A government contribution to sustainable urban planning may have enormous consequences in a world where over 80 percent of people live in public housing. And the effect may even be stronger because it’s a tropical world where warmth and air conditioning are a way of life.
The eco-city of Tengah, offering 42,000 new homes throughout five residential districts,-the Malay word for “middle,” while it is in the western area of the island—will be the 24th new settlement established by the government of Singapore after World War II. However, it is the first with organized ventilation, automatic garbage disposal and a car-free town center, which conservationists hope will provide a blueprint for.
Thanks to its ample greenery and public gardens, the development is being named a “forest town” by officials.
The 700-hectare (2.7-square-mile) location, previously home to brickmaking factories and then used for military training, has been reclaimed by an extensive secondary forest in recent years. Via its middle, a 328-foot-wide “corridor” would be maintained, offering protected passage to animals and linking on one side a water catchment area to a nature reserve on the other.
According to Chong Fook Loong, group director for research and planning at Singapore’s Housing and Development Board (HDB), the body overseeing the country’s public housing, the scheme has proved a tabula rasa for urban designers promoting green building concepts and ‘smart’ technologies.
In a video interview, he said, “Tengah is a clean slate,” adding that highways, parking and services are pushed under the city core. We’re aiming for the perfect notion of road isolation, (with) all underground and then the ground floor absolutely open for pedestrians—for people. So, for everybody, it’s a really secure place.
We want a community that allows walking and cycling in a very user-friendly way,”We want a town that allows walking and cycling in a very user-friendly manner,”last three to five years in particular,”taken off”taken off”last three to five years especially.”
The master plan would see the construction of charging stations for electric cars, whilst the roads are also “futureproofed” to meet new technology, Chong said.
“When we planned the road network, we envisaged a future where autonomous vehicles and self-driving vehicles will become a reality,” he said.
While relatively tiny, with a population of under 6 million citizens, the per capita emissions of Singapore are higher than those of the United Kingdom, China and neighboring Malaysia, according to the National Secretariat of Climate Change of the region.
This is partially attributed to air conditioning, which accounts for more than a third of the normal use of electricity in the home. This dependency can only be intensified by global warming. The Singapore Meteorological Service (MSS) has forecast that, during the end of this century, average daily temperatures in the city-state will be at least 34.1 degrees Celsius (93.4 degrees Fahrenheit)
As such, people may increasingly need to stay cool. Instead of demonizing air conditioning, the developers of Tengah have tried to reimagine it instead. Cold water, chilled by solar electricity, will be piped into the homes of the district, ensuring that residents may not need to build obsolete outdoor AC condensers (though they can still control the temperature in their own apartments).
This would produce carbon dioxide savings equal to driving 4,500 vehicles off the highways per year, according to the town’s electricity supplier, SP Group. The state-owned energy corporation estimates that 9 out of 10 prospective tenants have signed up for controlled cooling of the apartments already marketed in advance.
In order to simulate wind movement and heat gain throughout the region, designers used machine models to help minimize the so-called urban heat island effect (whereby human actions and infrastructure render urban areas substantially colder than the surrounding nature). In some locations, “smart” lights will switch off when public spaces are unoccupied, and trash will be centrally collected, with sensors detecting when garbage needs are required
“Instead of using a truck to collect garbage from every block, we will suck all the garbage through the pneumatic system to a chamber that serves several blocks,” Chong said. “From time to time, the (garbage) truck just needs to collect from the chamber.”
More than 70 percent of the 42,000 homes being constructed in Tengah would be made accessible on long-term leases via the HDB. Rates for two-bedroom apartments currently start at only $108,000 Singapore dollars ($82,000), with the first apartments expected to be finished in 2023.
All inhabitants will have access to an app that helps them to track their use of energy and water. (“You empower them to take control of where they can cut down their energy consumption,” Chong said.) In the meantime, interactive displays in each block can warn inhabitants of their mutual environmental effects, which, according to SP Party, may also promote rivalry amongst residential buildings.
According to Perrine Hamel, an assistant professor at the Asian School of the Environment of Nanyang Technical University, engaging citizens with their own consumption could instigate behavioural reform, regardless of whether or not the usage of smart technology would substantially dent greenhouse gas emissions. This, she added, is a crucial aspect of Singapore’s target of achieving peak emissions by 2030,
“It is also part of (achieving climate goals) thinking regarding food intake and thinking about the way we utilize air conditioning. “Changing behaviour is going to be an important part of it, and environmental planning, of course, is the first way to influence and improve behavior.”
“There are a lot of examples, from around the world, showing that changing our relationship with nature through everyday encounters does help people take environmental action,” she said. “On that front I think the biophilic design and (Tengah’s) master plan actually does a good job.”
Nevertheless, the Nature Society Singapore (NSS) has opposed the proposal to preserve very little — less than 10% — of the current forest of the site. At either end of the green corridor, the environmental community has suggested two additional “core forest areas” to encourage sustainability and defend migratory birds.
While Singapore’s Land Transport Authority has since disclosed that even more of the remaining forest—about 3 percent of the planned corridor—will be cut to make room for viaducts linking the city to a nearby expressway, the government said it is ‘refining’ its proposal based on the NSS study.
(The department said in an email to CNN that it would then replant the trees in the cleared field and establish “appropriate temporary wildlife crossings….” To provide animals with a secure passage through construction.’)
However, the eco-town has been largely supported by even Tengah’s opponents, with the NSS ending its environmental criticism by saying that it is nevertheless “heartened by this bold plan.”
It remains to be seen what these urban planning projects mean for the rest of Singapore. When Tengah was first launched in 2016, it was the first new development declared in two decades by the government of Singapore, implying that any other area was built well before the age of automated vehicles and Internet-enabled amenities.
“We try to bring all the lessons forward — whenever we can and to the best of our ability,” he said. “You look at Tengah and, in a nutshell, you’re seeing the future of what the (government) is trying to build: the future of towns.”