Singapore & Universal Design


Universal Design made inroads into the building policy of Singapore last month.

SINGAPORE : Barrier-free access in HDB estates and flat and precinct designs for residents of all ages are some of the features enshrined in the Housing and Development Board's Universal Design Guide, which was launched in Septmeber 2006.

A rapidly ageing population means the HDB must also change its public housing design to meet the needs of the elderly.

And the key word now is Barrier-Free Accessibility.

A recently-completed pilot project in Bukit Batok East has shown how HDB, the Land Transport Authority, NParks and the town council worked together for a barrier-free estate.

From now on, all new estates will incorporate these requirements of Universal Design - listed in the new HDB Guide.

Grace Fu, Minister of State for National Development, said, "Universal Design involves the integration of accessibility features for the elderly and those with physical disabilities, right at the start of the design process. This approach will result in a more holistic design of our HDB estates from the outset, and avoid the need to add or modify features later."

From a wider corridor, to low-height rocker switches, to wider toilet door widths for easy wheelchair access - these features are part of the concept of Universal Design, a design approach which the HDB says it is adopting for all its future housing projects.

Chong Chung Nee, Deputy Director, Design and Development, Housing and Development Board, said, "The guide will apply to flats announced from July this year, so we'll see them come on stream in a few years' time.

"Things such as wider corridors and wider toilet spaces are easy to do during construction and design. But we do not install grab bars and hand rails in all these places, because these can be installed by the residents themselves when the needs arise, so we leave it to the residents when the needs arise."

Meanwhile, HDB has also appointed architects from private practice and the academia to its newly set up Architectural Design Panel.

The panel is tasked with reviewing and contributing innovative ideas for special projects.

Chong Chung Nee explained, "The private sector architects will have a lot of ideas and concepts, different from what we're doing in public housing, so we hope by involving them, they'll be able to inject new ideas, new creative energy to bring our housing designs to the next level of excellence.

"This panel is useful because if the same architects and designers work on the same projects over a long period of time, we might end up in a groove, and will do the same things the same way. By having the Architectural Design Panel, we'll be able to tap on new ideas and new ways of looking at things....for example perhaps (in) the way public housing could look.

"One example would be The Pinnacle @ Duxton where through a competition, we get so many new ideas for public housing. Reviews will not cover all projects or sites - we will selectively select projects that are on prominent locations or of significance to tap on the expertise of our panels."

HDB houses 85 percent of the Singapore population.


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