SINGAPORE - New Housing Board flats will now come with condo-like finishings at a fraction of the cost.
These sleeker and more modern fittings - such as larger tiles and concealed floor traps - will be installed in new Build-to-Order (BTO) projects launched since February this year.
The new flats will incur marginally higher costs that HDB will absorb, and does not affect the house pricing, a spokesman said on Tuesday (June 4).
Mr Jansen Foo, deputy director of HDB's Building Quality Group, said the net increase in cost is minimal as HDB has been able to achieve economies of scale. It is thus able to absorb the cost.
The HDB has adopted several practices more befitting of private condominiums in recent years, such as pushing structural walls and beams to the side to encourage open plan layouts, as well as open-concept kitchens last year.
"This year, we took this one step further to improve the range of fittings provided in our new flats for a sleeker look. HDB is constantly improving the design of our flats to suit the changing needs of our residents," said Mr Foo.
The new fittings include a scratch-resistant laminated timber main door with better finishing, which replaces the timber veneered doors in older flats.
Wrought iron gates will be replaced with steel entrance gates, which offer more modern designs.
Thumb-turn knobs will be featured on these new gates instead of the traditional key inserts - this allows residents to open their gates from the inside without a key, enabling them to escape quickly in fire emergencies.
Instead of more breakable ceramic tiles, glazed porcelain ones will be used in kitchens and bathrooms as they are more resistant to wear and tear.
Kitchens and bathrooms will also have larger floor tiles. Kitchen floors will be fitted with 600mm x 600mm tiles instead of 300mm x 600mm ones, while bathroom floor tiles will have larger tiles of 300mm x 600mm, replacing the old 300mm x 300mm ones.
The HDB said these larger tiles allow "better visual continuity" from the kitchen to the living area, and also make cleaning easier.
Bathrooms will include a new range of dual flush low capacity water closets with a wide range of modern designs.
Concealed floor traps will replace plastic floor traps in bathrooms, giving bathrooms a more sophisticated finish.
Ramps at thresholds will be replaced with a 20mm drop, giving flats a more contemporary look and layout, while still remaining accessible for people in wheelchairs, HDB said.
This change was made in response to feedback from residents, who said that the ramps let water seep out of the bathrooms when residents cleaned them.
A streamlined design for the door and window ensemble between the kitchen and service yard will also be offered - top-hung windows will replace the traditional louvred vent windows, making windows more durable and easier to clean.
The windows provide more flexibility for design for homeowners, HDB said.
Future home owners said they are pleased with the new layouts for upcoming BTO flats.
"The new windows will provide better privacy. It also makes homes more aesthetically pleasing," said Mr Ari Haikal Subtu, 24, a first-time flat buyer whose house will be among the first few to receive the new fittings.
Undergraduate Ms Melanie Heng, 24, who bought her BTO flat in February, said: "It's a welcome change to create a more modern and chic look, in comparison to the usual traditional features of a HDB flat".
"I'm happy to see that floor tiles will be more resistant to wear and tear as this is the element of the house which needs to withstand the test of time. As home buyers, we naturally prefer something more long-lasting," she added.
Mr Kenyon Tan, 25, a first-time flat buyer who is self-employed, said the new fittings in HDBs will help new home owners spend less time trying to make their home more modern looking.
"The main concern of buying a house is always money, especially for young people. I hope new improvements in HDB flats will not lead to a price increase," said Mr Tan.
But some were concerned about the new features.
Undergraduate Lim Zhi Xuan, 25, questioned how secure the new thumb-turn knobs will be compared to the old key locks.
"Some improvements HDB can continue to make are adding more handicap-friendly features to BTO flats, like ramps at the main door," he added.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.