Thursday, 20 March 2008

Re-Cyclical Maintenance

The HDB iUP flat upgrade programme work has started in our area. Even the site office is impressive. On a square of grass by the road, they poured a concrete base, say 12m x 12m and put up a 2-storey prefab, diverting services so it has water, sewage and power, then erected a 2m high fence and carefully painted it blue.

There will be covered walkways between blocks but the major work is the new lift towers added to the outsides, connecting to each floor's landing so the first job is to create a safe work areas with fencing around each base and start preparations for the piling. Our block has reach the pre-piling stage but remember, to get here, they have already diverted the surface drains, telephone and cable TV lines. This week is the rain downpipe diversion, then it will be piling work.

At the same time, and under a different contract, they are doing Cyclical Maintenance on the electrics. Most blocks are having their earthing upgraded with a new mesh of flat copper strips dug into the apron concrete and tied back to new earth rod points. Blocks are getting new (and thicker) mains cables put in from the substation which involves substantial holes and trenches as those are over 4' down in the clay. Just as well as the original mains wiring is under-specified for modern lifestyles. Our flat has low-wattage fluorescent bulbs throughout as the landlord was tripping the main breaker when running lights, TV, water heater and air con together.

They resurfaced and repainted the car park tarmac after the phone cable works, and they tidied up again after the electrical cables, including restoring the crab grass. The same verge has now been ripped up, leveled and laid with metal sheets for plant access to the neighbouring block.

The electrical works include the refresh of all the (original) landing light fittings, conduit and cabling up the blocks and along the ceilings. There's also extra lights on the outside at the void deck level (for pedestrians I presume) but they've picked a glarey fitting without a light diffuser. Recall that they replaced all fluorescent tubes a few months back only to be dumped now.

I passed the electrical gaffer the other day looking up at the corner of a block with a troubled look. Each new light fitting has been put in approximately the same position on each landing, but there's enough variation (few inches) that when viewed from below, you see an ugly zig-zag pattern. Ooops. I wonder if he'll get away with it?

Our block is half done; conduit is in (pre-wired) but light fittings and mini trunking is pending. All the (again, original) electrical meters are being replaced which unavoidably means a power outage. We'll have to see if they are just replacements or a technology upgrade with, for example, remote reading. At present, a man walks around every few weeks with a handheld to read off the electric, water and gas meters. Replacement is done in batches of about 12 flats at a time. I've just received the flyer; we're due next Tuesday, 8:30 - 5:500pm. My phone and broadband are on the cable modem that will run with the computers on the UPS for a couple of hours. I reckon they will try to be quick so that might be enough. I suppose they have a plan to read the meter at cutover - that's the sort of procedural detail Singapore is good at.

So while the whole area is a building site, it never feels like one with order being restored at every point. You have to admire the care with which each contractor tidies up, even if the next guy comes along to dig the same hole the following day. Labour is fairly cheap here but there's no attempt to optimise the work; it makes a mockery of "Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle", in Singapore, it's just Repeat.