Friday, May 8, 2009

Bubble Lifts Pop Up In HDB Blocks

Source : The Straits Times, May 07 2009

Glass lifts provide views of the outside, and are cheaper and faster to install.

ONCE found only in places such as shopping malls and hotels, bubble lifts are going up at Housing Board blocks.

Since January, residents of Block 46, Owen Road, near Farrer Park, have been enjoying the view from their very own glass lift - the first of its kind in an HDB block.

Bubble lifts will be built in 19 HDB blocks in other areas. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG.

As part of HDB's Lift Upgrading Programme, four other blocks in the precinct will be fitted with 10 such lifts. They will be ready for use by July.

These lifts are different from conventional ones as they have transparent glass panels along their walls. Instead of being enclosed, they also adopt a shaftless design, which gives passengers in the lifts a view of the outside.

As part of a pilot trial by HDB, bubble lifts will find their way to 19 HDB blocks in areas such as Jurong East Street 24, Buffalo Road in Little India, and Sims Drive in Aljunied.

Depending on the residents' receptiveness as well as the lifts' performance, bubble lifts might eventually pop up all over Singapore.

Bubble lifts are not only attractive for the views they afford, they are also faster to build. It takes about one year to construct a bubble lift, while a conventional lift takes a couple of months more.

Bubble lifts are also cheaper. An HDB spokesman said the design of a bubble lift means there is no need to construct an enclosed shaft, which is required for a conventional lift. This shaves off about 25 per cent of the total construction cost.

This also means a more affordable price for residents. For an eight-storey block of three-room flats like Block 46, Owen Road, each household has to pay only $760, or 5 per cent of the lift upgrading cost. The rest is subsidised by the Government and the town council.

But due to its design, a bubble lift is not suitable for all estates. HDB explained that for places with little shade, it might get too hot in the lift car or the sun's glare might be too strong during the day.

Constant exposure to the elements also means that the lift has to be built with materials that can withstand weathering, or problems might occur.

The Straits Times understands from residents of Block 46 that during its first three months of operation, the bubble lift stalled a few times every week.

'My daughter got stuck in there before,' said Mr Andrew Liew, a 63-year-old retiree.

'But it's not so bad now,' he added. 'It's definitely much more convenient to have a lift on every floor, plus the view is nice.'

Indeed, the see-through concept of the lift is proving popular with many residents.

Madam Xuan Gui Zhu, 56, said in Mandarin: 'My two grandchildren love it. When the lift was ready, they would take it up and down again and again.'

She also saw things from another angle: 'Not only can we look out, other people can also look in. That makes it safer for everyone.'

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