The past decade or so has seen Southeast Asia’s urban cities experience unprecedented growth – particularly within emerging markets, as rural inhabitants migrate, enticed by the promise of a better life in cities. According to a 2018 report by McKinsey, Southeast Asia’s 300 million-strong urban population is forecast to increase by 90 million by 2030 – a growth rate 2.5 times faster than that of the entire region as a whole. Irrevocably, rapid rural-to-urban migration, combined with a rising middle class throughout the region, has drastically changed the landscape of the construction industry in Southeast Asia.
In Malaysia for example, growth remains optimistic. Despite the new government’s decision to reduce the country’s debt by cutting investment on major infrastructure projects, their efforts to enhance transport and residential infrastructure will support the growth of the industry. Output value in real terms is expected to post a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.53% from 2019 to 2023. Consequently, the industry’s output value is expected to rise from a value of US$33.6 billion in 2018 to US$43.9 billion in 2023, according to a GlobalData report.
For the construction industry, this presents a catch-22 situation. Promisingly, rapid urban growth has led to a boom in demand for new infrastructure, as new urban inhabitants seek out spaces to live, work and play. This in turn translates to more projects being up for grabs for the industry.
However, growth has at the same time placed increasing pressure on contractors, who have to handle more projects to meet demand, and complete them within shorter timeframes – while remaining compliant to standards in safety and sustainability.
The relentless growth of Southeast Asia’s cities means that increasing efficiency, driven by innovation, will have to be a business priority for the industry. Traditional methods of construction, which has been in use for decades, have been rendered obsolete by rapid growth in the region, and the industry has to invest and put its trust in new innovations.
Collectively, the industry can enable greater efficiency by utilising innovative materials and techniques, designed to directly address the pain points of today. Before we explore promising innovations within the industry, however, let’s take a closer look at the inefficiencies of existing methods.
Inefficiencies of existing methods – as illustrated by traditional cement rendering
To understand the macro impacts of inefficient construction methods would have for a city, let’s consider – as a case in point – the traditional process of cement rendering, known to be inefficient.
Traditionally, the proper execution of cement rendering would require the hands of a skilled, experienced labourer, who is able to mix the right ratios of cement, and apply it to the wall. On a good day, said labourer would only be able to coat 6m² of wall space.
Without a skilled builder, walls will be susceptible to cracks and misalignment, and costs will be incurred in the long term, likely by developers who have to pay to maintain these cracked walls.
When these inefficiencies are multiplied, the consequences are dire. For one, a labour crunch would ensue, as there simply wouldn’t be enough skilled labour to meet demand. Consequently, contractors might be forced to take the risk with less experienced workers, which would only compound the long term costs of a building, when their lack of experience results in bigger long term maintenance costs.
Innovative products have big impacts
With that in mind, let’s now consider how a simple solution could drastically improve the efficiency of the same cement rendering process.
USG Boral’s EasyFinish™ product range is one such innovation – a cement render replacement designed as a solution to site finishing application and performance issues such as irregular wall levels and unsightly cracks. The EasyFinish™ range uses USG Boral’s noncombustible plasterboard with a specially formulated bonding compound to ensure smoothest walls completed, at speeds up to six times faster than cement rendering.
There are four main systems within the EasyFinish™ – the Bond, Solid (applied with EasyScoop™ and EasyTrowel™ respectively), and the Frame. All of these utilise USG Boral’s bonding compound in different ways, to cater to different project requirements.
For projects that require quick installation and cost efficiency, the EasyFinish™ Bond sees the bonding compound applied in scoops across a wall, with USG Boral’s noncombustible plasterboard subsequently applied on top.
To enhance the efficiency of installation and further boost the solidity of the wall, the EasyFinish Solid™ system can be applied – in two different ways. Firstly, the EasyTrowel™ application allows applicators to feather out the proprietary bonding compounds with less effort and time, allowing the applicator to apply the bonding compound in the right thickness, to ensure that the wall leveling is straight and true. The result is a smooth, rock solid wall, especially in areas where solidity is an imperative.
Similarly, the EasyScoop™ application doubles the productivity rate by facilitating a more efficient placement of the EasyBond™ compounds, especially in areas where the wall is subject to higher chances of impact and indentations.
For projects that require a true surface on masonry wall, the EasyFinish™ frame system can be applied as a wall lining. This is especially suited for lining reinforced concrete walls or other block walls with severe irregularities. The EasyFinish™ Frame system also improves the acoustic performance while allowing services to be placed in its cavity.
Ultimately, EasyFinish™ is a system that is faster, smarter and tougher – allowing walls to be built 3 times faster than traditional cement rendering, without the need for highly skilled labour, as with cement rendering.
The results speak for themselves.
In Malaysia, USG Boral was entrusted as one of the key building materials suppliers for 350 units of one-story hotels, designed and built by Synerlitz Malaysia. Faced with a 6-month completion duration, Synerlitz looked to USG’s Boral’s efficient and safe systems – including EasyFinish, for 61km2 of wall. The project, which commenced in September 2018, was successfully completed in 2019.
The view that the industry isn’t moving fast enough is compounded by the same World Economic Forum report, which shared that the Infrastructure and Urban Development (IU) industry isn’t doing enough to keep up with rapid urban growth globally, and current methods and processes are dated. The report cited intelligent systems, prefabrication and modularization have as the way forward.
For the construction industry, it’s now or never. All forecasts and reports point to continued industry growth – and the only way to meet the market’s demand is through investments in product innovation, to enable efficiency.
Business and organisations who have their doubts on such innovations need to seriously consider the case studies of successful large-scale projects across various industries, and overseen by major corporations, which have reaped the many benefits of investments in innovations – including a shorter project timeline, and greater building durability. It is only then that the industry can reap the full potential of a burgeoning industry.
The USG Boral EasyFinish™ Systems are available in the following Southeast Asia, Click on these countries to learn more.