Forum: Build soundproof spaces in HDB flats

HDB flats in Toa Payoh, on Jan 14, 2020.
HDB flats in Toa Payoh, on Jan 14, 2020.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

When my family moved into our first HDB home, the directive was that we must not keep livestock in the flat.

My mum and dad were always ready to help the neighbours. We had a telephone that my father needed to run his market stall business. All the neighbours - there were 12 units on our floor - were welcome to use the telephone.

In turn, we went to a neighbour's flat to watch the National Day Parade on their TV.

We exchanged festive food and there was goodwill all around.

Sometimes, someone in the opposite block played the drums very loudly, but it was only for a reasonable length of time, and never late at night.

It seemed that we had - without any coordinated effort - adopted the "love your neighbour as yourself" principle.

In London, I had Spanish neighbours who played the guitar and sang loudly in the garden till well past midnight, because they worked the afternoon shift.

We complained to the local council and were advised to talk to them.

We invited them to our home for tea and cakes, and explained that we needed to get to bed early due to our early starts. They understood, and the guitar-playing past 9pm on weekdays stopped.

The law forbids the use of HDB flats for criminal activities such as vice.

If there is evidence of malicious intent, harassment and/or intimidation, directed at a neighbour, then the law should be changed such that perpetrators could be prosecuted in court.

Given the density of HDB living, perhaps we must consider building shared soundproof spaces for people to practise their music instruments, and for other noisy activities.

Imagine a piano studio in every HDB block. Even children whose families cannot afford a piano could learn to play it.

My outside-the-box suggestion: If we must have a bomb shelter, then make it large enough to be useful. Make it a soundproof room. If you must hammer, pound chilli, or practise your drumming, use the bomb shelter.

Meanwhile, make friends with your neighbours.

Lee Siew Peng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2020, with the headline 'Build soundproof spaces in HDB flats'. Print Edition | Subscribe