My Newsradio Scripts

These are my old radio news scripts on Singapore's current affairs when I worked as a broadcast journalist.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

OTGV #18 - Jets & Flats

Broadcasted on 25/11/02

Singapore used to have civilian airports right in middle of the island.

As the population grew, the airport gets displaced by residential areas, from Kallang to Paya Lebar then finally to Changi.

However, there are some airports which can't be easily moved for national security reasons -- these are the military airports.

Hi, welcome to On the Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang.

"I'm sitting in a park off Jurong St 65, under normal circumstances a very quiet, peaceful place where you can scarcely hear the noise of traffic. Occasionally, you can hear the sound of children playing, laughing."

But this remarkable peace is sometimes interrupted according to a couple of residents who spoke.

"It's very noisy because the very sound you know. Sometimes go up no noisy. Sometimes go very low right? That time very noisy. Saturday, Sunday only the children are home, that people no work. That time flight also going very low lah. That time very noisy. Some people take rest in the afternoon. That time also very problem you know."
"The jet planes sometimes disturb the surroundings. My small brother sleeps ah, they have to wake up when they hear the jet planes. Very noisy ah. It's very loud lah. Like so loud that even when baby sleeping still can wake up. It often happens. er, one week five times. [So is there anyway you all can stop the noise from coming to your house?] I think not possible lah."

An Australian acoustic designer Michael Dowsett is amazed that residential flats are built in areas like Jurong West or Paya Lebar at all.

"to be completely blunt and honest, from a planning point of view, the apartment should not have been build there is the simple answer. And in fact, planning control really should exist that really prevent all control of non-compatible land use. And in fact, a number of countries do have that kind of experience of that kind of legislation in place. In fact, in Australia there is an Australian standard that specifies design around the airport where you cannot build residential dwellings. if you are inside certain noise contour, you are forbidden basically to build a residential dwelling area. [9 mins 55 secs] If you are within the zone, you can build but with special acoustic treatment."

Non-compatible land use.

But in land-scarce Singapore, such luxuries are not available.

To be fair, the landing and take off path of the Tengah Air Base F-16s didn't always go over the Jurong West estates.

The jets used to go the other way until Malaysia closed the airspace.

So now we have a slight problem of unsold flats in Jurong West HDB precincts.

The flats are remarkably designed, some with wonderful balconies and huge windows.

But for Michael Dowsett, this constitute a design problem that increases sound.

"It is possible to design in appropriate noise controls depending on the noise source. In this rather extreme case of the F-16s, it really means that the apartments need to be air-conditioned. You can’t have natural ventilation and good acoustic performances. in that situation with the aircraft noise, it really should be brick house concrete or double brick really to sort of get a higher level of treatment. The maximum that you can really get from the double glass that we talk about is a 50 decibels reduction. That’s sort of the limiting factor."

So I ask John Ting, President of Singapore Institute of Architects if Singapore architects design blindly without taking into account the overall environment.

"I am glad you [brought] up this point because we have to get a good balance of the openness in the housing unit to the outside so get air flow and light coming through. At the same time as you said you want the ambient place to be comfortable even for noise level. now you can solve that problem through design also. If you design the balcony probably, you can actually deflect some of the sound out of the unit."

How bad is the noise?

So I visited one of the flats and sample the phenomenon of the passing jets.

"[Sound of TV sets on in the living room.] This is the ambient sound of the home with the TV set on. This is the sound of the jets flying pass the home.[Sound of jets over the TV sound and the ambient sound]"

But there may be some aural reprieve.

The Member of Parliament for the area, Minister of State for Defence, Cedric Foo says there's a possibility of using double glazed windows to shut out the sound.

Of course, to that effectively, it means a fully air-conditioned unit, something that will wreaked havoc with the wallet in such tough recessionary times.

Architect John Ting says one must strike a compromise.

"Of course in the hospital we do that because the room is air-conditioned. Now in the residential unit, you can design the balcony in such a way to deflect some of the noise out instead of reflecting them into the unit. Secondly, if you don't want to close the windows all the time, you can introduce fabrics, thick curtains that are maybe eye-level height so that you still get air coming in, and light coming in but the noise is cut down. Thirdly of course, like you said, we can introduce double glazing into all housing units also so that you can choose to open the window partially and cut down the noise by closing some of the windows."

But it is not that the residents in Jurong West or Paya Lebar are constantly petitioning the government to shut down Tengah or Paya Lebar air base.

While they may be irate about the noise but they are aware of the essential role the F-16 fighters play in protecting the country.

For this, Mr Cedric Foo is grateful that they recognised that the planes are not like a bunch of kids playing football into the middle of the night.

Perhaps, the architects and builders of Singaporean homes must help to solve this problem by introducing appropriate design controls at the pre-construction stage,

and not wait till complaints or sluggish sales come about before thinking about highly expensive retrofitting with sound-proofing materials.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


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OTGV #17 - White Noises

Broadcasted on 18/11/02

Singapore has over 6 thousand people packed into one square kilometre.

So the lack of personal space and its attendant effects such as noise is something that all Singaporeans grow up with.

Hi, I am Chong Ching Liang and this is On the Grapevine.

This week I discuss with two practitioner on acoustic design in residential developments.

An acoustic engineer, Michael Dowsett explains why neighbourly relations may be impacted if there isn't good acoustic design in modern highrise homes.

"Neighbours aren’t conducive to your requests to please keep the noise down, and we all know what it’s like trying to sleep when there’s a party going on next door. And the fuse gets shorter and shorter and you know, I think that you could certainly say that there’s an increase in annoyance due to the noise can lead to violence and more outbursts and a greater level of dis-satisfaction due to your neighbours."

In these days of high-powered home entertainment systems, President of the Singapore Institute of Architect, John Ting, concurs.

"I think it is an important element because as you pack more people into a smaller area, social interactions will be affected by the noise created by the residents. Put it this way lah, a good of ambient noise is good but you need to control the level and also the intermittent levels created by the hifi sets, or televisions, or mechanism that actually generate loud noise."

Ironically, the advances in building technology has exacerbated the problem of noise.

"Now in the old days, we used to use bricks for partition wall and of course in the old days, people use simple hifi sets. Now with new technologies coming along, people are moving towards pre-fabrication, hollow block walls for example in the construction of the building units. At the same time, sound system are getting a lot more developed now so there will be an increase in the level of noise transfer between housing units."

In developed western countries, there's now a demand for good acoustic design for residential units to prevent excessive noise transfer says Michael.

"as purchasers become more sophisticated, become more aware, become more educated on what they need to consider when they are making a purchase, they need to consider all these factors. It’s like as part of a checklist you know: does it have a kindergarten nearby, does the school bus stop, you know you add is the acoustic performance acceptable? Am I going to grow crazy listening to my neighbour watching his tv at 9 o’clock in the morning. So it depends on the factors that are driving this equation and I think until the developers and designers can see that there is a downside to not performing the acoustic of the performance, they will continue to save money by just installing only what they need to install."

In Singapore, acoustic design are missing in the bulk of the most prestigious private residential developments.

John Ting thinks there may be a cultural reason behind this lack of demand.

"Asians being Asians, culturally we are more tolerant to ambient noise, more tolerant to a high level of noise compared to the westerner. Singapore, for example, the general rule of thumb is that traffic noise and the noise coming in from the outside of the housing estate should be below 60 decibels."

Sometimes the market demand for good acoustic design manifests itself in the form of civil lawsuits.

Michael Dowsett again.

"in Australia for instance it’s more and more apparent to developers and designers, the importance of acoustic treatment. There’s been a number of court cases particularly in Sydney, where residents have actually taken their developers to courts for sub-standard acoustic performance of their dwellings. And that has resulted in certainly greater awareness from developers and in fact providing acoustic performances which is greater than the minimum requirements specified in the building code."

In Singapore, public planning has taken note of the need to reduce the ambient noise levels even though good acoustic treatment hasn't made it to most building designs yet.

John Ting again

"From [a] planning perspective, the HDB also the S-I-A, the professional people are aware of this and as such there are certain planning parametres. We can use the set--back from teh road as one mechanism. Further you are set back from the road the less noise that comes into the unit. One very good thing that we can use which is ecologically very sensitive and friendly is using nature to our advantage by planting thick foliage between the road and the housing unit because the nature the leaves and the trees actually break down the sound waves so that the sound when they comes through the foliage, they actually become muted."

Both experts agree that proper sound proofing at the design stage is important as retrofitting an apartment can prove to be even more costly.

But ultimately, as architect John Ting explains, the definition of what is an appropriate noise level is to be set by the society.

"It's a question of where we draw the line that society at this level we can all agree at this level we can all tolerate. Beyond that let's do something about it. Rather than no white noise at all or don't control it at all. No white noise we probably go abit insane and berzerk you know, because human beings are social animals, need a bit of noise to keep us all more or less in touch with society. But the question is where we draw the line that is reasonable for everybody to say that 'Yes, that's a good level that we can live with and that's a good level that can still allow us to do a lot of things at home without making too much noise."

Tune in to the next programme as I find out if good sound design can tuned out the excessive noise levels of screaming F-16s in a place like Jurong West.

This is Chong Ching Liang for Newsradio 938.


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OTGV #16 - Harmony Certs

Broadcast Date: 29/04/02

Singapore is well known as land of campaigns.

Foreign critics sometimes look at such top-driven efforts cynically, saying that the Singaporean society is over-regulated.

These same critics may have more fodder for their canons.

Singaporean community leaders now can undergo a course and can be certified as a Partner in Harmony.

Welcome to On The Grapevine with me Chong Ching Liang as I look at the programme to certify community leaders.

The first Partners in Harmony programme is just completed on Sunday.

The programme brings in community leaders from all over Singapore and train them on cross-cultural, inter-ethnic matters over two weekend.

The week before, the Acting Minister of Community Development and Sports Yaccob Ibrahim was the guest of honour.

He was greeted with a burst of frenetic drums of various cultural origins, from angklung to bangara.

ccl-OTGV-9 (fade in - Fade out)

Newsradio caught up with Minister Yaacob and the Dean of National Community Leader Institute or NACLI (pronounced Nag-Lee), Mrs Yin Hui Siang after the launching festivities to find out more.

Will the certification of the so-called harmony partners trivilise the importance of the phrase in the way that some company just simply carried the ISO badge while continuing with their bad habits?

Minister Yaacob Ibrahim.

"There is a need to share that knowledge with people on a wider audience. Give them a skill set and hopefully they can use those that they have gain effectively down on the ground and they relate to their colleagues and their friends. So I don't see it as an ISO 9000 sort of approach but I think it is a sharing of information so that there's a wider audience out there who understand. Having said that I think we also cannot lull ourselves into saying that once we have run a programme, we are alright."

Dean of NACLI, Mrs Yin says that in past there isn't a vehicle to educate inter-cultural awareness.

"In the past perhaps, we have not done enough with regards to dialogue and experiential learning. And so for this particular programme, we are thinking of three components. Basically awareness, dialogue as well as experience. So you will notice that it is a very multi-sensory sort of programme. The whole idea is that we feel that some of these national education programme is very head-knowledge, if we do not actually experience it ourselves we do not actually experience it ourselves we probably will not experience it. And when you actually experience it, it stays with us. So that was the thinking behind coming up with such a programme."

The trainees, being grassroots leaders, are not at the training to obtain yet another piece of paper.

They are expected to be harmony ambassadors, to coin a phrase.

"After this the participant will really go back to their constiuencies, even to their home to be able to spread this awareness amongst people they know. Essentially we were saying, as MInister pointed out in his speech that the grassroots leader and the staff are partners, they are leaders and facilitators. So they would have to balance when they should be a leader, to get people together to have a clearer understanding, and when they should basically step back a little and just be facilitating, and when should just be partners alongside others who are just doing the job."

The programme does have its surprises, and the biggest surprise is the inclusuion of the Internal Security Department, or the ISD in the lecture programme.

Strange, what is the role that the ISD can play in a harmony partners programme.

Quite often, ISD is an object of fear or aversion, would its participation cloud things?

Minister Yaacob Ibrahim sees the contradiction but is quick to explain that there's more good than bad.

"I know what you are trying to get at. We want to move away from a fear of each other to an appreciation of each other. Having the ISD there, is always the paradigm that be careful because of extremism and terrorism and all that stuff. But we also cannot delude ourselves that those things do not exist. The incidents around the region, the arrest of the 13, sends a very strong message home that these are real things that can happen. I think the appreciation of that is not for us to develop a sense of fear of each other but for us to develop a sense of appreciation that if you go off on one tangent, things can happen. So I see it in a more positive light more than in a negative light."

However, all agreed that racial harmony is socmething that has to be constantly worked at because it is on a constant revolution.

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim recounted an episode from his constituency's Inter-Racial Confidence Circle's meeting.

"Mr Baljant Singh told us "You know, we are a nation in a hurry. But racial harmony cannot be forced upon. It has to be evolving." I think that is a very a good point, that at the end of the day, we have a lot of gains that we gained over the last 40 years but we are not about to achieve it overnight. Things are evolving. New people are coming into Singapore. Even cultural practices of various communities are changing. So at the end of the day, we cannot force this. Wehave to be able to be sensitive, to know what is going on and move along, subtly nudged people along but not force upon. "

Subtly nudged, overtly pushed, the key point is that Singaporeans must be willing to learn and aceept differences.

If not, no amount of campaigns or course can help foster better communal relations.

This is Chong Ching Liang, for Newsradio 938.


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