The Malaysian government is intent on accelerating the adoption of the Industrialised Building System (IBS) by private construction projects.
In 2016, the Prime Minister announced that government projects of RM10 million and above, and private sector ventures of RM50 million and above, would soon be required to hit an IBS score of 70.
Recently, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Dahlan said that mandatory IBS could be implemented within three years or so.
“It is time to put our foot down and make it mandatory for construction industry players to adopt the IBS,” said Abdul Rahman on May 16, 2017, adding that discussions are underway before a paper on IBS is forwarded to the Cabinet.
IBS is a pre-fabricated construction technique where components are manufactured in a controlled environment off site, and later placed and assembled into construction works. While initial investments may be heavier, in the longer term and with economies of scale, IBS is expected to result in less materials wastage, better environmental sustainability and reduced dependence on unskilled workers in the country.
“There are many foreign workers in the construction industry, and when IBS is used, we can reduce our dependency on foreign workers because all housing components are made in the factory. The components are then sent directly to the construction site, and this will also solve the problem of noise pollution and garbage disposal at the sites.”
This, in turn, will also control the outflow of some RM30 billion annually by foreign workers.
Rahman acknowledged, though, that the industry must be given time to prepare for the switch such as setting up sufficient IBS plants and amending local council by-laws.
Call for Dialogue
However, property developers have called on the government to engage in dialogue with them before making IBS adoption mandatory for all players in the construction industry.
“If the minister is now saying it (IBS) should be made mandatory, what we (stakeholders) are saying is that before it comes to that, can we all sit down and assess whether making it mandatory will cause more problems or are there any other effective alternatives?” said Rehda Institute chairman Datuk Jeffrey Ng Tiong Lip at the Rehda Institute’s Modern Construction Technologies Conference on May 17, 2017.
Despite the fact that Malaysia had its maiden IBS building 53 years ago—the now-demolished Pekeliling flats in Kuala Lumpur—and the first IBS Roadmap 2003-2010, IBS usage is generally still low. According to a report from The New Straits Times, IBS implementation is only represented in 15 to 20 percent of overall projects in Malaysia, majority of which are government projects.
Ng attributed this to the fragmented construction industry, where small players lacked the economies of scale to adopt IBS. Players need to move into mass production and the export markets to enjoy real cost savings.
“So the question we need to address is how can we get the smaller players to adopt IBS? The answer is by having an integrated approach where property consultants, developers, bankers and the government come together to create better incentives.”
In response, Abdul Rahman said,“The industry players will still be resistant to change as long as foreign labour is readily available at a low cost.” — Construction+ Online