Singapore shows how cities and green can go together

Davey Meelker

When I was a local politician in Amsterdam, we often discussed the possibilities to make the dense city greener. It turned out that this was easier said than done. That is why the green city of Singapore made a great impression on me. Of course, it is hard to compare the modern city of Singapore with, for example,  the historical city of Amsterdam. Nevertheless, let Singapore’s green infrastructure be an inspiration to other cities.

The Asian City Green Index ranked Singapore first, leaving cities as Hong Kong and Tokyo behind. The people who are familiar with Singapore know that this is hardly a surprise. Since 1968, just after its independence, Singapore has been pushing to integrate urban development with the environment. The policymakers often refer to the city as the garden city. The cherry on the pie is the impressive project Gardens by the Bay, which will open in the end of June. But the parks were not the features of the city that made the most impression on me, it was the fact that there was much space reserved on the streets and buildings that inspired me the most. More often than not bridges and walkways are covered with flowers.  And all the streets are flanked by trees, so that you sometimes have the feeling that you are walking in a tunnel of green.

The element that I want to emphasize are the green buildings. In many cities all over the world tall buildings are being built, so why not make it green? When looking up from Singapore’s streets at the skyscrapers, one immediately notices the trees and plants on the rooftops and balconies. It is an easy gain, since there is hardly any special construction needed. But it is possible push it further.

For example the Park Royal on Pickering already earned the Green Mark Platinum score, the highest green rating of Singapore, while it is not even open yet.

At least 1.500 square metres of this unique skyscraper are dedicated to green spaces. What is the most impressive about this building are the curtains of greenery.

Two years from now the innovative Oasia Downtown will be opened (see picture on the right and below). With multiple sky gardens and vertical green the ratio of this building’s footprint to its vegetated surfaces is exceptionally high: 750%.

In the same year the construction of the 1.4 billion dollars 40 storey office building/car park will be finished (see picture on the left). An office and car park together in one building sounds like it could become an unappealing structure, but I’m looking forward to seeing this one.

Still in the developmental phase is the Scotts Tower. In this 31 story building gardens and green roofs will be established to create communal gardens high above the ground. But people don’t have to wait till those buildings are finished. Today there are many buildings that embrace the concept of vertical green. For example this building below:  just a simple building I came across. The building itself could be an insult for the eyes,  but it looks much better because of the green wall.

Or go to the famous shopping district and the rooftop of Orchard Central.

Not only on the outside of buildings, also on the inside, can green  walls be admired.

Those are just a handful of example how cities can be greener. This has not only a positive effect on the environment, but it increases the livability and the beauty of the city.  City planners and architects should all come to Singapore to be inspired by the endless possibilities to make cities greener. “No room” cannot be longer used as an excuse, since Singapore proves that even in densely populated areas lots of green can arise. When there is no space left on the ground, then go up.

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10 responses to “Singapore shows how cities and green can go together”

  1. Sven says :

    All the green in the world doesn’t compensate the fact that the city looks like a big messy (and ugly) construction site. There are no rule to protect the residents, as the working hours on construction sites are only limited by the sun and the moon, and noise pollution 24/7 is something that we all have to pay for “economic” growth aka greed. Then we have to read that only 30% of the new developments are manned and that large projects are not even 40% sold.

  2. Davey says :

    I can imagine. Although Jakarta is a nice city (at least I found it nice), it could learn from Singapore greens. Like many other cities by the way.

    ps. nice pun:)

  3. Lottie Nevin says :

    One of the big treats for us as ex pats living and working in Jakarta is when we have to go to Singapore to re-new our visas. It’s a wonderful, green city, the polar opposite of Jakarta. I wish Jakarta would take a leaf (pun intended) out of Singapores book.

  4. klagen over het weer hoort bij de inburgeringscursus says :

    As an active rooftop vegetable gardener in the Netherlands, let’s not forget that Singapore has sun and tropical warmth, whereas here the summer’s are cloudy and cold. You want green, but sometimes the best you can hope for is moss! OK, it is really hot this week, but the Dutch climate tried to fool us that way last year, too, and then the summer was really cold and wet and dark and the tomatoes all got blight and I had to make green tomato jam to avoid a total loss. Sorry! Just had to get that off my chest.

    • Sanne says :

      You sure are a real Dutch person, whoever you are…

    • Davey says :

      Hello anonymous klagen over het weer hoort bij de inburgeringscursus. You are absolutely right that the climate in Singapore is much better for growing plants than the Dutch climate. Nevertheless, waar een wil is is een weg (where there is willpower there is a way). If we already say no before we start, we will never succeed.
      Maybe it is only moss in the winter. That is already better than concrete buildings!
      The weather was in the Netherlands was terrible, but at least you will have a beautiful pentecost in the garden.

  5. jun says :

    It is remarkable that buildings incorporate green design. It will be interesting to find out if environmental cost of the raw materials used for these green buildings and the life cycle of the entire process of constructing these green buildings were consider to deem them as green buildings.

    • Davey says :

      That is an interesting addition. It is definitely something to take in consideration before claiming that a building is ‘green’.

  6. Kuno Jacobs says :

    Using green in Urban developments is crucial for tackling down the climate problems. It is indeed also beautiful and has a proven affect on people ‘s mental state. It’s good that you point out that we should have more green in the city of Amsterdam, In most cities in germany, some cities in Belgium it ‘s obligatory to use green in the façades. In cities as Chicago and Toronto developers get beneficial treatment by implementing green in façades or rooftops. So the local and
    government in the Netherlands are not using
    the potentials. However, as a architect in the making i want to warn you as a young
    ambitious politician that implementing such a rule has also far reaching consequences for designers. Because we try to integrate multiple solutions in a complex buildings task and most of the times such a façade is not the best solution. You look at what the needs are and don’t forget to convince the client, because these systems are very costly. But i can ensure you that where possible green is used more and more in buildings. Examples as used above are not eclusive any more. Since clients see the potential of using green in offices and public buildings. Wintergardens act as climate buffers and cut down energy costst, next to that they create nice interior atmospheres that create higher productivity under employees. This is one of the reasons why you will see more and more use of green in buildings and in the city in Amsterdam!

    • Davey says :

      Good point! I think I think it is about the mindset. If people want more green – not only politicians, but also the society as a whole – then there are possibilities. I gladly leave the exact kind of possibilities for architects and others who know much more about technical side.
      I like your prediction!

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