Flat Hopper

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Understanding Bay Windows and Planter Boxes

with 3 comments

This post is the first of a series of learning articles about the property market in Singapore that we as discerning homeowners should all know. In this article I will try to explain what the terms “bay window” and “planter” are in a unit layout and how they relate to the gross floor area of property .

What is a Bay Window (BW)?
A bay window refers to the projection from a room that holds a set of windows. The projection is often in the form of a rectangular ledge or alcove. We commonly call it a window seat.

Updated Bay Window - Thanks H88.com.sg!

What is a Planter (PL)?
A planter refers to the sunken area outside a room or balcony that is meant to house potted or unpotted plants. Otherwise known as a hole.

A Planter Box - Courtesy of http://www.expatchoice.com

What is Gross Floor Area (GFA) ?
According to URA, Gross Floor Area with respect to a residential unit is the total area of the covered floor space measured between from the centre of the walls (not the edge of the walls), excluding exempted areas.

Before 1 Jan 2009, the exempted areas were:

  • Bay Windows
  • Planter Boxes
  • Air-con Ledges

On 7 July 2009, URA announced changes to the GFA guidelines for bay windows and planter boxes. The ruling effectively removed Bay Windows and Planter Boxes from the exempted list which took effect from 1 Jan 2009.

Background on the URA ruling
Bay windows were originally exempted from the GFA as they were seen as raised window ledges rather than part of the floor space.

Planter boxes too were intended for residents to add greenery and relief to their homes and as such were exempted from the GFA.

For property developers these loopholes meant that they could incorporate bay windows and planter boxes to their projects at no additional development charge and could in fact charge you the home buyer for the space. As such there has been a proliferation of projects whose architecture is specifically designed around bay windows and planter boxes.

An Example of Developer Taking Advantage of the GFA Loophole

The above example of a 2 bedroom apartment shows that an outstanding 23.6% of the unit GFA is made up of bay windows and planters (even the kitchen has it)! If we include the air-con ledge into the calculations, the owner pays for 100% of the unit but only effectively get 73.4% of the usable space.

However this is an extreme example. On average, bay windows and planters take up only about 10% of a residential unit GFA. Regulations on bay windows have been relaxed such that the minimum height of the ledge is now lowered to 0.5m, which makes the ledge more usable. Some owners have also decked up the planter boxes thereby extending the space of their balconies or living rooms, however this is considered a breach of the GFA.

A Decked Up Planter Box

Why did URA change the GFA guidelines?
Basically there are 3 reasons,

  • Developers abusing the GFA and specifically designing properties around bay windows and planter boxes.
  • Homeowners decking up the planters, thereby defeating the purpose of the GFA exemption, which was to add to the greenery.
  • Extensive use of bay windows leads to higher heat transfer into buildings and increase the need for air-conditioning to cool the building. i.e. making the building less green.

How does URA’s new ruling affect me as a home owner?
By closing up the loophole, developers who have submitted their development plans after 1 Jan 2009 will have to pay development charges for bay windows and planters. In other words, they have less incentive to include these features as part of the design, which is to your benefit.

Do note that for some properties launched even now, the old GFA regulations may still apply as the developers might have submitted and got their Provisional Permit (PP) before the deadline.

So can I deck up my planter box or breakdown my bay window ledge?
I can safely say that for new properties (submitted after 1 Jan 2009), bay windows and planter boxes are part of the GFA, which means since you (and the developer) paid for it you can do whatever you want with it. You may deck up the planter boxes or breakdown the bay window ledge if its possible (there might be hidden piping or cabling). Do check with a reputable contractor or renovator what options you have available.

For approved developments with bay windows and planters exempted from the GFA, URA states that ‘these approved spaces will remain as GFA exempted until the buildings are redeveloped’.

In other words you do so at your own risk. I know for a fact that HDB Renovation Guidelines prevents changing the use of the planter box. So if you are planning to go ahead with them, please double check with your management office and renovator whether these works are allowed.


Written by L

December 12, 2009 at 8:48 am

3 Responses

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  1. Hi L, does it mean that for new properties (submitted after 1 Jan 2009), can I enclose the planter box balcony area with windows? Please advise. Thank you. Jonathan Oh

    Jonathan Oh

    April 5, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    • Hi Jonathan, if your place is a private property its best you check with your condo management. There might be concerns that it affects the consistency of the condo’s facade, so it might not be approved.


      April 20, 2010 at 12:12 pm

      • L, thanks for your advise.

        Jonathan Oh

        April 28, 2010 at 8:11 pm

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