Modernising Existing Buildings for Tomorrow
PM Link’s expertise in managing Additions and Alterations (A&A) projects for existing or conserved buildings delivers benefits for building owners and developers.
Today, against the backdrop of a block of Housing Development Board (HDB) flats at Havelock Square, stands the iconic white former State Courts Building. Completed in 1975, this prominent octagonal landmark is now joined by the new State Courts Towers, an impressive 178m tall twin-tower building that officially opened in December 2019.
This picture captures the mix of old and new buildings, a common scene throughout Singapore. To understand why old or existing buildings need to be rejuvenated, we speak with PM Link’s Managing Director Tan Cheng Chuah and Principal Project Manager Ngo Wei Quan.
PM Link is one of Singapore’s premier project management services firms. The company has been working closely with clients from various industries for more than 20 years. Among its portfolio of past upgrading projects are A&A works for the MAS Building, Mercedes-Benz Center, and Ang Mo Kio MRT Station.
Transforming for Tomorrow’s Needs
Existing or old buildings were built for a previous generation of users. Today, as lifestyle changes and workplaces evolve, these buildings need to be rejuvenated to continue serving their users into the future.
According to Cheng Chuah, the longevity of a building or infrastructure is grounded on its owner’s vision of the future and goals for the building as well as considerations for future trends including:
Lifestyle needs - For instance, as Singapore progresses into a more inclusive society, old buildings need to be made more accessible for wheelchair-bound seniors or persons with disabilities, or even parents with baby strollers.
Work trends – Shifts in workplace environments will affect how companies need to optimise their office space to empower more effective interactions, efficient use of technologies, and leadership engagements.
“With an eye on the future and a deep understanding of users’ needs, building owners can undertake the appropriate A&A works to transform buildings and spaces into more inclusive, engaging and more conducive living or work environments for various generations of people to live, work or play,” said Cheng Chuah.
Owners of commercial buildings such as office towers, shopping malls or hotels, may undertake A&A works as Asset Enhancement Initiatives (AEI) to generate higher income. For instance, there can be A&A works to free up space or optimise space for better efficiency. In this way, these properties can be marketed to attract more or quality tenants, thereby yielding higher rental rates. Overall, AEI can be taken as a step forward in increasing the value of the property.
Meeting Current Regulatory and Safety Requirements
At the operational level, existing buildings in Singapore are regularly inspected and maintained to ensure that they continue to be safe for use, meet the latest regulatory requirements or meet new building criteria. While Singapore’s regulatory requirements for building and construction projects evolve over time, it is imperative for building owners to continually stay abreast of the changes with continued enhancements to their buildings.
For old buildings, there are some hurdles to cross during the A&A works including structural limitations to meet the latest safety requirements or not having current as-built information available. Additionally, for buildings that have been conferred conservation status, there is a need to comply with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) guidelines throughout the restoration process. Hence, seemingly simple A&A projects could become resource-intensive or stretch over an extended period costing building owners extra time and money.
“For old buildings, we have encountered situations where some parts of the building are unable to comply with the most current standards without structural changes,” said Wei Quan who has worked on A&A projects including conserved buildings. “As project managers, we need to offer our client the best solutions to move forward based on objective thinking, robust assessment and meaningful conversations with the various stakeholders.”
In commercial buildings such as mixed development properties comprising offices, retail and residential or hotels, owners face a different set of challenges when they need to undertake A&A works. They are unable to completely close off the entire development. Instead, owners need to plan their A&A works in stages, closing off parts of the development while the rest remain in operation.
“For A&A works at live sites, there are many challenges to work through. Whether it would be structural and architectural works across various levels or the installation of new Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing (MEP) systems and equipment, the safety and well-being of workers and building users are of utmost importance. As project managers, we work closely with our clients and stakeholders to plan the work meticulously, communicate clearly and engage all the stakeholders to work as one team to deliver the project safely and successfully,” said Wei Quan.
Hence, it is recommended that building owners appoint an experienced Project Manager to manage the entire A&A project thereby ensuring their vision and goals are met. The project manager can advise owners in various aspects including Project Feasibility Studies, Budget Planning and Cost Control, and Procurement (Tender) Management, among many other services.
“Our project managers collaborate closely with clients and various stakeholders to provide counsel and offer recommendations that deliver positive outcomes for clients. More importantly, we help to ensure the long-term liveability of the buildings for tomorrow’s users,” said Cheng Chuah.
Project Managers for A&A Works
Let us go behind the scenes to speak with the PM Link project managers managing A&A projects at the former States Courts Building and different primary schools in Singapore. These PMs are making a difference for a better future.
The old State Courts Building
The former State Courts Building with its unique nine-storey eight-sided structure opened in 1975 as the Subordinate Courts Building. Affectionately nicknamed the Octagon, the building was an impressive icon of modernity at that time with the capacity to handle the growing number of cases in Singapore.
Over the years, as the workload in the State Courts increased, more courtrooms were needed. After due consideration, the State Courts were moved to the new State Courts Towers in December 2019 while the old building would undergo transformation to be the home of the Family Justice Courts.
The Octagon building was conferred conservation status in 2013 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore (URA). For owners, architects, and engineers doing restoration works on conservation buildings, the Authority has guidelines that must be complied with. The URA stresses that conservations should be based on the three principles of maximum retention, sensitive restoration, and careful repair to maintain the inherent spirit and original aura of historic buildings.
“My seniors who had been project managers for other conservation buildings shared with me that there are a lot of sentiments attached to conserved buildings by the different communities. As such, we must be sensitive to these attachment factors and respectful towards the buildings and communities,” said Alyssa Verdadero, Project Manager, PM Link.
“We understand the place of each conserved building in Singapore’s transformative years and have a deep appreciation of its architecture. We also harness current engineering technologies and industry best practices and bring all these past and present elements together to help bring the old building forward to serve the needs of tomorrow’s society better.”
Primary schools in Singapore are being transformed to meet the needs of a new generation of young leaders. The A&A works in the primary schools align with the Primary Education Review and Implementation (PERI) Committee's recommendations for more holistic education. There are increased spaces for engaged learning in academic and non-academic areas with interaction, self-discovery, and experiential learning facilities.
PM Link is proud to be the project manager for many schools, including Fuchun Primary, Junyuan Primary, New Town Primary, and North View Primary. We collaborate closely with the Ministry of Education (MOE), school boards, and various stakeholders to ensure that the schools complete their upgrading projects successfully.
Each school has its unique enhancements. For New Town Primary, located in Tanglin Halt, the A&A works will include a new school field, a dance studio, band room, student care centre, teaching lab, and many others, enabling students to pursue their interests and further their talents.
For North View Primary, located in Yishun, the school campus welcomed its pioneering batch of MOE Kindergarten (“MK@North View”) young learners who will be interacting with the older “brothers and sisters” of North View Primary. Teaching staff in both schools will also be able to share expertise and teaching resources to enhance professional practices further. The A&A works at North View Primary include new learning spaces, an indoor sports hall, playground, outdoor adventure learning centre, multi-disciplinary learning trail, and an eco-garden.
“All the A&A works in the schools will help facilitate learning and knowledge sharing among students and staff members. Project managers like me need to understand the school’s aspirations and goals for their students. Through a deeper understanding of their educational needs, our work as PMs for A&A works is more meaningful. We can make learning fun, engaging, and enjoyable for years to come,” said Kyle Flores, Project Manager, PM Link.
Join Us to Build Future Cities Together
In moving toward the future, the built environment in Singapore will continue to remain a blend of modernity and tradition. A&A works on existing buildings will ensure that these structures continue to be greener and liveable for users with enhancements to the sites, including the state-of-the-art mechanical and electrical systems. Like many of our forward-looking clients, PM Link is also moving ahead to create more learning opportunities as we nurture the next generation of project managers for Singapore’s built environment.
We invite dynamic and experienced PMs to join our team. We also offer internship opportunities for young talents interested in shaping the future of Singapore’s built environment. Write to us via our Careers page today.
Source: MOE Press Release https://www.moe.gov.sg/news/press-releases/20210726-delays-in-school-infrastructure-projects-due-to-covid-19-situation
Source: New Town Primary School’s Principal Message. https://newtownpri.moe.edu.sg/about-us/principals-message
Source: North View Primary School’s Principal Message. https://northviewpri.moe.edu.sg/our-story/principals-message