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Checks done before keys are presented

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Residents of Trivelis have complained of defects. The development has a Conquas score of 87.1 upon 100. The higher the score, the better the workmanship.


    Aug 11, 2015

    Checks done before keys are presented

    BEFORE the buyers of a new public housing apartment even take their first steps into their new home, strangers would have trudged through the flat or its rooms.

    These men and women, assessors from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), are there to conduct inspections on different corners of the flat, checking the quality of the home, its workmanship and whether the home is safe to live in.

    Their checks will go towards a score under the Construction Quality Assessment System (Conquas), which reflects the overall workmanship quality. The higher the Conquas score, upon 100, the better the workmanship.

    The Conquas score also takes into account structural works - how safe the building is - as well as mechanical and electrical works.

    And while the attention in recent months has been on defects found within several new Build-to-Order (BTO) flats in Punggol and elsewhere, the Housing Board (HDB) said that the Conquas score has been steadily rising.

    The average Conquas score for HDB flats has improved from 65.7, when the scheme was introduced in 1989, to 88.6 last year. Since 2008, the Conquas scores for public housing projects have been above 81.

    A spokesman for the Ministry of National Development (MND) told The Straits Times that the higher scores are a result of "a robust framework of quality assurance and checks that HDB has put in place".

    Recently, several housing projects made the news. Residents in Waterway Terraces I, a BTO project, complained about rainwater seeping into their flats last month.

    Residents of Design, Build and Sell Scheme projects such as Centrale 8 and Trivelis also complained of defects or design flaws like wall cracks, and uneven or stained tiles on floors.

    Said project manager Andy Tan, 33, a resident at Trivelis, which has a Conquas score of 87.1: "This is very surprising, because my flat definitely had defects like scratches on the floor tiles before I moved in. I'm not sure how thorough the checks are.

    "I feel there should be a penalty...for errant developers, so hopefully they will be more careful in their work."

    The MND spokesman noted that there will be some "imperfections" due to "high dependency on workmanship of individual workers".

    There are also latent defects, and defects like hairline cracks may surface later due to "movement" such as vibrations from renovation works.

    "For these reasons, a one-year Defect Liability Period is provided for all projects, to allow for rectification if necessary," she said.

    Common feedback includes uneven joints or gaps between tiles, hairline wall cracks and colour inconsistency for timber flooring.

    "These do not affect the structural integrity of the building, and can be rectified easily and quickly. (They) do not compromise the functionality or livability of these homes," she added.

    "The high Conquas score is an affirmation that the quality of HDB flats has not been compromised despite the ramp-up of our building programme in the last few years."

    All public sector building projects with a contract value of $5 million or more will undergo such checks. About one in four public homes gets checked directly.

    She added that HDB has a list of recommended building materials and equipment suppliers, and contractors have to adhere to the list. There are also audits and checks to ensure the work completed is consistent with the approved plans.

    Conquas passing standards have also been raised over the years, including stricter assessment criteria, she noted. There is no "rescoring", which means the Conquas score is final. There is a list on BCA's website.

    "This motivates the builder to adopt good workmanship quality in all areas prior to assessment," said the spokesman.