Why Do Some HDB Flats Have Bubble Lifts?

21 November 2023 | BY

Some HDB blocks were lucky to be chosen to get these cool bubble lifts installed back in 2009.

hdb bubble lifts

Let’s be honest – the only times you would’ve paid any attention to the lift in your HDB flat is when it’s malfunctioning. After all, it’s just a piece of equipment that gets you from the ground floor to your lift lobby a few floors up. But some HDB dwellers have the privilege of having bubble lifts in their blocks that make every trip, up or down, a panoramic experience.

You might have seen some of them during your jaunts around Singapore, especially if you frequent places like Little India. And if you’re still wondering, “What is a bubble lift?”, here’s a quick guide to this architectural and design triumph from HDB.

HDB introduced bubble lifts in 2009

hdb bubble lift in jurong eastThe bubble lift in action at Jurong East.
Image credit: Google Maps

Bubble lifts in HDB flats were only introduced recently-ish in 2009 as part of HDB’s Lift Upgrading Programme. Some of the first developments that were lucky enough to be chosen include blocks along Owen Road, Jurong East Street 24, Buffalo Road, and Sims Drive. In total, around 19 HDB blocks had the honour of having the first bubble lifts in Singapore.

inside the bubble lift and view

However, unlike the glass lifts you’d have seen in many of Singapore’s shopping malls, HDB’s version of bubble lifts are a little less extravagant. The wall opposite the door of these bubble lifts has a window for passengers riding to look at the scenery outside as they ascend from the ground floor all the way to the top.

Faster & cheaper to construct than traditional shaft lifts

owen road bubble liftThe exterior lift shaft at Owen Road HDB flats.
Image credit: Google Maps

Aside from being an architectural novelty in HDB flats, other compelling reasons that helped bring these bubble lifts into reality were the fact that they are both faster and cheaper to construct compared to traditional shaft lifts.

Since a bubble lift doesn’t need a lift shaft, each development saves around 25% of the lift construction cost. It also only takes around 1 year for the bubble lift to be constructed, whereas a conventional shaft lift would require a few more months to be completed. 

Downsides to bubble lifts include constant exposure to the elements

While these bubble lifts brought a breath of fresh air to what were otherwise pretty typical HDB block designs, there were still concerns to be had. One of the main apprehensions was that if the windows were to directly face the sun, passengers in the lift would be subject to riding in a hot and warm lift just to get home. If the lift breaks down in the middle of the day, lagi worse.

little india bubble liftThe bubble lifts at Little India.
Image credit: Google Maps

The lifts, being placed on the external side of the flats, would also be exposed to external elements all the time. This means that the lifts and the shaft would have to be constructed with durable and weather-resistant materials.

Unfortunately, it seems that as time went on, these bubble lifts were phased out from more recent HDB developments as there are no records of any more that were built.

HDB bubble lifts in Singapore


This HDB lift looks nothing like the ones around your neighbourhood #hdb #tiktoksg #insingapore #exploresg #hdbs #exploresg

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Unless you live in Jurong East, Owen Road, or Little India, you might not have noticed these quirky bubble lifts going up and down a couple of specially selected HDB flats. And now that you’ve read this article, there won’t be another bubble lift that escapes your gaze. Hopefully in the future we’ll see full-glass bubble lifts in HDB flats too.

Check out other cool HDB features:

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