SINGAPORE is thirsty for water, but not to drink. Whether they live in housing board flats, luxurious condominiums or landed properties, home owners are now even keener than before to splash out on anything from potted water features and ponds to lap and dipping pools.
Architects and interior designers that BT spoke to say that the popularity of water features and pools is rising as Singaporeans, having holidayed in resorts overseas, decide they like the calming effects of water so much they want to incorporate it in their homes.
Said Eugene Ooi, founder of interior architectural design firm Vantage Design: "Singaporeans these days are becoming even more well-travelled than before, oftentimes paying top dollar to stay in 5-star resorts where water features are almost guaranteed.
"And when they do up their homes, they instantly recollect the relaxing, feel-good feeling of those visits and try to bring back a little of the magic to their homes."
Like Mr Ooi, Allan Wang, associate at architectural firm DP Architects, believes that water features and pools have been making waves here because Singaporeans want to transfer the mood of their resort stays to their homes.
Said Mr Wang: "Water features are lifestyle elements similar to cosmetic and therapeutic products. They enhance spaces, either to be superficially more attractive or to create an intimate and conducive space.
"Sounds that are evocative of calmness, like trickling water, can enhance psychological and physical well-being."
Technology has helped to heighten the attractiveness of such features.
Said Yeong Weng Fai, associate director at DP Green, a multi-disciplinary practice comprising architects, landscape architects, horticulturists and arborists: "With the latest developments in hydraulic technology, water can be manipulated to flow and move in every imaginable manner - in the form of jumping jets, cascades, dancing fonts, even flowing 'upwards', thus defying gravity!"
Aiding the popularity of water features is the proliferation of inexpensive installations, which put such fittings within the reach of the wider public.
"Water features are no longer a 'rich man's' item; anyone can install them," said Mr Wang. "They now come in a wide range of forms and sizes to suit individual needs."
This is because plant nurseries have helped to make water features more accessible to the general public, observed Mr Ooi.
"They have made available low-cost DIY water features that are easy (to install), with a fibre-glass tub, granite stones and pebbles, and a water pump," he said.
A simple Balinese pot, he said, can cost less than $100.
Most people go for DIY installations with fibre- glass containers that cost between $1,000 and $3,000 for a one-metre by 60cm feature, to customised ones of about three metres by one metre.
Still, the majority of people who decide to install water features remain landed property owners, followed by condominium residents and HDB flat owners, said Mr Wang.
"If I were to estimate, the ratio would probably be in the region of 5:3:2, respectively," he said.
Mr Wang said that lap and dipping pools are getting to be very popular in both landed homes and premium condominiums as luxury features, but not at HDB flats.
This is because landed homes and the higher-end condominiums "are built from scratch where structural provision can be catered for to accommodate the high loading capacity, compared to HDB flats where the building comes pre-fabricated for habitation", said Mr Wang.
"That is why most HDB owners will get either stand-alone ponds or potted water features since these are lighter, and the pump required is smaller and does not eat into their living space."
According to him, the cost of a basic 25m lap pool is approximately $60,000 for the pool and another $25,000 for the filtration system.
Mr Yeong said that lap pools are "designed primarily for exercise and to accommodate the tight space constraints of houses in Singapore".
"They can also double as a reflective water feature and can be made more delightful with additional water jets, fountains or cascading edges when not in use as a swimming pool."
Water features popular with non-landed home owners are the "standard DIY 'fish-pond' types where you have a square or rectangular fibre-glass tub with granite pieces to cover them so that they look natural, with a beautiful sculpture for the water to flow down to create a soothing sound", said Mr Ooi.
"The only exception would be those people with a courtyard or patio on the ground floor. Then they can be more creative and have custom-built ones."