SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) applies a stringent framework of quality assurance and checks to ensure that “quality flats” are delivered to home buyers, it said in a media release on Sunday (Dec 20).
This framework includes quality standards set out at the start of the project, a list of recommended building materials and equipment suppliers that contractors are required to adhere to and civil and structural audits. It also includes timber mock-ups for toilets, kitchens, air-con ledges and services yards, and the preparation of sample units for different flat types to serve as quality benchmarks.
HDB also said it performs regular inspections of contractors’ work. It deploys a Central Audit Team that performs checks on all projects at different stages of construction, while HDB project directors conduct regular inspections on the quality of work to ensure that work completed is consistent with the approved specifications and work methods.
Building Service Centres (BSC), which have been set up in all new HDB housing projects since 2005, provide on-site advice and assistance to new flat owners. The BSCs operate for the one-year Defects Liability Period, after which flat owners can still report any defects to the HDB Branches managing their estate. Executive condominiums also have defects liability period. Existing executive condo in the market include The Terrace EC, Waterwoods EC, Bellewaters EC, Bellewoods EC, The Vales EC, Skypark Residences ,The Brownstone EC, Signature EC At Yishun while upcoming ones include Parc Life EC and The Visionaire EC and Wandervale EC.
“In the past few years, HDB has ramped up projects – close to 100,000 flats. This is equivalent to building a new Clementi town,” said Mr Loo Yow Khoon, HDB’s Deputy Director of Building Quality Group.
A “comprehensive” programme is in place to manage quality, said Mr Loo, starting from as early as the design stage to the implementation stage to final checks when the unit is nearly completed by a Building Inspection Team, which combs the entire flat for imperfections or defects.
HDB’s statement comes after questions about the quality of Build-To Order (BTO) flats arose earlier this year. Residents at BTO flats in Punggol for instance, complained about hairline cracks in the walls and that rainwater was flooding their homes. More recently this month, a family who collected the keys to their flat in Sengkang in October claimed to have found up to 156 defects in the unit.
“IMPERFECTIONS ARE NOT DEFECTS”
HDB said it recognised that some flats may not meet the expectations of residents and there could be issues to be addressed even after the completion of construction. However, it said that the bulk of feedback received pertained to “surface imperfections” such as hairline cracks, scratches on timber flooring or uneven tile joints. These can be rectified easily and quickly, and do not affect the structural integrity of the building, HDB stated.
It added that since not all construction processes can be fully automated and manual labour is still required, imperfections such as uneven tile joints can arise due to inconsistencies in workmanship of individual workers.
“Real defects that we talk about are things like defective lock sets, hollow tiles or damages to the window panels – those are the common things we receive,” Mr Loo said.
Also, some reports for “defects” turned out to be imperfections arising from the nature of the products or manufacturing processes. For example, some owners complained of colour inconsistencies in timber floors, which are inevitable as timber is a natural organic product. Residents have also complained of minor variations in floor tiles, which may differ slightly from batch to batch according to HDB.
Notwithstanding these “minor variations”, HDB said it would ensure all materials and workmanship comply with industry standards.
Some residents, however, demand repairs or replacement beyond industry standards, it said. It cited a case where more than 100 defects were reported after the flat owner examined his flat for floor and wall imperfections using an LED torch light.
HDB said its checks showed most of the imperfections were “minor, such as paint stains on tiles, and excess sealant and paint stains on the parquet”. Although it had attended to the resident’s feedback numerous times and kept him updated on the progress of rectification works, the resident was not satisfied, it said.
It added that it is not industry practice to scrutinise certain elements such as parquet flooring and floor tiles for scratch marks and inconsistent tile joints, although its contractors have rectified such imperfections out of goodwill.
BTO WARRANTY “A MARK OF OUR COMMITMENT TO QUALITY”
HDB offers homebuyers a warranty scheme called Assure 3, for all BTO flats launched from 2005. Under this scheme, buyers enjoy a 5-year warranty against external wall seepage and ceiling leakage, and a 10-year warranty against spalling concrete.
It said this was a mark of its commitment to quality, and is complemented by improvements in building technology and methods.
One of these improvements is the use of unplasticized polyvinyl chloride pipes, which are cast together with the floor slabs rather than using mortar, to prevent water seepage. Window frames are also now precast, rather than installed on-site, eliminating the need for joints between the window frames and wall panels that allow water to seep through.
In addition, HDB said it also uses higher grade and denser concrete to provide better protection from carbonation, minimising the occurrence of spalling concrete.
HIGH LEVEL OF OVERALL SATISFACTION: HDB SURVEY
The average Construction Quality Assessment System (CONQUAS) score of HDB flats was 88.6 in 2014, above the current national average of 88.2, the statutory board reiterated.
CONQUAS is an indicator by the Building and Construction Authority which measures the quality of buildings. HDB said the 2014 score puts the quality of HDB flats on par with private housing developments.
Reported defects are generally rectified within two weeks, HDB said, unless there are unusual factors such as an unavailability of materials, in which case flat owners are informed of the expected completion date.
HDB conducted surveys among residents of newly completed BTO projects from 2010 to 2014, and the responses showed a high level of overall satisfaction with the BSC’s services, it added.