Thursday, May 18, 2006

Razor Apartments

Razor-thin wallA reader of Today newspaper complained about the razor-thin (ok, I am exaggerating) walls that HDB apartments come with nowadays. I can understand that as I have lived in several HDB flats so far. Two belonged to my parents and the other belonged to me. When I moved into my spanking new HDB apartment in Pasir Ris about 10 years ago, I felt uncomfortable whenever I went to the toilet. No, I don't mean that kind of discomfort, which everybody suffers from whenever they make a trip there, but discomfort from hearing the gush of water that came from the pipes running along the walls from the ceiling to the floor. It was just so loud. I always told my wife that I could tell if my neighbour upstairs was taking a shower (or doing some serious business) any time of the day with the help of these pipes. From the writer's description of her woes in her HDB flat in Sembawang, these features that HDB built for a greater sense of community bonding seemed to have been enhanced (well, we must try to look at things positively, mustn't we?)

On the negative side, we now learn that these apartment walls can collapse any time (ok, I am exaggerating again) going by the writer's description of how sounds, mostly unwelcome, could be heard quite clearly coming from the apartment units above and beside theirs. This is indeed much worse (or better, depending on whether you are into extreme social bonding and that sort of thing) than my apartment in Pasir Ris. All of which reminded me of the first house I ever lived in - those worker quarters in the former Naval Base.

Built in the 1920s and 30s, they were nevertheless solid structures. I remembered one day, my father wanted to hang a picture on the wall. So he took out his electric power drill for the job. After some time, I heard him remark that it was so difficult to drill a hole as the wall was rock solid. The way that the British built those quarters looked like they wanted to continue being our colonial masters till kingdom come. I have always felt that no building that Singapore has subsequently built has ever rivalled the robustness of those houses that I lived in when I was a child. It's an irony that the buildings that replaced the worker quarters are so flimsy in comparison. I am sure the ghosts rising from the demolished building must be having good laugh. That's one up for the Brits and a woeful zero for HDB (well, ok, I am exaggerating again...).

Well, they have just put a PAP team in place who will build a Hospital in the neighbourhood. Hope it won't feature razor thin walls. Perhaps the writer can look up these PAP chaps to see if they can reverse engineer any of these deficiencies.

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