SBS supporters must have been trying to figure out how we are shaping the future now – now that we are proud of the figures in the TIMS (SBS Project Fund), which have grown to be so shapely within such a short space of time. This section gives an inside picture of the latest SBS developments in building works and financial standing.
SBS Geo-technical Consultant Dr. Soo Kian Sin continues with his report on the journey that he began in the third issue of SĀSANĀRAKKHA. Ven. Aggacitta, acting Project Manager of the Building Development Team, joins him to keep you abreast of the latest in the construction and development scene.
In the January issue of Sasanarakkha, we took a first look at the many facets of development and our achievements. Specifically, we outlined
– the engineering challenges of building development in a rugged and rolling terrain with problems such as erosion, slope stability, accessibility and logistic constraints
– the infrastructure development comprising the external and internal access roads, and the electrical and water supplies
– the facilities development, which requires suitable site selection to meet the stringent requirements of minimum disturbance to the environment and strategic location of buildings to harmonise with nature
– the lack of sufficient engineering data, which necessitated very detailed consideration of and judgement on various inter-related technical aspects.
DEVELOPMENT IN RUGGED AND ROLLING TERRAIN
Introduced by Mr. KL Khor, who sponsored the grass seeds and trained our team of volunteers, the terra-control method of seeding signal grass on steep slopes has been very successfully implemented. Now the ugly patches of exposed laterite slopes are completely covered by lush green tufts of signal grass. In a critical area (Nursery Corner), erosion control mats (EPM) were firmly fixed onto the trimmed slope through the planting of steel bars capped with reinforced concrete (r.c.). A special mixture of soil, adhesive, fertiliser and grass seeds was then plastered onto the EPM. A thick layer of signal grass now covers this slope. Eventually the concrete caps will hardly be visible.
To complement the terra-control method mentioned above, which has been effectively carried out by Ah Seng and his team of volunteers, we contracted out the task of close-turfing the slope between the Abbot’s kuti and office with cow-grass. The result was quite dramatic—instant erosion control—compared to the gradual germination and growth of signal grass seeds. We got a pleasant surprise when the contractor, Mr. Maniam, announced that he was not going to charge us any labour costs!
Bakau piling was done in several areas to stabilise the steep failed slopes. The landscaping team headed by Ms. Chen Sew Kian quickly followed up by planting flowering creepers so that now the previously exposed area of bakau piles is attractively camouflaged by a protective layer of foliage. We hope that this will improve the durability of the bakau piles, which endures better under moist conditions.
More drains have been constructed at strategic areas to prevent erosion and further slope failures. The Damage Control Team has also been more vigilant in patrolling the site during heavy rain to study water flow and to locate problem areas so that suitable remedial action can be taken promptly, e.g. clearing clogged drains, making new drains and, controlling water flow in newly-excavated areas.
The external and internal access roads have long been completed. A car park with an area of about 130 square metres was built in front of the Abbot’s office in June. Being one of the limited, large, flat areas within the hilly terrain of SBS, it has functioned as a gathering space for crowds of devotees during big occasions. This includes the Sima Declaration Ceremony on 1 July 2001, and the visit of more than 140 members of Bandar Utama Buddhist Society on 20-21 October 2001. Although not ideal in terms of capacity, it has also served as a temporary storage space for flower pots, building materials, etc.
As a goodwill gesture to the caretaker and devotees of the Tiger General Shrine at the foothill of SBS, the management committee decided to sponsor the construction of a stretch of r.c. road and pavement (totalling approximately 160 square metres) next to the shrine and along the access road to SBS. Volunteer workers and visitors often park their vehicles near the shrine, located at the fringe of the Hokkien Cemetery, when they wish to go up to SBS on foot or by 4WD.
Electricity and Telecommunication
TNB power supply was finally energised on 24 May 2001 after a long wait since the spun poles were first put up on 15 December 2000. Thanks to Ir. Low Fatt Lum, we did not have to build a sub-station, which would have cost us several thousand ringgit. Within a week of this, Telekom Malaysia fixed two sets of RILL (Radio in Local Loop) telephones. Shortly afterwards a fax machine and an internal intercom system were installed. The latter is particularly useful because of the hilly terrain.
The availability of electricity and suchlike modern facilities has made administration more convenient and efficient. At the same time, the lightning-prone situation of SBS has created endless problems for us with our electrical equipment. We are presently investigating proposals to install an extensive lightning protection system, which will set us back several thousand ringgit.
Late last year, we discovered two springs while trying to locate a suitable site for making a larger reservoir across a small stream that has been the main water source of SBS. The discovery prompted us to modify our original water treatment plans. As we no longer needed to treat the crystal clear water from the lower spring, the proposed treatment tank is now used as a sedimentation tank that feeds a lower collection tank with a capacity of over 1000 gallons. These two r.c. tanks have been fully operational since the end of June. Water from the stone-pitching reservoir built across the stream is now used for gardening and construction purposes.
By early December, five additional poly-tanks of 600-gallon capacity each were installed—three at the highest spring source and two supplementing the existing chamber-link tank below the main crossroads at SBS. Now buildings in the higher areas, e.g. Abbot’s office and kuti, existing site office, Dhamma workers’ quarters and kuti 1, are serviced by the upper spring instead of the lower spring. The lower spring tank is now used to service the facilities located below the existing site office, mainly the new kutis.
The remaining two poly-tanks connected to the chamber-link tank will be used to supplement water for construction works around the existing double-storey lower kuti, where most of Phase 3 development will take place. With a total capacity of 1200 gallons, this source can eventually service the Sangha Central Facility, library, classroom and other kutis of later phases.
By the time this issue of SĀSANĀRAKKHA is published, Phase 1 development—comprising the Abbot’s office and kuti, as well as four single kutis—would have been completed.
Since 1 August 2001, Tong Hup Engineering Sdn. Bhd. has been busily engaged in Phase 2 construction works. To date, it has completed the r.c. foundation and steel super-structure for kuti 1. By 18 November 2001, SBS’ first Kathina Ceremony, Tong Hup had completed the sima pavilion. It also successfully constructed the Dhamma workers’ quarters (DWQ) so that yogis could use it during the meditation retreat for SBS helpers in late December 2001. Initially these buildings were supposed to be constructed by Sunset Villa Sdn. Bhd., the contractor for Phase 1, but since it could not deliver as promised, we agreed to allow other interested parties to tender for the project. This resulted in Tong Hup being awarded the contract for Phase 2 construction.
Even as Phase 2 buildings are in the process of construction, Architect Jade Saw and her team are busy designing the structures for Phase 3. These include
– The Administrative Complex comprising a meeting room for the SBS Management Committee, reception area for visitors, publication room, toilet, kitchenette and storeroom
– Car porch, public toilets and storeroom near the Admin Complex
– Sangha Central Facilities comprising open as well as enclosed spaces for dyeing robes and baking alms-bowls; a sewing room, pantry, storeroom and room for a kappiyakaraka (monks’ steward)
– Sangha Library
– Classroom for 20 monks
– Bridges to cross the stream over to the pindapata trail and kutis.
Following Johnny Tay’s offer of a custom-made lava Buddha image (meditation pos-ture, 3 feet high) we selected a rocky outcrop near the NW corner of SBS site for it. The natural layout of the huge boulders seems to be waiting for a Buddha image to be seated majestically among them, overlooking SBS and the scenic valley of the Air Kuning dam. There was even a space behind the seat for the Buddha image, which was ideal for planting a sapling of the bodhi tree from Bodh Gaya. Devotees who have been asking, “Where’s the shrine?” will certainly have their question answered when they see it.
BUILDING WITH SCANT ENGINEERING DATA
This article will now focus on the basic development of a very important facility at SBS—the water sima pavilion. As the name implies, the pavilion requires a body of water over which it will sit. Therefore, a water retention structure or dam had to be con-structed to create the pond. We found the ideal site for making such a pond along the bed of a small stream located at the eastern portion of SBS. Based on the dimensions of the sima pavilion structure and the required clearance between it and the bank of the pond, we estimated that the pond should be roughly 325 square metres (equivalent to 18 metres across) in size.
The design of a dam requires careful investigation of site topography and ground conditions. However, the lack of accurate and detailed survey data and information on ground conditions here presented many uncertainties in the design work and therefore necessitated very prudent engineering judgement. To obtain the basic data for design, rough on-site measurements were carried out and elevations surveyed using survey equipment. For this reason, allowance was given for possible changes required during construction to suit site conditions.
Extensive site preparation was needed to construct the foundations for the sima (pavilion) and dam. These included ex-cavations by two back-hoes and an excavator after huge boulders that stood in the way had been blasted. A new survey was carried out after achieving the final hard, level surface suitable for supporting the sima and dam foundations. The results showed that we needed to replace our original design for an 8-foot (2438mm) high dam with an 11.5-foot (3505mm) one to give us the required pond size. Consequently, the design was modified to suit this new height.
To ensure safe and easy construction during heavy downpour, stream diversion was carried out by blasting through granite boulders upstream and channelling the water to an adjacent stream further to the east. The diversion was successfully completed with the result that little water flowed into the sima area during construction. A floodgate was later installed upstream to control flow of water into the pond.
However, during a heavy downpour in mid-September, we discovered that the sponsored floodgate was not waterproof. Attempts to firmly close the gate failed to prevent the gushing waters from flooding the dam because its outlet pipe was blocked by construction debris. Subsequently we supplemented the floodgate with a gravity weir and a spillway made of an 8-inch (200mm)-diameter pvc pipe with an elbow and adjustable section. Meanwhile Ah Leong and friends made artificial r.c. boulders to camouflage the wing wall next to the floodgate.
Two methods of work procurement were considered. Method 1 was to tender out the work to a contractor who would be fully responsible for all aspects of work including the provision of the required materials and labour to complete the work satisfactorily. A local contractor was invited to submit a quotation. Method 2 was to subcontract out the labour with SBS providing the construction materials, logistics as well as the expertise for site co-ordination and supervision. A contractor was also requested to quote for this aspect of work.
It was found that Method 1 would cost us more than double the cost of Method 2. After careful consideration of existing potential capability within the SBS team, Method 2 was adopted. The advantages of adopting Method 2 were manifold such as major cost saving, control over quality and workmanship, and expeditious construction.
Construction of the sima and dam foundations was started on 20 June 2001 by a team of workers provided by Ransang Bina. The task of supervision and co-ordination was the responsibility of SBS site supervisor Mr. Lim Eng Keat, whose major tasks were to
1. ensure that construction was carried out according to drawings and specifications
2. ensure the adequate supply of materials on time
3. serve as a vital communication link, relaying site and construction problems to the engineer so that timely decisions could be made to facilitate and expedite successful construction.
With a team of dedicated workers under proper supervision, the construction of the dam and sima foundation proceeded with minimum hitches. There were several occasions when work was extended late into the night right up to the wee hours of the morning to meet construction deadlines. Thanks to SBS volunteers Lim Poh Eng and Ooi Teow Keat, food and drinks were provided to the overtime workers.
The dam and sima foundations have been successfully completed. A water control valve was installed at the bottom of the dam to allow for water drainage so that future cleaning and maintenance work can be carried out in dry conditions.
Construction of the sima superstructure was completed by another team of dedicated workers headed by Mr. Ooi Chee Pong (site supervisor) and Mr. Kew Yoke Pin (foreman) of Tong Hup Engineering Sdn. Bhd. The sima pavilion was completed just in time for SBS’ first Kathina Ceremony on 18 November 2001. Landscaping will now follow to beautify the surroundings. It is envisaged that a waterfall will be created at the spot where the water overflows the dam and cascades down onto rock fill below.
Behind a successful endeavour, there is always a team of hard working and dedicated individuals who generously contribute their time, effort and resources. In the construction of the water sima pavilion and dam, we would like to thank those mentioned above as well as those below for a job well done.
– Ms. Jade Saw—architect of the water sima pavilion
– Ir. Tan Buck Soon and Ir. Chung Chee Tuck-structural engineers for the sima pavilion
– Ir. Ng Kim Aik, Ir. Saw Say Kee, Ir. CK Wong—engineers who assisted in the design of the dam and sima pavilion foundation
– Mr. Teh and Mr. Chang of Ransang Bina who, despite hectic commitments, provided a team of dedicated labour for the construction of the dam and sima foundation at cost
– Mr. Ah Meng who obtained the necessary permits from the authorities and skilfully executed the blasts to prepare the site for construction
– Mr. Ooi Eng Huat for sourcing a flood-gate design from Mr. Ong Seng Chuan who sponsored the floodgate
– Mr. Law Chong San of Merit Recognition who contributed the outlet valve and pipe for the dam
– Mr. Tan Guan Soon for sourcing and Ms. Teresa Jong for sponsoring belian shingles and hardwood timber materials from Sarawak
– Mr. Thomas Lim and his family and friends for arranging and sponsoring the transportation of the timber from Kuching to Taiping
– Mr. Tan Peng Khoon of Lee Yeat Plumbing Works for contributing plumbing materials.