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URA says building a 25-metre swimming pool a “minor work” but ChatGPT says it’s a major undertaking

In a report to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong released by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean on Wednesday (28 Jun), SM Teo concluded that both Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam and Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan have conducted themselves properly in the rental transactions involving Ridout Road bungalows which are owned by the state.

SM Teo also said that the two ministers took appropriate steps to avoid any conflict of interest. The report was released ahead of next week’s Parliament sitting.

Last month, questions arose on social media with regard to the bungalow rental transactions involving the two said ministers. Questions were asked if they were “paying less than the fair market value” for the properties.

Because of the intense public interest generated, SM Teo was asked by PM Lee to conduct a review of the transactions involving their two Cabinet colleagues.

In the report, SM Teo said both ministers, public officers and private sector intermediaries involved had conducted themselves properly in the rental transactions and that there was no abuse of power or conflict of interest.

He also stated that the process of renting out the bungalows did not deviate from the prevailing Singapore Land Authority (SLA) guidelines.

Installing swimming pool a “minor work”

In the report, with regard to the improvement works at the bungalows needing the requisite approvals from authorities, SM Teo explained:

“URA grants conservation permission for works carried out to gazetted conserved buildings. Conservation permission is required for works to a conserved bungalow or new building structures. Permission is not required for minor works that are external to and do not affect conserved bungalows.

Both No 26 and No 31 Ridout Road were gazetted in 1991 for conservation and are subject to conservation guidelines. URA had earlier advised SLA that no approval was required for the installation of a swimming pool at No 26 Ridout Road. This is because planning application to URA is not required for ‘minor works’ that are external to and do not affect the conserved bungalow.”

The report did not state the dimensions of the swimming pool at 26 Ridout Road but according to Google Earth’s measures, the swimming pool measures about 5 metres by 25 metres.

Typical colonial bungalow would not have a private swimming pool

Colonial bungalows were built by the British during colonial times for their civil servants and officers to stay.

The concept of bungalows actually has its roots in India during British rule. The word ‘bungalow’ is derived from ‘bangla’, which was the indigenous, local thatched hut style of Bengal province of India. The reason for picking up the word from the Bengal region was because Calcutta had been the capital of India during colonial rule. The Bangla was a modest house, rectangular in shape, placed on a plinth with its roofs sloping out, supported by regular intervals of wooden pillars.

As more British people settled in India, there was a need to provide a new class of housing for them. And to distance themselves from the locals and also to provide an abode suitable for their upper British class, the concept of colonial bungalows came into existence. It became a symbol of social status.

The typical bungalow involved large, high raised compound walls, a watchman to guard the place at the entry gate, a paved driveway which leads to the bungalow, and carefully landscaped gardens. The dining area opened itself into the backyard. The kitchen was a separate block, detached from the main body of the bungalow. A small corner at the site would house servants’ quarters, usually occupied by the locals.

But one thing is certain, a typical colonial bungalow would not have a private swimming pool. That was why the British colonial masters would usually create special clubs in town for them to congregate and meet. The clubs would also be the place to have a large swimming pool for them to use and to socialise. Private swimming pools were not typical of colonial bungalows in those days.

ChatGPT says building swimming pool a major undertaking

According to ChatGPT, constructing a swimming pool typically “involves significant planning, excavation, construction, plumbing, electrical work, and landscaping.

It may require obtaining permits, adhering to building codes, and complying with safety regulations. Additionally, factors like the presence of underground utilities, access to the construction site, and environmental considerations can impact the complexity of the project.”

“Considering the substantial amount of effort, resources, and expertise required, building a swimming pool is often considered a major undertaking. It typically involves hiring professionals such as architects, engineers, pool builders, and landscapers. The project may also require coordination with various contractors, inspections, and a significant investment of time and money.”

ChatGPT also gives an overview of the typical process involved in building a swimming pool:

Planning and Design: Determine the size, shape, and location of the pool based on available space, budget, and your preferences. Consider factors like sun exposure, accessibility, privacy, and the overall aesthetic of your property. Work with an architect or pool designer to create a detailed plan and obtain necessary permits.

Excavation: The construction process begins with excavating the area where the pool will be located. Heavy machinery is used to remove soil and create a hole of the desired size and shape. The excavated area must be carefully leveled and prepared.

Structural Construction: The pool’s structural elements, such as the walls and floor, are constructed using various materials like concrete, gunite, fiberglass, or vinyl. Reinforcement materials like steel rebar are often used for strength and stability. This phase also includes the installation of plumbing and drainage systems.

Filtration and Circulation Systems: A swimming pool requires a filtration system to keep the water clean and clear. This typically involves installing a pump, filter, and a network of pipes to circulate and treat the water. Additional features like skimmers, drains, and returns are integrated into the system to ensure proper water circulation.

Electrical and Plumbing Connections: Electrical work is necessary for powering pool equipment such as pumps, lighting, and any additional features like waterfalls or spas. Plumbing connections are made to supply water to the pool and manage drainage.

Finishes and Features: Once the basic structure is in place, various finishes can be applied. This may involve plastering the interior surface, tiling, or installing a vinyl liner. Surrounding areas can be landscaped, and decking or paving can be added for aesthetic appeal and functionality.

Safety Measures: Install safety features such as pool fencing, alarms, or covers to comply with local regulations and ensure the safety of users, particularly children.

Fill and Start-up: The pool is filled with water, and the filtration system is activated. Chemicals are added to balance the water’s pH and ensure proper sanitation. A pool professional can guide you through this process and provide instructions for ongoing maintenance.”

Certainly, according to ChatGPT, building a swimming pool doesn’t sound like a “minor work” as described by URA.
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