  Flexibility and agility do not mean continually changing strategy, but rather – possessing the acumen to perceive when and how to adapt.


Today, there is no single universally agreed upon definition of what makes a development ‘smart’. If everyone is doing the same new thing, is that still considered ‘smart’? In our opinion, smartness is relative to the socio-economic-environment concerns and challenges of the day, and it hinges upon nimble strategic adaptations – be it quick adoption of emerging technology or even a review of existing processes and organisational set up to gain competitive advantage over competitors.

Unfortunately, this means there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will guarantee the success of any or all smart industrial park because each one faces a different set of challenges and opportunities; and circumstances, technology and competitor adoption change rapidly.

Figure 10 Surbana Jurong provided multi-disciplinary consultancy services as well as sustainability and resiliency solutions for Singapore’s first one-stop poultry processing hub. Named JTC Poultry Processing Hub, the 8-storey multi-tenanted development is designed to house poultry slaughtering and processing establishments, featuring fully-automated and high-speed slaughtering lines that are shared by multiple companies. This will enable closer collaboration and sharing of resources among the establishments. (Photo provided by JTC)

The real (if not so exciting) secret to cracking the smart industrial park code lies in the knowledge and experience we have accumulated from having worked on several cutting-edge projects locally and globally for clients from various industry sectors in more than 40 countries. With our comprehensive suite of multi-disciplinary, best-in-class solutions across the full value chain, we are well-equipped to help industrial park developers craft targeted strategies and processes that will enable them to continuously ‘smart-ify’ their industrial parks appropriate to their unique challenges.


Connect with Us

Wang Zhenglin
Email: zhenglin.wang@surbanajurong.com

Cynthia Tan
Email: cynthia.tanph@surbanajurong.com

Tara Tang
Email: tara.tangsl@surbanajurong.com

Dennis Tan
Email:  dennis.tankm@surbanajurong.com

Providing Future-Ready Management Services

What is the single biggest change in the Facilities Management (FM) business as a result of COVID-19, is a pertinent question in the FM industry, moving forward. To Surbana Jurong’s FM team (managed by SMM Pte Ltd), the FM business is now regarded as one of the essential services not only in Singapore but internationally as a result of the pandemic. The scope of work for SMM’s facilities management in Singapore has expanded to include the adoption of technology to maintain business continuity and also to safeguard the well-being of employees during this time. At the outbreak of COVID-19, SMM was involved in the role of safe management advisory to provide the guidance to clients, which saw an increase in demand from clients in the adoption of technologies in their day-to-day work. This gives SJ a distinctive competitive edge.

Building Cities, Shaping Lives

The general FM business refers to the integrated management of multiple and interdisciplinary technologies, personnel, systems and processes. The goal behind FM is to promote an efficient and collaborative environment to meet and fulfil the key objectives and mission of an organisation. The organisational function integrates people, place and process within the built environment with the purpose of improving the quality of life of people and the productivity of the core business. This neatly fits with Surbana Jurong’s corporate objective which is “Building Cities, Shaping Lives.”

Facilities management therefore is intensely customer and people-centric, and in a competitive environment, the solutions provided must be comprehensive, integrated and intelligent. Intelligent is now the new buzzword and key service delivery as a comprehensive system for all aspects of building and facility management allows for IoT monitoring, namely space, water, energy, utilization, indoor air quality and more.

There are two major types of facilities management: Hard FM and Soft FM. Hard FM refers to services relating to the actual structures and systems that make a facility work, and can include fire safety, plumbing, structural, and elevator maintenance. Soft FM refers to services that overlap with property management, such as pest control, cleaning, grounds maintenance, and security. Clients may require something physical to be built or installed for a specific purpose, for example hardware facilities like central heating, air equipment, and lighting fixtures. It can also refer to non-equipment resources like staff management, grounds maintenance, and technology-driven security services.

Leading the business with smart technologies

Covid-19 has accentuated SMM’s implementation of smart technologies to enhance work productivity and efficiencies. The Smart FM framework released by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) strongly calls for the need to formulate strategies and embrace smart technologies in our FM operations. SMM’s default approach is to continuously seek to achieve higher work efficiency and productivity with the adoption of innovative technologies. It has included technologies such as mobility app, digital FM, smart robotics cleaning, smart bins and smart toilet monitoring sensors. These solutions complement its core services and value-adding offerings to clients.

At a glance, SMM’s innovative solutions include:

  • robotic cleaning (automated cleaning with the use of robots to sweep, vacuum, scrub and mop the floor);
  • smart toilet monitoring system (using sensors to identify air quality, consumables and footfall, reduce cleaning labour and improve productivity);
  • self-taking temperature screening system (takes a person’s temperature in less than 2 seconds, portable and issues alert when the temperate exceeds the threshold);
  • solar-powered smart bin (7-8 times more waste capacity to reduce frequency of waste collection and send e-notifications to cleaning staff).

SMM actively participates in the Happy Toilet Programme, developed and implemented by the Restroom Association of Singapore, and supported by National Environment Agency (NEA). Set criteria for the implementation include working condition of the facilities, amenities, cleanliness, smart and special features. As the comprehensive rating system showcases good toilet facilities standards, adopters of the programme enjoy enhanced brand image for their buildings.

Of significance is our community mobility application which has several unique and customer centric benefits. The app improves efficiency and enhances user experience through the smart digitisation of processes, and promotes a strong community culture. For example, the AI-based mobile app utilised by tertiary institutions has enabled app users to enjoy a unified and seamless campus community experience. It has also helped these clients in their time-space management, namely planning and shift rationalisation, viewing real-time allocation, and space utilisation.

SMM’s community mobility app has over 30 smart technology features and the diagrams below illustrate how it helps the client, the community, and the users within the community. It facilitates clients’ understanding of space usage pattern, in the context of video analytics, business intelligence and analytics, and to obtain actionable insights, and detailed reporting of all their activities within the premises such as seat booking, smart access, traffic management, incident reporting, visitor management, smart cafeteria and community engagement.

As part of our service delivery in Singapore’s Smart Nation pursuit, SMM has built within the community mobility app – a proprietary iSMM. It is an in-house application that enables digital back-end communications between site operations team and service vendors to support maintenance operations. It can be seamlessly integrated with our community mobility app solution as a one-stop platform. The features include fault reporting, inventory management, corrective maintenance, preventive maintenance, broadcasting, inventory management, asset listing, analytics dashboard and monthly reporting. The features provide transparency in work delivery, streamlines FM processes and drives performance in FM operations and systems.

To summarise, in the management of FM, SMM takes strategic and tactical perspectives when working with other divisions, clients, and customers to help them understand the impact of their decisions on managing the facility. The operational roles carry out tasks with a highly-trained level of skill and on-the-ground knowledge. SMM adopts both the “bird’s eye” and the “worm’s eye” perspectives: the “bird’s eye” role oversees and coordinates efforts, with our well qualified staff, and with strong and extensive prior experience in the field. The “worm’s view” is primarily “in-the-field” role with a strong eye for details and technical expertise. Worm’s perspective include performing the task to full completion, keeping aware of all changing regulations in the industry, documenting and reporting on inefficiency and issues, finding operational areas to improve, calculating costs of materials and supplies, responding to emergencies calmly and swiftly, and delegating and coordinating simultaneous FM efforts.

Looking ahead, and with a bird’s eye perspective to the question on what’s the single biggest change in the FM business as a result of COVID-19, SMM’s answer is to look at the FM business through different lenses: there is the physical resilience of assets as facilities management addresses the need for maintenance, ensuring the assets do not slowly crumble. The resilience is to take into account climate risks and to continuously build resources to effectively manage assets for the long-term. Technology affects both the use and the cost of infrastructure, and facilities management helps ensure that the clients’ assets stay resilient, viable and does not suffer from obsolescence. COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated that facilities management is an essential service to future-proofing infrastructure in a volatile, uncertain world of climate change and pandemics.


Connect with Us

SMM Pte Ltd

For enquiry, please email: asksmm@surbanajurong.com


Flexibility and Adaptability: The Best Response to Healthcare Design

By Stephanie Costelloe
Principal & Director of Healthcare, Asia
B+H Architects

“Pandemic mode” will no longer be an optional “luxury” to be considered during the design process, it will be a compulsory way of thinking about how the hospital can quickly convert, physically as well as operationally.”

Hospitals around the world have weathered pandemics, and the past decade has seen hospital designs transforming in the wake of SARS, MERS and H1N1. Our hospitals have never been better equipped to treat people. Is there anything more that we can do?

More Than a Numbers Game

The greatest challenge posed by COVID-19 was the sheer volume of patients that required treatment at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The number of ICU beds in a typical hospital is a relatively modest proportion, in comparison to the overall bed number. It is calculated based on the maximum patient load on most days of a typical year, but is severely insufficient to deal with the patient surge or average length of intensive care required in the face of this crisis.

Adding to the capacity challenges, even patients who do not require treatment in the ICU have to be cared for within an isolated environment with negative air pressure; meaning that the contaminated air in the room cannot pass to other spaces within the hospital. Such a specialized air ventilation system is only provided in a small portion of patient rooms – typically from five to 20 percent – rendering it impossible to safely accommodate all COVID-19 patients without increasing the risk of cross-contamination, most often to front-line workers who have suffered enormously during this time.

While the acuity of hospital capacity has been visible to all who have been reading or watching the news, an equally critical impact has been hidden behind the scenes. As hospitals responded to capacity challenges by converting every available space to patient care, staff areas have been reduced to an absolute minimum, exacerbated by the need to accommodate complicated procedures for gown-up/down to prevent cross-contamination.

Hence, is the answer to increase the number of ICU beds? Add more specialized air ventilation systems? Expand capacity for staff areas? While these all seem very desirable today, they lock us into an assumption that the next healthcare crisis will follow the same pattern. Confidence in the face of uncertainty is always a risky strategy.

Flexible Design is Not a Luxury

The harsh reality of pandemics and other notable events will be the front and centre of discussions on hospital design for the future, be it in the form of construction of new hospitals, renovation or conversion of existing buildings. “Pandemic mode” will no longer be an optional “luxury” to be considered during the design process, as it will be a compulsory way of thinking about how spaces can quickly be converted and adapted – both physically and operationally.

In terms of permanent physical infrastructure, designing for future flexibility and adaptation is the best response to both the anticipation of another pandemic and the exponential change we are seeing in the evolution of healthcare. Advances in medical equipment, technology, treatments and patient expectations make the future of healthcare spaces almost impossible to predict with any confidence. Planning and designing spaces with a high degree of adaptability and “updatability” will enable structures to flex and respond to future conditions (Refer to Figure 1).

There is a misconception that such flexibility must come at a high cost, or compromise the “base” design solution, but in practice it can be as simple as the considered placement of doors along corridor that allow for quick compartmentalization. Or providing rooms with a “soft” function that can re-purposed for staff gown-up/down at entryways to accommodate decontamination requirements.

But this crisis has also seen the industry deploying their skills beyond traditional bricks and mortar solutions. As architects and designers, we are fortunate to have the ability to visualize things that don’t yet exist while bringing an important practicality and clarity to complex issues. This has enabled many architects and designers around the world to quickly take action in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. Examples range from the conversion of shipping containers into fully-functioning ICU pods, patient self-screening booths which limit the exposure of healthcare staff while allowing for effective triage, and the overnight conversion of spaces ranging from airports and hotels to convention centres and sports stadiums into temporary hospitals for COVID-19 patients.

Figure 1: Waiting Area at National University Centre for Oral Health, Singapore (NUCOHS), are collapsible and can be converted into additional patient space as needed (photo credit: B+H Architects)

Designing Resilience Into the Urban Fabric

Our greatest opportunity lies in building resilience throughout our urban fabric, harnessing other assets in our built environment, at various scales, to create a sustainable rapid response model.

Every building we inhabit has an impact on our health and wellbeing. The pandemic has forced all of us to re-evaluate the purpose of all our buildings – from our homes and workplaces, to airports, hotels, restaurants and public recreation spaces – and the quality of human activity we expect them to support.

The question is not about how we will change our designs to suit the pandemic, but how the pandemic will ultimately force us to question the very roots of our design thinking, and lead us to greater introspection about why and how we will design in the future.

– end –

Connect with Us
Stephanie Costelloe
Email: Stephanie.Costelloe@bharchitects.com

Infrastructure for a Resilient Economy

By Er. Dr. Ang Choon Keat
Managing Director
Prostruct Consulting Pte Ltd

Manmade and natural disasters can cause serious damages and disruption to infrastructures and businesses.

The Oklahoma City Bombing on 19 April 1995 led to the progressive collapse of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building (Linenthal, 2020) and subsequent cessation of all operations. The explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate at the port of Beirut, Lebanon on 4 Aug 2020 killed at least 160, wounded 6,000 and displaced 300,000 people from their homes (Reid, 2020). Buildings in a 10 km radius were reported to be damaged (Balkiz, Qiblawi, & Wedeman, 2020). The recent COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions to businesses and the way we work, live and play.

Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Kiat has highlighted the importance of a resilient economy in the post COVID-19 world (The Straits Times, 2020). All businesses should consider the resilience of their infrastructure and incorporate the relevant physical measures and institute operational preparedness, to mitigate against possible disruptions to ensure business continuity.

What is Infrastructure Resilience?
The National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) in the United States defines Infrastructure Resilience as the ability to reduce the magnitude and/or duration of disruptive events. The effectiveness of a resilient infrastructure or enterprise depends upon its ability to anticipate, absorb, adapt to, and/or rapidly recover from a potentially disruptive event. Similarly, the Resilient Design Institute defines Resilience as the capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to maintain or regain functionality and vitality in the face of stress or disturbance.  It is the capacity to bounce back after a disturbance or interruption.

For example, the England Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR) Framework (2015) outlines the requirements for the National Health Service (NHS) to prepare for emergencies, to have flexible arrangements which can be scalable and adaptable to work in a wide range of scenarios. EPRR aims to ensure that plans are in place to ensure resilience, allowing the community, services, area or infrastructure to detect, prevent, withstand, handle and recover from disruptive challenges (NHS England National EPRR Unit, 2015).

Achieving Infrastructure Resilience
The National Institute of Building Science (2018) in the United States presented four Infrastructure Resilience principles to minimize the disruption to building operations caused by any undesired event and the time taken to return to 100% operability:

Robustness – The ability to maintain critical operations and functions in the face of crisis. The building, its critical and supporting systems can be designed to minimize disruptions.

Redundancy – Backup capabilities are able to provide critical functions when primary sources have failed, reducing the down time of critical functions and their impact to building operations.

Resourcefulness – The ability to prepare for, respond to and manage an ongoing crisis or disruption. It includes effective communication of decisions made, business continuity planning, supply chain management, security and resilience management systems. These contingency measures are to prioritize courses of action to control and mitigate damage and should be adaptable to ensure effectiveness in various scenarios.

Recovery – The ability to return to normal operations as quickly and efficiently as possible after a disruption through the deployment of the right resources to the right places.

The United States National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP): Partnering for Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience (NIPP, 2013) provides guidance to the critical infrastructure community to build and sustain critical infrastructure security and resilience to manage risks. The United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA 452) offers a similar framework. The following methodology was referenced from these frameworks (refer to Figure 1).

Figure 1: Risk Management Process

Set Goals and Objectives of Infrastructure Resilience – Establish objectives and priorities for critical infrastructure that are tailored and scaled to their available resources, operational and risk environments.

Identify Critical Assets – Establish and identify the assets, systems, and networks that are essential to the continued operation, considering associated dependencies and interdependencies.

Assess and Analyse Risks – Risk assessments are conducted to facilitate the owner in decision making.

Implement Risk Management Activities – Implement measures that minimize disruption to operations and reduce time required to return to normal operations.

Loss mitigation and business continuity under disruption are key considerations in Physical Security and Bio-Security and this framework could help in the planning and design for infrastructure resilience.

Infrastructure Resilience: Physical Security
The threat of terrorism to our security remains high. As the current COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the world causing social and economic fallout, security experts are wary of a resurgent and revamped form of terrorism found on extremism and assisted by online connectivity. The resilience of infrastructure against physical security threats can be examined using the Infrastructure Resilience Principles, and the Risk Management framework could be used to develop strategies to frustrate and disrupt an adversarial attack. The infrastructure and its critical and supporting systems could be designed for robustness to minimize disruptions in the event of a terror attack. Backup of the critical functions could be provided for redundancy. Business continuity planning, security and resilience management systems could be developed to prioritize courses of action to control and mitigate damage and ensure effectiveness in various scenarios including terror attack. The infrastructure could also be designed for optimal recovery and return to normal operations as quickly and efficiently as possible after a terror attack. These principles are frequently applied in the Risk Management methodology and further developed into an infrastructure resilience strategy. An example is the following 5 layered strategy deployed to provide a robust prevention and protection system against terror threats (NIAC,2009) (MHA, 2018):

Deter – Deterrence aims to prevent a potential disruption by turning the infrastructure or facility into an undesirable target. It can be achieved via facility design, rules and protocols that prohibit undesired activities or encourage desired practices and awareness.

Detect – Early detection of potential disruption alerts stakeholders, giving them more time to better respond to the disruption.

Delay – This layer aims to slow down the progress of disruption by using obstacles. Stakeholders can use the additional time to better respond to the disruption.

Deny – By creating separate zones within the building, exposure of critical portions of the building to disruption would be reduced.

Defend – This layer focuses on reducing the damage or impact to operations if disruptive incidents occur. It can be achieved by purposeful design of infrastructure and holistic management plans to deal with the crisis.

Figure 2: Protection Plan

Figure 2 above illustrates the Physical Security measures and technologies which can be utilized to achieve these Physical Security principles. First, deterrence via the various security and protection measures is used to discourage any attempt of an attack by emphasizing on the likelihood of failure and capture. It is a psychological battle to ensure that some intended criminal activities never start. Effectiveness of security measures can also be amplified through signages and messages.

Entry into the controlled zone would be denied to unauthorized personnel at security checkpoints. Anti-climb fences, vehicle barriers and bollards are implemented to deny and delay any attempt to enter the controlled zone.

Figure 3: Security Bollards

CCTV systems, intrusion detection systems, electronic access control systems are typical detection systems that alert security forces of any breach of security. The asset can be further defended by hardening the critical sections of the building.

A straightforward method of hardening is to increase the physical size and / or reinforcement details of structural components to improve the resistance against threats such as explosions and blast loads. Alternatively, structural components can also be strengthened by other means such as Fibre Reinforced Polymer composites or steel jacketing. Openings such as doors, windows, louvres etc can also be installed with blast rated protections.

Even with the implementation of prevention and protection measures, it is still possible that the attack was successful at damaging the asset, causing disruption to building operations.

With backup assets and resources, single points of failure can be prevented. The contingency plans enacted during peacetime would facilitate the takeover of critical functions within a short timeframe, returning operations to normal levels.

To mitigate the weaknesses of Physical Security measures and design, there is a need to have an adequate number of personnel with the right competencies to ensure effective security & resilience operations during crisis – including proper response to crimes and terrorist attacks. Depending on the nature of threats, additional external response may be required to mitigate the threats. Resources, standard operating procedures and communication channels should be in place beforehand such that the response can be initiated immediately.

Infrastructure Resilience: Bio-Security
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for the world. Some organisations have realised their lack of Infrastructure Resilience in the face of the pandemic. Significant outbreaks of disease / biological threats can threaten lives and cause disruption to infrastructure and the businesses. This is true regardless of the origin of the outbreak:


  • Pandemic Influenza
  • Emerging infectious diseases


  • Accidental release from scientific or industrial facilities
  • Deliberate biological attack

The UK Biological Security Strategy (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs et al., 2018) provides four pillars in response to biological threats: Understand, Prevent, Detect and Respond. These pillars can be adapted for Infrastructure Resilience.

Understand – Understand the risks of ongoing or possible future biological threats.

Prevent – Prevent the spread of the pathogen through design of the building

Detect – Ability to identify biological threats or carriers through the use of detection systems and tests.

Respond – Reduce the impact of biological threats and enable rapid recovery to normal operations.

Regardless of whether it is ongoing or future biological threats, understanding the threats in areas such as typical transmission methods, symptoms, signs of contamination etc. is crucial for the selection of effective prevention, detection and response methods.

Prevention of the spread of biological threats can be considered during the building’s design phase. Ventilation systems of various sections of the building can be isolated to deny the travel of air borne pathogens from one part of the building to another. Positive pressure rooms prevent outside air from entering, denying entry of the pathogen.

Protective design with isolation of special-use spaces through layout and ventilation system planning can further limit the impact of contaminants in vulnerable spaces on the rest of the building, thereby reducing exposure to the bulk of the building occupants (Persily et al., 2007).

Detection of biological threats before it enters a building can be done via sensing technologies and procedures. Sensors can be deployed at entry points to detect signs of biological threats or symptoms of carriers, preventing possible spread and disruption to operations. Temperature sensors for COVID-19 are examples of sensors that can be implemented quickly during a crisis.

Figure 4: Temperature Screening at Entry Points for COVID-19

The most critical response during an ongoing biological threat incident is to have effective and proportionate strategies to decontaminate any area, to allow a return to normal as soon as possible. Implementation of contingency measures such as staggering of work, meal times, and physical distancing etc. at the workplace combined with wearing of masks can aid in delaying the spread of some pathogen.

Besides the impact to occupants, biological threats may impact the operations of the supply chain, leading to disruptions downstream. Buildings that are able to manage supply chain issues during lock down by implementing business continuity measures and securing alternative sources of supply would be able to quickly recover from the initial disruption. Appropriate stockpiling of resources and material during peace time is crucial to provide effective recovery against a wide range of potential scenarios.

Redundancy of personnel can be achieved with split team arrangements as they prevent the spread of pathogens across teams, with each team acting as the respective backup of the other. Telecommuting can be implemented to restore operations in a lockdown, allowing for the rapid recovery of normal operations for certain services and industries.

Figure 5: Telecommuting (Rawson, 2019)


The Infrastructure Resilience Principles and Risk Management framework presented here provide building owners, security designers, engineers and architects with a structured approach to planning and designing for Infrastructure Resilience. Effective strategies can be developed to minimise disruption to operations and ensure business continuity, for example, when faced with physical security and bio-security threats.

In the building of a resilient economy, the resilience of the infrastructure would be essential to assure investors and business owners that supply chain would not be disrupted and business could continue, and people operating the infrastructure and occupants of the buildings are confident that they would be effectively protected and it is safe to work, live and play.

** End **

Connect with Us
Ang Choon Keat
Email: choonkeat.ang@prostruct.com.sg


Balkiz, G., Qiblawi, T., & Wedeman, B. (2020, August 05). Huge explosion rocks Beirut, injuring thousands across Lebanese capital. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from https://edition.cnn.com/2020/08/04/middleeast/beirut-explosion-port-intl/index.html

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Department of Health and Social CareHome Office (2018). UK Biological Security Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/biological-security-strategy (Accessed: 27 August 2020)

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (2005). Risk Assessment A How-To Guide to Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks Against Buildings.

Linenthal, E. T. (2020). Oklahoma City Bombing: The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=OK026

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). (2018). Guidelines to Enhancing Building Security in Singapore. Retrieved from https://www.scdf.gov.sg/home/fire-safety/downloads/acts-codes-regulations/enhancing-building-security

National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC). (2009). Critical Infrastructure Resilience Final Report and Recommendations. Retrieved from https://www.cisa.gov/publication/niac-critical-infrastructure-resilience-final-report

National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP). (2013). Partnering for Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience. Retrieved from https://www.cisa.gov/publication/nipp-2013-partnering-critical-infrastructure-security-and-resilience

National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS). (2018, August 1). Building Resilience. WBDG. https://www.wbdg.org/resources/building-resiliency

NHS England National EPRR Unit. (2015). NHS England EPRR Framework. Retrieved from https://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/eprr/gf/

Persily, Andrew & Chapman, R. & Emmerich, Steven & Dols, William & Davis, H. & Lavappa, P. & Rushing, A.. (2007). Building Retrofits for Increased Protection Against Chemical and Biological Releases.

Rawson, R. (2019, August 2). Software to Manage Telecommuting Employees. Biz 3.0. https://biz30.timedoctor.com/software-for-managing-telecommuters/

Reid, K. (2020, August 18). Lebanon: Beirut explosion facts and how to help. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from https://www.worldvision.org/disaster-relief-news-stories/lebanon-beirut-explosion-facts-how-help

The Straits Times. (2020, October 5). Parliament: Resilient economy and going green can boost Singapore’s growth after Covid-19, says DPM Heng Swee Keat.


How Climate Change Will Affect Designs

By Eugene Seah
Senior Director, Special Projects
Surbana Jurong Group

Rising temperatures is a global phenomenon, when weather patterns become erratic and unpredictable. For a moment, we hear news of certain geographical regions experiencing torrential rains with flooding, and the next, countries having extreme heatwaves and out of control bush fires that turn into fire storms.

The threat that climate change poses is self-evident. And the cause of such extreme temperatures is the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the environment, through activities that require very high energy consumption, such as greenfield developments, burning of oil and gas, and vehicle carbon emissions. CO2 traps solar energy in the environment, which results in heating the planet.

Urban planners and developers are responding to these changes by building more sustainable and resilient buildings, cities and infrastructure. There are several rating tools that help guide urban planners design more environmentally friendly buildings, while aiding developers and operators improve the management and operations of the buildings’ life cycle.

Future Proofing Building Designs
When designing buildings, planners will need to consider both the occupants’ heat load and extreme external temperatures – which means that existing services may be taxed heavily and highly strained with the additional heating or cooling load needed. Buildings designed for super low or net zero energy are faced with hotter or colder climates, and these require fair amount of localized heating or cooling in work areas.

Versatility in weathering extreme temperatures would also mean that buildings should also be equipped with good flood protection systems, as well as the ability to resist fire storms. This can be an inexpensive hump or ramp over basement entrances, or sophisticated flood barriers that will rise up to prevent flood waters from entering the building.

Building Elements to Withstand Higher Wind Speeds
Been on a cruise vacation and opened one of the balcony doors? The mechanism of the doors, windows and sealing system are quite different from your ordinary window system. This is because the wind force in the open sea is higher than the ones on land. However, these mechanisms have already been used at buildings near the sea, or even very tall building structures. In the years ahead, when the occurrence of gale force winds increases, such locking mechanisms will become more prevalent.

In line with this, the building code will also have to change to cater for such gale force winds. In 2019, Singapore experienced a mini tornado inland that resulted from a water spout coming on land, ripping roof coverings and pushing anything that was not weighted and nailed down. Such high force winds will also create difficulty for landing aircrafts. Buildings will have to be designed to consider such gale force wind as well as locking down loose furniture that may potentially become deadly projectiles.

NZEB and SLEB Designs
Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB) and Super Low Energy Buildings (SLEB) will be common designs because not only are they energy efficient, they have much lower carbon footprints and contribute to an overall better work environment (refer to Illustration 1). In Singapore, some districts are designed to conserve as much as fifty percent of energy, with some slated for NZEB or SLEB, and this leads to a review of current design practices. There are already intentions for new precincts to have these ambitious requirements in place.

An example of NZEB/SLEB feature would be the use of roof space which is usually constrained by the foot print of the land. This is usually jostled to contain maintenance & engineering equipment, but will need to be configured to house photovoltaic cells. One-on-one replacement of greenery will need to be allotted space at the facades – which can also double up to contain photovoltaics. Perhaps, there will be more sky gardens to replace the displaced land plot greenery.

Illustration 1: The new Surbana Jurong (SJ) Campus takes on a super low energy design with self-shading facade to maximise natural light, and minimise solar heat gain and reliance on artificial lighting.

Vertical Farming for Food Security
In early 2020, the eastern part of Africa experienced an apocalypse – swarms of desert locusts descended and attacked food crops and flattening farms, causing an unprecedented threat to food security. This part of Africa has been known for having extremely dry climate conditions, and this can go on for years without heavy rain until the sudden slam by powerful downfalls – which resulted in this chain of catastrophes.

To get around problems of naturally grown food crops, we will need to consider these activities to be undertaken indoors with nutrient transferring technology being enhanced year-on-year (refer to Illustration 2). There will be less need for soil, as hydroponics technology increases the chances of yield and the climate internally can be controlled. Food towers can also be made available to fish, poultry and other daily farming necessities.

Illustration 2: A high-intensity vertical farming concept that can be applied to fish, vegetable or other agricultural products.

The Need for 5G and Light Fidelity (LIFI)
Because weather patterns do affect data streaming, there will be an increased need to have back up technologies to supplement the current networks. While 5G is a stone’s throw future away, it runs strictly on a narrow bandwidth.

LIFI system, on the other hand, has a wider bandwidth and is able to stream data directly from visible light spectrum and infrared. With 5G and LIFI combined, high speed data communications can very well provide the required networks during adverse weather conditions.

Artificial Intelligence in Building Management Systems
When the weather systems become erratic, Mechanical, Electrical and Plant (MEP) systems will be put to strain for what was originally designed with a certain standard range. The plant and equipment must contend with warmer and dryer climate and at the same time, having more fresh air intake above what was intended for.

With Artificial Intelligence (AI) introduced in Building Management Systems (BMS), the systems will be able to call out more output from MEP systems, and has the ability to scale back when the weather is back to normal.

SJ is taking this one step further through using AI to manage internal air quality in an enclosed environment. This is done through the application of plant bio-filters in the form of green walls for offices. For instance, when IOT systems detect the increase of volatile organic compound (VOC) or CO2 in the office ambient, the system will be prompted to pump more nutrient-rich water into the green wall system. And this causes the plant bio-filter to increase photosynthesis activity (producing O2 in the air by taking in CO2), which in turn prompts microbes in the soil to absorb the VOC.

Reversible Designs and Building as Material Banks
There are studies in Europe, especially in the Netherlands, on recyclability in Buildings. Because of the scarcity of materials and the need to recycle as much materials as possible, there is a movement by European designers to consider buildings that can be used for multi-generations, multi-functions, as well as reusing the materials in the building.

An example of the recyclability concept is the Circle Pavilion in Amsterdam – which uses “Buildings As Material Banks (BAMB)” to identify and facilitate the reuse of components from existing buildings (refer to Illustration 3). The building block materials are not cemented together with wet trades. Instead, they are bolted together, dry jointed or have special fixtures and connectors to help speedy assembly and disassembly of the materials. The specifications, disassembly procedures, material details and manufacturing information are all captured in block chain and in BIM models.

Illustration 3: “Buildings As Material Banks (BAMB)” identifies and facilitates the reuse of components from existing buildings (Photo credit: architizer.com)

Lightning Protection
Singapore experiences one of the highest lightning activities in the world, with an average of 180 lightning days a year. Each square kilometer of land in Singapore can be struck up to 16 times annually. This would mean that when designing lightning protection for operations, buildings and the inhabitants, there is a need to be extra careful to provide the necessary protection – in the form of covered walkways, sheltered over ground pedestrian and underground networks to keep the city’s inhabitants safe.

The Singapore Standard SS 555 (2018) Code of Practice for Lightning Protection stipulates the use of Lightning Risk Assessment to determine proper levels of protection measures to be installed.

With the use of BIM, SJ’s Digital Management Office has developed a script to allow computers do the heavy lifting. An algorithm is built to emulate the “Rolling Sphere” (refer to Illustration 4) – a method to determine lightning protection zones which indicates areas that are highly unlikely to get struck – and this is based on simple mathematics and geometric operations. This will minimize (or remove) human errors and provide Engineers with a holistic solution and visualization of the Lightning Protection Zones to enable them to make informed design decisions.

Illustration 4: Rolling Sphere Analysis in Revit (Photo credit: Loh Jun Han / SJ’s BIM Initiative)

Importance of Carbon Accounting
Because reducing our carbon emissions is one important way to limit the effects of climate change, carbon accounting becomes more crucial in the equation. This extends not only to operational carbon, but embodied carbon as well. Carbon accounting divides carbon into three main scopes (refer to Illustration 5). Scope 1 is for direct carbon emissions, while scopes 2 and 3 are more for indirect carbon emissions.

For the construction industry, carbon accounting starts from knowing the level of carbon output when constructing a building, commonly referred to as embodied carbon. Based on a materials quantity schedule, corresponding carbon unit rates will be applied to the material schedule and the carbon quantum extended and summed up. This can be expressed on a kg/m2 GFA. SJ, together with A-star, is building a carbon calculator for Singapore and the region to accurately calculate the embodied carbon in the building.

Illustration 5: Three scopes of Carbon Accounting (Photo credit: pnggur.com)

Designing Out Diseases
Finally, building designs of the future will need to consider diseases and the widespread of viral infections such as Dengue Fever and COVID-19 – which are indirect causes of climate change. The new SJ Campus is designed in different fingers separating office personnel. Though there are common collaboration spaces throughout the campus, it is convenient to isolate one block or one floor, in the event of a disease breakout.

Designs should also take into account potential water ponding issues, with lesser gutters and open drains, where mosquitos thrive and breed.

We can deduce that Climate Change will certainly change the way we approach design and how we spec out a building. The works of an architect, engineer, or quantity surveyor will be affected in one way or another because of this extreme change in weather patterns. The way we operate will also be affected and if we do not start making changes to the way we design, the exponential effects of climate change will be quicker than the rate of change in buildings that are already worn out.

The time to change the way we design is NOW.

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Connect with Us
Eugene Seah
Email: eugene.seah@surbanajurong.com





Protecting Infrastructure Against Terrorist Attacks

Ang Choon Keat
Managing Director

Lin Yadong
Senior Consultant, Security and Blast

Andrew Tan
Senior Consultant, Security and Blast

Prostruct Consulting Pte Ltd (Member of the Surbana Jurong Group)

With the real possibility of terrorist threats, Singapore implemented the Infrastructure Protection Act (IPA) from December 2018, to provide a clear regulatory framework for protection against such threats. Selected buildings will have to undergo a security-by-design (SBD) process before they are built or renovated. This article gives a brief introduction of the IPA, the SBD process, as well as some common mitigation strategies to enhance building protection.

Mitigating the threat of terrorist attacks has always been a challenging task. It is difficult to predict how, where and when such an attack will happen. A terrorist attack is an extremely disruptive force which can destabilize the normalcy and unity of a society. Historically, bombings have been among the favourite tactics by terrorists, as it is often the more effective way to gain media attention and create panic or shock to the public. Attacks can be carried out in forms of suicide bombers or by the detonation of vehicle borne explosives. Vehicles can also be driven at speed into groups of unsuspecting people.

Past terrorist incidents reflected that critical infrastructures are preferred target choices for terrorists. On 22 March 2016, three coordinated suicide bombings occurred in Belgium – two at Brussels Airport and one at Maalbeek metro station in central Brussels. The incident resulted in more than 30 fatalities and more than 300 injuries. On 10 December 2016, a car bomb and a bomb carried by a suicide bomber exploded in Istanbul killing 48 people and injuring several others. More recently, in November 2019, a suicide bomber targeted the Police Headquarters in the Indonesian city of Medan and blew himself up at the police station, killing himself and injuring several others in the process. In recent years, deliberate vehicle-ramming into crowds of people is becoming a major terrorist tactic, because it requires little resource and skill to perpetrate and has the potential to cause significant casualties. On 17 August 2017, a single perpetrator drove a van into a popular tourist pedestrian street in Barcelona, Spain killing 13 people and injuring at least 130 others.

Closer to home, a group of six militants were arrested after a planned attack to fire a rocket at Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands from Batam Island was foiled by the authorities in Aug 2016. If the attack was not uncovered and prevented, the consequences can be disastrous. Over the past few years, there has also been many arrests of individuals, either associated with terrorist groups or self-radicalised.

The Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report, released by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in June 20171, indicated that terrorism threat remains the highest to Singapore, in recent years. The potential terror threat has underscored the need for a more systematic way to protect key infrastructures. In response, the Infrastructure Protection Act (IPA) was passed on 2 October 2017, and came into force on 18 Dec 20182,3 as part of Singapore’s counter-terrorism efforts.

The IPA is intended to form a clear regulatory framework and comprehensive strategy to fight terror. Under the new law, MHA could designate new buildings as “special developments”, and existing buildings as “special infrastructures”. The designated buildings include those that provide essential services, have heavy human traffic or iconic or symbolic significance.

These identified buildings will be required to go through a “security-by-design” process to integrate security measures such as video surveillance, vehicle barriers and protection against blasts in their design before they are built, and for selected existing buildings to incorporate such measures in their renovation plans.

Security-By-Design (SBD)
Incorporating physical security concepts in the initial design of a new building or renovation plan for an upgraded building is often the most efficient and cost-effective way to achieve the required security level at minimal cost. In doing so, security can be effectively incorporated without compromising other objectives such as the functions and aesthetics of the buildings.

The main stages in SBD consist of the Preliminary Facility Design Development (PFDD), the Risk Assessment (comprising of the Threat, Vulnerability and Risk Assessment (TVRA) and the Blast Effects Analysis (BEA) and the development of a Security Protection Plan (SPP).The Security & Blast (S&B) Consultants commence the SBD study with the PFDD and the risk assessment. At this stage, S&B consultants will do a site appreciation to develop a preliminary security protection plan and to share applicable good security design practices.

The S&B Consultants will then work on the Threat, Vulnerability and Risk Assessment (TVRA) to determine the risks faced by the facility and specify the protection requirement. This is a systematic process to identify and analyze risks associated with applicable threats against the identified critical assets and how the threat scenarios may affect or impact the operations of the critical infrastructure. A BEA study will be conducted to determine the effects of a blast event and highlight any vulnerabilities.

Based on the results from TVRA and BEA, a Structural Resilience Study (SRS) will be conducted to recommend any mitigation measures required before putting up an SPP to achieve the necessary safeguards against identified threats.

The SPP will include layers of security protective measures that integrate physical & structural measures, technological measures and operational measures to mitigate the relevant security risks. A localised and outcome-based approach is usually adopted to determine the most appropriate security measures to mitigate those threats based on current capabilities and resource requirements.

Layered Protection Concept
Typically, a layered protection concept or “Defense-In-Depth” that involves layers of measures is adopted to enhance the security of buildings. These layers consisting of “Deter, Detect, Delay, Deny, and Response”4 complement each other through a combination of physical, operational and technological measures and provides a coordinated protection for a building. A multi-layered defense system is harder to penetrate as compared to a single layer of defense and it also gives security forces sufficient time to detect and respond to the incident as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Layered Protection Concept


The deterrence layer provides the first impression of security level of the facility by making it clear to an adversary that the risk of failure or getting caught is high. It is an effect of visible physical security measures and making it an undesirable target.

Delay aims to slow down a perpetrator by using access control measures such as fence or physical barriers to make it difficult for the perpetrator to penetrate further into the facility.

Perpetrators who are not deterred must be dealt with. The detection layer facilitates the identification of threats, so an alert can be raised. Typical detection measures include video surveillance systems, electronic access control systems, magnetic contact and passive infra-red motion sensors, etc.

Deny ensures that only authorized persons are allowed entry into protected areas. This can be achieved through card access systems or deploying security guards at access control points.

Response refers to the means taken to counter an attack, so as to protect important assets. Response measures can include activation of security systems, including but not limited to, alarm system and dispatching of security personnel.

Risk Management Approach
A risk management approach as shown in Figure 2 is recommended to ensure appropriate security measures are in place to address relevant threats. Risk management approach involves assessment of threat scenarios and consequences against existing security baseline measures. Then, further protection measures to mitigate these risks such as operational measures, technological measures and hardening of critical assets can be calibrated for implementation.

This Security Protection Measures and Plan should be reviewed periodically to ensure that the security measures are sufficient to mitigate emerging or evolving threats as the security climate change in the future.

Figure 2: Risk Management Cycle

Increasing Standoff Distance

Protection of a building from an explosion occurring outside the building is achieved by increasing the standoff distance from the bomb threat and strengthening the building against blast and other effects of an explosion5. Some of the common measures include traffic flow and access control by setting up anti-ram vehicle barriers or bollards to increase standoff distances, hardening of structural components to withstand blast loadings, locating critical assets away from public areas to reduce their vulnerabilities, and hardened protection at vulnerable openings that are exposed to blast threats.

Increasing standoff distance between the building and potential bomb threats is perhaps the most effective strategy of mitigating damage to the building. As standoff increases, the blast loads generated by an explosion decrease and the amount of hardening necessary to provide the required level of protection decreases. In addition, the cost to provide asset protection will decrease as the distance between an asset and a threat increases, as shown in Figure 36.

Figure 3: Relationship of cost to stand-off distance (Source: FEMA 426)

Where possible, this can be achieved via measures such as bollards (Figure 4), barriers, landscaping, etc. The bollards/barriers need to be anti-crash, in order to withstand crash impacts and prevent entry of offensive vehicles.

Figure 4: Bollards to create additional standoff

A properly designed anti-crash system7,8 denies a vehicle from getting nearer to the protected building. It can also serve as a psychological strategy which reduces a threat probability and vulnerability by making it clear to an adversary that the risk of attack failure is high. This deterrence and denial layer form a protection layer that is away from the protected asset. It provides a visible physical security measures and clear warnings that the building is protected. The bollards/barriers can be further complemented by other protection measures such as detection technology along the perimeter/barriers, coupled with adequate lighting and response measures such security personnel, to form a complete layered protection for the building.

Structural Hardening
In some cases, increasing standoff distances is insufficient or unavailable to mitigate the blast effects. It may be necessary to adopt designs to prevent progressive collapse of the entire building. Progressive collapse is defined as the spread of an initial local failure from element to element, eventually resulting in the collapse of an entire building. The Oklahoma City bombing (April 1995) is an example that illustrates the importance of designing buildings to prevent progressive collapse. In that incident, most of the deaths resulted from the collapse of the building, as opposed to the bomb blast itself.

Preventing progressive collapse through structural hardening is also crucial in protecting the interior inhabitants and critical assets to ensure minimal casualties, and continual operations of essential services to minimize disruptions to operations.

Structural hardening measures could come in various forms. The straight forward way is simply to increase the physical size of the structural components and/or the reinforcement details until they are sufficiently thick and can therefore resist the blast loads. Alternatively, the strength of structural components can also be increased by other means such as external strengthening with Fiber Reinforced Polymers (FRP) composites (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Strengthening of structures with FRP composites

Protection of Openings
Openings refer to locations in a building, that provide access for equipment and personnel, and which are covered by doors, roller shutters or windows. When an explosion occurs outside the building, these openings become the vulnerable points where blast and flying fragments could enter and cause damages to assets or injuries to occupants.

Conventional mitigation solutions involve installing blast resistant doors (Figure 6). Due to certain operation limitations of blast doors, blast roller shutter doors (Figure 7) have also been explored by the industry in recent years for protection of larger openings.

Figure 6: Blast door, commonly installed at protected building openings

Figure 7: Blast Roller Shutter door, for protection of large openings

In summary, the IPA was implemented in Dec 2018 as part of the nation’s counter-terrorism strategy to keep Singapore safe and secure. It means selected buildings would have to go through a vigorous SBD process to incorporate security measures upfront.

This article introduces the strategies and common mitigation measures to protect buildings from explosions.  A multi-layered defense system which includes creating standoff distances, hardening of structural components and protection of vulnerable openings are commonly adopted measures to mitigate the relevant security risks. However, one should note that these common measures shall be customized and may not be applicable for all scenarios as threats and protection criteria are unique to every different building.

In many cases, it is often necessary to combine several solutions to achieve full protection. At times, it would require the industry to innovate and offer new protective technologies that are more effective and/or economical.

This article was first published in “The Singapore Engineer (April 2018)”.

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Connect with Us
Ang Choon Keat
Email: choonkeat.ang@prostruct.com.sg

Lin Yadong
Email: yadong.lin@prostruct.com.sg

Andrew Tan
Email: andrew.tanys@prostruct.com.sg

[1] Ministry of Home Affairs (2017, Jun 1). Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report 2017 [Press release]. Retrieved from: https://www.mha.gov.sg/newsroom/press-releases/Pages/Singapore-Terrorism-Threat-Assessment-Report-2017.aspx

[2] Ministry of Home Affairs (2017, Sep 11). Infrastructure Protection Act to Take Effect from 18 Dec 2018 [Press release]. Retrieved from: https://www.mha.gov.sg/newsroom/press-release/news/infrastructure-protection-act-to-take-effect-from-18-dec-2018

[3] Zaihan Mohamed Yusof (2017, Oct 5). Industry welcomes new law to protect buildings against attacks. The Straits Times. Retrieved from: http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/industry-welcomes-new-law-to-protect-buildings-against-attacks

[4] Ministry of Home Affairs (2018). Guidelines for Enhancing Building Security in Singapore. (2018).

[5] Security Council Report (2017, Feb). Counter-Terrorism: Protection of Critical Infrastructure. Retrieved from:http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/monthly-forecast/2017-02/counter-terrorism_protection_of_critical_infrastructure.php

[6] FEMA 426. Risk Management Series, Reference Manual to Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks Against Buildings, December 2013.

[7] Paul Forman et al. (2009) “Vehicle-borne threats and the principles of hostile vehicle mitigation”, Blast effects on building, 2nd Edition

[8] C. K. Ang et al. (2016) “Design and testing of a crash bollard system”, The Singapore Engineer Magazine, 2016 December.

Digital Twins or Triplets

Raj. Thampuran
Managing Director
Technology and Research
Group R&D

A “pretty large bang” was heard by the crew of Apollo 13 two days after their launch from the Kennedy Space Centre on 11th April 1970. This was followed by the immortal words “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here”. The ignition and blast from an exposed wire inside an oxygen tank heralded a dramatic rescue by Mission Control in Houston 330,000 km away. The subsequent four-day odyssey home for the space shuttle was the quintessential “what can go wrong; will go wrong”. As has been said about that mission; “no one has been in this amount of trouble so far from home”.

There are many heroes in a rescue mission of this complexity. One of them is surely a “digital twin”. 15 simulators were connected to computers able to replicate the response to an immense number of technical permutations which would guide the craft home after circling the moon. The space shuttle and its crew landed safely in the Pacific Ocean on 17th April.

Today, a Google search for “digital twin” exceeds 300,000,000 results! Simply, it is the virtual representation (if you like, an avatar) of a physical system in real time. The idea is that the digital twin inhabits and exhibits the realities of a physical asset.

While technology progresses, its use is determined by cultures and people. In a fast paced, ever-changing digital era, not surprisingly for some, digital twins pervade many industries and aspects of private life today. Concepts in Industry 4.0 use digital twins in factory operations to monitor machine performance and spot problems. There are digital twins of hospitals, medical equipment and even human organs. Formula One racing is dominated by digital twins that predict problems, rectify difficulties and optimise the cars during an ultrahigh speed race. With over a hundred sensors in each car, billions of data (of tyre pressures, temperature, drag, acceleration, shifts in the locus of gravity, cockpit conditions) are transmitted via telemetry to remote command centres.

Neither is the built environment industry the last bastion to witness the influence of digital twins that will shape and transform its future. Digital twins will follow any industry impacted by big data. In fact, well before the built environment practice universally shifts from the classical use of two dimensional drawings and physical models to three dimensional, “living” models across the continuum of workflows, the profound value of the existence of information from these twins is already known.

In April 2019, the 12th century French Notre Dame Cathedral was ravaged by a devastating fire. The heroic work of a Vassar Professor, the late Andrew Tallon and his digital twin, restoring the Cathedral to its original design is now a realistic goal. Five years ago, in 2015, Professor Tallon used lasers to create point clouds of the Cathedral’s interior and exterior facades replete with gargoyles and spires. This is today the basis of the 3D digital rendering used in restoring this historical building.

Twins are Triplets in many ways. One of which is that their “DNA” depends on sophisticated software codes, data absorption abilities and pattern recognition (through machine learning or artificial intelligence). There are also commentators who describe twins as cyber, physical and social triplets because their properties manifest in all three realms. However it is viewed, what enables digital twins is the same technologies that propelled so many other revolutions: faster processing speeds, near unquenchable data ingestion capacities, cheap sensors’ ultra-integrated networks, communications rates and bandwidth, data storage, precocious analytical tools and new visualization techniques that allow the physical and digital worlds to meld and blend.

One way to think about the value of digital twins is its ability to participate in the entire built environment industry’s asset life cycle through concept, design, development, project management, construction and managed services. Take the example of the Virtual SingaporeTM platform. There has been much adulation in the media about Singapore’s vision to model and simulate the pulse of a vibrant city. The platform is surfeit with geospatial data about the city-state. It intends, when completed, to provide a digital space and experimental commons to make policy and design decisions, test hypotheses about urban systems and their interdependencies, model environmental impact on the landscape temporally and study community engagements in townships and its surroundings. It is an ambitious digital twin project made successful only by organisations and people able to harness its value.

With Surbana Jurong’s (SJ) domain expertise in the built environment, we have generated 3D models, large scale simulations and high dimensionality building information modelling (BIM) systems in a wide array of areas such as transport, flood control, engineering, masterplanning, design and asset management. And with our ability to incorporate data ingestion, digital twins have also been created. For instance, SJ’s VR City platform (see illustrations 1a, 1b & 1c) is a solution to test infrastructure and its design in response to connections and neighbouring dependencies. On it, changes can be made in a myriad of ways and candidate solutions derived through better information and consequently, preferred outcomes. The vision is to simulate a smart, conscious city that constantly monitors, among other factors, ambient conditions, traffic, accidents, emergencies, commuter and pedestrian patterns. Information is then channeled to an integrated operations centre and the appropriate responses transmitted to the relevant people or agencies.

Illustration 1 – SJ VR City can integrate a variety of data sources and is a convenient platform for urban planners to visualize and study the environment

Illustration 1a – Flood simulation analysis – use of stormwater management model integrated into 3D model to identify vulnerable regions prone to flooding.

Illustration 1b – In city-wide lift or critical M&E asset monitoring, users will have a pictorial overview of asset status and condition and drill-in to the individual asset as necessary to query or activate a follow-up.

Illustration 1c – Traffic monitoring with associated video analytics allows users to zoom in to road conditions or troubled spots to advise on diversionary routes to ease congestion or assist police in tracking rouge vehicles.

We are creating digital twins of our Moshe Safdie-designed SJ Campus harnessing the power of BIM, IoT, artificial intelligence, integrated digital delivery, sensor networks and new age visualisation tools (see illustrations 2a & 2b). To accomplish an equilibrium from many complex factors, the campus demonstrates the use of integrated twins from concept to construction, to long term maintenance. The aim is to create a balanced tropical ecology of light and shade, cooling and radiation deflection, and excellent air circulation and quality. The campus will become a living, pulsating laboratory responding to internal and external ambient factors and always sentient.

Illustrations 2a & 2b – Creating digital twins of Moshe Safdie-designed SJ Campus harnessing the power of BIM, IoT, artificial intelligence, integrated digital delivery, sensor networks and new age visualisation tools.

The constituents of cities and campuses are physical assets – some critical ones such as lifts, airports or hospitals – whose properties are embodied by their twins. If these constituents, each as digital twins, are connected, a digital thread is created. This gives us a glimpse of a future where the connected twins can collaborate with each other, share information and respond in ways that optimise the properties of the group or network. Therefore, in SJ, we embrace a multi-scale, multi-functionality, multidisciplinary strategy to our development of digital twins and its associated technologies. This way, our culture of ideas, creativity and collaboration is not limited by technologies or disciplinary specialisations.

The attractiveness of digital twins should not of course disguise difficulties. One inhibitor is the cost of creating and maintaining digital twin assets. This presents an opportunity for a business model innovation for consultants to become custodians and managers of digital assets for their clients. Providing services that governs and regularly improves data security, storage and integrity enhances model quality, refreshes technology and acts on other important factors of managing the twin.  There is substantial evidence of an industry that has rapidly burgeoned in a short period offering digital twin development services. Another that offers twin and digital asset management and quality assurance services will surely emerge soon, perhaps akin to another data management and applications hosting industry known as cloud service providers.

Digital twins or triplets, quadruplets or siblings, virtual avatars have emerged from the realms of imagination to reality in businesses. Ultimately, as history has proven, companies that are adept at creating, using, innovating and improving through technologies like digital twins will have distinct and formidable advantages over those less able.

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Connect with Us

Raj. Thampuran
Email: raj.thampuran@surbanajurong.com

A Slideshow: Digital Technology Investments A Differentiator Amidst Crisis

This slideshow was adapted from an earlier article.

Digital Technology Investments A Differentiator Amidst Crisis

By Eugene Seah
Senior Director, Special Projects
Surbana Jurong Group

The COVID-19 outbreak is global, and increasing in intensity. Stringent measures have been adopted around the world to contain the virus, severely limiting economic activity. This has put a strain on many industries including the built environment industry, disrupting operations and forcing delays. In trying times like this, investments in digital technologies become a great differentiator.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) of Singapore first announced the adoption of Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD) plans for the built environment industry in November 2018. Since then, it has encouraged companies to digitise their processes and adopt productivity enhancing tools including ‘Cloud’ technologies.

In tandem with BCA’s efforts, Surbana Jurong (SJ) has accelerated its adoption of innovative technologies for various aspects of its business. The benefits are showing in the current crisis.

We flipped a switch and activated our Business Continuity Planning at a moment’s notice. With the segregation of teams, enterprise-grade virtual meeting technologies like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business (refer to Illustration A), have given teams across the organisation, globally, the ability to conduct meetings as if everyone was in the same room. At the same time, monitoring or inspecting construction projects for project managers can be done remotely through the use of cameras and even drones (refer to Illustration B). High quality construction cameras allow project managers a thorough view of construction activities and operations.

Illustration A: Staff of SJ undergoing graduate development programme using Zoom

Illustration B: Remote monitoring and inspection of SJ Gobal Academy @ 7 Adam Park using Drones

More crucially, SJ uses Building Information Modelling (BIM) to manage design and engineering information for projects across the project lifecycle. A key output is the digital modelling and description of every aspect of the building or infrastructure asset, drawing on information assembled collaboratively and updated regularly. Additionally, putting BIM on the Cloud (Refer to Illustration C) allows project information to be accessed by the appropriate people when required. Complex designs can be created, discussed, revised and updated with ease from any location.

Illustration C: Design and construction can be done virtually and remotely using BIM on the Cloud

By combining people, process and technology, these advanced tools help companies in the built environment create value under normal conditions. In crisis situations, their value is amplified. They enable teams to make informed decisions and continue driving the best outcomes for clients.

Companies in the built environment will no doubt continue to face disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, but those who have invested in digital technology to support collaborative ways of working will likely be in a stronger position to carry out their operations seamlessly. For them, COVID-19 could well stand for “Construction Overcoming Virus Using Digital solutions”.

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Connect with Us

Eugene Seah
Email: eugene.seah@surbanajurong.com