HDB to commission study over 3-4 months on cause of mould growth at Sengkang & Punggol flats

Residents complained that the mould formation made the building look "haunted", and raised health concerns.

Lean Jinghui | February 07, 2023, 02:37 PM

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HDB will be commissioning an "independent professional technical study" in order to determine the cause of mould growth that has been observed at two HDB estates – Anchorvale Parkview and Matilda Court.

The HDB flats in Sengkang and Punggol made headlines after residents took to Facebook to rant about the unsightly facades and raised health concerns, with one resident claiming that the mould on the exterior walls "looked worse than a 30-year-old building".

Both HDB buildings are still relatively new, and are only about five to six years old.

Responding to queries raised by four Members of Parliament, Minister for National Development Desmond Lee shared in a written parliamentary reply on Feb. 6 that the scope of the study will address three main concerns:

  • Why some blocks are more susceptible to mould growth
  • Provide recommendations to remedy the current situation, and
  • Suggest how to prevent future recurrence.

The study is expected to take about three to four months to complete.

Mould does not affect structural integrity of building: MND

Currently, the external walls of all HDB developments are painted with one coat of water-based sealer and two coats of algae-resistant emulsion paint, which contains a substance prohibiting the growth of algae.

MND added that the sealer and emulsion paint used in HDB blocks complies with the Singapore Standard, which have helped to ensure that the external façade of buildings "remain clean and clear of mould" over the last 20 years.

This includes for other HDB developments that are similarly located near water bodies, "where no such incidents of mould growth" have been identified.

In his written reply, Lee pointed out that HDB had assessed that the mould growth observed for the affected blocks "does not affect structural components" and "poses no risks to the structural integrity of the building".

Depending on the outcomes of the study, Lee shared that the Singapore Standards Council will then assess the need to further review current standards, on top of the periodic review of HDB blocks carried out every five to eight years.

Correspondingly, HDB will also further review the specifications and maintenance practices for flats.

Additional study by BCA

An additional study by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will also be carried out, on the "impact of changing climatic and weather conditions on the "service life" and durability of building facade materials.

Lee shared this in response to MP Lim Wee Kiak's question, about whether the deterioration of HDB facades could be attributed to changes in weather and climate conditions.

According to MND, prolonged exposure to severe environmental conditions can generally accelerate the deterioration of exterior facades, with severe weather conditions that were cited including "high temperatures and intense rainfall".

As such, the study by BCA is meant to help develop "best practices" for the future maintenance of HDB flats, and ensure that standards are on par with international ones, "taking into account the latest climate projections."

In response to the concerns over the potential health risks posed by the mould formation raised by Nominated MP Shahira Abdullah, Lee noted that the mould formation is less likely to impact one's health growing outdoors, than if it had been indoors.

Nonetheless, Lee stated that the HDB study will be "identifying the species of mould found at Anchorvale Parkview and Matilda Court", for further risk assessment.

Currently, the recommended schedule for town councils to carry out Repair & Redecoration (R&R) works for HDB estates is seven years.

Town councils can opt to start these works earlier or defer them beyond the recommended schedule, "depending on their operational needs", MND added.

They can also engage a paint specialist to recommend a more optimal repainting method, or approach HDB for advice if necessary.

Top images via James Ng and Jane Wendy Facebook