Solving Daily Problems

Regular house visits bring us close to our residents and their concerns.  In HDB estates, most are happy with their estates.  But there are some common daily irritations. Examples are:

  • Putting laundry out to dry can be dangerous, requiring strong arms
  • Strong winds bring rain right into the flats from under the front doors

Many of the problems faced by us are quite unique to the tropics. Few first-world cities have our hot and humid conditions.  The solutions we need are unlikely to be found in the west.

If we can solve these problems and remove the irritations, many residents will have a better quality of life.  Moreover, such solutions would have wide application in other cities in the tropics. If our SMEs can develop effective solutions, there will be business opportunities around the region.

The question is how. The solutions for these common irritations must be effective, sustainable, scalable and preferably low-cost.

HDB has a research unit, the Building Research Institute, looking at these problems and coming up with innovative solutions ranging from pre-fab technology, energy-saving solutions such as LED lighting, to water saving devices and waste recycling chutes.

But we can also tap on the expertise and creativity of the public out there: polytechnics, ITEs, universities, teachers, students, hobbyists, handy-men and women with practical ideas. Last week, media reported on many new ideas from NTU’s Engineering students. I am sure our DesignSingapore Council and Science Centre can also play a role to generate the buzz.

In MOH, we have used this approach of tapping on the people out there to solve some of the daily problems in our hospitals.  Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for example, has had good experience working with the polytechnic teachers and students on many low-cost innovations, with real benefits for the patients.

I have asked MOS Lee Yi Shyan to help me lead this initiative.  We will set aside a sum of money, to call for ideas from both the public and market players, fund the promising ideas, pilot them in some flats, get them assessed by the users themselves (e.g. RCs can assemble residents and maids to test out the ideas and evaluate them), and if found practical, replicate them in other estates.  Where relevant, the ideas can also be included in new housing codes and tender specifications for new building projects.

I told MOS Lee that this is a marathon, a long-term process of public engagement and a continuous search for better ideas to enhance our lives.  It is not a sprint.

To be useful, ideas must be buildable and maintainable.  Done well, we can bring so much benefit to so many people.  MOS Lee is excited by this and will go out to invite volunteers, inventors, academics and practical people, to contribute to this cause.  He hopes to have some early wins.

Roller screens to prevent light rain from wetting the floors of flats

For example, a common problem is strong wind wetting the floors for some apartments.  HDB has come out with a solution to put up roller screens in strategic places.

But who knows, there may be better, cheaper solutions?  Anyone with ideas, please contact MOS Lee at

If you have already come across best practices, solutions that already exist, we may be able to shorten the learning curve. As pictures tell a thousand words, do email them to MOS Lee at

It is my wish that this platform can help to encourage community interaction by us jointly working on everyday activities.  We are one big community.  Let’s help one another to make everyone’s life better.

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