Monday, March 05, 2007

Risk Assessment and Refurbishment: The Case of Ipoh Railway Station, Perak, Malaysia


Organised by: Faculty of Architecture, Planning and Surveying, University Technology MARA in Association with Management in Construction Research Association Malaysia


This paper focuses on the refurbishment project of Ipoh Railway Station as its case study including an overview of the risk assessment and its issues related to the project. As today, most people wish to preserve their heritage building and have attached them to the idea of refurbishment, more for economics reasons than reasons for historical and heritage. As a result there is a danger that refurbishment becomes thought of as synonymous with conservation. In fact refurbishment, although often embracing conservation, is much wider in scope and is thoroughly economically motivated. Refurbishment, therefore, is a very important and necessary part of the building heritage today as well as in previous centuries. This paper aims to review in detail the current conditions of the building elements of Ipoh Railway Station before the refurbishment project started by investigating at their major building elements such as foundations, walls, windows and doors, columns, first floor and mezzanine floor, roof and domes. It will also discuss and outlines some recommendations for the refurbishment work as to preserve and maintain the building facade as well as to replace and upgrade other works deemed necessary for the new look of the Ipoh Railway Station, Perak.

Keywords: risk management, risk assessment, refurbishment, historical buildings, building elements.


Referring to the Risk Management Standard (2002), risk can be defined as the combination of the probability of an event and its consequences. Meanwhile Chapman & Ward (2003) defined risk management as an uncertain event or set of circumstances that, should it occur, will have an effect on the achievement on the project’s objectives. These definitions have common understanding of risk that is an event and its consequences with the purpose of improving performance through systematic strategies named risk management plan namely risk identification, risk analysis, risk response and, risk monitoring and control. The overall of the risk management process are as follow:

The Organization’s Strategic Objectives
Risk Analysis
Risk identification
Risk description
Risk estimation
Risk Reporting
Threats and Opportunities
Risk Evaluation
Risk Treatment
Residual Risk Reporting
Formal Audit
Figure 1: The Risk Management Process. [Source: Risk Management Standard (2000)].

According to Burden (2004), refurbishment means to bring an existing building up to standard, or to make it suitable for a new use by renovations, or by installing new equipment, fixtures, furnishing and finishes. Highfield (2000) referred building refurbishment as part of repair, restoration and extension. The overall purpose of refurbishment is to extend the beneficial use of an existing building (Mansfield, 2000). According to Brochner & Holm (2000), the construction market in many developed countries is increasingly directed towards refurbishment of existing structures, which involves more work on surfaces and on building services than on the load-carrying structure itself. The principle advantages for refurbishment and re-use of an existing building rather than demolition and new construction normally gives the following financial benefits:

1. The shorter contract duration reduces the effects of inflation on building costs.
2. The shorter overall development period reduces the cost of financing the scheme.
3. The client obtains the building sooner, and therefore begins to earn revenue from it.

Meanwhile if the building which is going to be refurbished is a historical building, it could give some more advantages such as:

1.Preserving the architectural character and integrity of the building.
2. Keeping intact the sensitivity towards the past historical value and aesthetic of the building.
3. Generate income throughout heritage tourism to the country.

However, refurbishment should not be confused with conservation, although it does conserve old buildings and thus helps to preserve a continuous and evident building tradition. Refurbishment is also nothing to do with maintenance although, in the process of adapting a building element for a revised use, maintenance will have to be carried out on the existing structure. But this is a secondary component of refurbishment and should not be confused with its primary purpose. Therefore, refurbishment is a good management of the building stock of a country as we have seen enough examples of the way buildings of the past have been modified, extended and restyled to suit changing needs of the building owner.


All refurbishment projects are made up of a series of one-off problems, which have to be tackled by the project team on a largely ad-hoc basis. Basically any refurbishment project doubles the complications experienced by the project team of new building project, due to the constraints imposed by the original structure. Risk assessment is therefore, vital for refurbishment projects as the design information such as specification, duration and costs are vague and inaccurate. Risk assessment is the overall process of risk analysis and risk evaluation. The refurbishment projects usually contain technical and economic uncertainties and risks more than new building projects. According to Avramidou (2001), the repairing or reinforcing works of a building involves a risk that need to be reduced at the minimum acceptable level. Mansfield & Reyers (2000) specified that it is the nature of refurbishment projects that uses pre-determined information and very much dependent on the experts and specialist consultant and contractor. Mansfield & Reyers (2000) suggested specific risks for refurbishment projects from the commissioning agent point of view as follows:

1. No guarantee of available organization with suitable experience and expertise.
2. Too much reliance on the specialist or craftsmanship by the design team.
3. Limited availability and prohibitive cost due to the use of original and authentic materials or component.
4. Project starts with incomplete design information with assumptions.
5. Minimum statutory requirement that affect the quality of specification.

The process should start at the very beginning of refurbishment projects and should provide the client or user with sufficient information to start the refurbishment strategy. Mansfield & Reyers (2000) has conducted a research on the assessment and concluded that there is no formal approach to risk identification and analysis and the tendency to go over budget is more than any new build projects while final account always exceeds the forecasted budget. Reyers & Mansfield (2001b) came out with five clusters of risks associated with refurbishment projects i.e. design information risk, cost risk, client / briefing risk, external risk and other internal parties risk. The following table gives further details of these clusters.

Risk Cluster
Risk Descriptions
Design information risk
Inadequate completion time, incomplete site / survey information, efficiency of contractual arrangement, clarity of specification of workmanship clauses, consistency and completeness of design information.
Difficulties in providing detailed, concise and inclusive definitions of the processes which may lead to a decline in value.
Capital and Cost risk
Cost and quality procedures instigated by client, reliable cost data, inadequate fee structure, changes to funding structure, invalid estimate, cash flow decisions.
Risk in capital investment, influenced by physical deterioration of the building.
Risk from various accounting regimes, influencing the extent and timing of the work
Client / briefing risk
Vague brief, inflexible requirement, over prescriptive requirement, over or under involvement in project, limited awareness of constraints and inflexible to contractors and suppliers,
Risk of inaccurately identifying boundaries between the processes in the physical cycle of refurbishment i.e. repair, replacement and renewal.
Difficulties in identifying problems and appropriate remedial technique.
Risk of loss of architectural or historical significance of the original fabric resulting from negligence.
Risk of misunderstanding of liability such as under-insurance and failure to undertake risk management procedure.
External risk
Bureaucratic and slow approval procedures, statutory constraints and procedures, infrastructure charges, planning condition, interest rate.
Other internal parties risk
Continued occupancy during work, involvement of other consultants, reliable consultants, suitability of experience labour.
Risk from the impact of liability of the designers and contractors such as bankruptcy due to award of damages.
Risk in the team itself such as client-imposed specialists and those outside the established team
Risk of divergent aspirations and attitudes between professionals and participants
Table 1: Risk clusters and descriptions of the risks
[Sources: Reyers & Mansfield (2001b); Mansfield (2002) and Reyers (2003) ]

Furthermore, Mansfield & Reyers (2000) have provided different views of risk for refurbishment projects as follows:

1. Strict self-denial of archaeologist and self-confidence of creative architect resulted to balance of subjective judgment.
2. Wider use of skilled labour, craftsmen and specialist contractors.
3. Involvement of statutory agencies, historical associations, interests groups which lead to reduction of risk without an increase in cost as a result of good communication and procurement especially partnering.

Refurbishment of existing buildings in increasingly performed in the presence of tenants or tenant employees (Brochner & Holm, 2000). Thus, this will affect the overall planning of the project hence identified as one of the source of risk. Preparing a proper method statement in refurbishment projects helps to identify what exists on site and its condition as well as to check the original scope definition. Additionally, conducting survey to the structures of the building will enable the consultant and the contractor to know the status and the level modification needed and decide how to deal with it. For the purpose of this paper, the authors will not discuss in detail on the risk assessment activities but on the results of the identification, assessment and the method of how to respond with the situation. As such, this project uses a very simple assessment method, begins with building investigation and followed by analysis of the defects and proposed a solution in responding to the situation. However, the process should not stop here but followed by monitoring the actions and managing the feedback instead.


The Ipoh Railway Station, an architectural grandeur and pride of the city, is undergoing major refurbishment to complement Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad’s RM4.2 billion electrified double tracking project from Rawang to Ipoh. The refurbishment project started in 2002 and scheduled to complete in 2006. Once completed, it will blend the 90-year-old colonial atmosphere with the unique ultra-modern facilities. Historically, the Ipoh Railway Station was complete in 1917. The station with its “Moorish” architecture ranks second in terms of elegance after Kuala Lumpur’s landmark station (Ahmad, 1997). Both stations were designed and construct under the supervision of a government senior architect, Arthur Benson Hubback in 1914. Local sources indicate that the building was originally designed as a hospital and used as such prior to the 1900’s and its subsequent conversion to the station building. The Ipoh station is sometime referred to the “Taj Mahal” of Ipoh due to its Indian influences in architecture. The architecture of the station would be classed as a “Straits Eclectic”, which is a blend of the Indian and European styling primarily found in Malacca, Penang and Singapore (Fee, 2006).


Building investigation as defined by Spada (2002) is an examination and observation of the exterior and interior of buildings including the grounds, the structure, and the mechanical systems to determine the defects and other conditions. Before any refurbishment projects started, a building investigation has to be carried out as part of the risk assessment process, in order to obtain sufficient information about the building condition in the form of drawings, photographic records, considered opinions as well as the condition of the structure. All information gathered is compiled into a report for a further study on the conditions and method to incorporate with the new structure. Hence, the purpose of building investigation according to Watt (1999) is to identify, investigate and diagnosis of defects in existing buildings, and also to recommend for the most appropriate course of action. Various physical aspects of building investigation referring to Friedman (2000) include identifying types of building systems, looking for evidence of material deterioration and identifying combinations of movement and load effects. Apart from that, issues on safety and hazards to personnel, buildings and environment need to be considered during the whole course of the project. For this particular project, the results of the building investigations as part of the risk assessment process are shown in Table 2.

Building Elements
Building Investigations
1. Foundations
Given the age of the structure and that all construction settlement would have been complete by now, the foundations are deemed sufficient for their intended purpose of use.
2. Walls
All the exterior walls are in good repair. There are signs of effervescence on the south-west and south of the building, however, though this may be related to the paint materials used in the periodic repainting of the structure. There is some lime burns associated with birds’ nests within the main arch under the main dome. In areas where leaking is noticeable especially from the mezzanine floor and first floor bathrooms to the hotel rooms, paint peeling has occurred with noticeable mould growth present.
3. Windows and doors
All original woodwork and joinery which is believed to be dated from the time of the original construction are in good condition. The timber is sound with little to no presence of rot or infestation. Substantial checking of paintwork has occurred exposing large areas of wood. These conditions are due to the over painting of the old oil based paints with newer water based paints. The window panes are all intact with isolated broken panes. The majority of the panes are well fixed and rattle free. All doors and openings are serviceable. Internal modern door fixtures within the building require repairs specifically re-hanging and refining of fixtures.
4. Columns
Structurally the columns are considered sound. Given the method of the construction, all loads applied to the masonry are distributed through plate girder beams and therefore can be considered as uniformly distributed with no moment applied.
5. First floor and mezzanine floor
The first floor tiles in the main restaurant area are in good condition, however, there are signs of negative bending cracking moments over the beams .The majority of the tiles is in-place and uncracked with the exception of the beam line areas. The ground floor flooring is recent and tiled. Normal cracking is expected for this type of floor.
6. Roofs
The structural steel within the roof areas is in good condition. The ridge timbers and the major purlin along the major rooflines are still serviceable and show little to no sign of rot. The major purlin at the jack roof, the portion of the roof which overhangs the wall, does contain rot. The timber purlin secondary rafter and minor purlin in the gable end and hop gable are in poor condition and extensively rotted. The roof and tiles are in a sorry state of repair. Approximately 40% of the tiles are cracked, dislodged or missing. The cast iron access doors to the roof are broken with the door unit missing and doorframes partially removed.
7. Domes
The three major domes are in good condition except for one minor defect. However, there are indications of dilapidation of brickwork infill panels to the steel framework. The level of corrosion is less than 1mm and steel work would be considered to be pristine condition.
Table 2: The Result of Building Investigations. [Source: Higgs, (2000)].


The recommendations for refurbishment of Ipoh Railway Station are based on the information obtained from the previous building investigation as part of the risk assessment process. The recommendations for refurbishment works are considered as the minimal repairs to enable the building to be fit for its purpose of use. The recommendations are also based on a service life of an additional 20 years on the assumption of a regular maintenance. The following are some of the recommendations proposed for the refurbishment works on major building elements such as:

Building Elements
Proposed Recommendations
1. Foundations
Given that the foundation is in a considered good condition, no repair works is required.
2. Walls
Given that there is no debonding of the stucco finishes in the walls except for the minor areas where services have been laid and poorly repaired, the recommendations are confined to finishing and paint work.
3. Windows and doors
It is proposed that only paint re-application is required for the exterior woodwork and that the interior woodwork is subject to interior design requirements. A standard paint preparation can be applied similar to the following.
4. Columns
Given that the columns are in a considered good condition, no repair works is required except for some plastering work on defects area and paint work.
5. First floor and mezzanine floor
Given that the floors are in a considered good condition, no repair works is required. But there are two possible courses of action for the rehabilitation on the floor tiles. These are divided into complete replacement or removal and partial replacement of the floor tiles. It is estimated that removal of the existing tiles would result in only 30% of the original tiles. Matching of the old and new tiles may prove difficult. Therefore our recommendation is to remove all the existing tiles and replace with modern but similar like tiling.
6. Roofs
There are two possible courses of action for the rehabilitation on the roof. These are divided into complete replacement or removal and partial replacement of the roof. It is estimated that removal of the existing tiles would result in only 50% of the original tiles that could be re-used in the new roof. Matching of the old and new tiles may prove difficult. If this course was proceeded with then it would be recommended that the existing tiles be used on the front side of the building with the newer tiles being placed at the rear. Tuscany roof tiles are still being manufactured in Australia and Europe. Given the size of the roof, it will be reasonably economic to import sufficient tiles for a complete re-roofing. Therefore our recommendation is to remove all the existing tiles and replace with modern tiling.
7. Domes
As this structure is steel supported, the overall structural stability of the dome is not in question. However, there are indications of dilapidation of brickwork infill panels to the steel framework. We would, therefore, recommend that our repairs are concentrated towards the repair and reinstatement of the integrity of these infill panels.
8. Ceiling
Given that the ceiling is in good condition, only small cut out and replacement of planting is required. However it is recommended that in certain area, the use of suspended ceiling is necessary due to the installation of air conditioning ducting.
9. Drainage
Clean and expose existing drains and repair collapsed culvert. Re-instate the drainage system in the parking area and corridor at the front of the main building.
Table 3: Proposed Recommendations for Refurbishment. [Source: Higgs, (2000)].


As a conclusion, we can conclude that risk assessment is important during an extensive period of consultation by the project team at the early stages of any refurbishment projects. It is very critical part where the design, method of statements, specification, duration and cost are determined. Risk assessment is also a process whereby the project team can methodically address the risk attaching to their activities with the goal of achieving sustained within each activity and across the portfolio of all activities in the past, present and in particular, future. The focus of good risk assessment in this refurbishment project was on the building investigation stage as the result from it can determine the recommendations for the refurbishment works. It can be concluded from the assessment that the Ipoh Railway Station is structurally sound. The most imposing portion of the station is the Majestic Station Hotel which occupies the mezzanine and upper floors. Except for a new coat of paint, minor repairs and a change of roofing, the main structure and the facade of the heritage building would remain unchanged. The bulk of the refurbishment works would be on the platform area located behind the station building. Since the refurbishment designer’s team is to make use of the basic value in the building and with it create a new life for the ageing building, the Ipoh railway station would be maintained as it was a heritage building.


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