Has Singapore lost its sense of value?BY LARISSA MURPHY
In a recent conversation with a Singaporean acquaintance of mine he explained that there are two types of Singaporeans, the cosmopolitans and the Heartlanders.
He gave me a very simple definition of the difference between them based on food, a subject close to Singapore’s heart. His explanation was that the cosmopolitans consider a good value meal to involve a higher price at a non local restaurant in a glamorous location as they want to be seen to be sophisticated & cultured, whereas the heartlander will consider a good value meal to be one where the portions are big and the price is low.
I do not believe that this is a uniquely Singaporean comparison coming from Ireland I know that the population there could also be divided into similar classifications. However what is different is that I expected more of Singapore. I expected quality to factor in the value equation.
As a country Singapore is highly innovative, it created its success by repeatedly looking at gaps in the various markets and creating opportunities based on good value high quality solutions.
Historically Singapore looked beyond its borders at what was being done elsewhere, learning the lessons from others mistakes and building something innovative and better. The HDB estates and Singapore Airlines being the perfect examples.
However it would now seem that the heartlanders and cosmopolitans have got more in common than my friend thought. In the pursuit of image and price quality seems to not factor in the value equation and without quality can there be any Value?
This is strongly evident in the construction sector, to achieve best value a balance must be found between cost, quality and speed. However the industry here seems to completely overlook quality in favour of cost and speed and as a result we are not providing either good value solutions or services.
Singapore is idealistically pursuing the construction of a city for the future, a dream that is somewhat flawed by the fact that most of the buildings being built here are significantly less innovative than those in other countries.
In fact many features that are commonplace elsewhere are not even considered here despite the added value they provide. For example it is standard practice for double glazing to be used in all buildings in the west, in most European commercial centres triple glazing is fast becoming the norm for office buildings.
It offers significant energy savings that provide a good return on investment as well as being more sustainable, cutting energy consumption and noise pollution significantly. So how many so called buildings of the future here offer their clients these kind of features? To the best of my knowledge there is not a single triple glazed building in Singapore and double glazed buildings are few and far between.
The pursuit of speed and low cost has also meant the quality of service provided by the professionals who deliver commercial office designs is reduced.
Do clients really believe that Singapore is so different to the rest of the world? Do they really expect the same quality of service if they are paying 50% of the fee they would pay elsewhere and only allow us 50% of the time to do it in?
In general the quality of office design on here is pretty poor. There may be lots of interesting ideas but look beyond the surface, the detailing is poor and ill considered, the process is painful and stressful for all involved.
There is normally a lengthy defects rectification period and sometimes defects never get rectified. Does this represent good value?
I believe Singaporeans need to re-embrace what was a very solid foundation for the country: the sensibility of offering good value. In the long term low cost quick solutions will cost more whether in terms of energy consumption, or replacement but also in terms of additional fees and hassle to do the same work repeatedly.
When it comes to buildings we need to overcome our obsessions with image, cost and speed and instead build a value based future that is well considered.
This is not the fashion industry it takes a lot longer for a building to wear out than it does a pair of shoes, well at least it should!
Larissa Murphy, Director, HBO+EMTB