More safety checks for high-rise buildings in amendments to Building Control Act

More safety checks for high-rise buildings in amendments to Building Control Act

Older buildings will have to undergo facade inspections every seven years under new rules in the Building Control Act passed in Parliament on Friday (Mar 6).

SINGAPORE: Older buildings will have to undergo facade inspections every seven years under new rules in the Building Control Act passed in Parliament on Friday (Mar 6).

Tighter regulations for lifts and escalators, and provisions that require buildings to retrofit accessibility features were also passed, and are set to be implemented progressively from the second half of 2021.

Speaking in Parliament, Minister of State for National Development Zaqy Mohamad said that BCA was alerted to almost 30 incidents of falling facade elements annually over the last three years.

"Today, about 70 per cent of our building stock is more than 20 years old. In addition, our buildings, old and new, will need to be made more accessible to meet the needs of an ageing population, as well as persons with disabilities," he said.

With the change, trained personnel will have to conduct facade inspections every seven years for buildings taller than 13m - about four storeys - and older than 20 years. Landed houses are exempted.

About 4,000 buildings would be inspected yearly, said the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

BCA will also introduce inspection guidelines and strengthen research and development to look into better ways to carry out facade inspections, said Mr Zaqy.

NEW REQUIREMENTS FOR LIFTS AND ESCALATORS

Along with stricter building facade inspections, BCA will introduce new requirements to design and install lifts and escalators.

“There are about 70,000 lifts and 7,000 escalators in Singapore today. We need to ensure that they are designed, installed and maintained properly, so that they are safe to use,” said Mr Zaqy.

While BCA currently requires professional engineers to certify the design and installation of lifts and escalators, Mr Zaqy said: “We propose to strengthen BCA’s upstream regulatory oversight for L&E (lifts and escalators), to reduce the likelihood of deficiencies in design or installation which may give rise to downstream safety incidents.”

With the amendments, lift and escalator owners have to engage a Specialist Professional Engineer in lifts and escalators to certify design plans, which will have to be submitted to BCA for approval. 

Lift and escalator professionals will have to ensure that the lift models and their key safety components are certified by independent certification bodies as part of the new plan submission process.  

To raise the skills and capability of the industry, BCA said that it will become mandatory for the lift industry to adopt the Progressive Wage Model (PWM).

It will “increase basic wages across the board for local lift technicians, particularly at the lower levels", said Mr Zaqy.

This is expected to benefit more than 1,000 local technicians.

Since May last year, the Government has only awarded lift maintenance tenders to companies that have adopted the PWM, and currently, 40 lift maintenance contractors - who make up 95 per cent of market share - have committed to adopting it.

Responding to Nee Soon MP Louis Ng’s question on whether the model will be extended to foreigners, Mr Zaqy said that the intent was to “build a strong local core for the lift industry and not to discriminate against foreigners”.

Several lift firms committed to the PWM have indicated that they would provide foreign lift technicians with comparable remuneration packages.

ACCESSIBILITY UPGRADING

More buildings will also have to add basic accessibility features in the future when they make alterations or additions that require building submission to BCA.

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

Prior to the amendment, buildings are only required to meet accessibility requirements in the locations where addition and alteration works are carried out.

They will now have to add features such as an accessible toilet regardless of where the works are carried out in the building.

For many buildings built before 1990, such basic accessibility upgrading is only carried out on a voluntary basis, said Mr Zaqy. 

The amendments will “accelerate accessibility upgrading in our existing buildings, especially the private ones”, he said.

BCA also reviewed the regulatory framework for Mechanised Car Parking Systems, which transports cars, without its driver, to and from a parking area. While BCA currently does not regulate the operation and maintenance of these systems, Mr Zaqy said that the systems could “potentially pose a danger to users”.

Another amendment will allow more types of businesses to apply for a Builder licence.

Source: CNA/cc(hm)

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