Saturday 27 June 2015

Task force set up to tackle grouses of Centrale 8 residents

Heng Swee Keat to oversee group; move follows petition to developer
By Lim Yi Han And Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 26 Jun 2015

EDUCATION Minister Heng Swee Keat is overseeing a new task force to deal with concerns over defects at premium Housing Board (HDB) project Centrale 8.

Mr Heng is a Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC, where the 708-unit Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) project is located.

The move comes after residents of over 350 units presented a petition to the developer, Sim Lian Group, last week. A copy was sent to Tampines GRC MPs.

Some Centrale 8 home owners had found defects such as rusty door handles, uneven tiles and choked toilets after collecting their keys from June last year. But Sim Lian Group said earlier that there is "no basis" to extend the defect liability period, the one-year timeframe during which the developer is required to rectify any defect.

Another Tampines GRC MP, Mr Baey Yam Keng, told residents on Sunday that he had discussed the issue with Mr Heng and they felt a "special task force" should be formed.

Mr Baey, who chairs Tampines Town Council, said in an e-mail to them: "With the defects liability period expiring soon for many Centrale 8 units, there are naturally some anxieties." Mr Heng "is taking a personal interest in this matter", he added.

Yesterday, Mr Baey told The Straits Times the task force will gather all relevant parties to make it convenient for residents, adding: "We will also bring in expertise to offer professional and maybe even legal guidance."

The task force is led by Tampines Central Citizens Consultative Committee chairman Gerald Lim. It comprises members of the committee and representatives from agencies such as the town council and HDB.

Mr Lim said yesterday: "In situations like this, there will always be different views. Hopefully, the task force can enable people to better understand the different perspectives and it should create a conducive setting for an expeditious solution."

One of the seven demands in the petition is a dialogue with Sim Lian Group next month in the presence of HDB and the residents' MPs.

Residents also want the Building Service Centre at Centrale 8 to remain in operation until the end of December, and offsite support to continue to June 2017.

Other requests include compensation for design issues such as sanitary pipes in the service yard, which residents say take up space and were not reflected in the layout plans.

One signatory, Mr Alex Tang, 48, said: "Having a task force to discuss the interests of the residents is good, because we can bring up issues that residents have faced to the authorities."

"(A DBSS unit) is a lot more expensive than a Build-to-Order one, and I feel that we should have premium quality," added the logistics executive, who paid $740,000 for his five-room flat.

Centrale 8 is one of several DBSS projects, such as Pasir Ris One and Trivelis in Clementi, that have made headlines recently after residents complained about defects or design flaws.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, Sim Lian Group confirmed that it had received the residents' petition and "will continue to attend to their concerns on a one-to-one basis".

Said a spokesman: "We have been engaging home owners individually over the past months to address their concerns."

But the service centre is unlikely to stay open. Sim Lian Group encouraged home owners to submit defect rectification forms before the on-site centre closes by the end of next month. After that, defects will be managed by Sim Lian Group's office.

Businessman Shawn Tan, 38, who paid $555,000 for a four-room flat, felt it was important to have the service centre at Centrale 8. "Having someone on site means it will be more responsive," he said. "People pay more for a DBSS flat so we do have higher expectations."

Residents at Pasir Ris One have been complaining about the poor workmanship of their flats and the narrow corridors of...
Posted by The Straits Times on Thursday, June 25, 2015

Corridors of discontent at Pasir Ris One
They are within regulations but some find them a squeeze
By Amos Lee And Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 25 Jun 2015

THE narrow corridors of premium Housing Board project Pasir Ris One are making some residents feel squeezed.

The 1.2m-wide corridors of the Design, Build and Sell Scheme (DBSS) development are technically within regulations. Yet they put a crimp on everyday life, said residents such as Mr Shaun Chew, 51.

"My neighbour and I cannot even open our doors at the same time," said the supervisor, who lives in a five-room flat on the ground floor.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force's (SCDF) guidelines state that there must be a clear passage of at least 1.2m along corridors.

The same width was specified in the Building and Construction Authority's Accessibility Code until a 2013 revision.

Since 1.2m is exactly the width provided, the development sits on the margins of the rule. New residential projects submitted for approval from April 1 last year have a 1.5m minimum width instead.

The Pasir Ris One corridors run up against another restriction.

Most town councils have by-laws against obstructions in common corridors, which typically follow the SCDF's guidelines.

If residents put items outside their flat, they must leave a passage of at least 1.2m.

In other HDB corridors which are 1.4m wide, for instance, this is not a problem. For Pasir Ris One, this means that no one can place items outside their homes.

When The Straits Times visited yesterday, the corridors were bare except for one or two pairs of shoes outside some units.

"The designs and plans for this development have been approved and fall within all guidelines stipulated by the BCA, which were established with safety and comfort of residents in mind," said manager and project administrator Dennis Lam from SingHaiyi Group, which jointly developed Pasir Ris One with Kay Lim Holdings.

"That said, we take the residents' views seriously and will take all feedback on board for review," he added.

But these technicalities do not change the reality for residents. Said Mr Chew: "There is a childcare (centre) nearby. With the narrow corridor, if we happen to open our doors, it may hit the children (when they walk past)."

Not being able to place items outside is not much of an issue for some residents, though. Their units have balconies for potted plants and an entry area for shoes.

"It is okay if there are no obstructions," said director Lin Jun Yao, 29, who lives in a five-roomer with his family of five.

For Mr Lin, workmanship was more of a concern. "The tilings were uneven, cabinet joints loose and materials were cheap."

Other home owners noted scratched tiles, leaking pipes and noisy doors. Said SingHaiyi's Mr Lam: "We are in touch with owners who have provided us with feedback and are currently working with them to address their respective concerns."

DBSS projects are sold by private developers, not by the HDB.

In response to queries, an HDB spokesman said the agency "has been actively engaging the developer of Pasir Ris One to address the concerns of residents".

"Discussions are ongoing between the developer and the residents, and HDB is closely monitoring the progress," she added.

Comparing corridors: The narrow walkways at Pasir Ris One, a Design, Build and Sell Scheme development, have upset some residents. We take a look at some other corridors. More here:
Posted by The Straits Times on Sunday, June 28, 2015

Narrow corridors: SCDF replies

We thank Mr Leong Kok Seng, Mr Francis Cheng and Ms Lim Poh Suan for their feedback ("Narrow corridors a fire-safety issue", June 27; and "End cluttering of common corridors" and "Flat designs should have safety in mind", both published on July 13, Forum Online, respectively).

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA), together with other authorities, including the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), approved the building plans for Pasir Ris One in 2012.

These plans fulfilled the then prevailing design requirements, such as BCA's Code on accessibility for the Built Environment, which facilitates access for wheelchair users, and the SCDF Fire Code, which provides for the safe conduct of emergency evacuation.

The SCDF has conducted checks at Pasir Ris One and confirmed that the width of the common corridors at Pasir Ris One meets the requirements of the Fire Code.

The SCDF has also found that the fire-rated doors installed at the residential units do not impede emergency evacuation along the corridors as they open inward.

In addition, most metal gates, which open outwards, do not pose any obstruction to evacuation.

However, the SCDF has found some metal gates that could potentially cause obstruction if the gates of opposite-facing units are opened at the same time.

The SCDF has therefore instructed the architect of Pasir Ris One to take immediate action to rectify these metal gates.

The SCDF also advises residents to keep the corridors free of clutter, in order not to hinder firefighting efforts, evacuation and conveyance of patients during a medical emergency.

The SCDF is committed to ensuring that all developments comply with the requirements of the Fire Code.

A. Razak Raheem (Colonel)
Director, Public Affairs Department
Singapore Civil Defence Force
ST Forum, 23 Jul 2015

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