Why HDB flat owner had to foot bill for safety barrier

We thank Ms Cheong Huixin for her letter (Upset over unexpected cost during HDB flat renovation; June 9).

Under the Building and Construction Authority's (BCA's) rules, a safety barrier is required to prevent falls from height. Examples of safety barriers include metal railings or fixed laminated glass panels.

A building or flat owner who wishes to replace a safety barrier with one that is not the same as the original design must engage a professional engineer (PE) to design and submit plans to BCA, and supervise the proposed works.

In Ms Cheong's case, a safety barrier in the form of a fixed glass panel had been previously installed by the Housing Board below the casement window panel in the bedroom of her flat during the Main Upgrading Programme in 1996. This safety barrier was also installed in the whole precinct.

As Ms Cheong had decided to replace the safety barrier together with all the windows in her flat, HDB explained to her that a PE would have to be engaged, at her own cost, as part of the renovation works.

Alternatively, she could choose to change only the window panel and keep the safety barrier earlier installed by HDB intact, in which case she would not need to engage a PE.

Ms Cheong eventually opted to replace all the windows in her flat, including the safety barrier.

She engaged a PE, who designed a new safety barrier for her window which was subsequently approved by BCA.

On her request for subsidy or waiver of the window replacement costs, HDB had explained to her on several occasions, including in writing in November last year, that the need for safety barriers is a requirement by BCA , and HDB is unable to provide subsidies as such replacement works are decided and undertaken by flat owners as part of their own renovation.

Fong Chee Seng

General Manager (Sims Drive Branch)

Housing and Development Board

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2018, with the headline 'Why HDB flat owner had to foot bill for safety barrier'. Print Edition | Subscribe