Temasek Polytechnic student designs proposed housing system for migrant workers

SINGAPORE - Temasek Polytechnic student Claudia Lim, 20, thought out of the box when it came to the issue of housing migrant workers here.

The Interior Architecture & Design student has come up with a proposal for a modular, stackable housing system that can be fitted into a shophouse alley in Singapore.

Her design is one of 423 final-year projects by the graduating class of Temasek Polytechnic's (TP) School of Design on display at The Design Show 2015, which will be held daily until Saturday from 11am to 8pm.

The proposed modular housing system will have units made out of galvanised steel about 3 m above ground level, supported by cantilevered steel beams.

Each unit of 25 sq m can fit four to six workers. About 30 units can fit in an alley.

The units will be customisable, and according to Ms Lim, "almost like Lego". They can be stacked on top of each other, or connected along the sides. The steel walls will have small holes in them to provide ventilation, and the units are connected by a common walkway called the Spine. Piping will be placed underneath the Spine.

The inspiration for her project came from the riots in Little India in 2013.

"I wanted to find out whether alcohol was really the main cause (of the riots), so I went to talk to the migrant workers, and they told me that the main issue was that their dormitories were overcrowded, so if they wanted to hang out, they could only do so outside," she said.

Her proposal will include green spaces on the rooftop for migrant workers to relax and have meals with each other, or to sit down and talk in an open space that they can call their own.

Addressing concerns that the units might be too open, she said: "Privacy is not a big issue for them, security is more of their concern. The units can also be customised, like putting panels to close off the view from outside when they are changing."

Given the fire in a Geylang apartment that killed two Bangladeshi workers last week, she also considered fire safety when designing the units, to ensure that workers will not be more than 15m away from an exit wherever they are.

"Migrant workers are not to be undervalued in Singapore. They're just like us, working to make a living, and deserve to have a place in Singapore they can call their home," she added.

isaacneo@sph.com.sg