Block 115 Commonwealth Drive is Singapore’s first Flatted Factory. Built at a cost of $1,500,000, the groundbreaking ceremony of the five-storey factory was inaugurated on 30 May 1965 by then Minister for National Development, Lim Kim San. The Flatted Factory had a gross floor area of around 240,000 square feet and comprised of 30 operating factories.
The idea of flatted factories was first mooted by the Economic Development Board (EDB) to recognise the role of light industries and their requirements. Firstly, small industrial establishments in the metal trade, shoemaking or apparel manufacturing were important sources of employment, accounting for 40% of total workforce. Secondly, these small developers were in better position than large companies in providing customised services and fulfilling orders of smaller quantities. Hence, the establishment of flatted factories provided a relatively inexpensive work accommodation at rentals within the means of small enterprises. Furthermore, the location of flatted factories within housing estates allowed for a ready supply of labour and encouraged women to enter the labour force.
Noorsia Binte Abdul Gani, 49, was an employee at an electronics factory in the Flatted Factory. She recalled, “It was very convenient for me to work here because I lived nearby at Block 82 Commonwealth Close. I could return home and prepare lunch for my children every afternoon.”
Following the success of the pilot project at Block 115 Commonwealth Drive, the Economic Development Board went on to build 38 more flatted factories across the country. Today, the First Flatted Factory at Commonwealth Drive is managed by Mapletree Investments.
Block 115 Commonwealth Drive, circa around 1970s (courtesy of James Lim)