Singapore: Hot Spot
Designers in South East Asia must draw on a strong regional sensitivity that harnesses nature
Singapore’s Prime Minister declared war against climate change in 2019, so great is the threat to the existence nation. Around 30% of the Lion City is less than five metres above sea level and with temperatures predicted to soar to 40°C by 2045, the surrounding waters could rise a metre higher by 2100. The top 10 hottest years in Singapore since 1950 all occurred within the last 22 years. Flash floods, drought, wildfires, toxic haze and water rationing are expected consequences, along with air-borne diseases, heat-related illnesses, an increase in dengue mosquitoes, malnutrition due to mass crop failures and mental and physical trauma. In addition to the recently introduced carbon tax, polders and land reclamation, proposals include naturebased solutions such as the restoration of mangrove areas and planting of 250,000 native trees and shrubs to support biodiversity, drive climate mitigation and strengthen resilience. Diversification into weather-resilient sources of water such as NEWater and desalinated water is also being explored together with the possibility of generating energy from water. However to progress economically, many South East Asian governments must intensify the use of land in urban centres. As a result cities across the region are becoming denser and swiftly accelerating skywards. Green spaces and public realm are slowly disappearing to make way for highrise developments and it is our responsibility as designers to mitigate these effects by relying on a strong regional sensibility that harnesses nature. In 2009 the Singapore government implemented a greenery landscape replacement policy for buildings whereby property developers must replace greenery lost from a site in other areas within the development to mitigate the Urban Heat Island Effect that is prevalent in so many South East Asian cities. This is slowly changing the cityscape into one where greenery is becoming part of the design of high-rise buildings, from sky terraces, vertical green walls, green roofs, communal planter boxes and rooftop urban farms. We are embracing these nature-based solutions, looking for ways to introduce nature and greenery into our designs throughout the region, taking advantage of the tropical climate where greenery thrives. This not only creates attractive, striking building forms but also provides shade, thus lowering temperature and making them more inviting for residents. The residential towers of the Royal Garden in Ho Chi Minh City were inspired by the rock formations of Ha Long Bay. Designed as towering limestone islets with extensive greening to the elevations, topped by roof gardens and sky terraces, this approach creates a lush tropical setting that acts as self-shading without the use of external screening devices, and self-sustaining by means of rainwater collected as irrigation. It is attractive not only to people but also to insects and birds, encouraging biodiversity in the city. Considered masterplanning can build sustainable principles into new development from the outset. The designs for Minh Khai and Cua Luc Bay, adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay in north-east Vietnam, have created an urban model for sustainable and meaningful expansion for this area of over 100 km2, drawing inspiration
from the natural topography of mountains, coast and lake. Green and blue corridors strengthen connections with nature. A pedestrian network has been overlaid onto these corridors and recreational public space created where they meet and intersect. To improve water quality and help filter storm water runoff for harvesting and recycling, a SUDS system consisting of constructed wet-lands, bioretention basins, and cleansing biotopes was integrated with the natural setting, forming part of the blue spaces in the masterplan. A collaboration between Nippon Koei and our Singapore and New Delhi studios, residential, workplace and commercial functions have been sensitively placed to maintain ecological balance and reinforce the natural heritage of the location while transforming the region into a cohesive sustainable residential, tourism and mixed use development with high tech industrial uses.