Tunnel Collapse

The article "Singapore Tunnel Team May Have Cut Corners" said that the collapse of the mass transit tunnel excavation caused the deaths of three construction workers and an inspector, and also rendered two buildings unsafe (ENR 5/17 p. 12). This is incorrect.

The surrounding buildings near the incident site have been assessed to be safe for use. This was highlighted in our press releases and reported extensively by the media. The two vacant units to which the article referred and found to have suffered damages to key structural elements are located in the Upper Paya Lebar Road area, and not near Nicoll Highway. Furthermore, the cause of these damages has yet to be determined.

The article also mentioned that nine parties were scheduled to testify at a May 14 conference held by the Singapore government’s commission of inquiry. The Pre-Inquiry Conference of May 14 involved 10 interested parties. They were not required to testify during the conference. At this conference, the Committee of Inquiry reiterated its terms of reference, and gave various directions in respect to the procedural aspects of the inquiry, which is scheduled to commence in August.

Not So Fast

The tragic collapse of the Singapore mass transit tunnel excavation must be thoroughly investigated. We are encouraged that a formal inquiry is planned.

However, design-build practitioners will be dismayed that ENR reported "knowledgeable sources are pointing to price competition engendered by the design-build project delivery as a contributing factor…." With the formal inquiry yet to be conducted it is too early to even identify a physical cause for the collapse much less hypothesize about contributing factors and motivation for management actions.

We are all acutely aware there are negative consequences to placing disproportionate emphasis on price. Design-build project delivery should not be equated with that type of low-bid mentality. Design-build provides an optimum environment for appropriate balance of budget, project requirements and design/construction solutions.

Further, design-build, with its single point of responsibility, supports and reinforces management’s ability to maintain appropriate project focus. Responsible design-builders, both owners and designers/constructors, know that optimum decisions are made by integrating price and other appropriate factors in the decision process. Design-build promotes that kind of smart decision-making and is part of the solution, not part of the problem.