Yesterday morning, I accompanied my minister to visit the housing project conducted by BEDB at Pandan 10 in Kuala Belait. It was a working visit to see if there is anything new that our own Housing Development Department (HDD) can learn from it as well as keeping an eye on the project as the houses will form part of our housing stock soon.
[Getting ready for the group photograph]
I remembered and tracked down an old BEDB press release about the cost of the houses. This is what it says in February "According to the BEDB’s infrastructure division, the cost per house in Bina Puri’s tender price is lower than for previous contracts awarded under the National Housing Scheme as a result of greater efficiency and economies of scale. “There will be savings for the government in terms of both time and money” said Mr Geoffrey Shim, Senior Executive Engineer with the BEDB."
Despite Mr Shim's claims, we were much disappointed to learn that the cost is not any lower than that built by the HDD. The average cost per house was $53,000 but if the total cost of the project of around $289 million is divided over the 2,000 houses, then each house will cost around $144,000 each excluding the value of the land and excluding the value of the sewerage treatment plants which is normally included in all housing projects. Whatever it is, the government has to absorb around $100,000 subsidies as currently terrace houses will be sold at around $43k to $45k depending on whether it is a corner unit. We have not set the price for the semi-d houses yet.
Anyway, even if there is no savings in money, there is indeed savings in time. The houses are built on raft foundation (no piling).
The houses are built using the shear wall method and utilises the plastic and tunnel foam system with recycling abilities of up to 300 cycles.
[Plastic and Tunnel Foam System Formwork]
What happened is that the contractors put up a form work with mild steel structures and pour in the cement. For tunnel form method, even the first floor slab (the ceiling/floor) is made by pouring cement.
[Incomplete Semi-Detached Houses]
There is no time wasted for laying bricks. That is why you can see the houses built much faster. Since the wall is pure concrete, it is thinner than houses built using bricks. I know a number of people expressed their worry about the thickness of the wall but I wouldn't worry. The wall is solid and much more solid than a brick wall in some sense.
The thickness of the wall was around 100 mm, compared to a brick wall which will measure some 120 mm plus plaster. Why don't HDD contractors use the same method to increase speed? You do need a bigger volume than what HDD use to tender out. You need at least 1000 house as the form does cost a bit compared to the wood form that our contractors are used to using.
Anyway, the houses are built similar to the HDD housings and each house will have a floor space of 120 meter squares (roughly 1,300 square feet). The semi-d houses (800 units) will have an area of around 400 meter square (about 0.1 acre) and each terrace house (1,200 units) will have an area of around 250 meter square (about 0.07 acre), again quite comparable though a tad smaller than the current HDD housing but by not much.
Each house whether terrace or semi-d has three bedrooms and three bathrooms. One bathroom on the ground floor with a size that Bruneians also look out for - suitable for suka duka. The master bedroom has an attached bathroom and the other two bedrooms share one bathroom. The bathrooms and the kitchen are tiled. There is a sample house currently on site and members of the public are allowed to come in and see the houses for themselves.
Anyway, the house construction is proceeding on time and should be ready by 2011. Together with HDD's housing project in Sungai Liang and soon at Lorong Tengah in Seria, we projected that all the backlog and current housing waiting list in the Belait District to be taken care of in the next three years. We too look forward to BEDB completing their 2,000 houses.