Friday, August 24, 2012

Renovation guide for landed home owners

Straits Times: Fri, Aug 24

GO AHEAD and renovate or rebuild your home, but do not be a neighbour from hell in the process.

Owners of landed property now have a clearly defined checklist identifying the dos and don'ts during renovation or building.

A set of guidelines released by the Government yesterday urges landed home owners to think about their neighbours when carrying out building works.

The guide covers subjects that are becoming increasingly relevant as greater numbers of house- proud Singaporeans either tear down and rebuild houses or make additions to them.

Aside from minimising noise and dust problems, home owners should consider details such as the materials used to build the facade of a house, the guide says.

Even the placement of condensers of air-conditioning units matters in maintaining neighbourly relations, it says.

A circular containing these guidelines was sent out by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Building and Construction Authority yesterday to the various associations for home owners, architects, engineers, contractors and builders.

A footnote in the circular said that the guide was intended to be "advisory" in nature, and that both authorities "are not obliged to intervene in the event that any party chooses not to adhere to the guide".

Dr Ho Nyok Yong, president of the Singapore Contractors Association, said that tearing down and rebuilding houses has become more common in older landed housing estates.

"Many who buy houses now want to do alterations so that the houses look newer," he said.

Mr Lim Peng Hong, who owns engineering firm PH Consulting, explained that many people want to maximise their land.

"Land is expensive now, so if you buy a two-storey house and you are able to construct a three-storey house on that land, the tendency will be to tear down the original house to increase living space," he said.

Mr Lim is the former president of the Association of Consulting Engineers Singapore.

Dr Ho said the circular was timely as previous guidelines had governed renovation in Housing Board flats but not private houses.

He added that the guidelines would raise overall awareness among home owners and contractors alike.

"If there is going to be hacking into walls or a lot of time spent on renovation, it's responsible to inform your neighbours, as they may need time to prepare," he said.

He pointed out that contractors could also make use of specialist equipment to reduce noise. For example, the guide suggests using smaller, quieter micro-piles rather than noisy reinforced concrete piling systems that could also potentially cause damage to surrounding properties.

Mr Theodore Chan, president of the Singapore Institute of Architects, advises landed property owners to consult an architect as the first step in their renovation to minimise the inconvenience caused to their neighbours.

Ms Lee Bee Wah, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, said she periodically gets complaints from residents in landed estates about their neighbours' renovation works, but that it is not an increasing trend.

"Mostly, they complain about the noise and dust created," she said.

"I've also received complaints from residents that construction workers climb on their roofs without their consent to carry out works on the neighbouring house."


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