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Design in Real Estate: Singapore 

Natalia Moskaleva, founder of Attitude Design Consulting
March 2023

I live in Singapore and look at properties as a design researcher. I am interested in the tools of representation - how objects can translate meanings and ideas through their form and image. I always look at buildings in this context. So I have summarised the practices used by domestic developers to show the design features of properties in the local market.

Design as a value

On the Building and Construction Authority website, you can find tons of guidelines, including architectural approaches. In one of them, Sustainable Architecture, design is claimed as a value. "Good design is not a frill or a luxury; it’s a fundamental. Good design is design that meets the genuine needs of real fleshand- blood individuals; that will prevent feelings of estrangement from one’s surroundings caused by places where the individual becomes a passenger, customer, or number". Obviously, this refers to a global design approach to the object. Let's look at this in the context of signage and branding.

Types of Housing in Singapore

Design only works in context. Our context is class and type of housing. In Singapore there are three types of residential properties:

  • Public Housing (HDB) – is managed by the state’s Housing and Development Board (HDB). Over 80% of Singapore’s population live in an HDB flat. These units are sold by the government on a 99-year and are heavily subsidised. these substantially cheaper housing options come with many restrictions. For instance, such units can only be purchased by households with an average monthly income of $7,000 to $14,000 ($16,000 for an executive condo and $21,000 if applying as a multi-generational family). Families buying must include a Singapore Citizen (SC) or Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR).

  • Public-Private Hybrid – a bigger space or better facilities than the regular HDB flat. The purchaser gets to buy a government-subsidised flat and sell it as private property in the open market when the time comes. Executive Condominiums (EC) represent this property type. The monthly income ceiling to be allowed to buy ECs is $16,000, compared to $7,000 to $14,000 for new HDB flats.

  • Private Properties – much more expensive than other types and can be divested to foreigners. Private residential properties are generally divided into two types, namely landed /houses/ and non-landed /condominiums and apartments/ residences.

    Singapore's largest property buying and renting website will tell you more about the types of housing.


We will see how these types look like. 

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Public prorerty (HDB)

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Design for Public Property:
simple and noticable

Social housing in Singapore is distinguished by large numbers on the façades and graphic decorating the walls. The numbers make it easy to identify the building number in the densely built-up area with similar facades. These are the most basic tasks of navigation design: to mark an object and make it easy to find. No branded extras. Patterns and pictures bring facades to life – and nothing else. But sometimes HDB blocks ​become a field for creativity and bursting with color. You can have a look at the most instagram worthy HDB blocks in the Timeout publication.        

Distinctive HDB:
Executive Condo is a Lexus for the price of a Toyota

Executive Condo EC units are meant for Singaporeans who can afford more than an HDB flat but find private property out of their reach. National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan gave ab analogy that an Executive Condo (EC) is like a Lexus at a Toyota Corolla price.

It's not like the typical HDB with a number on the facade. Design is involved in shaping the atmosphere here. Such property has a naming, a logotype, a motto, and a brand identity. https://ww

But design has the most important role in the third group – private property, where design is a factor of pricing and adds value. 

Condo Pinnacle @Duxton is one of the most spectacular examples of the Executive Condo here. Despite of the fact that it is HDB, we can see various approaches to design. The building has a name – Pinnacle, logotype, identity, graphic design for the territory map, and of course impressive architecture.  


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Private Property:
Design as a part of value

in the private real estate segment, design is a strong price-setting tool. the better and more expensive the design, the more expensive the property. this applies to all areas of application

The cost of renting space for living in Singapore is variable. I tried to find a three-bedroom flat in condo family flat to rent on as an experiment.

The most expensive rental property costs above 40,000 SDG per month. In the design context there is some principles which work in all category: the more expensive the building - the more sculptural the façade, the more combination of materials, and the more complex the geometry.  Here is some examples. 

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