Six bids logged for green building project

Six bids logged for green building project

But contractors sound caution with requests for longer warranty period


SINGAPORE’S first zero energy building (ZEB) project has attracted six bids for the main tender and interviews with four ‘serious’ bidders will start next week, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said yesterday.


The tender to convert the BCA Academy into a net zero energy building has drawn bids ranging from $10.4 million to $11.8 million.


The six companies that tendered are: ACP Construction, Dokota, Logistics Construction, Lexon Furniture & Construction, Shanghai Chong Kee Furniture & Construction and Stallion Development. All six are mid-size unlisted companies. ‘We have six that came in. There are four serious ones that we are going to proceed with tender interviews next week,’ Ang Kian Seng, deputy director of technology and innovation development at BCA, said on the sidelines of a ZEB seminar.


Of the four short-listed firms, three are Singaporean while one is a Chinese company, he said.


BCA closed the construction tender on June 6. It has already awarded the building’s solar energy tender to Singapore firm Grenzone for $1.7 million.


In a sign of caution, some suppliers and contractors for renewable energy projects are ‘over-specifying’ with requests for warranties as long as 20 years, said Lee Siew Eang, who heads the research centre set up by BCA and the National University of Singapore. This is double the usual warranty period for specialised building projects and could raise costs as much as 40 per cent, said Eugene Seah, executive director of Davis Langdon & Seah.


‘There is a benchmark in the industry and the maximum is usually 10 years,’ he said.


Companies are seeking 20-year guarantees because while solar panels tend to last for that long in temperate regions, they could be damaged faster by Singapore’s tropical weather.


‘When (the panels) are exposed to the afternoon sun, it can be over 50 degrees. With rain and thunderstorms, you can go down to 28 degrees, so there is expansion and contraction. That element of uncertainty is still there,’ said Prof Lee.


Singapore lags regional neighbours such as Malaysia, Japan and Thailand, which are also constructing ZEBs.


The ZEB project was launched in November last year. By 2009, the BCA Academy will be fitted with solar panels to generate electricity that is transferred into a normal power grid.


The amount of energy produced will match the amount of power consumed in the building.


ZEB, which will cost about 10 per cent more than a conventional building, will become a test centre for other green building technology, such as energy- efficient lamps and fan-ventilation systems.


The target is to run the building on 70 per cent less energy than a conventional building. ZEB is expected to run on 86 kilowatts per hour (kwh) per sq metre, compared with 230 kwh per sq metre for standard buildings.


Source: Straits Times

Asian gateway S’pore not top draw for FDI: survey

Asian gateway S’pore not top draw for FDI: survey

209 senior execs polled see S’pore behind Japan, China, HK for HQ, logistics



(SINGAPORE) Singapore is seen as a less attractive investment destination than Japan, China and India, according to a survey by the Japan External Trade Organisation and Ernst & Young.



In the survey, which studied the perceptions of 209 senior executives across various sectors and continents, only 10 per cent voted for Singapore, which shared third position with Hong Kong.


Japan and China are seen as the most attractive locations in Asia for foreign direct investment (FDI), each with 27 per cent of the votes, followed by India with 11 per cent.


But there is a gap between perception and reality. In terms of actual FDI projects last year, Japan ranked fifth in Asia with 166.


China was first with 1,171, India second and Vietnam third. Singapore ranked fourth with 239 projects.


Singapore trails Japan, China and Hong Kong in attractiveness as an Asian destination for headquarters and logistics centres, according to the survey.


And as a potential destination for research and development centres, Singapore’s attractiveness falls behind Japan, China and India.


‘Despite its world-renowned gateway position, our survey indicates that Singapore has been unable to attain the highest attractiveness score for headquarters and logistics activities,’ the survey says.


It also reveals that Asia has become more attractive as an investment destination, with 59 per cent of investors noting an improvement.


Only 6 per cent observed a deterioration of the region’s attractiveness. This compares favourably with investor perceptions of Europe’s attractiveness – only 44 per cent of potential investors see an improvement there.


Satisfaction with Asia is particularly high among investors in the chemical, pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturing and life science sectors, with 72 per cent citing satisfaction.


Reflecting a high level of confidence in Asia, 71 per cent of investors expect an improvement in the region’s attractiveness over the next three years, compared with 56 per cent for Europe.


On future investment, 43 per cent of investors say that they are actively considering establishing or developing activities in Asia, with China most cited at 57 per cent, followed by India at 35 per cent and Japan at 18 per cent.


Source: Straits Times

Singapore one of Asia’s most attractive investment destinations

Singapore one of Asia’s most attractive investment destinations


SINGAPORE is one of Asia’s best investment destinations for foreign firms, according to a study released yesterday.

The study covered over 200 international company executives – from chief executive officers to the heads of strategy.


The executives were asked in a survey conducted by financial advisory firm Ernst & Young and the Japan External Trade Organisation how they felt about investing in various Asian markets.


Seven out of 10 of the executives polled were in companies that were already operating in Asia.


About 27 per cent of the respondents voted for Japan and China, putting the two countries in joint-first position.


The runner-up was India, with 11 per cent.


Singapore and Hong Kong were tied in third place, with 10 per cent apiece.


In terms of actual investments, Singapore was fourth, with 239 projects last year, according to the survey.


China attracted 1,171 projects, a mammoth 38 per cent of all investments that went into Asia, followed by India, with 676, and Vietnam, with 260.


Singapore‘s strengths were its high quality of life, attractive corporate tax rates and stability, according to the survey.


Its weaknesses were its high labour costs, quality of research and development, and the lack of a domestic market.


China‘s advantages were – no surprise here – its low labour cost and huge domestic market, although its results were pulled down by its poorer quality of life.


Japan ranked well for its high-quality labour workforce and infrastructure, but this was, in turn, weighed down by high labour costs and an uncompetitive corporate tax structure.


A total of 19 markets were ranked in the survey.




Singapore‘s strengths were its high quality of life, attractive corporate tax rates and stability, a survey of 200 company executives showed. Its weaknesses were its high labour costs, quality of research and development, and the lack of a domestic market.


Source: Straits Times

It pays to ask the women

It pays to ask the women

Property developer gets women focus group to help design mixed-use centre


IN designing shopping centres and mixed-use properties, Trademark Property Co of Fort Worth, Texas, used to do what many developers do: put together teams of professionals like architects, designers and building consultants; send out surveys; and hold community meetings. But in 2005, when it began planning a large mixed-use centre, Watters Creek, for a 21 hectare site in Allen, near Dallas, it decided to consult a group it had never called on before: women.


CEO Terry Montesi first hired two female retail consultants: Claudia A Sagan and J’Amy Owens. But Trademark also invited two dozen women from the Allen area to pick apart its plans for the centre. They included Kirsten Fair, a stay-at-home mother of two, and Debbie Stout, a City Council member, who runs a company that sells business forms.


The women weighed in on dozens of features, like the centre’s layout, landscaping, parking options, pedestrian walkways and outdoor art. The developers ‘asked us about every detail, and then they listened’, Ms Stout said recently. At Watters Creek, Trademark Property discovered that some of the reaction from its women’s focus groups challenged conventional retailing wisdom.


Like many retail developers, Trademark Property was used to installing tall, often ornate, brick or stone buildings, as well as sidewalks, at developments like Market Street, a mixed- used centre it opened in Woodlands, near Houston, in 2004. The core of that mixed-used centre was intended to have a classic Main Street look.


The Watters Creek centre, however, was to be part of a 202 ha planned community whose master plan called for significant green space as part of its environment-friendly design.


The women also wanted a village look and feel, with buildings of various sizes, colours and textures that followed the rolling topography of the area, rather than sitting flat.


The first phase of Watters Creek, which is expected to cover 1.15 million square feet eventually, opened in May. So far, Trademark has studded it with buildings that act mostly as a backdrop to a parklike area with two stone bridges, a pond, a creek, a 10-metre-tall community fireplace, climbable sculptures, and 10 restaurants that have outdoor seating with views of the pond, creek or village green.


The women are delighted. — NYT


Source: Business Times

CentraLand takes the lead

CentraLand takes the lead


CENTRALAND has become the first diamond sponsor of the Singapore Exchange’s Bull Charge 2008 – the first time the company is contributing to the cause. Bull Charge 2008 is the fifth charity fun run organised by Singapore Exchange (SGX) and the only charity fun run in the central business district.


A record 19 charities will benefit from funds raised this year. Over the past four years, SGX has raised more than $10 million for needy children, young people and families through its charity fun run. This year’s run takes place on Oct 24 at the Padang.


Bull Charge 2008 is organised by SGX in collaboration with Temasek Holdings and in partnership with the Central Singapore Community Development Council, The Business Times, Channel NewsAsia and honorary auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers. It also receives the support of the Land Transport Authority and the Singapore Sports Council.


Source: Business Times

Aquatic Science Centre to open along Ulu Pandan Canal

Aquatic Science Centre to open along Ulu Pandan Canal 

Besides research, centre aims to whet interest of public in water technologies


A WATER research laboratory will come up on the banks of the Ulu Pandan Canal in Clementi by the end of next year.

Launched yesterday, the Aquatic Science Centre will carry out studies on urban water management. Its interactive showcase of projects and technologies will be open to the public.


Set up by the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance (SDWA), the centre is the first of a network of three such centres which will monitor water quality around the island.


The 1,800 sq m Clementi centre will be staffed by some 20 researchers from fields like biology, hydro-engineering and chemistry.


The $9 million it will take to build the centre and fund its work will come from the National Research Foundation, National University of Singapore and national water agency PUB.


The other two water-research centres will be sited on the Southern Islands and at a reservoir.


Director of the SDWA, Professor Vladan Babovic, explained that siting the centres near the Ulu Pandan Canal, the open sea and a reservoir meant that their research would cover the entire water cycle.


At the launch yesterday, Environment and Water Resources Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said the centres’ findings will enable urban planners to make Singapore’s waterways both beautiful and functional.


The research thus complements the PUB’s massive Active, Beautiful and Clean Waterways project.


The minister explained that the challenge in this project lay in transforming the island’s existing waterways into dual-function water sources and recreation areas without compromising on the quality of drinking water they produced.


To improve water quality, researchers at the new centre will study how plant and animal organisms use natural systems to minimise pollution.


But it is not just about science: The people will also be engaged to play a role in keeping the waterways here healthy, said Dr Yaacob.


By being open to the public, it is hoped that the water centre will whet the interest of the public in water technologies and issues.


Said Prof Babovic: ‘If, one day, a 10-year-old tells me he wants to be an aquatic scientist, it will make my day.’


Source: Straits Times

SIM to open hostel

SIM to open hostel


430-bed hostel believed to be biggest off-campus facility, monthly rent of $500 to $900


FROM today, students at one of Singapore’s biggest private education providers – SIM – will have their own hostel.


By Karen Wong



02 July 2008


FROM today, students at one of Singapore’s biggest private education providers – SIM – will have their own hostel.


It is believed to be the first private education organisation to have its own hostel facility here.


The hostel is at 100 Ulu Pandan Road, the former army camp for the School of Military Medicine, opposite Pandan Valley condominium.


It is a five-minute drive from the school’s Clementi Road headquarters.


The hostel is owned and managed by EM Services, a property management company whose core business is managing Housing Board estates, under its hostel brand Yo:HA (Your Habitat).


Speaking at the site yesterday, EM Services marketing director Andy Low said the company had invested more than $8 million in developing the hostel.


However, Mr Low, while revealing that the company is inking a deal with an educational institution to take up the hostel space, declined to say which institution is involved.


The New Paper understands that it is SIM Global – the arm which offers undergraduate and graduate programmes with partner overseas universities.




When contacted yesterday, SIM declined to reveal details of the hostel, pending its official opening in September.


But sources told The New Paper that SIM has been searching for hostel space for the last couple of years.


It has more than 3,000 international students.


A check on the school’s website found that details of the hostel are already uploaded, so that students can book their accommodation.


According to the website, students taking triple-sharing rooms will pay a monthly rent of about $550.


The rent will go up to $900 for those in single rooms.


It is understood that students will be moving in as early as today.


Sitting on a land area of about 4.5 hectares – or the size of six football fields – it is believed to be the biggest off-campus hostel in Singapore.


It will have six blocks of accommodation, with about 430 beds in single, double or triple occupancy for full-time students, as well as four studio apartments for visiting parents and lecturers.


There will also be sports and leisure facilities, including a fully-equipped gym and a dance studio.


Other facilities include tennis courts, a touch rugby field, a cafeteria and a mini-mart.


EM Services, which runs a student hostel in Boon Lay, beat six others in the tender for the site in January.


A Singapore Land Authority spokesman said: ‘This state property had attracted an impressive seven bids at tender closing, with four other hostel tenants putting in bullish bids that were higher than guide rent and those by (international) and commercial schools.’


She added that there is a growing interest by hostel tenants to provide more student accommodation on state properties.





Other hostel spaces


·  Former Alexandra Fire Station at Queensway: Being developed into a student hostel by the same company that runs Katong Hostel.


·  Former National Environment Agency district office at 333 Clementi Avenue: Being developed into a student hostel.


·  Former Upper Aljunied Technical School at Upper Aljunied: Re-developed into two schools and a student hostel.


Source: The New Paper

Collapse or short term blip for SG RE?

Collapse or short term blip for SG RE?


by Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop


After two years of exuberance, activity in the private housing market in Singapore has slowed to a near standstill. The number of new property sales, measured on a monthly basis, contracted 64.9 percent in April, as buyers became more cautious and took a wait-and-see attitude. As a result, several well-publicized launches have been put on the backburner for an indefinite period and some developers have started to drop asking prices, for example at The Lakeshore in Jurong West and Blu Coral in Telok Kurau.



An air of doom and gloom has settled over Singapore’s residential property market and vultures are circling, proclaiming the Singapore residential property market is about to collapse by 30-40 percent, but are they interpreting the facts correctly? Not all experts agree, with some calling the current market downturn more of a short-term blip rather than the beginning of a market collapse.


“The slowing of the property market is a natural development after prices skyrocketed on the back of very strong demand,” says Sherman Chan, an economist at Moody’s, “but a 30-40 percent collapse is highly unlikely. The construction sector is an important growth driver for Singapore and I don’t think the government would let it collapse as there would be wider ramifications. Let’s not forget that the government imposed some measures last year to cool down the market and these measures could very well be lifted if need be.”


In recent weeks, several bearish reports have forecast a dramatic plunge in home values over the next two years. Barclays Capital believes private home prices could slide 28-30 percent by 2010, while Credit Suisse predicted a price decline of 30 percent in 2008-2009.


The bears are pointing to several factors suggesting the writing is on the wall. The stock of unsold condominiums (as measured by projects that have been issued a sales license) rose to 10,861 units in the first quarter of this year, 34 percent higher than the quarterly average in 2007 and back up to levels not seen since June 2005. Net CPF withdrawals for private property have turned negative for the first time, reflecting the decline in transaction as well as profit taking by local buyers who own more than one property. “This has never happened before, not even during the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis,” notes Barclay Capital economist Waiho Leong. And vacancy rates in non-landed property developments have also risen in recent months toward 6.3 percent, compared with 5.6 percent in the last quarter of 2007. Credit Suisse, in its recent report, argues that this will rise further to 9.8-19 percent, on a base and worst case scenario. This could in turn trigger a sharp fall in rentals further weakening the market. “The last time vacancies shot up from 5.8 percent to 9.7 percent, rentals fell by 41percent,” Credit Suisse Tricia Song wrote referring to the year 1996.


Casting long shadows on the markets are the estimated 66,000 home units expected to be completed between 2009-2012, as well as the possible unwinding of speculative purchases. Unless many of the developments that are currently in the pipeline are postponed, a cumulative surplus could provide a glut that will be felt most acutely in 2010, Leong warned.


The bears also argue that given the current thin sales environment, the small price growth recorded by the URA indices do not reflect sentiment and can easily be biased by a few high-end sales. A better gauge of sentiment is land prices and developers’ waning appetite for recent URA auctions, they say. In May, a 99-year residential leasehold site in Choa Chu Kang Drive attracted a top bid of only $203 per square foot per plot ratio, well below the $230-$270 psf ppr range the market had expected.


But not everybody agrees. “I think bad interpretation of data is causing the string of bad news,” says Ku Swee Yong, Director, Savills Residential Private Limited.


Ku points out that the supply figures touted by some analysts bundle together planned, under construction and complete unit numbers. “The reality is that any apartments expected to complete in 2010 but still not under construction today, is unlikely to be completed on time given that the average construction period for a 20 storey apartment block takes 24 months from foundation works till handover” Ku remarks.


“The construction sector is tight on resources today and unless there are policy changes given to encourage faster pace of construction, the ‘oversupply scenario’ is not a realistic one,” he adds.


Tay Huey Ying, Director for Research and Consultancy at Colliers, agrees, pointing out that although the supply pipeline appears a “bit on the high side,” once delays and abandonment of project developments are taken into account, “the new supply will be much lower than expected.”


Leonard Tay, director, CBRE Research also points out that many of the units will be taken out by either en-bloc sellers who need to relocate, or new expatriates moving here. “There is a lack of activity in the market, but property prices have been holding. I believe there are still a lot of buyers in the market with ready cash; they’re just waiting for what’s next,” Tay says, forecasting that the luxury end of the market may “dip just a bit” this year, but prices should hold for now.


As for the units bought under the deferred payment scheme that some say will be “dumped” in the market as the construction is completed, Ku says their number is probably limited to around 2,900, 10 percent of the 29,000 units that URA has given approval for sale under Deferment Payment Scheme. “Not that much to worry about,” he says.


Many property consultants are pointing to the long-term prospects for the Singapore property market supported by the positive vibe stemming from the Integrated Resorts and events such as the F1 race and the 2010 Youth Olympics.


“I think the Singapore property market is still pretty strong. We could see a mild correction, but I don’t see that as a concern because the government is still trying to attract expatriates to work here and they will contribute to demand for properties,” Chan says.


Tay also points out that given the anticipated continuing influx of foreigners, the 15-year historical average number of 7,000 new units needed a year is likely to increase to 8,000 to even 10,000 units.


“So I don’t foresee an oversupply situation as yet. I don’t think the sky is about to fall in,” she says.


Source: Asia Property Report

Singapore’s real estate transparency ranking dips

Singapore‘s real estate transparency ranking dips

JLL cites enhanced survey questions for slide from 9th to 11th position


SINGAPORE and Hong Kong now rank side by side in 11th position on Jones Lang LaSalle’s (JLL) Global Real Estate Transparency Index 2008, down from joint ninth position when the index was last revealed in 2006.


However, JLL said the reason is not a change in market practices but enhancement of the survey questions.


The company’s head of research (South East Asia) Chua Yang Liang said: ‘Singapore remains one of the most transparent markets in Asia alongside Hong Kong. Among the five key attributes assessed in the survey – performance measurement, market fundamentals, listed vehicles, legal and regulatory environment, transaction process – both countries scored very well for their legal and regulatory environment. Together with Finland, they topped the global ranking for this sub-index.’


JLL said that in keeping with historical results, the Australian and US real estate markets remain among the most transparent in the world and now are joint-ranked second. But with the addition of new variables relating to the quality and frequency of valuations, service charge transparency and financing transparency, Canada now ranks as the world’s most transparent commercial real estate market.


The index, which provides a framework for comparing the level of real estate transparency in 82 markets around the world, revealed that eight countries moved up a full transparency tier since the last index in 2006.


Dubai, Romania, Ukraine and Russia showed the biggest improvements in transparency over the past two years.


A number of countries in the frontier markets are included in the index for the first time, with Belarus, Sudan, Algeria, Cambodia and Syria all scored as ‘opaque’.


Other new entrants to the index, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, Abu Dhabi and Lithuania, scored in the ‘semi-transparent’ range, while Oman, Qatar, Morocco, Kuwait, Pakistan and Kazakhstan all scored in the ‘low transparency’ range.


The biggest improvers in Asia-Pacific were India, China and Vietnam. China (Tier-1 cities) showed the greatest improvement, moving up to the ‘semi-transparent’ tier to rank in 49th position.


Not all investors, however, target markets that are highly transparent.


LaSalle Investment Management global strategist Jacques Gordon said: ‘Many cross-border investors focus on more mature, open and transparent real estate markets such as the UK, Canada, Netherlands and Hong Kong. However, opportunistic investors will consider the emerging, less mature, less open and semi-transparent markets, but will require higher returns to compensate for the higher risks associated with lower transparency.’


Source: Business Times

Geylang Bahru flats get $32m facelift

Geylang Bahru flats get $32m facelift


TEN blocks of flats in Geylang Bahru have been given a new lease of life with the completion of upgrading works that included covered linkways and fitness stations, among other things.

Elderly residents who live in the 30-year-old Geylang Bahru Ville and Geylang Bahru Riverpoint estates also welcomed new sitting toilets and lifts that stop on every floor.


Madam Kong Ah How, 80, who has been living there with her husband for 36 years, said she is glad she no longer has to walk up two levels to reach the nearest lift.


She also spends more time at the void deck, now that there are more seats.


Her neighbour, Madam Koh Ah Wah, 84, said it is a breeze mopping the floor in the toilets with the newly tiled floor.


Other improvements include a children’s playground and fitness stations, upgraded block facade and outdoor landscaped areas.


Within the flats, residents had their bathroom floor and walls tiled, and existing squat toilets were replaced with new sitting ones.


Some blocks also got an added utility room or new full-length windows.


Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim, who officiated at the completion ceremony yesterday, encouraged residents to use the new facilities.


‘While the Government can spend the money to upgrade, ultimately it is you, the residents who can make the precinct vibrant with your active participation,’ he said.


The upgrading cost $31.9 million for both the precincts.


Source: Straits Times