Pushing frontiers of eco-living in Singapore
Quality of Life Articles

Pushing frontiers of eco-living in Singapore

View of HDB flats in Singapore

High-rise greenery: Rooftop gardens in newer housing estates such as Sengkang (shown above) make the city more green, while bringing down the overall heat emissions.

For 85-year old retiree Kamalam Kurusamy, the public park located at the foot of her Woodlands Ring HDB block represents a slice of green heaven.  

“In a land-scarce country like Singapore, it’s very nice when you have little pockets of greenery like this. Listening to the birds and being around the plants take me right back to my kampong days,” she says with a toothy grin.

Previously an avid brisk walker, Kamalam has had to curtail her active lifestyle due to a hip replacement surgery three years ago which has greatly hampered her movements.  

So having a park located near her block’s premises has proved quite a hit with the grandmother of twelve who makes it a point to go for light morning walks every morning at 6am as a form of rehabilitation to get back to her active self.  

“If the park was far away, I would need someone to accompany me but since it's just below the block, all I have to do is take the lift down by myself,” she says.

“Not only do I feel independent again, I also get to exercise and keep my body fit.”

As the government goes into full gear with its plans to double high-rise greenery by the year 2030, more and more residents like Kamalam will benefit from living in sustainable urban environments across the island.

Apart from improving the quality of life for residents, this green initiative also contributes to lowering carbon footprints, encourages eco-friendly waste management practices and improves overall energy consumption levels – vital in the fight against global climate change.

The green way forward

Singapore’s push for green living can be traced back to 2009 when the Urban Redevelopment Authority launched the Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (Lush) programme – an initiative to encourage developers and building owners to integrate eco-friendly aspects within their projects.

This was reinforced with the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint in 2015, which outlined key measures for Singapore to transform into a liveable and sustainable city. This blueprint is a plan for action and provides a unique opportunity for everyone to work together to create a better environment. 

As it stands, there are approximately 100 hectares of high-rise greenery islandwide which are equal to more than 100 football fields – a sizable amount considering Singapore’s land scarce and largely built-up environment.

The government’s aim to double that to 200 hectares by the year 2030 is accelerated by measures like the Housing Development Board’s urban greenery initiatives aimed at developing innovative eco solutions on rooftops and vertical facades.

Estates around Bedok Reservoir View, Jalan Dua and Fernvale Residences have benefitted from these green initiatives which add vibrancy to the apartment blocks while also reducing overall heat emissions – a welcome reprieve in a tropical country like Singapore.

Apart from significantly reducing carbon footprints and saving on energy consumption, eco-buildings also have long-term health benefits for its occupants.

People who spent more time in sustainable buildings were less likely to experience fatigue, headache and skin irritation, according to a study conducted by the Building and Construction Authority and the National University of Singapore (NUS) last year on eight Green Mark-certified office buildings.

Green buildings that are changing the world

High-rise greenery is also creeping into Singapore skyscrapers dotting the downtown landscape.

The 40-storey CapitaGreen building is taking sustainable green living to new heights. Almost 55 per cent of the tower’s façade is covered in greenery that keeps office workers cool all day round.  A sky forest on the rooftop also serves as an energy collection point by supplying air-conditioning to the entire building via solar and wind panels.

Over at the new Marina One building located in the heart of Marina Bay area, eco-friendly architectural features create an idyllic escape amidst the hustle and bustle of city living.

Comprising four main towers surrounding a lush urban park, the mixed-use development incorporates strategically designed air vents and a sun-shading system to reduce the amount of heat absorbed into the building.

But the centrepiece of this building is the “Green Heart”, a multi-level biodiversity garden spanning 3,700 sq m and home to almost 386 species of tree and plant varieties. Set in the middle of the office towers, the space is an eco-haven for office workers and visitors hoping to find a garden in the city.

Another up-and-coming green building that looks set to turn heads is 88 Market Street, a 280m-high skyscraper located in the central business district area.

The building will feature a four storey vertical garden at the 100-metre mark of the building. Called the “Green Oasis”, it will provide people with a space to work, relax or simply take in the views of the city. There will also be a sky terrace at the top of the building that will house a restaurant alongside what is touted to be Singapore’s “highest urban farm”.

But it’s not just fancy office buildings that are going green.

Singapore’s first car-free town, Tengah Estate, is set to be a trailblazer for eco-living when it launches in the later part of 2018. Vehicles will run beneath the town centre and roads will be accompanied with walking and cycling paths.

The new estate in Jurong, similar in size to Bishan, is also called the first “Forest Town” in Singapore. Spanning over 700 hectares and sitting on a key eco-corridor linking the western part of the island to nature reserves in the central catchment area, it will tap on the surrounding greenery to fuel its energy consumption.

Made up of five housing districts – Plantation, Park, Garden, Brickland and Forest Hill –Tengah Estate will comprise 42,000 new homes, a large 20-ha central park and urban farming initiatives.

An eco-friendly city of the future

The push towards creating sustainable living spaces within the island nation represents a milestone in Singapore’s aspirations to become a model green city.

For Tan Swee Yiow, President of the Singapore Green Building Council, green buildings represent the city’s versatility in dealing with land scarcity.

“It is important for Singapore to develop in a sustainable manner, a balancing act to juggle urban challenges while maintaining a liveable environment for all citizens,” he said.

“Green buildings ensure that citizens have a liveable built environment despite the high density nature of our nation.”

Singapore’s close tie-ups with regional industry players and eco-start-ups also enables it to set standards in the global mission to combat climate change.

One good example is the International Green Building Conference 2018, which he will spearhead later this year in September.

Themed "Build Green: Build Smart. Build Communities" and into its 10th consecutive year, the conference will see the gathering of some of the best minds in the sustainable building industry from across the globe.

“The event is a prime opportunity for green building practitioners to get a holistic overview of the current state of the industry; understand the current trends, upcoming developments as well as hear from some of the exemplars of the green building movement,” he said.

Apart from improving the lives of people living in eco-friendly environments, a sustainable city also provides benefits for nature.  

A joint study by the National Parks Board (NParks) and NUS last year revealed a plethora of bird and insect species across roof gardens in Singapore. The study of 30 sites recorded an astounding 53 bird species and 57 butterfly species.

As the idea of eco-living gains momentum across the globe, Singapore’s drive to be a leading green city is well on track given the various initiatives to develop a nation of sustainable living practices.

From smart towns that can monitor and adjust energy usage to skyscrapers that are able to power buildings via natural energy, Singapore’s aspirations to be an eco-friendly capital of the world are well underway.

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