Construction Equipment Australia

Changi Airport expansion boosted by Volvo

Hwa Seng Builder Pte Ltd (HSB), one of the contractors handling expansion work at Singapore’s Changi Airport, is using a large fleet of equipment, including approximately 25 machines from Volvo Construction Equipment and Volvo Trucks to ensure the demanding project stays on track.

An EC330BLC with a long arm attachment which is excavating to depths of between 3 m and 8 m for the construction of the taxi underpass.

Singapore Changi Airport, which is regularly voted one of the world's best, is undergoing a multi-billion dollar expansion program. Part of the development is the construction of a new terminal, Terminal 4, which will open to the public in 2017. Changi Airport currently welcomes around 66 million passengers a year but the introduction of Terminal 4 will see that number boosted by around 16 million passengers a year.

Machines from Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) can be seen on a variety of projects that make up the development. One contractor with a large fleet on the job is Hwa Seng Builder Pte Ltd (HSB), which is involved in three main areas: a new parking bay; an underpass for taxis; and infrastructure and external works for the new terminal building. For the new parking bay and the construction of the underpass, HSB was appointed as the main contractor. For construction of the main building at Terminal 4, the company is working as a sub-contractor for international contracting giant Takenaka.
Thomas Ng, managing director of HSB.

'We know we can trust a Volvo'

Thomas Ng, managing director of HSB, said having equipment that can be trusted is essential on such a tightly monitored project.

"On a job site with such high security, having to deal with repairs is a nightmare," he said. "There are a lot of logistics and paperwork involved in moving machines or parts on or off site. You have to have security clearance for all your crew and machines. So if a machine breaks down or a technician can't solve a problem then you can't just make a straight swap. It takes time and effort. If we buy a Volvo machine we know we can trust it. We know that for the first couple of years it's unlikely we'll have any major problems. And that's why we have so many Volvo machines at Changi Airport."

Reliability was undoubtedly one of the biggest considerations for HSB when selecting its equipment for the job. As a result it purchased machines that it knew well, having already run them in its fleet. For the parking bay several EC210B and EC330BLC excavators were chosen, plus an SD110 compactor. HSB has good experience of both the EC210B and the EC330BLC, so the company has confidence not only in the reliability of the machines, but also the high levels of performance they offer. The Volvo CE units were central to HSB completing the parking bay earlier this year, bringing the project to a close on time and on budget.

For the construction of the taxi underpass, which is still ongoing, HSB is also using mostly Volvo CE machines, including an EC480DL, which has a vibro attachment for sheet piling work, and an EC330BLC with a long arm attachment to excavate to depths of between 3 m and 8 m. On the construction of the building at Terminal 4 the company has numerous Volvo excavators, again EC210B and EC330BLC models make up the majority.

The right machine for the job

While it's clear that reliability and trust played a major part in HSB's decision to purchase so many Volvo machines for its work at Changi, there were other factors that influenced the company's decision, as Thomas Ng explained.

"I like Volvo machines because they are heavy duty and robust, and what's more they're fuel efficient," he said. "I'd say we get a fuel saving of around 10% when compared with other machines. For us that represents a significant saving because fuel is among the top five operating expenses for our business. In addition, on Terminal 4 the construction is running to a very tight timeline, so we need machines that are productive."

For HSB, being back at Changi Airport brings back good memories for the company and also brings it back full circle. Ten years ago, HSB worked as one of the contractors on the airport's Budget Terminal which ceased operations in 2012 and was demolished to make way for the new Terminal 4.

For Thomas Ng, ensuring his company does a good job at Changi Airport is essential. So much so that he attends the job site personally, at least twice a week.

"For us, every job is important but as a company we are especially proud to be working at Terminal 4. For many visitors to Singapore it will be their first impression of our country. It will be a world-leading facility and something that's around for decades to come. Everything on the job site is demanding so you can't afford to be scared or to make a mistake. Our reputation is on the line. But I have faith in our company and in our team. Like Volvo we are reliable. My client chooses me. I choose Volvo."

HSB was founded by Thomas Ng in 1992 as a small contractor with just a handful of employees. Today it employs over 350 people and operates an equipment fleet that includes over 100 trucks and excavators, including a large number of Volvo CE machines as well as several trucks from Volvo Trucks. The company has attained certification from the Singapore government's Building Construction Authority with an A1 grading. This means there is no financial limit on the government tenders on which HSB can bid and which allows the company to manage and work on the largest projects in Singapore.

Terminal 4 will be a two-story building measuring around 25 m tall. Its gross floor area will be around 195,000 sq. m., which is approximately seven times the size of the Budget Terminal.

In addition to Terminal 4, work has also started on the even larger Terminal 5 project. On its completion in around 2025 it will increase Changi Airport's capacity by between 30 and 50 million passengers per year.

A Volvo excavator is used to maneuver steelwork on the development of the taxi underpass.