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Changes to law to boost safety of high-rise buildings

Changes to law to boost safety of high-rise buildings

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 07 Mar 2020
Author: Calvin Yang

New requirements will also be set for design and installation of lifts, escalators.

Every seven years, owners of buildings older than 20 years and above 13m tall - or roughly four storeys high - will have to engage a professional engineer or registered architect to inspect their facade.

Any required repairs must also be carried out within a specific period.

The compulsory inspection is among several changes made to the Building Control Act that was passed by Parliament yesterday.

More than 4,000 buildings are expected to be inspected annually, but landed houses are exempted.

Other changes to the Act include improving the regulatory framework for lifts and escalators, as well as requiring older buildings to provide easier access.

The changes are meant to meet the needs of a greying Singapore and people with disabilities.

The amendments will be implemented progressively from the second half of next year.

Explaining the move, Minister of State for National Development Zaqy Mohamad said that about 70 per cent of buildings in Singapore are more than 20 years old.

Although general maintenance works - such as simple repairs and painting of external walls - are already carried out regularly on building facades, there is a need to further improve standards, he told the House when he presented the Building Control (Amendment) Bill for debate.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) received nearly 30 reports each year on falling facade elements over the past three years.

"Most were related to the wear and tear of the facade materials or connections," added Mr Zaqy.

The inspection will help reduce the likelihood of rundown facades as buildings in Singapore age.

For safety reasons, the BCA will set new requirements for the design and installation of lifts and escalators, to reduce the likelihood of defects.

Lift and escalator owners must engage specialist professional engineers to certify the design plans, which are to be submitted to the BCA for approval.

The BCA will require these lift and escalator professionals to ensure that lift models and their key safety components are certified by independent certification bodies.

Seven MPs spoke during the debate on the Bill, asking about the reliability of lifts and if more can be done to boost the pool of local lift and escalator specialists.

Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) said it was important to have a strong Singaporean core of trained lift specialists, with attractive incentives for them to stay in the sector and advance their careers.

Mr Zaqy said that in the last three years, the number of safety incidents arising from technical faults has been fewer than 30 a year.

On the sector's ageing workforce, he said the changes to the law will allow the Government to mandate a progressive wage model to attract and retain Singapore residents in the lift maintenance industry.

As for better access, owners of older buildings must build basic accessibility features when undertaking renovations that require plan submissions to the Government.

This will apply to commercial and institutional buildings with a gross floor area of more than 500 sq m.


The compulsory inspection is among several changes made to the Building Control Act that was passed by Parliament yesterday.
More than 4,000 buildings are expected to be inspected annually, but landed houses are exempted.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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