With the building design in place, soil testing was carried out from 14 October 2004, so as to finalise the basement construction plans and bore piling requirements. The consultant team then proceeded with the building submissions to various authorities.
From 2 to 5 December, Ven. Shi Fa Zhao set up a grand Liang Emperor Altar for a Ground Blessing Ceremony to prepare the site and to inform the Chinatown community about the impending commencement of construction works.
A traditional Chinese perimeter wall and temporary temple mountain gate was fabricated in China and installed on the site in January 2005, as part of our Chinese New Year celebrations and the commencement of our fund raising programmes. A huge tent was built within the site to showcase the building and interior designs and for conducting various ceremonies.
The various building contracts were stringently evaluated by the building consultants team. In March, the main construction was awarded to Sato Kogyo (S) Pte. Ltd, along with other nominated contractors and suppliers. The consultant team went into full gear to lead the construction team.
The narrow site and poor soil condition of the neighbourhood required a diaphragm wall up to 25 meters deep.
The grand Ground Breaking Ceremony was held on 13 March 2005 at the site to mark the launch of the construction project. The event was officiated by Mr Chan Soo Seng, then Minister of State for Education, and attended by numerous eminent Sangha and well wishers from China, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea and Bhutan. 108 dignitaries helped to break the ground with Singapore ‘changkols’! Besides our numerous donors, we also had a large Myanmar group in attendance.
With the various building approvals and agreements finalized, the site was handed over on 15 April 2006 to Sato Kogyo, our main contractor to commence preliminary site preparations. Sato Kogyo was very quick to mobilize their crew and sub-contractors.
The adjacent streets and shophouses were carefully installed with monitoring devices to detect any soil movement to pre-empt potential problems. Unfortunately, due to the very cramped conditions at the site, Sato Kogyo had to establish their administrative office at an adjoining shophouse at 272, South Bridge Road.
By April, our BTRTM building supervision team was recruited and stationed at 293, South Bridge Road, our site and fund raising office. To reduce the construction time, a simultaneous “Top-Down” method was used.
On 17 May 2006, a blessing ceremony was conducted to initiate the construction of the diaphragm wall and our first of the massive excavation into the ground, as per our ‘top-down’ construction method.
Works progressed very rapidly and by 22 July 2006, a blessing ceremony was carried out to commence bore piling for the foundation of the building. A total of 42 bore piles were constructed. By September 2006, the bore piles underwent rigorous testing to ensure their structural integrity.
Our ‘top-down’ construction method requires the ground floor to be completed first in order to have simultaneous upper floor construction and basement excavations. So on 1 October 2006, first storey ground beam was laid in a simple blessing ceremony.
This was quickly followed on 14 October 2005 with the concreting of the first storey floor slab.
By November, the first storey floor was completed and on 26 November, first story column was raised to proceed to the next phase upwards. There were 2 gaps left on the first storey floor to serve as the access point for the excavation of soil from the basement, which commenced shortly. Numerous trucks rolled in to remove the soft soil, which was tediously scooped from the basement. We had to ventilate the basement works, whilst pumping out water whenever it rains. A hot, humid, smelly, muddy and uncomfortable place to work, credit must go to the excavation crew.
The upper floors needed a tower crane for support. Given the tight site conditions, the tower crane had to be placed within the building, a challenge for both construction crew and the crane operator. By January 2006, we commenced construction of the Mezzanine and Basement 1 floors.
Meanwhile, progress on the double volume first and mezzanine columns was rapid and on 16 February 2006, we cast the second storey floor. Thereafter, we were able to construct a floor every month with the ceremony for the third storey floor on 16 March, fourth storey floor on 11 April 2006. We also commenced basement 2 excavation, which included the challenging multi-level theatre.
On 11 May 2006, when we had the blessing ceremony for the casting of the roof floor, we witnessed five eagles soaring above the construction site during the ceremony.
By May 2006, the structural works had reached the roof level. A Topping-Up Ceremony was held on 5 June 2006. The Guest of Honor was Singapore Tourism Board’s Deputy Chairman and CEO, Mr Lim Neo Chian. Many Sangha and devotees came to support this milestone event. It was a moment of great satisfaction and pride.
By July 2006, we commenced the construction of the wood base at the five pagodas on the roof, for the Japanese roof tiles. This was followed by the laying of the roof tiles, guided by two Japanese roofing specialists. The roof tiles were laid in reverse order to the construction sequence, i.e. from roof downwards to the lower levels.
Meanwhile, the external cladding of wood features and roof tiles also progressed from the roof top downwards.
On 3 October 2006, we conducted the blessing ceremony for the final pouring of concrete at the 3rd basement floor. Thus, bringing to an end the main concrete structural works.
The bronze ornaments for the apex of the roof structures arrived in November from Matsuoka foundry, Nara, Japan. On 26 November, a consecration ceremony was held to bless these roof bronze ornaments, which were there raised and installed at their respective locations.
Floating floors at the front courtyard (above the theatre) and roof corridors (above the Sacred Buddha Tooth Relic Chamber) were installed to cut down on the noise from pedestrian traffic at these areas.
Wind Chimes were affixed at every corner of the roof edges, before the external scaffoldings were dismantled.
Tower crane was dismantled in January and the gaps in the various floors were sealed.
Special granite floor tiles from China were laid in the ground outside the temple.
For Chinese New Year 2007, we opened a small portion of the perimeter barricade at the front, so that the public can have a peep at the almost completed temple.
Originally, the TOP was targeted for January 2007, however due to difficult soil conditions at basement 3 and other construction related problems; we finally got the requisite approvals in April 2007.
On 12 April 2007, the 4 nagapuspa trees from Gangaramaya Temple, Sri Lanka was airlifted here and planted at the front entrance after a simple blessing ceremony.
A series of in-house blessing and consecration ceremonies were held at end April for 7 days, round the clock, with Sangha from China and Thailand as we prepared for the opening of the temple.
We commenced our Orientation programmes in mid April for our members, staff, volunteers and donors; as well as those from various government agencies, travel trade, grassroots organizations and IRCCs. We also distributed goody bags to the neighbourhood residents, organisations and shops to apologise for the expected congestion.
This brought us to our Grand Official Opening Ceremony was held on the eve of Vesak 2551, 30 May 2007, with President S R Nathan as our Guest of Honor. There were many local and overseas eminent Sangha, grassrrots leaders and guests. This was also held in conjunction with our first Vesak Festival Parade and carnival. The finale of the many years of hard work, tremendous support and generous donations to accomplished this exquisite monument in Chinatown.
The Sacred Buddha Tooth was finally placed at its exquisite Chinatown home for the veneration by all Buddhists; showcasing our Buddhist culture and Chinatown heritage to all the overseas visitors to Singapore.