‘More female engineers now play important roles in construction’

As a civil engineer at Binnies Singapore, Goh Chun Chiong has been involved in a variety of water and wastewater projects across the country.

“I have had a great interest in the water treatment process since university," she reveals. "Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to get involved in building different types of water treatment plants, from water to wastewater and desalination plants, collaborating with engineers from a wide range of disciplines.”

She says her decision to study civil and structural engineering at university was partly inspired by her father. “My father was a hardworking concrete worker and I wanted to learn about his job and choose something he could relate to.”

Chun Chiong started her career working under a Professional Engineer (PE) and later moved to a consultancy firm, before joining Binnies. In her current role, she is responsible for developing plant layouts as well as the architectural, civil, geotechnical and structural designs of the projects. She also provides guidance and engineering directions for the design engineers and on-site teams.

Taking part in water and wastewater projects gives Chun Chiong a sense of fulfilment as it enables her to contribute to society, “by delivering a better quality of clean drinking water and a renewable water source, and ensuring only well-treated wastewater is discharged to the environment.”

‘BIM and PPVC are highlights in Singapore’

“There are different challenges for every project and in various project stages. What we often face in the industry nowadays is how to meet a stringent construction timeline and tight budget without compromising the construction quality,” Chun Chiong explains.

“Technical knowledge, experience and communication skills are key to making crucial decisions in order to complete the projects successfully.

“It is rewarding when clients and contractors are open and receptive to our solutions and ideas. The appreciation and good working relationship that develops through the project is invaluable to me.”

She adds, “I enjoy working in a team, learning from the people around me and embracing challenges. It is always satisfying and encouraging for me to be able to reach a project milestone even though it may be just a small step towards the project completion.”

Chun Chiong further highlights some innovations in Singapore’s construction industry. “The BIM technology and PPVC (prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction) method are the most interesting topics in recent years.

“PPVC is now commonly adopted in HDB and residential projects, which significantly reduces manpower on site and eliminates construction risks.”

She shares that before the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) made BIM mandatory for large-scale projects in Singapore, “3D modelling technology had been used in fast-paced DBOO (design, build, own and operate) projects for a complex process piping arrangement.

“I have no doubt in the capability of advanced modelling technology to enhance engineering work and speed up project delivery.”

‘Hard work and contributions will pay off’

Chun Chiong notes that more and more women in civil and structural engineering profession are taking part in construction today, and also hold important roles and positions within the industry.

Speaking about her experience as a female engineer, she says one of her challenges is to balance work and personal life, especially with young children. “It felt like it was impossible to achieve a work-life balance, in particular during the construction of a fast-paced project. 

“To overcome this, I have learned to prioritise between the tasks and responsibilities in my personal life and career. I am thankful to have a supportive husband who shares our family commitment when necessary. I also appreciate the understanding of my supervisors and team mates over the years.”

When it comes to a career choice, Chun Chiong believes that “everyone should pursue their interest and do what they love and are passionate about.

“There are no restrictions for women to join engineering and construction. As long as you are capable and set your heart on it, you can succeed in the industry.”

Her advice to aspiring female engineers is “be patient and have an open mind when considering opportunities in the industry. I would recommend participating in various project stages such as bidding, preliminary planning, detailed design, construction support and contract execution.

“Your hard work and contributions will eventually pay off with trust and appreciation from the industry.”

Photos courtesy of Goh Chun Chiong