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Thread: Some developers want GFA incentives restored

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    Default Some developers want GFA incentives restored

    http://www.businesstimes.com.sg/sub/...96763,00.html?

    Published September 13, 2008

    Some developers want GFA incentives restored

    By ARTHUR SIM


    WITH profit margins already looking slimmer these days, some developers have decided to appeal to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to reinstate GFA (gross floor area) incentives for providing planter boxes and bay windows in condominiums.

    However, while sources say this is unlikely, an extension of the deadline for the approval of projects based on the old planning guidelines on planter boxes and bay windows may be given.

    In July, the URA announced that from Oct 7, bay windows and planter boxes, which can contribute up to around 5 per cent of a condominium's saleable area, will no longer be exempt from GFA calculations.

    Until now, developers were nevertheless able to charge home buyers for this extra GFA. But most developers do not see the GFA exemption as an incentive. City Developments group general manager Chia Ngiang Hong explained that it is common practice for developers to price in the exemption of GFA for planter boxes and bay windows when calculating the residual land value, especially for public tenders of state land. 'With the GFA exemption, most developers would have been able to allow for a wider margin,' he added.

    It is understood that developers were not consulted before the change in the planning guidelines on planter boxes and bay windows was revised, with many of them taken by surprise.

    That developers who bid for and were awarded land parcels based on prices that took into account the GFA incentive should now feel they could have overpaid, is likely to be a sore point.

    Still, design of future condominiums is also an issue.

    The guidelines on bay windows and planter boxes were first introduced in 1989 and 1993 respectively, ostensibly to encourage interesting designs for condominiums.

    United Overseas Land (UOL) has built award-winning developments, such as 1 Moulmein, that feature bay windows. And its Group COO, Liam Wee Sin, feels that the guidelines have had a positive impact on the 'articulation of facades'.

    One of the winning design features of 1 Moulmein - designed by WOHA Architects - is the introduction of a 'monsoon window' which operates on a horizontal plane to allow natural ventilation even during a storm.

    'We need to have some flexibility so that architects can experiment,' said Mr Liam.

    Mr Liam concedes that some developers may have exploited the GFA exemption by maximising planter boxes and bay windows without pure architectural intent, but added that this could be addressed in ways that did not sacrifice the incentive. 'Such guidelines can determine a whole generation of architecture,' he said.

    On the rationale for the change in guidelines, URA said that its checks on some completed developments had shown that on average, only about 10 per cent of the approved planter boxes within residential units were used for planting.

    It also said that many bay windows were now designed to be used no differently from the rest of the floor space of a residential unit and for all intent and purposes, were 'part and parcel of room space'.

    'Over time, the bay window designs have become a predominant feature for majority of the newer residential developments,' it added.

    Singapore Institute of Architects president Tai Lee Siang says that it is still not clear how the change in guidelines will affect the design of condominiums but 'standardisation' inevitably sets in after time.

    Architecture, however, needs to be responsive, so Mr Tai believes that it may be useful to 're-visit' the guidelines if these prove useful in addressing aspects of tropical architecture in the future.

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    Default Developers appeal to Govt over bay window ruling

    http://www.straitstimes.com/Money/St...ry_278034.html

    Sep 13, 2008 Saturday

    Developers appeal to Govt over bay window ruling

    By Jessica Cheam


    THEY might look innocuous, but bay windows and planter boxes have become a hot topic of discussion between property developers and the Government.

    The talks centre on a controversial decision by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to include the area of such design features in gross floor area (GFA) calculations.

    Bay window and planter boxes, which often make up about 5 per cent of a condo's saleable area, used to be exempt from GFA calculations. But buyers paid developers for this area as it was provided with the unit.

    The URA caught the industry by surprise on July 7 when it stated that the revised guidelines would take effect from Oct 7. It was reported at the time that the move would close a 'loophole' that developers had been exploiting.

    Planter boxes were originally introduced to provide greenery and visual relief to high-rise condos.

    However, the URA said feedback and its own investigations found extensive unauthorised conversions of planter boxes into balcony space or extensions of the living room - which defeated the original purpose.

    This also led to the buildings being less energy efficient, said the URA.

    But developers said yesterday it was a 'misconception' that they were profiting from it.

    UOL Group chief operating officer Liam Wee Sin told The Straits Times that contrary to general perception, developers did not 'have it free'.

    'There's a reason why it's there in the first place,' he said. 'It costs money to construct these features, and it is not given to us free.'

    It is part of the 'residual land value' and developers factor this when bidding for a site, he said.

    A Lianhe Zaobao report quoted market sources who suggested the change might lead developers to pay less for land.

    It cited the sale of a site next to Tanah Merah MRT station that was awarded recently at $282 per sq ft per plot ratio (psf ppr). This was 11 per cent less than the $318.50 psf ppr attained by a neighbouring site before the GFA change was announced.

    The president of the Real Estate Developers' Association of Singapore (Redas), Mr Simon Cheong, said he could not comment further because talks were 'in process'.

    Mr Cheong, who was speaking at Redas' annual Mid-Autumn Festival celebration, said that developers were cautious in their short-term outlook due to high construction costs.

    'Hopefully in 12 months' time, we'll be in a better state than now,' he said.

    He cited Singapore's low interest rates and upcoming events such as the Formula One race and Youth Olympics for his bullish outlook.

    On the price of real estate, he said that 'if it drops, it will not be much more'.

    The replacement cost of apartments, including cost of construction, is very close to selling prices already, he added.

    Mass market home prices are dependent on local demand and 'this is subjective to how the economy is'.

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    http://www.straitstimes.com/ST%2BFor...ry_279286.html

    Sep 17, 2008 Wednesday

    Please uphold URA guideline


    URBAN Redevelopment Authority (URA) made a very good decision to require bay windows and planter boxes to be included in gross floor area (GFA) calculations. I read with dismay 'Developers appeal to Govt over bay window ruling' on Sept 13 that property developers are in talks with Government to reverse this. I hope that URA's decision will be upheld.

    The previous ruling allowed developers to sell more space in the form of bay windows or planter boxes without 'eating' into GFA calculations. This made it very profitable to include such features as it maximised saleable space.

    Bay windows are an environmentally unfriendly feature for a tropical country like Singapore. Having windows protruding out of building facades allows direct sunlight in, which heats up interiors. High levels of air conditioning would then be needed.

    Keeping the previous ruling will result in more and more buildings with bay windows. This runs contrary to Singapore's aspiration to be a leader in sustainable living and development. Architecturally, it is also quite an eyesore.

    It is understandable that property developers would want to appeal against this decision as it affects their profitability. However, this cannot be at the expense of damaging Singapore's reputation as a green city.

    Richard Sui

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