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Rejuvenating residences

Project director Tan Hwee Yong, 42, rolled out the Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) programme in Yishun — one of the first Housing Board (HDB) towns in Singapore that underwent the estate rejuvenation scheme.

Ms Tan played a large role in conceptualising and bringing ideas to fruition, from the Heritage Corner to the Yishun Pond.

Diverse portfolios

Ms Tan was an HDB scholar who studied Architecture in the National University of Singapore (NUS) — a subject she felt “balanced practicality and her love for drawing”.

She joined HDB in mid-2000 after graduating as a design architect.

“In those days, HDB used to design the flats in-house,” she says.

“After the town planners provided the parameters for the township, we were responsible for the design of the flats, the surroundings and its amenities.”

Subsequently, after that role was outsourced to external consultants, she took on a more project developmental role — much like that of a developer’s.

However, she explains: “The project development role in HDB is different from that of a private developer’s as HDB still maintains the housing estate till the end of its lease and has to consider not just building and environmental aesthetics and safety but also downstream maintenance issues.”

Built to last

Currently, Ms Tan is the deputy director of project development and management section 3 in the building quality group, which comprises architects, building managers, project managers and technical executives.

She oversees the construction of HDB’s building projects to ensure timely delivery of quality new flats, facilities and ancillary amenities.

Her current portfolio involves a wide range of works.

She is in charge of reviewing the consultants’ architectural drawings and detailing, and manages the architectural and technical aspects of the projects in the areas of safety, security, durability, ease-of-maintenance, cost, accessibility and constructability.

She also pre-screens and pre-selects some of the materials used in HDB projects and constantly keeps up with the latest trends and products to ensure the new flats are up-to-date.

Ms Tan has handled various portfolios during her 16 years in HDB. These projects have broadened her perspectives and allowed her to learn new skills and knowledge.

She has had the opportunity to work with the senior management and understand the broader policy considerations while having hands-on experience of dealing with operational issues.

Caring for the staff

In pursuing her professional qualification, HDB supported her as well as sponsored the subsequent courses required for the renewal of her practicing certificates.

During the course of her work, she has attended conferences and gone on study trips in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and France to help her keep abreast with new housing trends.

When asked what was most fulfilling about working in HDB, she says: “Singapore’s public housing has housed almost an entire nation. Today, more than one million flats have been completed in 23 towns and three estates across the island — what is really satisfying to me is having a hand in providing quality public housing, and a good and sustainable living environment for generations of Singaporeans.”

To young potential scholars, she advises: “Follow your heart and instinct. While we do not know what lies ahead, a scholarship can definitely open up more opportunities for personal growth and career development.”