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URA guidelines to offer more flexibility in design of landed homes

Developers, architects, engineers and owners of landed homes in Singapore will have more design flexibility under a set of guidelines pushed out by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).


DEVELOPERS, architects, engineers and owners of landed homes in Singapore will have more design flexibility under a set of guidelines pushed out by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Called the Envelope Control guidelines, they will be effective from May 11, said URA in a circular to professional institutes on Wednesday.

Under the existing guidelines, landed houses must adhere to certain floor-to-floor dimensions and basement protrusion limits. With the new guidelines, for example, floor-to-floor heights will no longer apply, though the overall height limit of homes will be reduced.

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The guidelines apply to all landed properties in Singapore, but will be enforced only for new erections and reconstruction works.

A three-month grace period (between now and May 11) has been given for the industry to make the transition to the changed guidelines; individuals or parties who wish to adopt the guidelines during the grace period can make an application to the URA.

URA data puts the number of two-storey housing estates at 130, and three-storey estates, at 124. All in, there are 72,000 landed units, making up 23 per cent of total private housing units in Singapore.

In his blog on Wednesday, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan noted that URA guidelines used to specify the height limits for each storey of a house. The new guidelines, however, only say that three-storey homes must not be more than 15.5 m in height in total, down from 17.7 m; two-storey homes are to be not more than 12 m, from 14.1 m.

Another change pertains to the "basement protrusion limit" of landed homes. Existing guidelines require such houses to have an additional one metre setback from the road and the rear for the third storey, compared to that of the first and the second-storey, and that the attic must be contained within a sloping roof.

The new guidelines do away with these requirements.

The changes thus give home owners, developers, architects and engineers more free play in the internal layering or configuration of the property, while preserving control over the maximum height of the property, thus safeguarding the low-rise character of landed housing estates.

Mr Khaw said the changes should be good news to those who want flexibility in interior design: "Owners can 'layer' their homes creatively, to bring in natural light and ventilation. (The changes) most likely benefit those who live in intermediate terraces."

The new guidelines are the result of community and industry feedback collected since 2007.

In 2009, URA applied the envelope control guidelines in the Sembawang Greenvale housing estate, under a pilot involving 65 landed houses - 55 terrace units and 10 detached ones.

A URA spokesman said construction of these units was completed as of last May, and the majority of the units have since been sold.

Referring to the guidelines' covering only new-builds and and reconstruction works, the URA spokesman said that addition and alteration works can continue to follow the conventional landed-housing guidelines: "Existing landed houses originally approved and built under the conventional landed housing guidelines may have difficulty complying with the new envelope control guidelines."

Under the existing Plan Lodgment Scheme for landed houses, home owners can submit their landed homes for lodgment without needing to apply for planning permission, as long as they comply with the lodgment criteria.

But from May 11, applicants may submit their lodgment proposals under the new guidelines, as long as the proposal satisfies new lodgment criteria, such as keeping within the allowable maximum height despite mezzanine or other floors being added.

Desmond Sim, head of CBRE Research, South-east Asia, said the new guidelines expand the design framework to allow more creativity in the design of landed houses in the future. "Undeniably, the design and layout will play a role in determining the price of a house . . . It will challenge architects and incentivise landed property owners to exercise more creativity with bespoke designs."

Bukit Sembawang Estates' executive director and chief executive Ng Chee Seng is of view that the reduction in maximum allowable height of landed houses under the new guidelines would not have much of an impact: "A lot of the height is currently taken by the sloped roof, which is now no longer a requirement," he said.