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Monday, September 16th, 2019

Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the Opening of NTU’s Sports Hall, The Wave

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by April 24, 2017 Business

I am delighted to be here this morning to join you for the opening of your new sports hall, The Wave.

NTU has always been a champion of sports in Singapore. You are the first and only university in Singapore to offer undergraduate programmes in sport science and management. You provide pathways for young people who are interested in sports-related careers. You host many of our student-athletes doing their studies in NTU and you support them in balancing their academic and sporting pursuits.

Naturally, for a university that champions the sports, it is also important that you have the best in sports facilities. I am glad that you now have this new Sports Hall, which is spectacular, beautiful and fitting of the role that NTU plays in championing sports in Singapore.

The hall is double the capacity of the current one. It has a seating capacity of nearly 1000 seats � they are fully mechanised and can be retractable. It is multi-functional � can provide courts for badminton, basketball, volleyball, netball and a whole range of sports. The hall itself has gym and activity rooms, and other spaces for student activities. I am sure it will add to the sporting facilities and the vibrant campus life that NTU offers to its students.

I am also very glad to hear that The Wave, is not just another building, but it is part of NTU’s aspirations to lead in building sustainability. For example, The Wave is designed with sustainable features like two-layer walls. A special coil runs between the two layers of wall to cool the entire hall. In this hall, we can stay cool without any air-condition and fans. That means there is no draft, and that is important for sports, particularly for those who play badminton. Even in a place like the Indoor Stadium, where we hold top-quality, world-class badminton events, it is always a struggle to tune the air-condition so that there is no draft. This provides very good facilities for high-quality sports and more importantly, you can save over 40% of energy from doing something like this. You can stay cool while reducing your energy intake.

This is not an isolated case. NTU has set out an ambitious target to become the greenest campus � not just in Singapore, not even in Southeast Asia � but in the world. That is a worthwhile ambition to strive towards. To achieve this, you have pledged to reduce your energy and water usage by 35% by 2020. I understand that you are making good progress. I am sure the building of The Wave will help you to achieve these goals.

It is no surprise that NTU was the first recipient of the BCA Green Mark PlatinumSTAR Champion Award. The Champion Award is given to recipients who have received the Green Mark multiple times. NTU has received the Green Mark awards 53 times! To use a sports analogy, this is like getting into the hall of fame. You are now in the Green Mark hall of fame, and you are the first. We congratulate you for this achievement.

The Wave marks a new milestone in our push to be more productive in construction as well. The building’s entire structure, including the wave-like roof, uses Mass Engineered Timber (MET). Construction using such a technology is much more efficient.

Although it is timber, MET is designed to share similar structural characteristics as conventional construction materials like steel and concrete � materials that we are more used to. Wood, and MET in particular, has similar structural characteristics. It is safe; it is structurally sound. MET components are also prefabricated off-site, before they are brought on site for assembly. That means you can reduce the dust, noise, and manpower that is required to build. The finished texture of MET is aesthetically pleasing so there is no need for added cladding or finishing. If you do all these, the result was a 25% savings in manpower, and a 33% reduction in the structural construction time � which is a significant improvement from our existing construction methods.

MET is part of our overall push to adopt new technologies in construction. MET is one option; there are many more options including structural steel and Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC). These are all technologies that will enable us to build more efficiently with fewer workers. This is of crucial importance to Singapore because the way we are currently building is not sustainable in the long-term.

We have major infrastructural projects in the coming years and even decades. We need to build more HDB flats and hospitals to cater to an ageing population; need to build more train lines so that we can make our MRT system more effective; we are expanding our airports and sea ports to be economically competitive. If we continue to rely on existing building methods for all of these infrastructure, we will end up simply with a far larger pool of foreign workers than we can possibly accommodate in Singapore. The shortage of workers ends up becoming a bottle-neck and a constraint in our development � we end up having to hold back or defer projects. But if we were to use similar technologies, like what NTU has done, for all our construction projects, we can potentially carry out billions more in projects with the same number of workers today.

These new and more productive construction technologies are a major game-changer in the way we build our future Singapore. That is why the government is setting aside more resources to invest in this area. We are very glad that NTU is supporting this effort, not only through your research efforts in building research, but also in the way you design and build your own facilities. This applies not just to The Wave, but also your new residential halls and eventually other facilities that you are building in your masterplan.

Today, in the whole of Singapore, only about 10% of our construction projects are being built with new technologies like MET or other similar technologies. Like how NTU has a target for 2020, the Singapore government also has a target. We aim by 2020, in 3 years, for 40% of our construction projects to be built using new technologies. It is an ambitious target, but we will make it happen and we believe we can do so because there is a significant pipeline of construction projects which are public sector in nature � led by public sector agencies. The public sector agencies will drive, lead and require the contractors to adopt new technologies which are more productive. We hope certainly that what NTU is doing will also motivate other educational institutions as well as building owners to follow your lead and good example.

More importantly, by doing all these, we can also create new opportunities for Singapore’s construction companies. For example, the contractor for The Wave is a local SME called B19 Technologies. At the start of the project, they faced a steep learning curve because this was completely new. They had to send their workers to Austria for training. They brought in overseas specialists to help them understand MET construction, and to adapt its use for Singapore. Now, B19 has become an expert on MET construction, and it can use this new capability to do more projects here in Singapore as well as overseas. I am sure all of you can agree with me that the architects and the main contractor have done a wonderful job in putting this building together. All of them deserve a big round of applause for their efforts and contributions.

The Wave is a project that achieves multiple wins � it is a win for NTU sports and for all your students who will get to enjoy this beautiful new facility; it is a win for environmental sustainability and for NTU in its goal of becoming the greenest campus in the world; and it is a win for Singapore construction and for new and more productive ways of building in Singapore. It is a triple-win project.

I congratulate NTU on this significant achievement. We need more pathfinders like you. Your focus on environmental sustainability, and your openness to new building materials and methods, shows what we can achieve together. It is an inspiration for our youths and for all our students here on what kind of a future we can achieve � a cleaner, greener and better future. It also gives us confidence that we can continue to build a better and more sustainable Singapore in the years to come.

On that note, congratulations once again and thank you very much.

Source: Ministry of National Development

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