Saturday, August 08, 2009

Singapore - Becoming a nation of high-rise squash courts

I have been watching with bemused fascination the return of crowds to the launch of new properties. There is a complete disconnect between the business press reporting about the economic crisis, and the reality of mob scenes at show flats and mall openings.

What is even more disturbing however is what people are buying. The size of the flats that are being marketed are absurdly small. Instead of looking at the utility of the space being offered, buying is reportedly based only on the total price.

This leads to some really bizarre outcomes - in order to keep the total price below 1 million dollars (which is supposed to be an acceptable price), flat sizes are shrinking. At the same time, the use of balconies, air con ledges, and planters is reducing the usable area dramatically.

I am unfortunate to have a number of construction projects surrounding my building, and I have been watching the erection of what can only be described as pigeon holes. Pre-cast concrete slabs are dropped into place by crane, allowing completion of floors in record time. I don't see where the structural integrity comes from, and I certainly wouldn't want to be in one of these structures if an earthquake hit.

One building nearby called the Vida has recently been completed and is being marketed as a luxury building. Driving by at night, I was struck by how much the place looked like a stack of squash courts. The flats have floor to ceiling glass walls, like a squash court, and appear to be roughly the same size.

Intrigued, I decided to check the facts. According to the World Squash Federation, the dimensions of a regulation squash court are 9.75m by 6.4m, yielding 62.4 square metres. For those more comfortable in square feet, this is 671 square feet. Since there are no balconies, aircon ledges or planters, a squash court is really 671 sq feet of usable space.

Looking at the marketing materials for the Vida on their web site, it appears that a 1 bedroom apartment is 517-527 square feet - with aircon ledges and other encumbrances. This is actually considerably smaller smaller than a squash court!

Another way of looking at this is that a standard 40' shipping container is 12.036m by 2.35m giving 28.28 square metres or 304 square feet.

And how much does one pay for the privilege of living in less space than a squash court?

The last transaction listed on the Singapore government property website shows a price of S$1,175,210, yielding the seller S$2,228 per square foot.

I wish I could offer some sage insight to what this all means.

I do know that a squash court or a shipping container is not a home, nor is it a suitable place to raise a family. Even a single individual living in such a small space is going to go stir crazy pretty quickly. The breakdown in family structures can only be accelerated by isolating people in tiny cubes.

This is not housing, this is storage.