By A Lee
Business Development Manager
Are you into building management? While there is no legislation in Singapore to regulate how often buildings' exterior (or external cladding) should be inspected for defects, building managers and owners should know the possible consequences far outweigh the costs of inspection and replacement. Here are some key thoughts:
1) Buildings last, but facades don't
Building structures are strong and with engineering advancements, they are expected to stand strong for centuries. In contrast, the exterior facades last for a decade on average. Think of the building as a human and the facade as clothes. The lifespan of a human can be 80 years, but the clothes usually don't last for more than a few years (due to wear and tear from washing). The same goes for facades being exposed to the weather elements. Is the facade material worn out? Is the installation done in a clever way to minimise the danger of panels falling even in the event of wear and tear? Are the bolts and screws rusty? Especially given the humidity and climate in Singapore?
If the exterior is worn, it reflects badly on the building management and in turn, the business confidence of the tenants. Prospective business partners of tenants who are visiting may lose confidence in them as their business is associated with a dated building. This applies not only in Singapore but is true worldwide.
3) Safety and consequences
The safety of passerbys, especially tenants who are regular users of the building, is of paramount importance. A faulty panel at risk of falling may kill or injure anyone in its direct drop-zone. Building owners and managers face the legal consequences and also the moral consequences of choosing to bat an eyelid when they could have averted the crisis. There have been instances reported in Singapore (*See below).
4) Being pre-emptive and pro-active
To avoid facing the consequences of facade-related accidents and to stay ahead of possible legal framework changes, building managers or owners should be pro-active in taking pre-emptive actions. The costs of inspection and subsequent replacement are minute when compared to the cons of having faulty facade panels falling on a passerby.
At Lee Wall Cladding & Roofing Pte Ltd, we have personally encountered a number of cases where panels had fallen and replacement works were then requested. Fortunately, there were no injuries. Upon closer inspections, we often noticed material of a lower quality being used, or less desirable methods being deployed (eg. the involvement of industrial glue or less sturdy installation systems). It is understandable for companies to find ways to cut costs, but this also decreases the lifespan of the product.
With the price competitiveness, such companies tend to be awarded contracts, especially when the price point tends to be the major concern. The short-term savings in fact creates far greater costs in the long run, when repair works have to be done after a shorter time, which is essentially a vicious cycle. However, here at Lee Wall Cladding & Roofing Pte Ltd, our top priority is quality worksmanship, which is ironically more cost-saving in the long run!
Contact us at Lee Wall Cladding & Roofing Pte Ltd for advice on your wall cladding needs. We specialise in roofing, facade, glass, glazing, stainless steel, aluminum, Qfloor/taproute systems, roofing products, consultancy, design, fabrication, manufacturing, installation and refurbishment of commercial buildings, power plants, select residential buildings and specialised projects in Singapore and throughout Asia.
Here's a quick view on facade-related incidents that were reported*:
2011: Seaview condominium lawsuit
The building's management corporation, acting on behalf of homeowners, sued the condo developers for defects in the common areas, including foul odours, damaged swimming pool tiles and falling concrete. In one incident, a metal trellis structure on the roof fell into the swimming pool, residents alleged.
2016: Falling cladding board at Circuit Road HDB
A cladding board made of calcium silicate fell off Block 51, Circuit Road. An investigation by the Marine Parade Town Council later found a loose connection of screws in some of the claddings on the building.
2016: Falling plaster at Hougang HDB
A plaster slab dislodged from Block 449, Hougang Avenue 10 and crashed to the ground. The Ang Mo Kio Town council found out that the slab fell as it had deteriorated due to exposure to weather over time.
2016: Dislodged concrete sunshade at Tampines HDB
A concrete feature on the fourth floor of Block 201E, Tampines Street 23 dislodged and landed askew on another sunshade below it. It was later found to have no reinforcement bars on one side. No one was hurt.
2016: "Waterfall" at Cradels condominium
A blocked drain at the Balestier condo's infinity pool led to the build-up of water, ultimately shattering some glass panels on the pool's facade. This created a sudden cascade of water to the carpark below.
2017: Falling aluminium panels at Indus Road HDB
Two aluminium panels fell off the exterior of the Block 77, Indus Road and hit the ground. Cordons were put up around the block, as well as two nearby blocks with similar panels. There were no reported injuries.
2017: Lightning? Or defect?
A piece of concrete fell 40 storeys from the roof of Trivelis condominium, a Design, Build and Sell Scheme project in Clementi, landing on a playground. No one was hurt. The developers allege that it was struck by lightning, but the Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council disputed this claim.
*Credits: Ng Jun Sen, 'Govt to tighten rules on facade inspection amid spate of accidents', The Straits Times, <www.straitstimes.com/singapore/housing/govt-to-tighten-rules-on-facade-inspection-amid-spate-of-accidents>, published on 28 Nov 2017.
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