Part 1: Mystery of the (not?) shrinking HDB flat
So you have read about how flat sizes have shrunk… or not, depending on who is talking but I think a picture tells a thousand words. In this case, thought I’ll dig up HDB floor plans from the respective periods that fit the representative sizes provided in this article. If you’ll prefer not to read my thoughts, figured that the floor plans are fairly explanatory by themselves.
3 room flats
1970s 3 room 60 sqm / 1980s 3 room 69 sqm / 2000s 3 room 65 sqm
Size-wise, the 3 room flat doesn’t seem to have shrunk as dramatically as the bigger HDB units, but why is the latest incarnation of the 3 room flat smaller than ever? Based on the floor plans:
- More space allocated to the toilets
- Space for the aircon ledge
- Space for the corridor leading to the bedrooms (pet peeve as you can see from later)
- The bomb shelter in the middle of the layout pretty much prevents any hacking to join up the spaces
- Bedroom 2 have shrunk by 2 sqm (19%) vs the 1980s model (read more in this post: Comparing HDB bedroom sizes)
So the bedrooms (especially the 2nd bedroom) tinier than ever, and the massive kitchen that can be used as the dining area (as I remember from my childhood) has also shrunk dramatically. I won’t comment on the service yard cos I think it’s a good thing. Too many people have died hanging clothes.
4 room flats
1970s 4 room 73 sqm / 1980s 4 room 105 sqm/ 1990s 4 room 100 sqm / 2000s 4 room 90 sqm
Obviously, since the 4 room flat is down a good 10% in size from it’s earlier versions, the space will get crunched. But why else is the latest incarnation of the 4 room flat smaller than ever? Based on the floor plans:
- Space for the aircon ledge (but already appeared in the 1990s)
- Space for the corridor leading to the bedrooms (see, pet peeve)
- Space for the corridor leading to the Living room from the main door
- Bedrooms 2 & 3 have shrunk an astounding 29% vs the 1990s model (read more in this post: Comparing HDB bedroom sizes)
So the bedrooms have now shrunk so much, I wonder how the government/HDB designers expect people to fit proper sized wardrobes AND beds into the space provided? Little wonder walk-in-wardrobes (WIW) have become so popular…
5 room flats
1980s 5 room 123 sqm / 1990s 5 room 121sqm/ 2000s 5 room 110 sqm/113 sqm
Again, the loss of more than 10 sqm makes a diff, but why else does the latest incarnation of the 5 room flat feel smaller? Based on the floor plans:
- Space for the aircon ledge (but already appeared in the 1990s)
- Space for the corridor leading to the bedrooms (see, pet peeve) (in the 113 sqm version)
- Space for the corridor leading to the Living room from the main door (in the 110 sqm version)
- Bedrooms have shrunk by an average of 18% vs the 1990s model (read more in this post: Comparing HDB bedroom sizes)
The older HDB flats do feel a whole lot more spacious… I can’t be sure from the plan (113 sqm), but I think bay windows makes the flats/rooms feel smaller too.
To be balanced about it, HDB no longer builds corridor units, which I think is a good thing (major improvement!). Lifts now go to every floor (unlike in the past when it’s every 4-5 floors), landscaping looks better, pipes and wires are hidden, etc. So there are improvements. But the living space is really really important to me (obviously, since I chose to buy an old executive flat), and I think to many Singaporeans as well. Even if the space will not shrink further, I do hope that the HDB designers think about minimizing ‘space wastage’ such as corridors and oddly shaped rooms. Ditto the excessive use of bay windows (bay windows have appeared in some HDB shower areas, how STUPID is the design for that?).
I must also point out that HDB/Khaw didn’t mention that executive flats are no longer available. The executive range of flats included the executive apartments (EAs), executive maisonettes (EMs), multi-generational (MG), and jumbo apartments that are considerably larger – at minimum 140 sqm, going up to a massive 190 sqm for the aptly named jumbo flats. They also did not mention that flat sizes varied widely – HDB has been confusing us for years with terminology such as standard, improved, “A”, etc. E.g. An old 3A HDB 3 room flat is a spacious 90 sqm and is as big as the modern 4 room HDB.
UPDATE: Interested to know who were the men/women behind HDB and public housing development? Have a look at this post: National Development Ministers, Perm Secs and HDB CEOs
Some background on what triggered the debate, and interest on shrinking HDB sizes.
- Smaller flats do not mean lower quality of living: HDB CEO - 10 Nov 2011
- Shrinking HDB flats due to need to maximise land and to adapt – 26 Nov 2011 (statement from HDB after its CEO’s contentious comments)
- HDB flat sizes have remained unchanged the past 15 years: Khaw Boon Wan (and HERE) – 2 May 2012 (which triggered another round of debate)
- HDB won’t shrink flats says Khaw Boon Wan – 12 Jun 2012
The online National Library Infopedia is a good source of info about Singapore. One interesting piece of information I read from Infopedia about Public housing in Singapore:
“The standard design plans for new flats have been updated over the years to cater to the changing expectations and preferences of buyers. For example, three-room flats did not have a bathroom attached to the master bedroom until the 1970s, and executive flats were launched in the 1980s in response to the desire for bigger flats while the elderly-friendly studio apartments were introduced only in 1997. These changes reflect the broader shift in the focus of public housing programmes from quantity to quality.“
If that is the case, why is Mr Khaw not providing us with bigger flats now that it’s clear that Singaporeans are very attached to their living space? As I’d mention in my other post: National Development Ministers, Perm Secs and HDB CEOs, to be fair Mr Khaw needs some time to fix the problems created by his predecessors. But I hope he is thinking about how to fix the root cause of the unhappiness and not just churning out more of the same horrible layouts used these past few years.
Types of HDB Layout
Thought this was interesting, so I extracted the list below from this website (that has more floor plans, so go ahead and click to see if you are interested):
3 bedroom flat
- 3 ‘A’ (Modified) 90sqm/969sqft
- 3 ‘NG’ (Modified) 83sqm/896sqft
- 3 ‘A’ 75sqm/807sqft
- 3 ‘NG’ (New Generation) 69sqm/743sqft (2 toilets, master bedroom with attached bathroom)
- 3 ‘I’ (Modified) 70sqm/750sqft
- 3 ‘S’ (Simplified) 65sqm/700sqft
- 3 ‘I’ (Improved) 60sqm/646sqft (No attached bath, toilet and bath separated, no storeroom)
- 3 ‘STD’ (Standard) 54sqm/581sqft (No attached bathroom/storeroom. Upgraded units have extra utility room or toilet)
4 bedroom flat
- 4 ‘A’ 105sqm/1130sqft (2 bathrooms, master bedroom with attached toilet, storeroom)
- 4 ‘NG’ (New Generation) 92sqm/990sqft
- 4 ‘S’ (Simplified) 85sqm/914sqft (2 bathrooms, master bedroom with attached toilet, storeroom)
- 4 ‘I’ (Improved) 83sqm/893sqft (toilet and bath separated, no storeroom)
- 4 ‘STD’ (Standard) 73sqm/786sqft
5 bedroom flat
- 5 ‘A’ 135sqm/1453sqft
- 5 ‘I’ 123sqm/1313 sqft
- 5 ‘S’ 121sqm/1300sqft
Floor plans sourced from Teoalida, Renotalk and Google Image search.
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