HDB flats designed to cater to changing aspirations

Victor Kang6 Oct 2020

New HDB flats

While HDB’s earliest flats were built to be simple and utilitarian, its goal now is to deliver smart and sustainable homes that are functional and cater to the changing concerns and aspirations of the next generation.

Residents of the upcoming Punggol Northshore district will enjoy the benefits of smart-enabled homes that come with built-in power sockets, which allow owners to control any appliance – be it fans, lights or a coffee machine – via a mobile application, reported The Straits Times (ST).

The common areas within the estate will also feature smart lighting which rely on sensors to automatically brighten and dim based on human traffic, resulting to energy savings in the long run.

These features will also be integrated in new flats within the upcoming Tengah “forest town”, the first of which are expected to be completed by end-2022.

However, before these new technologies are rolled out, multiple behind-the-scenes trials are conducted first.

Heading these efforts is Dr Johnny Wong, who serves as Group Director of the Building and Research Institute.

In an interview with ST to mark the 60th anniversary of the Housing and Development Board (HDB), he revealed that all new ideas pass through rigorous testing at the Housing Board’s building research facility in Woodlands to make sure that they are cost-effective, technically feasible and comply with present building regulations.

He also explained how HDB flats have evolved and adopted new technologies.

He noted that while HDB’s earliest flats were built to be simple and utilitarian, its goal now is to deliver smart and sustainable homes that are functional and cater to the changing concerns and aspirations of the next generation.

“There’s a big thing that we need to check. Will residents accept and like it?” he said as quoted by ST.

This is when “living laboratories” or existing estates with residents staying in flats are utilised.

Examples of these are the estates of Yuhua and Teck Ghee.

The HDB Greenprint programme was piloted in 2012 at 38 blocks of flats in Yuhua, which was extended in 2015 at around 40 blocks of flats in Teck Ghee.

Suggested read: HDB Eco-Towns: Punggol and the Upcoming Tampines, Choa Chu Kang and Nee Soon

The pneumatic waste conveyance system, which utilises vacuum-type underground pipes to automatically collect household garbage, was among the systems trialled.

The trial saw Yuhua residents complain of foul-smelling rubbish chutes as bulky waste caused chokes.

The feedback enabled HDB to correct and further refine the system, which is now among the sustainable features that will be integrated in new flats within estates like Punggol Northshore and Tengah, said Dr Wong.

He described the Housing Board’s commitment to sustainability as a “social responsibility”, given that eight in 10 Singaporeans are staying in an HDB flat.

“Singaporeans are very exposed to what is happening around the world. Sustainability is not a fashionable word; it’s something that a lot of our young people are concerned about so I think they feel that agencies like HDB, in a certain way, must also do their part,” he said.

He underscored that HDB developments were intended to be sustainable right from the start, even before the word “sustainable” was used to describe them.

HDB flats, for instance, are designed such that corridors are naturally lit in the day. To minimise the use of air-conditioning, homes are positioned and designed to be naturally ventilated and breezy.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that “many families lived in crowded, squalid conditions” when HDB was first established.

“HDB hit the ground running to build homes for Singaporeans,” he said in a Facebook post and quoted by ST.

“Each new generation has brought different needs, lifestyles and aspirations, and the HDB has continued to innovate and adapt with them. Today, HDB focuses on building community-centric towns, paying special attention to sustainability.”

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Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email victorkang@propertyguru.com.sg


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