THE clanging and clattering of construction work on weekends and public holidays has continued despite a 2011 ban on such noisy activities.
It became compulsory then for all building projects to stop work from 10pm on Saturday until 7am on Monday or from 10pm on the eve of a public holiday until 7am the day after.
But since the ruling kicked in, 624 companies have been caught violating the stop-work order, the National Environment Agency (NEA) told The Straits Times.
The heaviest penalty meted out for the offence so far was a fine of $13,000, though the maximum fine is $40,000.
The NEA said it has stepped up enforcement over the years following a rise in the number of complaints about construction noise as building projects become more prevalent.
"As Singapore is a highly urbanised city, a balance needs to be struck between meeting residents' expectations for a quieter living environment and ensuring that construction can keep pace with the country's development," said an NEA spokesman.
Noise is one of the top three complaints received by the NEA, along with gripes about cleanliness and mosquitoes. In 2009, the agency received about 13,000 complaints related to worksite noise and this rose to around 20,000 - or about 55 a day - in 2012. Last year the number of complaints dipped to around 17,000.
The NEA said the number of construction noise complaints received during the prohibited period for work has dropped by about a third since the ban was implemented.
"This was achieved despite continual growth in the construction industry's activity as measured by real gross domestic product," said its spokesman.
When the stop-work rule was first announced in Parliament in 2010, the NEA had estimated that the new measures would raise construction costs by 2 to 2.5 per cent with projects taking 10 to 17 per cent longer to finish.
Singapore Contractors Association president Ho Nyok Yong said the rule has raised costs and taken its toll on firms' revenues.
"Equipment and workers are left idle on site and if they are not re-deployed quickly, these incur costs," he said.
"When work resumes, contractors often have to speed up to catch up with the original work schedule. This is a challenge, especially in today's very lean manpower conditions."
He said it was timely that the $10 million Quieter Construction Fund was launched by the NEA in February, to give companies more support in their efforts to reduce noise. It reimburses firms by up to half the cost of purchasing or leasing noise-limiting equipment.
Administrator Doreen Law, 25, who lives near a Built-to-Order flat project in Sembawang, has kept her doors and windows shut since moving in late last year to shield herself from the racket. She also has the air-conditioning on all the time.
"It is inevitable to have some form of construction work near you in land-tight Singapore so I try to work around it myself," she said.
Research assistant Andrew Ang, 26, who lives near a worksite in Jalan Kayu, said: "There's drilling and banging but as long as the NEA enforces the ban during weekends when people are resting at home, it is tolerable."