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Beginner’s Guide on Starting a Construction Business in Singapore
Starting a construction business in Singapore is a great way to realise your entrepreneurial vision. You see, despite the global pandemic, Singapore’s economy remained resilient, with a 1.3% first-quarter growth in 2021. Business may currently be slow in the construction industry, but its contribution is nevertheless significant. In 2020, during the height of the pandemic, its gross domestic product (GDP) contribution was SGD12.1 billion.
With roots in the Bronze Age, the formal construction industry rose with ancient Egypt and the pyramids. The Industrial Revolution then brought about significant changes in building design, eventually ushering in the era of skyscrapers. Technology is now revolutionising and innovating our modern fast-track construction industry with breakthroughs in design, materials, methodologies.
In this guide, you’ll get a peek at the processes and procedures surrounding a business in the construction industry. We’ll also show you how to ensure you stay fully compliant and offer some insights on growing your business.
What is a Construction Business?
Construction means creating or building something from scratch. It differs from renovation and retrofitting as these improve, restore, replace, or repair something already made. The construction industry includes building industrial, or infrastructure construction and requires specific teams to plan and execute the project. You should ideally have a professional project manager, design and construction engineers, project architects, and site managers.
Some of the activities that a construction business engages in include:
- Building, erecting, repairing buildings or immobile structures.
- Structuring, construction, engineering or completion work.
- Mixed construction activities, including specialisations.
- Site preparation, leasing of construction equipment.
- Perform building installation work.
The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) closely regulates Singapore’s built environment sector. They oversee most approvals and are spearheading Singapore’s Construction Industry Transformation Map. BCA has also launched the BuildSG initiative to drive transformation technologies in the built environment sector.
Why Start a Construction Business in Singapore?
The construction industry is a foundational sector and contributes significantly to a nation’s economy. It plays a vital role in Singapore’s built environment, such as housing, malls, business parks, and other infrastructure. Mega construction projects include the North-South Corridor, the Tuas Megaport and the Greater Southern Waterfront.
Needless to say, the construction industry is a competitive one, but it can also be a rewarding experience. For example, building schools or hospitals can give you a sense of achievement and pride. Construction companies also build roads, bridges, buildings, etc., which are hallmarks of civilised society. You can also adopt ‘green’ practices as a way of meeting your corporate social responsibilities.
Singapore is a fabulous place to start any business. World-class infrastructure and connectivity, competitive tax regimes and its reputation as an international business hub are major plus points. The government is also committed to sustainable building practices with new projects in the pipeline. BCA has forecast construction demand to reach SGD28 billion by the end of this year.
Requirements to Start a Construction Business in Singapore
Just like any building, your business will need solid foundations. Get your groundwork in order by writing up that all essential business plans. Research the latest market trends, technology and solutions, any possible competition, as well as viable locations. Add in a scalable financial plan and budget into the mix, and you’re good to go.
The process for incorporating a business in Singapore is straightforward if you have all the documents in order. It’s all done online via BizFile, a business platform operated by Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). Alternatively, go the modern route and engage business solution firms like 3E Accounting for comprehensive and customisable solutions. Our Singapore company incorporation services provide the freedom for you to focus on the business side of things.
The following is a quick summarised process for registering a company in Singapore:
- Follow the ‘naming rules’ and register your company name with ACRA.
- Submit incorporation documents, i.e., Articles and Memorandum of Association, directors’ and shareholders’ details, etc.
- Pay the relevant registration or incorporation fees.
- Register with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS).
- Open a corporate bank account and get business insurance.
- Lease premises, hire staff and get equipment.
If you’d like more in-depth information, check out our guide to company registration in Singapore. It’s a great read that explores the company registration process and is quite detailed.
What Does a Construction Business Need?
Unlike the usual company registration process, a construction business in Singapore plays by specific rules. For starters, the types of company structures available are limited. The Professional Engineers Act states that it provides a Professional Engineering Licence only for the following entities:
- Limited Liability Partnerships
- Multi-discipline Partnerships
- Limited Corporations
- Unlimited Corporations
There are also a few ‘extra’ requirements to observe before starting a construction business in Singapore. These are again specific to construction companies and will affect the process of applying for approvals. Therefore, do ensure that the following are in order:
- Most of the management or directors need to be professional engineers.
- The Articles of Association expressly states engineering services as the principal activity.
- Your business must have appropriate professional liability insurance.
- The minimum share capital is SGD500,000.
Licences and Permits for a Construction Business in Singapore
Regulations in the construction industry are rigorous as it directly impacts public health and security. It is paramount to note that you require approvals from the following authorities prior to starting operations:
- The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore (URA)
- The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF)
- Professional Engineering Services Licence (PESL) from the Professional Engineers Board of Singapore (PEB)
Application for the PESL requires quite a few formalities and documentation. The PEB has a comprehensive application guideline on its website, which addresses each business structure’s requirements. You should also check out the PEB’s step-by-step online registration guide to familiarise yourself with the process first. Alternatively, get in touch with us and let 3E Accounting Singapore handle the entire process for you.
Once you are clear of these initial hurdles, there are other approvals to look at. A non-exhaustive list includes the following:
- Approvals from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for any foreign labour on your workforce.
- Road occupation permits from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) via its Road Occupation Management Portal (LTA.PROMPT).
- Telecommunication Wiring Contractor’s License, Licence for General Radio Communication, etc., from Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)
- Approvals from the National Environment Agency (NEA) for waste management, energy management, scheduled occupation, etc.
Aside from these, you will need to register with the BCA’s Contractors Registration System (CRS). This is necessary if you want to participate in tenders or handle public sector construction projects. Do check out the BCA’s website for the following:
- Builder Licence – either General or Specialist
- The Construction Workforce Registration System (CWRS)
- Permit to Operate (PTO) Systems
- Outdoor Advertising Sign / Signboard Licence
- Permit to Erect a Temporary Building
Contact a corporate service provider in Singapore to get professional help for acquiring business licenses.
How to Grow Your Construction Business
The construction business is hard work, but it also offers many opportunities to pursue your interests. For example, ‘eco-entrepreneurs’ can deploy green or eco-friendly techniques and materials in their construction work. This provides a great niche that gives you a competitive edge and sets you apart from the hoi-polloi.
If you’re just starting out, consider taking out smaller or subcontract projects and have them provide referrals. This will allow you to get familiar with the ins and outs of the industry while keeping within budget. It will also help you establish a reliable network of contacts you can leverage on at a later stage. It provides a crucial opportunity to get your brand seen as supplier, etc., and become familiar with your company.
If you have deeper pockets, consider investing in technology such as enterprise resource planning solutions (ERPs). Other tech solutions such as automation, artificial intelligence and robotics will help you scale up and strategically grow operations. Of course, your workforce also needs to be built up and trained. A competitive, dependable, and highly skilled team is something to work on from the very start.
Make it a point to attend trade events, which provide fantastic networking opportunities and insights into industry trends. Joining a few construction associations and having an active social media presence will stand you in good stead. You can also create great vibes, brand awareness and give back to society by sponsoring charity community events.
As we shift to new norms and practices in business, a whole new world of entrepreneurship is arising. Starting a construction business in Singapore is one such avenue to explore. Indeed, it can be quite a promising avenue for anyone with an interest in this industry.
For a successful start to your entrepreneurial adventure, get in touch with us. Here at 3E Accounting, we take pride in being a top-notch corporate service provider in Singapore. With a team of global professionals, we deliver comprehensive, innovative, and modern business solutions for all your needs. Contact 3E Accounting today for a quick chat on what we can do for you.