Everything About the Problems Faced by Tengah BTO Residents, from Its Problematic Centralised Cooling System to Mosquito Bites


To many first-time homeowners or prospective married couples out there, a new Build-To-Order (BTO) marks a significant chapter in their life filled with new hopes and dreams of starting a family to call their own.

But what if this new place to call home was unfortunately not everything as it seemed? 

New residents of Tengah were met with disappointment as problems after problems began to arise within their first year of moving in. 

Once a forest years ago, Tengah is currently one of the few non-mature estates launched in 2018 with 3,573 BTO units. Situated in the west, it borders other mature estates like Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, and Jurong East.

It consists of five housing districts: Plantation District, Garden District, Park District, Brickland District, and Forest Hill District.

Tengah is hailed as a “smart energy town” with many green and eco-friendly features such as a centralized cooling system and electric vehicle charging ports, powered by solar PV panels.

As of 5 December 2023, around 2,019 keys out of the 3,753 units in these projects have been collected, as reported by HDB.

With non-mature estates such as Tengah, amenities and transport options will take a couple more years to be built and implemented. As such, they are sold at a relatively cheaper price compared to BTO of other mature estates to make up for potential inconveniences.

HDB also provides these residents with interim amenities as these new facilities are being built. 

Two bus services, 992 and 870, were also introduced to connect residents to transport hubs and key amenities in Bukit Batok and Jurong East, while the Jurong Region Line is expected to open in three stages from 2027 to 2029 with the first two MRT stations in Tengah targeting to open in 2027.

However, as multiple other issues continue to plague these new homeowners, from a problematic cooling system to rampant mosquitos, one would wonder if there are deeper underlying issues that may lay within the foundations of these apartment blocks.

Interim ‘Amenities’ are Not Enough

To combat the issue of not having supermarkets, eateries or convenience stores around their estates, HDB has rolled out mobile grocery trucks and vending machines to give residents access to their daily needs.

The truck operates from 3PM to 8PM on Wednesdays and Fridays weekly at the loading bay of Block 111A in Plantation Acres, and sells staples and essential items such as bread, rice, milk, fresh produce, canned and instant foods, household goods and toiletries.

On Thursdays, it is stationed at the first-storey car park near Block 133A at Plantation Grange.

It sounds convenient, but I mean, imagine craving for a nice hearty bowl of banmian with a teh-o peng from a local coffee shop but your only alternative (without getting on a vehicle, that is), is instant noodles from the mobile grocery store and green tea from the vending machine… Obviously the system leaves more to be desired. 


The first issue is the timings of these grocery trucks, residents state.

As the trucks only roll around during work hours, several working adults would not be at home to purchase their much-needed groceries. 

Moreover, it is hard for residents to get emergency items such as medicine outside of these timings. A Tengah resident has mentioned having to take an hour to purchase panadol from the nearest 24-hour convenience store for his ill wife at 4AM.

Though the grocery truck is generally met with positive reception, there are upsides to a proper supermarket that it admittedly cannot provide. 

Poor Internet Connection and Network

Residents also bemoan the poor internet connection, which is definitely imperative in this day and age with the normalisation of the work-from-home system. The first storeys of car parks are often cited as “dead zones”, and residents report only managing to receive signal in their phones after walking to main roads. 


Residents also recount instances whereby food delivery riders and private hire vehicles are unable to locate their pick-up points as the global positioning system (GPS) on online maps has not been updated.

A retiree mentioned having to try multiple times to book a ride via ride-hailing applications, only to have his ride cancelled after waiting 10 to 15 minutes as the driver was unable to pinpoint his location. 

The poor connection also affects the aforementioned vending machines, rendering them unable to accept cashless payments. 

Experts suggest that poor mobile connectivity may result from inadequate infrastructure, distance from existing cell base towers, or congestion caused by a rapid surge in users.

Telecommunication companies have highlighted the need for base stations to enhance mobile connectivity in Tengah. Access to rooftops, where these stations are located, requires prior approval from HDB.

Telco Singtel emphasised their readiness to install necessary infrastructure pending HDB approvals. Similarly, StarHub is coordinating installations with HDB’s construction schedule. M1 is also collaborating with HDB to install base stations.


Iffy Centralised Cooling Systems

When plans for the Tengah BTO were made public, several prospective buyers were attracted by the eco-friendly cooling systems installed in each unit, which was touted to be more sustainable and efficient than conventional air-conditioning. 

Unlike traditional air conditioning systems that rely on refrigerants, this cooling system removes heat by circulating chilled water from centralised chillers to homes in selected housing blocks.

As the units were being built, complaints began to arise about the rather unsightly-looking trunking that covers the cooling system pipes running across their ceilings. 

According to photos leaked by unknown sources, the trunking juts out from above the main door, cutting through the living room and into the bedrooms, making the unit appear clumsy.

Upon learning of the appearance, homeowners who have agreed to installing the cooling system were granted a 30-day “cooling-off period” for cancellation without penalty. Afterward, a 35% cancellation fee applies. After which, they can opt for the conventional air-condition system.


As of 7 June 2023, approximately 10,400 households have signed up. Less than 0.5% withdrew after the cooling-off period, citing reasons like renovation plans affecting trunking or cooling units, or a change of mind regarding air-conditioning necessity. 

Notably, some unsatisfied owners refrained from cancellation due to the substantial penalty.

When the first batch of residents moved in in October 2023 however, these systems still unfortunately fell short of expectations.

Residents claim that these systems blew hot air into their apartments despite having it set to 16 degrees celsius, and their homes continue to feel warm even after a few hours of turning it on. 

A few months later, residents also report condensation and leaking from the system, causing damage to the paint and vinyl flooring in units.

In its statement to CNA, SP Group addressed perceptions regarding issues with the centralised cooling system in Tengah, attributing them to initial feedback from residents moving in during a compressed timeline.

SP Group emphasised ongoing improvements to installation, testing, and quality assurance processes to minimise such cases in the future.

They also noted that condensation issues, not unique to the centralised system, are recognized in air-conditioning systems, citing Ministry of National Development data on average feedback cases per year.


Noise, Dust and Blocked Paths from Construction

Of course, as Tengah is still an up-and-coming non-mature estate with more amenities and units being built, residents face the common inconveniences caused by constructions

Residents of Plantation Grange, who would need to walk to Bukit Batok Road in order to access more convenient public transport options, have to walk for about 20 minutes through heat, dust and construction zones. 

At times, however, residents would find their usual paths blocked due to newly implemented construction barriers, forcing them to take abrupt detours. 

Residents also feedback dust from construction getting into their homes, causing health issues such as rashes to develop and prompting them to buy air purifiers for their units. 

To combat this, HDB revealed that its contractors have increased the frequency of washing the roads to twice weekly to mitigate the issue of dust arising from ongoing construction works.

They also instructed all construction work sites in Tengah to step up their housekeeping measures “to ensure that debris and dust from their construction activities are kept within their work sites as far as possible”. 

Mosquito Breeding Sites and Bites

For the cherry on top of this cake, most recently, residents of Tengah have reported high mosquito populations around their estate. 

In December 2023, residents claim that mosquitos have entered units via small gaps between windows and doors. A six-month-old baby’s face had been bitten to the point of her left side of her face being swollen.

The rampant mosquito breeding could be attributed to the incomplete landscaping of the non-mature estates, which can lead to water ponding whenever it rains. 

In response to media inquiries, the National Environment Agency (NEA) stated they routinely inspect nearby construction sites and remind relevant agencies to prevent mosquito breeding.

Chua Chu Kang Town Council also affirmed that mosquito eradication occurs in estates every Wednesday and Saturday. Moreover, they specified additional prevention measures near Block 133B and 133C in Tengah Garden Avenue until construction completion.

Home Sweet Home or Nightmare?

As of January 2024, issues continue to plague residents of Tengah, but efforts are also actively being made to mitigate said problems.

Dr Khor from Hong Kah North SMC acknowledged the concerns of pioneer residents in Tengah, emphasising the challenges inherent in building an entirely new estate, stating, “We ask for residents’ patience and understanding as Tengah Town is an entirely new town that is being built.”

Despite their dissatisfactions, residents remain understanding as they recognize delays in amenities due to COVID-19 constraints. After all, as long as there is a roof above their heads at the end of the day, residents are grateful.

And when their BTO’s resale value increases after the town gets more built up and buyers reap in their financial pay-off after fulfilling their minimum occupation period, I’m sure they would be even more grateful.