Cracks show up in Bugis, Bras Basah buildings

Extensive construction work causes damage to pre-war shophouses and heritage buildings

The facade of Bugis Village (left) has a large and very visible crack running from the roof (inset) all the way down to the ground level.
The facade of Bugis Village (left) has a large and very visible crack running from the roof (inset) all the way down to the ground level. ST PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG
The facade of Bugis Village (left) has a large and very visible crack running from the roof (inset) all the way down to the ground level. ST PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG

Walk through the historic Bras Basah-Bugis district and you will see plenty of heritage buildings and old shophouses.

But look closer and you may find that some of them are prematurely showing their age.

Extensive construction work in the area on the new Downtown Line has left a large and very visible crack on the facade of a section of Bugis Village in Rochor Road.

The retail enclave comprises three terraced blocks of restored pre-war shophouses.

Cracks have also emerged on some buildings in Waterloo Street.

A glass wall of a two-storey building occupied by the Dance Ensemble Singapore shattered last year, purportedly as a result of excavation works for the upcoming Bencoolen station as well as other private construction works in the area.

The damage has unnerved shoppers and other visitors to the area.

Mr Azyure D. Hikari, 34, chief executive of Urban Explorers of Singapore, a group which explores little-known places here, spotted the Bugis Village crack last month and posted a photo of it on the group's Facebook page. The crack is so large it runs from the building's roof to the street level.

"It looks like the building might break apart any time," said student Noorhaini Noorsam, 17, who hoped the authorities can rectify it soon. "It's a busy area with heavy traffic along its sides and its passageways are usually packed with pedestrians and shopkeepers," she said.

Bugis Village's owner CapitaCommercial Trust (CCT) said the damage was due to a "misalignment of existing expansion joints" on the building's facade as a result of construction works carried out by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in Rochor Road.

As part of the expansion of the rail network, LTA is constructing new Downtown Line stations in the area.

Downtown Line 1, which includes Bugis interchange, will open in December.

Works on Downtown Line 2, on which Rochor is one of the stops, will be completed in 2016 while Downtown Line 3, with Bencoolen and Jalan Besar stations, will be ready in 2017.

CCT said it is working closely with the LTA and its contractor to carry out repair works and monitor the building's condition regularly.

Responding to queries from The Sunday Times, a spokesman for the Building and Construction Authority confirmed that the building remains safe for occupancy.

He explained that the cracks were most likely due to "differential soil settlement of the buildings" over the years, and added that the site has since stabilised after underground MRT structures in front of the building were completed earlier this year.

Experts said buildings in the area are particularly vulnerable due to softer soil conditions in the southern part of Singapore.

Dr Ho Nyok Yong, president of the Singapore Contractors' Association, agreed that it is important to manage the ground movement in the area so that it does not affect the structures in the vicinity.

LTA said it carries out an assessment of buildings in the area before construction work commences and any pre-existing defects are usually taken note of. Monitoring instruments are also installed.

In the event that a third-party property suffers damage, the agency or its contractor will make repairs or compensate the owner.

This has provided some comfort to dance instructor Sharon Low, 39, who works at Dance Ensemble Singapore at 60 Waterloo Street.

"We were worried about the safety of our children who come here for dance lessons. They could have easily been hurt when our glass wall shattered, so we're glad that engineers are here every day to monitor the impact," she said.

Meanwhile, Preservation of Sites and Monuments is keeping a close eye on the 14 national monuments near the construction of the Downtown Line 3.

A National Heritage Board spokesman said the division conducts regular inspections of these buildings which include the Tan Si Chong Su Temple, National Museum of Singapore and Church of Our Lady of Lourdes.

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