Saturday, 22 February 2014

Quieter Construction Fund: $10 million fund to cut noise at worksites

Firms will be reimbursed partially if they buy noise-limiting equipment
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 21 Feb 2014

RESIDENTS living near worksites may have less to complain about with the launch of a $10 million initiative to help construction firms cut back on noise pollution.

Through the Quieter Construction Fund (QCF), companies will be reimbursed for up to half the cost of purchasing or leasing noise-limiting equipment.

This latest move by the National Environment Agency (NEA) comes amid an increasing number of complaints about worksite noise.

In 2009, NEA received about 13,000 complaints. This spiked to roughly 20,000 in 2012, before coming down to about 17,000 last year.

Over the same five-year period, enforcement action taken by the agency against builders also grew from about 300 cases to 1,100, an increase of more than 260 per cent.

Companies that violate noise limits face a fine of up to $40,000.

Contractors, who applauded the new fund which will be available from April 1, said that the use of equipment producing less noise does not compromise productivity, which is vital for them.

Said Dr Ho Nyok Yong, president of the Singapore Contractors Association: "Quieter equipment doesn't mean it's slower; some could in fact be faster."

Such equipment includes the jack-in piling machine. The 85 decibels it generates make it much quieter than the commonly used bore piling machine, which produces 107 decibels - the equivalent of a jet taking off around 300m away. A 10 dB increase in decibel levels is perceived to be twice as loud.

The fund can also be used to help pay for noise barriers, which can cut noise pollution by about half.

But noise-limiting technology comes at a price - and this is a challenge faced by construction firms, acknowledged NEA chief executive Ronnie Tay at yesterday's Quieter Construction Seminar.

For instance, erecting high noise barriers around a construction site could cost more than $100,000, he said.

Under QCF, the maximum sum that can be claimed for each worksite is $100,000 or 5 per cent of the project's contract value - whichever amount is lower.

The fund will give builders an incentive to invest in noise-limiting "equipment, methods and innovative solutions", Mr Tay said. And this could in turn bring down the cost of noise-control equipment, he suggested.

Hexacon Construction director of projects Dominic Choy said: "The funding encourages contractors to take a look, although they may not end up buying."

The NEA already has rules in place to regulate noise at construction sites, such as those located next to or within 150m of sensitive areas such as hospitals and residential buildings.

Since Sept 1, 2011, new construction sites at such locations must stop work from 10pm on Saturday until 7am the following Monday.

Residents who live near worksites, such as Madam Chin Chu Eng, 80, hope the fund will encourage builders to use equipment producing less noise.

But the retired administrative assistant who resides in Tiong Bahru said noise is not the only problem.

"Mosquitos coming from the worksite disturb my sleep."

Noise-reducing equipment


PUSHES piles into the ground instead of hammering them in. Might not be suitable on soil that is too soft or too hard.

Noise level: 85 decibels (dB).

Cost: From $500,000 to more than $1 million, depending on machine capacity.


THESE panels, typically about 3m to 4m tall, are made of materials such as rock wool and zinc which absorb noise.

Noise level: Can help cut noise pollution by between five and 15 decibels.

Cost: Material costs of these barriers are typically about $125 per sq m.

Costs can range between $100,000 and $200,000, depending on how big the construction area is, and whether panels are installed around the site or just certain areas.


ALLOW portions of a pile to be detached without the need for hydraulic breakers, which generate noise ranging from 75dB to 90dB.

* Building noise gripes dip 1/3 since 2011 ban
624 firms caught violating stop-work order since 2011; stiffest fine levied is $13k
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 23 Jun 2014

THE clanging and clattering of construction work on weekends and public holidays has continued despite a 2011 ban on such noisy activities.

It became compulsory then for all building projects to stop work from 10pm on Saturday until 7am on Monday or from 10pm on the eve of a public holiday until 7am the day after.

But since the ruling kicked in, 624 companies have been caught violating the stop-work order, the National Environment Agency (NEA) told The Straits Times.

The heaviest penalty meted out for the offence so far was a fine of $13,000, though the maximum fine is $40,000.

The NEA said it has stepped up enforcement over the years following a rise in the number of complaints about construction noise as building projects become more prevalent.

"As Singapore is a highly urbanised city, a balance needs to be struck between meeting residents' expectations for a quieter living environment and ensuring that construction can keep pace with the country's development," said an NEA spokesman.

Noise is one of the top three complaints received by the NEA, along with gripes about cleanliness and mosquitoes. In 2009, the agency received about 13,000 complaints related to worksite noise and this rose to around 20,000 - or about 55 a day - in 2012. Last year the number of complaints dipped to around 17,000.

The NEA said the number of construction noise complaints received during the prohibited period for work has dropped by about a third since the ban was implemented.

"This was achieved despite continual growth in the construction industry's activity as measured by real gross domestic product," said its spokesman.

When the stop-work rule was first announced in Parliament in 2010, the NEA had estimated that the new measures would raise construction costs by 2 to 2.5 per cent with projects taking 10 to 17 per cent longer to finish.

Singapore Contractors Association president Ho Nyok Yong said the rule has raised costs and taken its toll on firms' revenues.

"Equipment and workers are left idle on site and if they are not re-deployed quickly, these incur costs," he said.

"When work resumes, contractors often have to speed up to catch up with the original work schedule. This is a challenge, especially in today's very lean manpower conditions."

He said it was timely that the $10 million Quieter Construction Fund was launched by the NEA in February, to give companies more support in their efforts to reduce noise. It reimburses firms by up to half the cost of purchasing or leasing noise-limiting equipment.

Administrator Doreen Law, 25, who lives near a Built-to-Order flat project in Sembawang, has kept her doors and windows shut since moving in late last year to shield herself from the racket. She also has the air-conditioning on all the time.

"It is inevitable to have some form of construction work near you in land-tight Singapore so I try to work around it myself," she said.

Research assistant Andrew Ang, 26, who lives near a worksite in Jalan Kayu, said: "There's drilling and banging but as long as the NEA enforces the ban during weekends when people are resting at home, it is tolerable."

No comments:

Post a Comment