Singapore Shophouse

Shophouses first appeared in Singapore when the Town Plan of Sir Stamford Raffles dictated the subdivision of the land into smaller regular lots. They were narrow, long terrace houses with varied facades, creating an attractive unified streetscape. The shophouse was built to be flexible, either to be used entirely as a home, or a home upstairs with a shop downstairs. It can be thought of as the original
‘home office’!

What are shophouses?

They were built by Singapore’s pioneers and showcased the many cultural influences of the early builders who bought land from the East India Company. They were built for sale or rented to new immigrants seeking their fortunes. From the 1840s to the 1960s, shophouses moved through many different styles, from the Early and Late Shophouse to the Art Deco and Modern Shophouse. These traced Singapore’s evolution from a trading port into a city as they moved from their glorious early days to a deteriorated congested state.With the conservation efforts of owners, many of them have been rejuvenated today.

The conservation guidelines for shophouses and terrace houses relate to the key elements of the typology of the building. Constructed between 1840 and 1960, these simple buildings are two- to three-storeys high, built in contiguous blocks with common party walls.The design and material of the shophouses and terrace houses vary according to the architectural style of the building. Singapore shophouses fall into six styles.

They are the Early Shophouse, the First Transitional Shophouse, the Late Shophouse, the Second Transitional Shophouse, the Art DecoShophouse and the Modern Shophouse

Key Elements

The quality restoration of a shophouse requires an appreciation and understanding of the architecture of the building. The key elements that need to be respected in the restoration of a typical shophouse are:

Typical Shophouse

Typical Shophouse



Key Elements of the ShophousesDescription
Party WallsThese are principle load bearing walls that separate a shophouse from its neighbouring shophouse.
Timber Structural MembersThis refers to the main and secondary timber beams, that span from one party wall to the other and supports each floor. .It also includes the timber floor boards, and timber rafters that support the roof.
AirwellsAirwells are courtyards that are exposed to the sky, they provide natural ventilation and lighting to the interior of the shophouse They facilitate a comfortable indoor environment in our tropical climate.
Rear CourtAn open courtyard located at the back of the shophouse. It is bounded by the rear boundary wall, service block, rear elevation of the main shophouse and the party wall. This area was traditionally used for functional needs such as the kitchen and the toilet.
Timber WindowsTimber framed windows that are designed in the French or Casement style. Some have solid infill panels while others will have operable timber shutters/jalousies to allow for air and light.
Timber StaircaseThis refers to the staircase inside the shophouse, which are often of timber structural construction In some houses, the timber balustrades can be of ornate design.
Front FacadeThe front ‘face’ of the house that faces the street. Facades from different architectural eras will have different aesthetic approaches.
The Upper FloorThis projects over the five-footway to form a covered pedestrian arcade.
The ColumnsLocated at the front of the building. They support the upper floors and form five-foot way colonnades.
The Five-FootwayThis provides pedestrians with a sheltered environment for passage away from the hot sun and torrential rain. This feature was mandated by Raffles since the first Town Plan for Singapore.
The RoofThe roof is usually of a ‘pitched’ construction on a timber structural frame and laid with natural coloured, unglazed V-profile terracotta roof tiles. Shophouses from the 1900s onwards tend to use natural coloured, unglazed flat-interlocking tiles (also commonly called ‘Marseilles’ tiles).

Conserved Shophouse
Part of a Shophouse
The Upper Storey Shophouse
The First Storey Shop house
Special Finishes Shophouse
Decorative Features Shophouse
Five Foot Way Shophouse
Five Foot Way Shophouse

Shophouse Signage

What should I do if I want to put up a new sign on my shophouse?

1)The allowable locations for a new sign.

2)Submit an application to the Advertisement Licensing Department of BCA, who will internally refer your application to URA for clearance. Alternatively, you can submit and obtain URA’s clearance through email or in person via Signage Premium Service before you submit an application to the Advertisement Licensing Department of BCA .

3) Put up the new sign only after approval has been obtained. What happens if there is no approval for my sign? You will be required to remove signs which cover key architectural or decorative features. Application to BCA An application for a licence can be submitted online via the Advertisement Licensing System (ALS) website.

Application to URA via Signage Premium Service An application to URA for Conservation Permission can be submitted through email.

Signage Premium Service Conservation Department 12th Storey, The URA Centre 45 Maxwell Road If an application made through Signage Premium Service complies fully with the signage guidelines, on-the-spot approval will be given More details on submission requirements are available online.

Traditional Building Signs of a Shophouse
Allowable Location For Signs For Shophouse
Allowable Location For Signs For Shophouse

Shophouse Awnings / Air-Conditioning Unit

Submission Procedure

What should I do if I want to install awning or air-conditioning unit on my conserved shop house?

1) The allowable locations for awning and air-conditioning unit. 2) Submit and obtain clearance from URA. 3) Install the awning or air-conditioning unit after approval has been obtained.

What happens if there is no approval for my air-conditioning unit / awning?

You will be required to remove awning or air-conditioning units which cover key architectural or decorative features.

Application to URA

An application to URA can be submitted online via the “Apply for Repairs and Maintenance Works for Conserved Buildings e-Service”. 

ShopHouse Awnings
ShopHouse Air Conditioning Units

Shophouse for Painting Works

Painting of Premises

Owners are encouraged to use a compatible colour scheme that complements its heritage character and highlights the features of the building. For buildings with special finishes and/or ornaments, they should not be painted over. If these special features are painted over, you will be required to remove the paintwork.

Buildings with Colour Controls

Some buildings are characterised by their colour scheme – • Gedung Kuning (Yellow House), 73 Sultan Gate • Red House, 75 East Coast Rd • Black-&-White Bungalows The same colour shall be used in repainting these buildings.

Special Colour Schemes for Streets or Precincts

Special colour schemes based on good conservation practice can be adopted for conserved buildings in a street or precinct if there is collective agreement between owners. Such proposals can be submitted to URA .

Shophouse Building Colours and Paint
Shophouse Building Colours & Paint
Shophouse Mural Art

Shophouse Addition and Alteration Works

How do I know if my works are considered Repair & Maintenance or Addition & Alteration Works?

Repair and Maintenance Works are minimal and localised, and do not alter the structure or appearance of the conserved buildings. Building works classified under Repair and Maintenance Works do not require submission by a registered architect or professional engineer. The submission can be made by owners or their contractors Examples of Repair & Maintenance works: • ‘One-for-one’ replacement of damaged roof tiles, door or window • Change in material of five-footway tiles • Installation of awnings • Installation of air-conditioning units To make a submission for Repair & Maintenance works. Additions & Alterations (A&A) works affect key elements of conserved buildings. They may involve major structural works and have a significant impact on the heritage appearance, architectural character and spatial integrity of the conserved building. Building works classified under A&A Works must be submitted by a Registered Architect and Professional Engineer (if structural works are involved) Examples of A&A works: • Restoration of roof profile, pitch & height • Addition of skylight or mezzanine floor • Restoration of architectural features such as windows, doors and original decorative features.


Shophouse Signage Guideline

Building signs have many functions. They add interest and character to a building particularly if it is designated as part of a conservation area.

Traditional Signs in Conservation Area

Traditional signs are an important part of the historical, architectural and visual environment in conservation areas. They often tell the history of the building and of the wider community. When well made, they can also be works of art.

For individual business signs, they often take the form of carved timber panels with gold-painted Chinese characters sometimes combined with English translations that are hung above doorways. Other buildings have letterings/characters formed in plaster/masonry relief as part of the main façade design. There are also those that are painted onto timber boards or metal panels. The degree of embellishment can vary. Traditional signs are not self-illuminating.

The owners have to retain existing traditional signs that have acquired architectural and historical significance. For example, plaster/masonry relief signs on the outer face of columns, beams, friezes and pediments. They are part of the cultural history of the building and cannot be removed.

However, they can be covered over with a new sign panel, if necessary, without damaging the original plaster/masonry reliefs. The original building date on the facade cannot be removed, replaced or covered over.

Contemporary Signs in Conservation Areas

They are usually made of plastic, with characters formed in contrasting colours, and are self-illuminating. Some contemporary signs include painted metal panels and cloth banners to publicise events or promote sales. There are also signs that are made of cut-out metal characters that are mounted against the façade.

Business Signs in Conservation Areas

We control the location and size of business signages within conservation areas. For advertising purposes, business signs incorporating small advertisements and small independent advertisement signs can be allowed.

They are useful, interesting and attractive if they are tastefully designed, and compatible with the character of the building and streetscape.

They also have to be carefully positioned. They should be clear and easy to read from the street level and should not visually dominate the building. It is important to ensure they do not cover or block any key architectural features nor cause obstruction or danger to the public

A sensitively planned and designed business sign will complement a building’s heritage. However, the incorrect use of signage can compromise the character and unity of a building and its setting.

Business sign have to comply with the requirements of the relevant technical departments. Variations can be considered on a case-by-case basis.

What is the difference between “Business Sign” and “Advertisment Signs”?

In general, only business signs are allowed on conserved buildings. Advertisment signs are not allowed on conserved buildings unless the buildings are along a designated advertising route.

A ‘business sign’ is one that shows:

  • the identity or a description of the place or premises;
  • the identity or a description of any person residing or carrying on an occupation at the place or premises;
  • The particulars of any business or occupation carried on at the place or premises, including any logo or symbol that identifies the business or occupation;

An ‘advertisement sign’ is one that promotes any of the following:

  • goods
  • brand of products
  • services or events

Advertisement signs also include any logo, symbol, sign, notice or representation, unrelated to the main operations of the subject building. For example, a sign that promotes a beverage while the conserved building is occupied by an office that does not carry out F&B business.

Guidelines on Application Process for Signage Clearance

You need to submit 3 sets of A3-size drawings showing details of the location, size and intended message of your proposed signboards to:

The Conservation Department, URA, 12th Storey, The URA Centre, 45 Maxwell Road, Singapore 069118

The details have to be on a scale of 1:20. The submission must be signed, and include your name, address and telephone number. For the online service, you should attach your A3 drawings either in jpg or gif format .

Under the normal procedure and online service, we will evaluate your application based on the signage guidelines. URA will issue Conservation Permission if it complies  with the guidelines and return two sets of A3 drawings. If it does not comply with the guidelines, URA will issue you a written direction. You will then be required to resubmit your proposal in compliance with the guidelines.

For the premium service, URA evaluate your application based on the signage guidelines on-the-spot. URA will release Conservation Permission if it complies with the guidelines through endorsement of the submitted drawings. If minor changes are needed, you can change the drawings immediately and URA will release Conservation Permission.

If your application does not follow the signage guidelines, URA will issue a Written Direction and you will have to resubmit your proposal in compliance to it.

Under the normal procedure and online service, you can expect a decision within 3 weeks. For the premium service, approval is immediate.

Apply for Conservation Signage

You have to obtain Conservation Permission from URA before you can apply for a licence to display signs on your conserved building.

After you have obtained Conservation Permission, you should submit your signage proposals within Conservation Areas (except for premium service) to:

  • Building & Construction Authority Advertisement Licensing Department
  • Building & Construction Authority e-services

Premium service for signage proposals is available at The URA Centre. A fee of $41.20 (inclusive of GST)  payable by cash, cashcard or NETS,  will be charged and the submission is processed on-the-spot.

No fee will be charged if you make your application normally or through the online service.

This premium service is only available for proposals that comply fully with the signage guidelines. For proposals that depart from the signage guidelines, you should submit your application normally or through the online service.

Guidelines For Outdoor Signs Outside The Central Area


This circular provides details on the guidelines for the display of outdoor signboards and advertisement signs located outside the Central Area. The Guidelines are intended to strike a balance between safeguarding our streetscape from visual clutter and meeting the commercial needs of businesses for advertising space at appropriate locations outside the Central Area.

Details of Guidelines


In response to the feedback from the industry, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has developed a set of more comprehensive guidelines for outdoor signboards and advertisement signs located outside the Central Area. The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will adopt this set of guidelines when granting licenses for outdoor signage. The aim of the guidelines is to provide clearer requirements on the locations, size and height, as well as the form of signs that can be allowed outside the Central Area. Apart from providing greater clarity and transparency, the Guidelines are intended to strike a balance between safeguarding our streetscape from visual clutter and meeting the commercial needs of businesses for advertising space at appropriate locations outside the Central Area.

Guidenlines for Outdoor Signs Outside the Central Area

Advertisement Signs

An advertisement sign refers to any sign used to promote any brand, product, service or event and includes any temporary sign promoting events or activities in the displayed premises for a period of less than 2 months. The display of advertisement signs on the following type of buildings is subject to the guidelines as summarized below.

Buildings Approved for Commercial and Industrial Uses

Advertisement signs will continue to be allowed on the building walls of all commercial and industrial buildings located outside the Central Area, subject to the following conditions:

  1. the aggregate area of all advertisement signs does not exceed 100 sqm per frontage, or 50% of the surface area of the wall as measured up to 30m above the ground level, whichever is smaller; and
  2. the top edge of all advertisement signs does not exceed the height of commercial and/or industrial floors, or 30m above the ground level, whichever is lower.

Buildings Approved for Institutional, Sports & Recreation, Health & Medical Care, Bus Terminal/Interchange, MRT/LRT Station Uses

Buildings approved for civic and community, sports and recreation, health & medical care and education purposes, bus terminals/interchanges and MRT/LRT stations are allowed to display temporary signs promoting events and activities taking place at these premises. However, advertisement signs promoting any goods and services are not allowed at these premises, except on the building walls of approved commercial space within bus terminals/interchanges and MRT/LRT stations.

Petrol Stations

No advertisement signs are permitted within the premises of a petrol station, except for temporary signs promoting events and activities taking place at the premises, and goods and services that are available at the petrol station. Such temporary signs can be displayed on the building walls and/or structures (e.g. pumps, pillars) within the pumping area under the canopy. However, no sign shall be hung from the roof/ceiling of the canopy or protrude beyond the building wall.

Buildings Approved for Utility, Agriculture-related, MRT/Bus Depot, Residential Uses

No advertisement signs are permitted at these premises.

Free-standing Advertisement Signs

No free-standing advertisement signs are permitted at any premises, except for temporary free-standing signs promoting community events and activities taking place at buildings approved for civic and community, sports and recreation, health & medical care and education purposes.

The guidelines also specify the controls / requirements for the display of other forms of outdoor advertisement signs which include:

  1. Advertisement signs on lamp posts
  2. Marketing signs at construction sites
  3. Real estate signs (for the sale or lease of a property / building or land)
  4. Advertisement signs on balloons
  5. Signs on awnings, canopies and blinds
  6. Advertisements on digital screens (e.g. LED, LCD screen)


A signboard refers to any sign for the identification and naming of places, buildings and tenant business names. Signboards will continue to be allowed on all buildings, subject to compliance with specific requirements on size, height and form.

More details call URA enquiry line.

Prohibited Signs

The current list of prohibited signs has been retained with updates to make the list clearer and more comprehensive. The aim of having the prohibition list is to ensure that these undesirable signs do not mar our streetscape and negatively affect the image of Singapore as an attractive city. The prohibited signs are applicable to locations both outside and within the Central Area.

Transition Period for Implementation Guideline

The new guidelines shall apply with immediate effect to all license applications received by BCA on or after 14 September 2009 for display of new signboards and advertisement signs located outside the Central Area. However, to give owners of existing signs sufficient time to make changes to their signs to comply with the new guidelines, the licenses for existing signboards and advertisement signs will be allowed one renewal for a maximum period of 12 months even if these existing signs do not comply with the new guidelines, provided that they meet the following requirements:

  1. The existing sign has a valid license expiring on or before 13 March 2010; and
  2. The application for license renewal for the existing sign must be received by BCA on or before 20 March 2010.

Submission Requirements

Planning permission from URA is not required for putting up outdoor signboards and advertisement signs. Applications to display these signs are to be made to Advertisement Licensing Department, Building and Construction Authority (BCA), prior to the installation of the signs. For any signs located on gazetted conservation buildings or National Monuments, clearance from Conservation Department, URA is also required before applications are made to BCA.

Submissions must be made in full compliance with the provisions of the Building Control (Advertisement) Regulations, the Building Control (Temporary Buildings) Regulations and the Guidelines for Outdoor Signs outside the Central Area. Please refer to BCA’s Website for the details of submission requirements.

BCA, URA and the relevant Government agencies reserve the right, in their absolute discretion, to reject or refuse any application for the display of an outdoor sign where it considers the overall objectives of the Guidelines are not met or where the proposal is contrary to the broader objectives of the planning intention for the area.

Please convey the contents of this circular to the relevant members of your organization. The same set of guidelines is also available at BCA’s Website. If you or your members have any enquiry concerning this circular.


Building / Estate Naming

Introduction to Building / Estate Naming

Owners/developers who wish to name their buildings/estates need to apply for approval from the Street and Building Names Board (SBNB). The purpose of the application is to ensure that only one name can be allowed for a development and it will not duplicate a name that is already in existence so that there is clarity in the identification of the building/estate. The following buildings / estates come under the purview of the SBNB and will require naming approval:

  • Residential buildings
  • Commercial buildings
  • Industrial buildings
  • Mixed-use developments (Definition: A development with two or more approved uses listed in this section)
  • Theme parks
  • Museums
  • Arts venues
  • Stadiums
  • Building used for community service / activity
  • Hospitals and healthcare facilities

The following building / estates do not come under the purview of SBNB and hence will not require approval from SBNB.

  • Places of worship
  • Educational Institutions
  • Hotels
  • Golf & Recreation clubs
  • Sports and recreation facilities (except stadiums)
  • Shophouse developments with less than five units
  • Residential developments with less than five units

The function of naming the following types of buildings has been delegated to the respective agencies:

Not Under SBNB Purview:

  • Educational Institutions – Approval needed from Ministry of Education
  • Hotels – Approval needed from Hotel Licensing Board
  • Sports and Recreation Facilities (Excluding Stadiums) Undertake or overseen by SSC – Approval Singapore Sport Council.

Guidelines on Buildinging / Estate Naming

SBNB evaluates all proposals against naming guidelines and principles to ensure that names are appropriate in the context of what the building is, where it is located, and what it is used for. Some of the key guidelines include: A good name

  1. Fit the location and environment of the development
  2. Fit the size and type of the development
  3. Avoid confusion with another development in another part of Singapore
  4. Retain the history of the building or the area
  5. Names should be unique
  6. Names should be kept reasonably short and easy to pronounce, spell and remember

Names to avoid

  1. Names that contain specific claims
  2. Names which infringe on the trade names or trademarks of other parties
  3. Names which may be deemed controversial or offensive
  4. Names of persons, living or dead, unless for special reasons
  5. Names of national institutions/symbols, public office and international organisations such as Singapore, National, Raffles, Merlion, ASEAN, APEC or Temasek

We encourage all applicants to read through the detailed naming principles and guidelines in the Handbook on Guidelines for Naming of Buildings and Estates below.

General Information on Building / Estate Naming

You need to seek approval if you want to name or re-name buildings and estates. You will have to submit an application on-line to SBNB for approval. Only the owner can name the building / estate. The owner may appoint a representative (eg. architect) to submit the proposed names for the building or estate on his behalf, with the owner’s authorisation letter. You may submit your application any time from the submission of a development application to the grant of written permission for the development. A maximum of 3 proposed building / estates names can be allowed. You will need to provide reasons for supporting the proposed names. Applications take 4 to 6 weeks to process, and are approved by the Street and Building Names Board (SBNB). The application is free of charge.

Documents required for Application for Building / Estate Name

The submission requirements for applying for a building name

  1. The proposed building names and the reasons for the proposed names;
  2. Either the Development Application Transaction Reference number granted by URA or the house number;
  3. Owner’s authorisation letter if you are not the owner;
  4. Any other documents to support your proposed names.

The submission requirements for applying for an estate name

  1. The proposed estate names and the reasons.
  2. A location and a site plan showing clearly the number of buildings within the estate and the boundary of the estate;
  3. Owner’s authorisation letter if you are not the owner;
  4. Any other documents to support your proposed names

Documents to be enclosed (where applicable): a. Location Plan

A plan showing the estate to be named (edged in RED) and it’s surrounding plots.

b. Site Plan

A plan showing the layout of the buildings within the estate to be named.

c. Owner’s Authorisation Letter

Application made by appointed representative (eg. architect) on behalf of the Developer/Owner must be accompanied by owner’s authorisation letter.

d. AGM/EGM resolution (MCST submission)

Application made by Management Corporations must be accompanied by the relevant extract of the minutes of meeting (AGM/EGM) containing a resolution on the naming/renaming proposal.

e. Certificate of House Numbering

Application for a new development where the proposed building name contains the house number and/or the road name, e.g. 1 Adam Road, must be accompanied by the Certificate of Housing Numbering issued by Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.

f. No Objection Letter from MND (HDB submission)

Application made by HDB must be accompanied by a letter of no objection from Ministry of National Development on the proposed name.

g. No Objection Letter from Preservation Monument Board

Application made to name/rename a building gazetted as a national monument must be accompanied by a letter of no objection from Preservation Monument Board on the proposed name.

h. No Objection Letter from SLA

Application made by the tenant/licensee of a State property must be accompanied by a letter of no objection from Singapore Land Authority (SLA) on the proposed name.

i. No Objection Letter from building owner (Tenant submission)

Application where a tenant of a building has been given the naming rights to a building must be accompanied by a letter of no objection from the building owner on the proposed name.

j. Clearance from Ministry of Health

For Building names that contain certain terms such as “hospital”, “medical clinic”, “dental clinic”, “medical centre”, “dental centre”, “medical surgery”, “dental surgery”, “clinical laboratory”, “medical laboratory”, “healthcare establishment” or any other term or name to imply similarity to the practices and premises of a private hospital, medical clinic, clinical laboratory or healthcare establishment, applicants are to obtain clearance from Ministry of Health at [email protected] and address to : Manager (Licensing) Licensing, Inspection and Audit Branch Regulatory Compliance & Enforcement Division Ministry of Health

Apply for Builidng / Estate Name

Before you apply You can Search for Building/Estate Name to check whether the proposed name is a duplicate name. To apply for a new building/estate name, use: Apply for New Building/Estate Name e-Service You may also change or withdraw the name of a building/estate, using: Apply for Change of Building/Estate Name e-Service Apply for Withdrawal of Building/Estate Name e-Service To check the status of your application, use the: Check Application Status e-Service.
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