Housing & Development Board (HDB)
Features | National development

Defining The Future Of
Singapore’s Public Housing

Did you know that simulations of lift traffic are done to determine the number of lifts installed at each lift lobby? Housing & Development Board (HDB) Undergraduate Scholar Wong Hong Yi explains how HDB makes use of Big Data Analytics and Data Science to improve the living environment for our residents.

As Singapore’s public housing authority, HDB has made it its mission to redefine public housing to improve the lives of Singaporeans. The ones who work to transform this mission into reality are part of a team of diverse, talented and dedicated staff who are united in HDB’s vision of creating world-class homes for Singaporeans. While HDB’s building research specialists drive R&D efforts towards ground-breaking technologies and sustainable building solutions, its estate management professionals roll out new policies and review existing ones to benefit broader segments of society. The planners, engineers and architects, on the other hand, continue to revitalise our older estates and towns through a host of renewal and upgrading programmes and develop new estates to meet the growing demands of our population.

We speak to Hong Yi, 26, an HDB Undergraduate Scholar and Senior engineer, to find out more about his job and how he plays a part in shaping the future of public housing.

What motivated you to take up the HDB Undergraduate Scholarship?

Wong Hong Yi: Mathematics and physics have always intrigued me while I was in school. Coupled with my interest in experimentation and devising solutions, an education and career in engineering was a natural path for me to take. As a student fresh out of JC then, I was looking out for an opportunity to pursue my interest in engineering at a reputable college. The HDB Scholarship offered me just that. Besides, where else can you get to personally shape the future of public housing?

How have you grown during your HDB scholarship journey?

Hong Yi: I was able to get the most out of my university education with HDB’s support. One way that HDB guides its scholars' personal and professional development is through its mentorship programme. It is always helpful to have someone in the trade provide you with advice, especially when HDB takes the effort to match each scholar with a mentor who has a similar educational background.

Wong Hong Yi
HDB Undergraduate Scholar

Designation: Senior Engineer,
Building Safety & Resources Department,
Building & Infrastructure Group

Qualifications: Master of Engineering (Systems Engineering),
Cornell University, US

Bachelor of Engineering
(Electrical and Electronic Engineering),
Imperial College London, UK

Length of Service: 2 years

After my first year of studies at Imperial College in the UK, I returned to HDB for my vacation attachment and spent 10 weeks with my current department (the Building & Safety Resources Department). It was eye-opening looking at what goes on behind the scenes. I also experienced HDB’s culture first-hand through the induction and dialogue sessions organised for us. The early exposure to work at HDB helped me adapt quickly to the environment after graduation.

My subsequent years of study were also spent learning about a multitude of subject matters in diverse settings. Under HDB’s sponsorship, I had the opportunity to participate in a summer exchange programme to Fudan University during the summer break of my second year of studies at Imperial College. During my time in China, I learnt much about the Chinese way of life and business conduct and was sponsored to attend the Green Building Conference in San Francisco. The following year, I relocated from London to the US to pursue my Master’s degree at another renowned school – Cornell University. These opportunities have provided me with a breadth of experience, as well as a depth of knowledge.

Tell us more about your current role and your various responsibilities.

Hong Yi: My work in the Building Safety & Resources Department involves providing professional advice and technical management services for lifts and electrical and telecommunication services nationwide.

Being a relatively new staff, I felt privileged to be selected to represent HDB for an inter-agency study aimed at improving telecommunication reception in new HDB estates. I was also the overall lead for a study exploring alternatives to the current methodology used for lift provision. At the end of the study, we adopted a better approach that made use of the Monte-Carlo simulation, a computerised mathematical technique, to analyse complex lift traffic. We are refining this new methodology for large-scale implementation in our new estates.

Why are these services important for HDB residents and how is HDB looking to optimise them?

Hong Yi: Lifts are essential for mobility in our HDB estates, given the increasing number of high-rise dwellings. The same goes for telecommunication services, especially when you consider the high market penetration of mobile internet services in Singapore.

"...the world is full of opportunities. Take the time to find out what you really want to do and why you want to do it. For me, I was looking to make an impact on the lives of our population"

As HDB’s newly-designed buildings get taller and more sophisticated, the current methodology used for lift provision may not be as accurate and representative – hence our use of the Monte-Carlo simulation. More lifts will need to be provided in the estates to cater for the higher traffic for each building, and these lift systems must be robust to withstand considerable stresses as they continually carry residents from floor to floor.

We have thus looked to Data Science and Big Data Analytics to collate and analyse our environmental data and predict future trends in order to make informed decisions. We also conduct ground reviews and continually make improvements so that our residents can look forward to more efficient lifts and enhanced telecommunication reception in their homes.

What advice do you have for aspiring HDB Undergraduate Scholars?

Hong Yi: The scholarship selection process is challenging. For those of you who aspire to become HDB Scholars, it would be useful to stay updated on current affairs, especially with regard to housing issues – I cannot stress this enough. Also, be sure to form good, educated opinions and be prepared to share and explain your viewpoints on current topics during the scholarship interview.

Most importantly, do remember that the world is full of opportunities. Take the time to find out what you really want to do and why you want to do it. For me, I was looking to make an impact on the lives of our population and have a personal stake in defining our skyline. If you share my passion, the HDB Scholarship is the choice for you!