Since six decades, the Housing Development Board (HDB) has been the major residential home provider in Singapore. HDB was established in 1960. Until now, HDB has built over one million flats in 23 towns. HDB homes are spread in three estates in Singapore. In the last 57 years, HDB has followed various design patterns. In this article, we look back to HDB house designs over the period of six decades.
HDB flats in 1960: keeping the house to basic
In 1960, the population in Singapore grew exponentially. In order to accommodate the growing population, HDB built simple flats, keeping them to the basin. The earliest HDB flats were slab blocks with maximum 10 storeys. There were up to 12 units on each floor. There was a common corridor, running along the length of the block, which separated units on two sides. The units were reachable by the corridor.
HDB flats in this decade were 1-3 room flats. The one room flat was 30 square meters where as 3 rooms flats were 70 square meters. The flats had basic amenities such as water, electricity, and washroom with a shower and a flush toilet.
HDB flats from the 1960s still exist, for example, the Selegie House, and the row of flats located in Queenstown (Blocks 45, 48, and 49), along with Stirling Road.
HDB flats in the 1970s: the evolution of the point blocks
During the 1970s, HDB began building point blocks. Point blocks were 20 storey buildings. The first point block was built in 1970, in Queenstown. These point blocks were different from slab blocks. There were no common corridors and each floor had only four units. The HDB flats during this decade were bigger, they had 4-5 rooms, with the size of 84 –125 square meters. The five room flat had a master bedroom and attached toilet.
In order to provide the resident, a common area for social engagements, HDB flats in this decade had decks. There were benches and chess tables in these decks.
During the 1970s, HDB also builds new towns. These towns had community facilities such as swimming pools, parks, and libraries, for the integral living environment. Toa Payoh and Queenstown were the earliest estates of this kind.
HDB flat in the 1980s: fast growth
HDB built 11 towns in the 1980s. Some of the towns built in this decade were Jurong East, Hougang, and Bishan. While building these towns, HDB incorporated the designs of the 1960s (slab blocks) as well as 1970s (point blocks). The flats were constructed in the east and west alignment, which stopped direct sunlight reaching into the homes. During this decade, HDB adopted prefabrication technology. By constructing prefabrication blocks, HDB could build flats faster. For a normal flat, it took over 20 months of construction, where as prefabrication block could be completed just in 16 months.
The flats in the new towns were built structurally. There were corners in slab blocks which made the area look more enclosed. Each new town build during the 1980s was divided into housing precincts, consisting 400 – 600 units.
During this time, HDB also introduced maisonettes and executive apartments. Maisonettes were double storey apartments. Maisonettes and executive apartments had utility rooms. HDB also introduced multi-generation flats in 1980s. The multi-generation flats, which were named ‘granny flats,’ had two entrances. Granny flats were made for families having multiple generating living under one roof. The multi-generation flats had a studio apartment, with a size of 40 square meters, for elderly people. Since the multi-generation flats did not become ideal choice for the majority of Singaporean, they were phased out.
About 85 percent of Singaporeans had made HDB flats their home by the end of this decade.
HDB flats in 1990s: aesthetic designs
During the 1990s, HDB began thinking about aesthetics. HDB gave a lot of emphasis on architecture designs and color schemes, which gave the new towns a unique identity. The new HDB blocks incorporated distinctive features. The HDB flats from this era were 9 – 18 storeys tall. These blocks also had lifted.
HDB took a major step in the 1990s. It introduced executive condominiums and premium apartments, which were thoroughly furnished. The executive condominiums and premium apartments had inbuilt wardrobes and flooring. They were overpriced in the beginning, however, later HDB subsidized them. The eligibility conditions for the private housing were similar to standard HDB flats.
In the due course of time, the land area began to shrink, HDB began to build small flats. The flats had a same number of rooms, but room size got smaller, the area for a five-room flat went down to 120 square meters from the previous 130 square meters.
In the 1990s, HBD also introduced household shelters. In order to provide safety during the time of emergency, the household shelters had reinforced concrete walls and blast-protection doors.
HDB flats in 2000 and 2010s: apartments getting smaller
HDB housing designs went through massive changes during the beginning of the new millennium. With the increase in the population of wealthy Singaporeans, there was a demand for private housing. HDB point blocks became obsolete. The apartments built during these decades became smaller. HDB downsized its apartments by 10 square meters.
In 2010, HDB is continuing with its innovative designs. It has broke boundaries by adopting novel and ground-breaking techniques. Take the Pinnacle @ Duxton, which was completed in 2009, for example. The buildings in Pinnacle @ Duxton are the tallest public residential buildings in the world. There are seven buildings in Pinnacle @ Duxton, which consists of 52 floors each.
HDB has also incorporated private sector in the development projects. One good example is the Design, Build and Sell scheme, which is a public housing project from the private developers. The Peak at Toa Payoh and Punggol 21+ were built by private developers under the Design, Build and Sell scheme.