The No Nonsense Guide To Plot Ratios
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Plot ratios control what you can and cannot do on any construction project. Learn how it works and how to use it to maximize your development targets
With more than 5.6 million people living in less than 730 sq. km, every square foot of space in Singapore is real estate gold.
However, pursuing development on any allotted plot is controlled by regulations that range from city planning and future visions to neighborhood requirements and existing laws.
At the center of all these development regulations is the concept of plot ratio.
Discover below what plot ratio is, how it works, and how you can understand it to make the most of any plot, real estate, or development you perform.
What is plot ratio?
Plot Ratio is a numerical value that indicates how much physical development you can perform on a given plot of land.
The value appears in the form of a number and/or decimal point, and it shows the maximum floor area allowed on that piece of land.
So, a quick look at an area’s plot ratio can show you whether the plot will hold a skyscraper or a small building in the future.
How to find a property’s plot ratio?
Determining a property’s plot ratio in Singapore is simple and easy, thanks to the URA Master Plan.
The URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) is a visual representation of the overall development plan designed for Singapore in the coming 15 years or so.
So, if you visit the URA space, you’ll find a detailed blueprint of Singapore’s urban-geographical division and a bird’s eye view of the current developmental state too.
The URA Master Plan, as it’s called, is an interactive map, which means devices that can hit peak data rates faster may be able to load the entire map faster.
Every land plot and building space is shown here through color codes and mapped division of properties (Eg. Commercial = navy blue, Park = green, etc.).
Very importantly, all available land plots will contain numeric variables that show their plot ratio.
So, you only need to zoom in and check out what plot ratio is shown on a specific land parcel to find out the allowed development for that plot.
How is plot ratio calculated in Singapore?
Plot ratio in Singapore is calculated by arriving at the gross floor area that’s allowed within a specific land area.
For instance, if a land parcel measures 1000 sqft and the government allows a maximum building-floor area of 1400 sqft, the ratio between the two values is 1:1.4.
In this case, the plot ratio for this land parcel is 1.4, which means builders can only construct enough floors within this limit regardless of what building types they design.
So, you can understand the land area as the constant value and the plot ratio as the dependent variable because the size remains the same but the gross floor area can change depending on location, neighboring buildings, type of intended construction, etc.
This value mustn’t be confused with similar concepts like aspect ratio which only shows the ratio of the length and the breadth of flat surfaces like digital screens.
How to read plot ratio?
In equation form, you can read plot ratio as Plot Ratio = Gross floor area ÷ Plot area.
All vacant plots of land shown on URA space will carry this value that indicates the floor area ratio with respect to its land size.
Plot ratios do not just show the building floor space but also come with a maximum number of storeys/floors building owners can construct.
The ratio chart below will give you an idea of how tall a building can go based on its plot ratio.
Higher than 2.8
Limit beyond 36 storeys
So, when you read plot ratios, you should also get an idea of how tall the development can go based on what footprint the building creates.
Taking the third entry in this chart as an example, land portions with a plot ratio of 2.1 can normally be over 20 storeys tall but not beyond 24.
Essentially, the higher the plot ratio value, the taller you can expect the construction to rise.
When will a property’s plot ratio be adjusted?
The Singaporean government has not revealed an exact time or date when the existing property ratios may undergo further change.
For now, the Master Plan 2019 reflected on URA space is set to regulate construction for the coming 10 years at a minimum and possibly 15 years.
So, one can reasonably expect the existing plot ratios to remain constant for the coming decade.
However, the Urban Redevelopment Authority retains the right to introduce any changes or make amendments whenever necessary.
The general impression, for now, is that plot ratios for privately held property may not change much in the near future.
For instance, a private company’s hotel development plans may stick to the current floor area ratio calculation system for some time.
So, any private residential developments in the near future may stick to the given percentage of building floor and area size as shown in the current URA plot ratios.
Can plot ratio be increased?
The current plot ratios shown in the Master Plan may be followed for the coming decade, so big changes may not happen immediately.
However, if the Singaporean authorities and bodies like URA decide to increase the values, they can make further amendments to the Master Plan for new plot ratios to take effect.
However, major increases in plot ratios are unlikely since the current plan is a medium-term vision for Singapore’s near future (10-15 years).
That said, plot ratios can certainly be increased if the government decides that it’s in the best interest of Singapore.
What is the maximum permissible plot ratio?
The maximum permissible plot ratio for buildings in Singapore can vary depending on a wide variety of factors.
For starters, the type of land category and surrounding plot-types can play a huge part in determining the maximum plot ratio of a particular area.
Two ‘business’ plots of equal size can get completely different numbers when it comes to the maximum permissible plot ratio because of existing nearby structures or their location in the master plan.
One would imagine that buildings like the Guoco Tower enjoyed the maximum permissible plot ratio at a certain time in the past.
However, even the riches sponsors or the biggest funds rate will not get you past the plot ratio limit imposed on vacant lands.
What is the plot ratio for landed properties in Singapore?
Landed property in Singapore does not have any plot ratios because their development comes under a different set of regulations.
The government lays down specific provisions, regulations, and rules that must be followed when owners of the landed property begin development.
So, there is no separate plot ratio assigned because these regulations are also incredibly detailed and in line with the city’s overall planning, requirements, and vision.
These regulations can include anything from height limits and the number of floors to individual floor heights and offsets from the concerned land’s perimeters.
What is Gross Plot Ratio (GPR)?
The Gross Plot Ratio (GPR) is the given ratio between the allowed Gross Floor Area (GFA) and the measured size of the plot in question.
The actual GPR that is feasible depends on a balance between the plot ratio shown in the Master Plan and the ground realities that pose challenges during construction.
For instance, the real GPR may decrease depending on traffic conditions, the plot’s topography, or soil conditions, even though the plot ratio indicates a higher plot ratio in the Master Plan.
What is Gross Floor Area (GFA), and how does it relate to GPR?
To determine the allowable plot ratio of a land parcel, authorities use a concept called Gross Floor Area to indicate how tall/wide the construction can be.
The authorities will express GFA in square feet, which covers how much usable space and construction space can come up in a particular plot.
The GFA is normally measured from the center of partition walls that separate rooms, buildings, etc.
Furthermore, GFAs can also include the space occupied by external walls.
This implies that the real floor area accessible by people will normally be less than the Gross Floor Area that’s allowed on paper.
What constitutes GFA in Singapore?
Singapore’s GFA is created based on the planning requirements and future targets of the city.
For any development that takes place in a land parcel, both the covered parts of the plot (through construction) and the uncovered parts that serve commercial purposes will together constitute the GFA.
Additionally, Singapore has also introduced schemes that allow increases in GFA if the construction is in line with the city’s industrial targets and green initiatives.
For instance, the Build Environment Transformation GFA scheme allows buildings to enjoy an extra 3% increase in floor area if they can meet Singapore’s Industry Transformation Map (ITM) targets.
The ITM targets include requirements that range from digitalization and productivity to sustainability and proactive construction.
This means buildings may need modern digital elements (apart from computers that merely churn out a consistent frame rate), and the construction style has to meet certain environmental standards.
Either way, these incentive schemes can add to a plot’s allowed GFA in addition to the initially agreed GFA given by the authorities.
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