How Singapore’s housing landscape may change as a result of population changes

SINGAPORE : Experts believe smaller apartments and units with shorter leases will play a bigger role in Singapore’s future housing landscape as it adapts to changing demographics.

According to the last census, the average household comprised fewer people, although the total number of households has increased over the past decade.

This is in response to the increase in complaints about second-hand smoke in the neighbourhood as more people work from home during the COVID -19 pandemic, said Ms Sim Ann, Bukit Timah Division’s grassroots consultant.

The booths will remain on site for at least a year to allow evaluation of their effectiveness. After a Townhall discussion with more than 70 residents from these settlements, the grassroots team decided to continue the trial.

Residents expressed support for the smoking booths, but noted that their design would have to be “more than simple” to be successful, Ms. Sim said.

“Our hypothesis is that smokers would regularly prefer a smoking booth to smoking in their own homes if it was conveniently located and at least as comfortable as the smokers’ home, if not more so. The main obstacle to overcome is the heat during the day, according to a press release from Bukit Timah Constituency Office.

At Trivelis, the smoker’s booth measures about 3 metres by 2.5 metres and is air-conditioned. Smoking Cabin SG designed the unit, which is enclosed and equipped with a filtration system. Similar booths have been used at other sites, including One-North.

The booth at Clementi Ridges is an open-air facility designed by ST Engineering. It measures approximately 4 m x 3 m. It is equipped with a cooling system that runs for 15 minutes at the push of a button.

“It uses extremely sustainable cooling, and we have open ventilation, which ensures a very clean and comfortable environment for users and non-users,” said Gareth Tang, senior vice president of urban environmental solutions for the company.

“The system uses very little energy and produces no waste heat. In fact, it costs only 30 cents per hour to operate and almost nothing on standby,” he added.

According to Ms. Sim, donors have covered the cost of setting up and powering these rooms.

Due to COVID -19 security clearances, each unit can only accommodate four people, and users must cheque in through TraceTogether.

In the Trivelis unit, the smoking booth is equipped with a closed circuit television (CCTV) camera.

Ms. Sim stated that the authorities are prepared to close the units if overcrowding becomes a problem.

This is not the first time designated smoking areas have been tested in public housing developments. Similar pavilions have already been set up in the Nee Soon South constituency for this purpose.

However, the Minister for Sustainability and Environment Grace Fu said in a written parliamentary reply in February that recent observations indicated that such measures had not reduced public feedback on smoking.

Ms Sim said in a press release on Wednesday: “While we cannot predict the outcome of the experiment (designated smoking spot), we need to find a practical solution to reduce the impact of second-hand smoke in residential areas, as long as smoking remains legal in the home.”

Residents interviewed by CNA expressed support for the establishment of these designated smoking areas.

“The design is quite acceptable, and it’s nice to have seating,” said Mr. Palani, a 41-year-old resident who used the shelter Clementi Ridges.

Ms. Carina Low, a resident of the development and a non-smoker, added, “I think it’s a really nice gesture for the neighbours.” Occasionally when my neighbours smoke, I can smell the smoke from my balcony, which is quite irritating.”

Mr Wang, a resident of the Trivelis estate who used the cabin, said the air conditioning was particularly useful on hot, sunny days.

He continued, “I think (the fireproof ashtray) would also help with littering… And it could help eliminate fire hazards.”

Mr. Menezes, another resident, agreed that the device was a “great idea” because it would encourage smokers to refrain from smoking at home.

However, he added: “To attract people, a walkway or shelter would be ideal when it’s raining – but that might be asking too much!”

Asked if these booths could be extended to other settlements across the island, Ms Sim, who is also Senior Minister Permanent Secretary for National Development, said the results of the trials would have to be studied first.

To this end, the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment will work with Temasek Polytechnic to evaluate the effectiveness of these designated smoking points.

“I see this as another possible way to address the problem of secondhand smoke… However, I believe that this is not something that can be decided by a single authority and needs to be discussed,” Ms Sim said.

She added that metrics such as usage rates and complaints about secondhand smoke could be tracked.

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