Monday, April 18, 2005

Open Letter to the Building and Construction Authority

Update: Received the following from the BCA today, after a conversation with one of their people:

Dear Mr. Hanafi

I refer to your teleconversation with our Ms. Catherine Wong this

We are looking into the issues raised by you in your email. In the
meantime, if you have further questions or feedback, please feel free to
contact me.

Thank you.

Goh Meng Hwi - Engineer - Building & Construction Authority - Tel: +65
63258967 - Fax: +65 63257482

Call me cynical, but one does rather think that the investigation will be finished just about the same time the building is demolished...


I have been off the air for the last few days, beaten into submission by the relentless pounding of heavy construction equipment being used to demolish a re-inforced concrete building across the street. In the finest Asian tradition of non-regulation of anything that gets in the way of making money, there are no meaningful rules for acceptable limits to noise and duration of operations.

Although ultimately futile, I sent the following to the government agency involved, and the Straits Times editorial page.

Dear Sir,

I am writing this letter from my desk at home while feeling slightly queasy from the swaying of the building I live in. For the past 108 days, the building directly across the street has been under demolition from 08:30 in the morning until 19:00 at night, 6 days a week. They appear to be half finished. The impact is similar to living in Beirut during the civil war - constant noise, dust, and earth-shattering impacts, while enduring your home shaking and swaying.

The building being demolished was not old or unusable. Indeed, it was younger than the one I currently live in. It is being demolished because the owner believes that they can make more money by tearing down the current structure and building a new one with smaller apartments and higher density. While I am firm believer in the capitalist system, their profit is coming at my expense. There is no national interest being served here, just profit. But the costs are being borne by those of us forced to live nearby.

Singapore is a heavily urban environment. Thousands of people live within 500 meters of the demolition site, yet the technology being used to demolish the building is extremely primitive - hitting concrete with pneumatic hammers. It is time to realize that conventional demolition methods are inappropriate for urban environments, and that something better and faster needs to be used.

I call on the Building and Construction Authority to bring in regulations that protect citizens from the effects of demolition projects. As a start, there should be requirement for the use of controlled demolition (use of explosives) to demolish buildings in residential areas. This is a well-understood and safe technique which brings down a building in a single controlled explosion. There should also be compulsory use of acoustic shields on pneumatic hammers to control the noise. The allowed work hours need to reflect the reality of their impact. People need rest, and students need to be able to concentrate. Hammering should be restricted to 9-5 during weekdays, and not on the weekend at all.

There are at least 2 other buildings scheduled for demolition in my immediate neighbourhood, so this is not an issue that is going away any time soon. When you multiply the situation by all the sites across Singapore, this is a major problem.

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