Singapore Welcomes Universal Design


Singapore's Building and Construction Authority is poised to enact an important affirmation of Universal Design in March 2007.

SINGAPORE: Architects, building owners and property agents have welcomed the move to make the streets and buildings of Singapore more user-friendly.

They also believe the move, which they say is long overdue, will help establish Singapore as a gracious nation.

50-year-old architect Michael Ngu fully understands and endorses the need to make all buildings accessible to all - after all, he has to rely on crutches to get around.

" It's a milestone that we have reached today. Personally, I think it's a good thing that we're doing for society. Something that we need to buy into very quickly. As an architects, we need to respond to this very well. What is important is really the overriding policy to change mindset of people around us. If professionals like myself design buildings that comply with the Barrier Free Accessibility and the universal design, then it can be accepted upstream much more easier," said Mr Ngu.

The Building and Construction Authority had announced it is going to make it a must, from March 2007, for all new buildings to be user-friendly, especially to the elderly and physically handicapped, and all new residential developments should have bathrooms that wheelchairs can easily get into.

It is hoped the code on barrier-free accessibility in buildings, which is currently under review, will help sort things out.

"In a tight spaced development like Singapore, we are going to be very, very efficient in planning. The code (in time to come) which we may adopt, will start to impose quite a bit of rethinking and redesigning presumably and quite possibly use a lot of space than we would have otherwise in the current code," said Mr Ngu.

Industry players agree cost should not be the main factor when implementing these changes (especially when they have to address the concerns of the ageing society and the physically challenged),

"I don't think it will be a very big impact. I say this because developers today are already considering this. You see them putting wheelchair ramps in the lobby area, to access to the elevator and the elevator to the houses. But now more importantly they need to consider not just that building itself but building to building," said Chris Koh, Director, Dennis Wee Properties.

Responding, the Real Estate Developers' Association says it also supports the initiative.


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