BCA to boost building facade safety

BCA to boost building facade safety

THE authorities are looking at ways to step up the safety of building facades, following a recent spate of incidents that saw building parts fall off Housing Board (HDB) blocks.

Over the past two months, a sunshade, two ceilings and a chunk of cladding board were dislodged in at least four separate episodes.

The last - which took place three weeks ago at a 51-year-old HDB block in Circuit Road - saw a piece of wall facade plummet more than 10 storeys, crashing into the driveway below.

While no one was injured, the incidents have raised concern among residents, MPs and engineers, who are calling for tighter checks especially on older buildings.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) told The Straits Times it is looking at ways to ramp up the safety of building facades. It said it is "studying overseas regimes and looking into measures to enhance facade safety".

The review comes as the oldest of Singapore's HDB blocks turn 55. Those built in the 1960s and early 1970s - making them older than 40 years - comprise less than 10 per cent of the pool of 9,000-plus public housing blocks today.

Safeguards are in place to ensure their structural integrity. All buildings must be inspected regularly by a professional engineer.

The Periodic Structural Inspection is done every 10 years for residential buildings, and every five years for other buildings, to ensure that defects can be detected and rectified early, said the BCA.

Older public housing blocks are checked every five years, the HDB said. It did not specify how it defines "older" blocks.

However, such inspections cover only structural parts of a building such as beams and columns. They exclude facade elements, such as sunshades and cladding boards, which were involved in the recent incidents.

Schemes like the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme also do not include checks on facade elements.

Still, the BCA stressed that facade parts "remain safe" with regular and proper maintenance. These come under the remit of town councils, charged with regular visual inspections and cyclical repair and redecoration works.

The HDB also said it "selectively" conducts annual audit inspections of building facades, particularly of older blocks.

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg


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