If you build it, they will come. That was certainly the attitude of owners Gold Ridge when they decided to build Singapore’s largest integrated shopping mall and transportation hub during the economic crisis in 2008. While others were downsizing, or in some cases, shutting down all together, a massive construction project was being pieced together in Serangoon. In a brazen move by Gold Ridge, it was decided that the new shopping complex would be integrated with the existing MRT Station and an adjacent bus interchange that would span over seven floors including two underground levels and a rooftop. The complex, named ‘NEX’ for North Eastern Xchange, would see a total investment of SG$l .3 billion and would serve as an anchor driving people and businesses to the area.
The complex is certainly more than your average shopping mall. First of all, it is the largest shopping E mall in the northeastern part of Singapore and sits on a 2.498 ha site. It can be more accurately described as the shopping, dining, entertainment and transportation hub of Serangoon. In addition to its more than 600,000 sq. ft. of net Iettable area, nex will also feature a “24-hour zone” of shops open day and night, a 2000 sq. ft. rooftop dog park, more than 400 local and internationally branded specialty shops and food outlets, the Serangoon Public Library, a l0-screen Cineplex, 500-seat food court and 70,000 sq. ft. of grocery stores. Connected to the mall will be an air-conditioned 16-bay bus interchange and MRT interchange where the North East Line and the Circle Line converge, turning nex into a strategic transportation hub for the entire region. Additionally well served by the adjacent major expressways, the accessibility of the hub extends beyond its immediate site. Not one to compromise aesthetics, the NEX complex will be an eco-friendly mall adorned with lush garden enclaves and landscaped sky terraces.
In 2007, Gold Ridge had put in a tender of over SG$8 million dollars for the 2.498 ha site. In 2008, when the global financial crisis hit, Gold Ridge went ahead with their SG$l .3 billion dollar investment when others were slowing their construction cranes. In late 2008, SAA Architects and Low Keng Huat were chosen as the project’s architects and construction firm respectively and the building broke ground. Within six months, Gold Ridge was able to secure an astonishing 30 percent of its occupants and by July of 2009, 60 percent had been leased out including several notable anchor tenants. Apparently unscathed by a global economic collapse, Singapore continued to flourish while other countries fell to the wayside. In fact, in 2008, Singapore was named as one of the top 10 cement importers in the world. That was also the year that Singapore saw a record high of SG$35.7 billion dollars of construction contracts being awarded. However, due to an extremely wet climate, with an average rainfall of 2370 mm per year, builders and architects are faced with the added difficulty of waterproofing concrete structures.
Considering the scope and timing of the project, the owners knew that all precautions would have to be taken to ensure the structure would be built without any construction-related setbacks. Kryton International Inc., the pioneers of crystalline waterproofing, was chosen as the waterproofing solution.
Crystalline systems build the waterproofing directly into the concrete itself, transforming porous concrete into a permanent, waterproof barrier. When added to the concrete mix, crystalline chemicals react with the water to form millions of needle-like crystals. These crystals grow and fill the capillary pores and micro-cracks in the l concrete. As time passes and stresses form new cracks, l any incoming moisture causes the crystals to reactivate and grow until they block the incoming water – ensuring continuous waterproofing over many years.
Kryton’s flagship product, Krystol Internal Membrane or KIM, was chosen as the product of choice and Kryton’s local distributor Lee Construction provided the product. The scope and scale of the project required a product that could provide consistency and peace of mind for the owners. As KIM comes in a dry powdered admixture format that is packaged in water-soluble custom-sized bags, Low Keng Huat’s contractors were able to easily add the product to dozens of concrete ready mix trucks that would be delivering to the construction site daily. There was no surface preparation required, nor the need for other preparatory procedures. For those reasons, KIM has clear time and budget saving opportunities that the ready-mixers and construction industry professionals valued. KIM was used to waterproof a total of 10,500 cu m of concrete base slabs and walls located in both the mall and Serangoon bus exchange.
Unlike the alternative external membrane waterproofing system, there would be no need to excavate a larger building footprint. In addition, membranes are typically made from hazardous materials that are damaging to the environment and put those who are working with the material at risk. Membranes also require specialised tradesmen further complicating the construction process.
Kryton’s CEO, Kari Yuers, says she’s seen continued demand for the product from Singapore and the Asia- Pacific marketplace. Yuers says reliable customer support has been particularly valuable for Singapore builders who continue to work fast and to deadline. She adds that ready mixers dealing with specific challenges in the field can rely on Kryton’s on-site training, 24/7 online technical support and advanced concrete material laboratories around the world — making Kryton a valuable partner on their projects.
All partners in the project were pleased with the performance of Kryton’s products. Alliance Concrete Singapore, one of the two ready mix producers for the project wrote to Kryton following the completion of the project. Senior Technical Manager Gary Leow, said “It is imperative that any products incorporated into our ready mix concrete must not compromise our reputation in terms of our services and quality to our esteemed clients. Lee Construction has performed beyond our expectations in their timely schedule and support as well as your product performance?
Apart from the above, the complex’s designers, SAA Architect were also keen on incorporating a strong green focus in their design and had envisioned a “green necklace” along the exterior of the seven-level building, with the roof garden accompanied with a dog run. As with any green element, water would be the vital resource to E keep it in bloom. This coupled with the wet climate raised additional waterproofing issues. Again, Kryton’s KIM was the solution.
In late 2010, the massive shopping, transportation, entertainment and dining hub opened its doors. Seemingly immune to the global economic crisis and overcoming the challenges of the wet climate and project scale, Serangoon’s NEX can expect many profitable years to come.