$10m to cut worksite noise

SINGAPORE - Residents living near worksites may have less to complain about with the launch of a $10 million initiative to help construction firms cut back on noise pollution.

Through the Quieter Construction Fund, firms will be reimbursed up to half the cost of buying or leasing noise-limiting equipment. The maximum sum that can be claimed for each worksite is capped at $100,000 or 5 per cent of the project's contract value - whichever is lower.

This latest move by the National Environment Agency (NEA) comes amid an increasing number of complaints.

In 2009, NEA received about 13,000 complaints from residents about worksite noise. This spiked to 20,000 in 2012 before coming down to about 13,000 last year.

Over the same five-year period, enforcement action taken by the agency against builders grew from about 300 cases to 1,100.

Firms that violate NEA's noise limits face a fine of up to $40,000.

Contractors, who applauded the new fund that will be available from April 1, said that the use of less-loud equipment did not compromise productivity, which is vital for them.

Dr Ho Nyok Yong, president of the Singapore Contractors Association, said: "Quieter equipment doesn't mean it's slower, some could in fact be faster."

Such equipment include the jack-in piling machine. Its 85-decibel noise level makes it less noisy than the commonly used bore piling machine, which produces 107 decibels - the equivalent of a jet taking off around 300m away.

The fund can also be used to help pay for noise barriers, which can halve noise pollution.

But noise-limiting technology comes at a price - and this is a challenge faced by construction firms, NEA chief executive Ronnie Tay acknowledged at yesterday's Quieter Construction Seminar.

For instance, erecting high noise barriers around a construction site could cost over $100,000, he said.

Residents who live near construction sites, such as Madam Chin Chu Eng, 80, hope that the fund will encourage builders to use less-noisy equipment.

But the retired administrative assistant, who lives in Tiong Bahru, said noise is not the only problem: "Mosquitoes coming from the worksite disturb my sleep."

This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings. 

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