Pods set up in void decks to cater to requests for conducive work, study spaces

SINGAPORE – Housing estates and community spaces throughout Singapore will see more work-study pods for residents to use, if ongoing pilots in several neighborhoods show a strong uptake.

These pods, which are portable enclosed cubicles that can seat one to two, can provide a conducive and more private environment for residents to work near their homes, said Minister for National Development Desmond Lee on Sunday.

This, as hybrid and work-from-home arrangements initially brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic became established practices.

Although existing study areas in void decks continue to be well-used, Mr Lee said: “(Needs) evolve and change for students as well as working adults for more privacy, especially when they make more confidential calls or business calls.

“So these are different offerings for different needs, and we want to provide them flexibility and diversity to enable people to find the facility… that best suits them.”

He was speaking to reporters at the official launch of nine such pods in the Boon Lay ward of West Coast GRC, where he is MP.

Three pods each were installed in the void decks of Block 183C Boon Lay Avenue, Block 260 Boon Lay Drive and Block 674B Jurong West Street 65, as part of a year-long pilot lasting until the end of July next year.

The pilot – a collaboration between the Housing Board, People’s Association and pod provider Burztech – is the first involving pods installed at void decks.

Pods in ongoing pilots in Clementi, Bukit Timah and Keat Hong that were launched last November and December are in common areas of community centres, or within Residents’ Committee centres.

Mr Lee also said that housing has to reflect the broader set of needs and aspirations that Singaporeans young and old now have, indicated by trends such as the rise of co-living spaces by private operators that appeal to youths here.

He added that the Government will continue to seek feedback on housing aspirations through initiatives like the Long-Term Plan review exhibition, which ended in August, as well as the ongoing Forward Singapore exercise.

Mr Lee, who will lead discussions on the home and living environment under the “Build” pillar of the engagement exercise, also said that he will share more about the built environment, housing, home and living aspects of BuildSG, a national movement to transform the built environment sector, later this month.

The nine pods in Boon Lay, which began operation in August, are air-conditioned and soundproof, with two power sockets and Wi-Fi connectivity provided. Some 5,000 residents, including 100 students, are expected to benefit.

Burztech’s app, which is used to make bookings up to two weeks in advance and open pod doors, currently has more than 2,000 users, said co-founder Joel Leong.

The firm charges six cents a minute in Boon Lay, in a launch promotion until Oct 10, before prices rise to seven-and-a-half cents a minute.

The People’s Association said the initiative arose following residents’ requests for a quiet working space amid the pandemic and that the pods may be set up in more estates if the pilots are successful.

Among those set to benefit in Boon Lay are 25 lower-income students, who on Sunday were each given 35 hours of credit worth over $150 – sponsored by the Boon Lay Community Development and Welfare Fund – to cover their usage until December.

Mr Kevin Goh, a first-year electrical and electronics engineering diploma student at Singapore Polytechnic, is one of them.

The 21-year-old said the chirping from more than 20 birds his father, a school bus driver in his 60s, keeps as pets has been a distraction.

“There is definitely a lot of noise from my house; the TV, the birds – everything adds up together. Even if I close my bedroom door, I can still hear them,” said Mr Goh. His family includes his security officer mother, who is in her 50s, and a brother, 19, an Institute of Technical Education student.

Mr Leong said although pandemic restrictions have eased, the need for such pods remains as hybrid and work-from-home arrangements are here to stay.

Burztech is also involved in a pilot at Keat Hong Community Club, which provides the pods for free public use, with take-up rates of up to 18 hours a day. The CC’s management committee pays a fixed rate to the firm per month.

Mr Leong said Burztech is keenly awaiting the results from the Boon Lay pilot, as this is the first time users have to pay to use its pods. “Everybody wants to come when it’s free, but we don’t know what if it’s not free.”

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