Designing buildings that are safe to maintain: Industry players welcome BCA plan for new framework

Designing buildings that are safe to maintain: Industry players welcome BCA plan for new framework

Those that Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that the framework would also help the maintenance and cleaning sector cope amid the tight labour market.

Those that Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that the framework would also help the maintenance and cleaning sector cope amid the tight labour market. 

SINGAPORE: With a growing number of buildings with novel designs and complex structures, cleaning and maintaining them has become quite a challenge. 

Take the Esplanade for example, its cleaning crew is trained and certified to work at height but the uneven facade of the "durian" structure makes it difficult for workers to manoeuvre up and down the building.

According to the Ms Carmen Choo, key account director of facilities management company UEMS Solutions, which helps maintain the Esplanade on an ad-hoc basis, workers have to stand and balance on the edge of each panel to clean the surfaces.

The panels are also pointed downwards, which means that workers have to squat to clean the glass surfaces and the underside of the panel above them. 

Ms Choo said such buildings pose a safety concern for cleaners who have to work in tight spaces, and at height - which is why industry players have welcomed plans by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) to introduce a new design-for-maintainability framework. It will provide guidelines on designing buildings that are safe and easy to maintain. 

“The designs of today definitely look great, but (they) present a great challenge for the cleaning and maintenance team," Ms Choo added. "And what happens is ultimately, (the maintenance) team will be the ones taking over and maintaining the infrastructure."

Those that Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that the framework would also help the maintenance and cleaning sector cope amid the tight labour market. 

TAKING INTO ACCOUNT FLOOR MATERIAL

Another maintenance solutions firm that specialises in cleaning building interiors said it hopes the framework can also tackle the issue of flooring materials. 

Ms Adelyn Ong, co-founder of A1 Cleaning Services, said that certain materials such as marble are more difficult to maintain as it requires special liquid surface cleaners to remove stains. Wet spots are also hard to detect on marble, which means people are more likely to slip and fall if they walk on a marble surface, she added. 

She suggested that the use of tiles should be encouraged: "It's easier to remove stains on tiles. They require only an ordinary floor cleaner to remove the smudges."

If one wanted the floor to have a "marble look", they could install marble-like tiles instead, she added. 

GUIDANCE FOR LESS EXPERIENCED ARCHITECTS

ADDP Architect’s associate architect Tang Kok Thye told Channel NewsAsia that maintenance is already an issue that building designers are aware of and plan for, even for the ones with more complex structures. 

Giving the example of a project he designed, the Tree House condominium at Chestnut Avenue in Bukit Panjang, Mr Tang said he planned ways to help gardeners easily prune and water the plants at the development. 

The private development is home to a 24-storey vertical garden and has access platforms installed at every two storeys behind the green facade to help gardeners.

Tree House Condominium
Tree House condominium at 60 Chestnut Avenue in Singapore. (Photo: ADDP Architects) 

“You know that the gardeners are not people used to the gondolas and high-level areas, so we design platforms for (easy access to the green wall), and (so that they can) maintain the plants at a very cost-effective manner,” Mr Tang explained.

He added that, nonetheless, the framework will offer a common set of ground rules to the industry, and provide more guidance for less experienced architects to design with the maintenance of the building in mind.

Source: CNA/ek

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