Hong Kong homebuyers are impressed and tempted by the large size and comprehensive range of clubhouse facilities in modern residential developments. Ironically, the larger the clubhouse, the lower the living unit's efficiency, because the clubhouse area can be included in a flat's gross floor area, the quoted figure developers use in calculating the selling price per square foot for buyers. While local buyers have become accustomed to the SAR system, it is worth examining the practice in Singapore, a close competitor in the region. Loh Soo Eng, property director of Wing Tai Holdings, one of the biggest developers in Singapore, said during a recent tour by Hong Kong members of the press that clubhouses in Singapore were small, compared with those in Hong Kong developments. Another difference was that units were quoted in net floor area in Singapore instead of Hong Kong's gross area. Net floor area would be 25 to 30 per cent larger if translated into gross floor area, the standard used in Hong Kong, Mr Loh said. The clubhouse of a residential development in Singapore was relatively small because planning requirements counted all the clubhouse area into the gross floor area, forming part of the land cost. The situation was different in Hong Kong, which allowed clubhouse space to be exempt from calculation into the gross floor area in the course of development if the size of the club did not exceed 3 per cent of the total area, Mr Loh said. Therefore, developers could build a spacious and luxurious clubhouse, he said. With the exemption, developers will usually make the most out of the legal parameters to build the maximum developable space for a clubhouse, so a one million sq ft project will have a clubhouse of up to 30,000 sq ft. But the exclusion of a clubhouse from the stipulated developable space does not mean developers will exclude the space in the gross floor area when they sell the flats. They include it. The adoption of gross floor area for properties in Hong Kong has been a problem for a long time. Lack of a uniform calculation for gross floor area and loose regulations complicated by a set of exemptions or concessions for affiliated facilities to be built in a residential property put consumers' interests at risk. The system, as many industry insiders have pointed out, enables developers to inflate figures by including various shares in the common areas into unit size. The result is the floor area, or net area, that can be used by the occupants is significantly less than the quoted gross figure. At the same time, developers bank on the lower selling price per sq ft of space derived from inflated gross area as a marketing tool to lure buyers. While raising the differences in Singapore, Mr Loh stopped short of criticising the Hong Kong practice. He said that because a residential development's outdoor area would not be counted in the plot ratio, Singapore developers would make use of the outdoor area to provide exercise equipment and swimming pools for residents. Wing Tai's resort-like model for housing estates in Singapore, including Duchess Crest and Maplewoods, is an example. With outdoor water features, Duchess Crest has a 'greenery trail'. Maplewoods features rockeries, a two-storey waterfall and a landscaped swimming pool. The developer wanted to bring the concept of outdoor features to Hong Kong. Next year its locally listed USI Holdings would launch a 200,000 sq ft residential project in Castle Peak Road, near Tuen Mun, which would be based on the resort idea. However, the project's unit size probably will not be quoted in net area when it goes on sale.