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Engineering Change: Ang Seng Lee

Singapore has emerged as a world leader in green urban development. Ang Seng Lee, Managing Director for Singapore and Myanmar at engineering consultants Beca, is passionately spearheading a green paradigm shift in the region.

The built environment is now as much a part of planet Earth as its forests and oceans, which is why ensuring it can coexist alongside the delicate natural world is a growing concern for the industry behind it.

As the impact of climate change becomes startlingly clear, Singapore-based engineering consulting firm Beca is at the forefront of the action. Ang Seng Lee, who has been Managing Director for Singapore and Myanmar since 2013, is not only passionate about the topic but is also spearheading action both in his daily work and as the President of the Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC).

"Globally buildings are responsible for 40 percent of carbon emissions, so our industry has a big part to play."

"Globally buildings are responsible for 40 percent of carbon emissions, so our industry has a big part to play," he tells The CEO Magazine.

"Carbon is now becoming the de facto metric to report greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, so the industry has to go through a paradigm shift and think in terms of carbon. We now are considering carbon emissions at every stage of the building life cycle, from design to construction to operation."

Indeed, real estate decarbonization and the rise of sustainable construction are fast changing the way Beca undertakes its projects, and Lee is well-informed to ensure the changes put in place are aligned with best industry practice.

"I work very closely with our SGBC board members and the rest of our network of industry leaders to conceptualize and actualize industry specific programs," he explains.

"SGBCs role is to guide and facilitate suitable low-carbon alternatives. This includes certifying green building materials, maintaining updated registries for certified building services and accredited professionals as well as developing localized tools and instruments to help the Singapore built environment address decarbonization."

A Business Evolution

This sharpening focus represents part of an ongoing evolution for Beca as it continually seeks to stay ahead of the curve.

When Lee took the reins back in 2013, the company culture looked very different. Although effective, it needed to evolve, he recalls.

"The culture back then has served the era well. However, to stay relevant in the changing landscape of the industry and its practices, we need the culture to evolve," he says. "Since 2013, when I took over as Managing Director, I have seen the culture really transform."

Health, safety and wellbeing make up one of the areas which have seen the greatest shift over that 11-year period, accelerated yet further by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We had a group survey done last year across the global Beca group and we saw there was a notable change to a very proactive culture as compared to the 2021 results," he says.

"Guthrie has the privilege of working with Beca on many significant landmark projects in Singapore for more than 15 years. They include RWS and the ongoing government initiative, Punggol Digital District. As one of Asia–Pacific’s largest independent M&E consulting firms, Beca effectively manages all stakeholders of projects that they lead and advise. It has been a joy working with Beca." – Alan Tay, CEO, Guthrie Engineering


"The feedback that the people gave us was that they saw an increase in management commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of our people."

Beca’s approach toward its business operations has also transformed over the last decade as part of that cultural shift. The team now work collaboratively to improve the business performance each year, coming together to determine the best way to bid for a project and then how to deliver quality service throughout the client experience.

It’s a spirit of collaboration that also drives Beca to work closely with like-minded partners and contractors  in delivering large projects.

"I am not saying in the past that we didn’t have that, but now I see it as quite different because there is a closer relationship with our clients so that we want to excel in delivering the projects that they have entrusted us to," Lee reflects.

"I have the privilege of working with my core team of very energetic leaders who are passionate about the business and about providing exceptional service to our clients."


The next phase of this cultural evolution will see AI increasingly feature, according to Lee.

"I see greater transformation in the way our work process is optimized with AI," he predicts. "Not only that, but I also see that our engineering design process will need to be redefined based on changes as we move forward."

"I have the privilege of working with my core team of very energetic leaders who are passionate about the business and about providing exceptional service to our clients."

For now, Beca is embracing the ‘new normal’ of the post-pandemic era, harnessing the learnings and successes achieved during that troubled time to power its progress.

"The crisis really has transformed the way we work, especially in the area of our hybrid work arrangement," Lee reveals.

"There was no compromise on productivity or any increase in business costs. So to me, this has now become a new norm in the way we work, where we maximize the benefits of a hybrid working that will work best for our clients, our people and obviously our business.

"The bottom line is this: we need to constantly stay ahead of the curve to stay competitive in the future. And that’s the message that I’ve been telling my team of leaders in my business."

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