SINGAPORE – News that a building on Thomson Road will be demolished to allow safe excavation work nearby has come as a shock to the owners of the 12 residential units there.
For months, they and their tenants had argued with authorities about the need to temporarily vacate the building, as its foundations had to be reinforced to withstand the impact of building an underground tunnel for the next north-south corridor.
All had moved in February, but it was expected that in two years they would be able to return to their homes or rent them out again.
With the improved connectivity provided by the transport corridor, which will have dedicated bus lanes, cycle paths and footpaths connecting northern towns to the city, there was hope for a collective sale in the future.
But any chance of a windfall was dashed by the sudden announcement, Friday morning April 16, that the building located between 68 and 74 Thomson Road and its 776 m² site were being acquired for demolition.
“I’m still in shock,” said Mr. Roger Ting, 63, who owns a unit in the building. “For us, this is a sudden turnaround on the part of the Land Transport Authority and the Singapore Land Authority. I told them a lot of the owners were not very happy. In fact, we are all very concerned about the compensation we’re going to receive. We don’t want to sell right now. “
Mr. Ting, a semi-retired architect, bought his unit 10 years ago, spending around $ 1.5 million, including the cost of the renovation. He rented the unit to expatriates and said he received $ 9,000 in rent each month.
“Removing the building is like taking away my retirement fund,” he said. With his daughter only in her first year of college, Mr. Ting added that he feared that he would have to work harder to enable her to attend school and retire comfortably.
Another unit owner, who declined to be named, said he bought his unit for over $ 1 million about six years ago as an investment.
Even though he will be compensated based on the market value of his unit at the time of acquisition, he said he’s not sure if he’ll break even. He said authorities gave unit owners a list of approved experts to conduct the assessment, but he was not convinced they would give him a fair reward.
He and Mr. Ting also bemoan a loss of potential income as they could have sold their shares at a higher price in a collective sale.
The owners had attempted to sell in bulk two years ago and Mr. Ting, who then chaired the sales committee, said each owner expected to receive at least $ 3 million if the collective sale went through.
“If (the government) acquires my property, I think the figure will not be close,” he said.
Mr. Ting said he believed the building could survive the reinforcement and excavation work.
“I asked LTA to give me the opportunity to consult the report of their engineers because I have been in this field for over 30 years. I understand quite well the problems of structural engineering,” he said. added.
Even though the building is to be demolished, he said, he does not understand why the authorities are also acquiring the land. “The concern is the safety of the building. The land is not in the equation here,” Ting added.
Calling the acquisition authoritarian, he said the owners of the unit plan to meet today to discuss their options. “It’s not fair to us,” he said. “They did not give us the opportunity to voice our concerns.”
Mr David Ng, a board member of the Institution of Engineers Singapore, said acquiring and demolishing the building and rebuilding the site after the excavation work is complete made sense.
Considering the foundation of the building, the proximity of the planned excavation work and the soil conditions, the construction of a tunnel nearby could result in a downward movement of part of the soil and, in turn, cause damage to the building.
The work of strengthening the foundations of the building consists of adding piles underneath. Disturbances due to micropile work carried out inside the building could cause excessive deformation of the building structure, making it dangerous for workers performing the work. “The risk is getting very high,” Ng said.
Workers will need to dig and drill the ground to install the additional piles. “It creates a lot of vibration, which is not good for the building if the strength of the concrete in the building is already less than required.”
Mr Ng said there is a risk of death if structural elements come loose and fall on the workers. Although a building collapse is an extreme scenario, it is possible if the disturbance is significant, he added.
Building to be demolished for security reasons
• The four-storey mixed-use building located at 68 to 74 Thomson Road, scheduled for demolition, was built in 1964 on shallow foundations. Part of the foundation was changed in 1994 because part of the building had to be supported by piles after the demolition of an adjacent building.
• In 2013, it was assessed that the impact of the next North-South Corridor (NSC) project on the building would be manageable.
• A civil engineering contract was awarded in 2018 for the construction of an underground tunnel for the NSC 6 m from the building. A 2020 assessment found that the building’s foundations, which are inconsistent and are built on soft ground, needed to be reinforced to withstand tunnel excavation work.
• In September of last year, occupants of the building were asked to temporarily vacate the premises. All moved in February of this year.
• In January, it was found that the concrete in the building was too weak to allow foundation reinforcement work. The Building and Construction Authority’s own assessment in February confirmed the conclusion.
• The government acquired the building on April 16 because it was impractical and risky to reinforce it. The 16 housing units in the building must be returned to their original state by the end of July and the building will be demolished by the end of 2021.