Guide to Building a House in Singapore

In our years of experience, we started to realize that there is very little information online for Singaporean home-owners who want to build their dream homes. Home-owners largely depend on word-of-mouth introductions and online forums which can sometimes be misleading.

With land scarcity, a landed home in Singapore, with its associated construction cost, is usually one of the most important investments one would make and should not be taken lightly.

One of the first questions we usually get is, “How much does it cost to build a house? “There is no straightforward answer to this question, as it really depends on the size, complexity, and expectations of the owner. Someone building a house to sell for profit would have completely different expectations from another who is building it as his/her family’s residence for decades to come.

However, with the assistance of registered Quantity Surveyors, we would be able to provide an estimated construction cost, based on unit rate/ sq ft GFA (Gross Floor Area). GFA is broadly defined by URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority), the planning authority of Singapore, as the total covered floor area measured between the centre line of party walls, including the thickness of external walls but excluding voids.

In order to design and build a house, there are two procurement methods:

  • Traditional Procurement
  • Design and Build

For the differences between these two procurement methods, please see our article “Traditional Procurement VS Design and Build.” For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the Traditional Procurement method.

 

Which Consultants do you need to engage to build a house?

In a Traditional Procurement method, the Client would need to engage a team of Consultants and a good builder.

This is the team of Consultants required:

  • Architect (Lead Consultant)
    • An Architect designs a building to meet user requirements and complies with local authority requirements. He/ She also advises on the most appropriate form of building contract to be used and administers it.
  • Structural Engineer
    • A Structural Engineer analyses and designs structural components and systems to achieve the design intent, and complies with local authority requirements.
  • Mechanical & Electrical Engineer
    • A Mechanical & Electrical Engineer is responsible for the design of the mechanical and electrical components of services in the building such as elevators, air-conditioning, plumbing, gas and water supply to meet both user requirements and local authority requirements.
  • Quantity Surveyor
    • The Quantity Surveyor is responsible for estimating construction cost, preparing and analyzing costs for tenders and contracts. He/ She also prepares monthly valuation of work done by the builder, for certification by the Architect.

The Architect and other consultants are also responsible for quality, cost control, obtaining authorities’ approval and contract administration.

The appointment of a good builder is carried out through a competitive tender process, after detailed design documentation, prepared by the Consultants. The Contractor’s responsibility lies in completing the works, to the Consultants’ specifications.

 

Process

The process of developing a house can be broadly categorized in 6 stages:

  • Site Investigation
  • Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Tender
  • Construction
  • Completion

1. Site Investigation

Upon appointment of the Consultants, site investigation would need to be carried out:

  • Topography and building survey (for A&A and reconstruction works)
  • Soil Investigation

For A&A and reconstruction works involving buildings which are built before 1991, an asbestos survey would be required. We would recommend that asbestos survey to be completed before the Contractor is engaged, in order to reduce time and uncertainties during the Construction.

topo
Topography survey to establish site conditions: Site Boundary, ground levels, Inspection Chambers, existing drains and sewers

 

2. Schematic Design

At the onset of the Schematic Design Phase, the Architect would interpret the Client’s brief in terms of spatial, timeline and budgetary requirements, and present a design scheme. The design proposal would consist of proposed floor plans and 3D images, to enable the Client to visualize the space.

render
3D perspectives
plans
Preliminary floor plans

Upon approval of the design proposal, the Architect would make a submission to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Singapore to obtain Provisional Permission (PP).

After receiving the Provisional Permission (PP) from URA, along with its conditions and requirements, the Architect would make a resubmission to Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Singapore to obtain Written Permission (WP).  The Architect will also submit the building plans to other authorities such as PUB, NEA, LTA, SCDF and Nparks for necessary clearances.

At this stage, the Architect would also work with the other Consultants (Quantity Surveyor, Structural Engineer, and Mechanical and Electrical Engineer) to prepare a preliminary estimate of the construction costs.

3. Design Development

At the Design Development Phase, the Architect would develop the schematic design to a stage sufficient for the other Consultants to commence their detailed design work.

There would be a lot of coordination work between the Architect and the other Consultants to determine the technical requirements such as sizes of columns, beams and achievable ceiling height.

After obtaining Written Permission (PP), the Architect can then make a submission to Building and Construction Authority (BCA) of Singapore for Building Plans Approval (BP).

interior
Interior perspectives

 

4. Tender

During the tender documentation phase, the Architect and Consultants would prepare and finalize the Client’s requirements, necessary to obtain competitive quotations for the work. This is an essential stage as the Consultants aim to prepare a building contract which will detail expectations on quality and time of delivery.

The Building Contract documents will form the Contract between the Home-owner and the Contractor:

  • Articles of Contract
  • Conditions of Building Contract
  • Contract Drawings, on which Contractor has based his prices
  • Specifications
  • Schedule of Rates
  • Other Letters of documents, including Invitations to Tender, Tender forms, Letter of Acceptance.

The entire Tender process consists of pre-qualifying a group of suitable tenderers, site show-round, tender clarifications, evaluation, tender interviews, which results in a recommendation by the Architect. The home-owner may choose to participate in the tender interviews.

Works can officially commence once the selected Contractor is awarded with the building contract.

5. Construction

The Contractor is expected to carry out the works in accordance to the Contract in a timely manner.

The Architect will take on the role of a Contract Administrator during the Construction phase. Site meetings and inspections will be held on a regular basis to keep updated on the Contractor’s progress and workmanship.

6. Completion

Upon satisfactory completion of the construction works, the Architect will apply for Temporary Occupation Permit (TOP). With the obtainment of TOP, home-owners can then occupy the building.

The maintenance period will begin after the completion of Construction. It is usually a period of 12 months. During the maintenance period, the Architect will oversee the defects rectification process, before closing of final account.

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