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Renovation guide for landed home owners

Govt's new guidelines urge owners to spare a thought for neighbours

The Straits Times - August 24, 2012
By: Jennani Durai

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Renovation guide for landed home ownersRebuilding has become more common in older landed estates. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

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."

 

Checklist from URA and BCA

  • Inform your neighbours of your plans and how long you expect construction to take. If they have any concerns, resolve them.

 

  • Get your neighbour's written consent if you require access to his property during the construction.

 

  • Remind your builder to minimise noise, to not work at night and to ensure debris does not fall onto your neighbour's property.

 

  • Remind your engineer to check if asbestos is present in your building. Inform your neighbours if it is, so they can stay away while it is being removed.

 

  • Get your engineer and builder to select micro piles or jack-in piles. These generate less noise.

 

  • If excavating to build a basement or a pool, get your builder to avoid excessive ground movements. Ask your engineer to check that any additional load from adding a pool does not affect the stability of your neighbour's boundary walls.

 

  • Avoid using highly reflective materials on your roof or facade. They may cause glare and discomfort to your neighbours.

 

  • Locate your air-conditioner condensers in the attic or roof, or at least 2m from the boundary shared with your neighbour, as they generate a lot of heat and noise.
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