Can the little red dot expand?


Space for new townships could open up in the north-east and west. But will hometowns still look the same? TessaWong talks to experts to find out

More unique flats with creative details

· Grace Fu, Minister of State for National Development

I think (in the future) the economy will be more differentiated. I think that aspirations are higher and we are looking for uniqueness (in housing design) now.

I think the Government will create that kind of identity through some differentiation in the aesthetics, because I think increasingly that’s going to be important.

For example, in Europe, I’ve seen pictures of (new) photovoltaic cells. You know photo cells, they look quite boring, grey and flat. But I’ve seen what’s being researched now – you have coloured photovoltaic, almost like a film, which you can lay on any facade and make it part of your design feature.

So you can have a very colourful (housing) block full of photovoltaic cells. We have to achieve this kind of distinction in design while containing the costs as much as we can.

Putting underground space to more uses

· Hwang Yu-Ning, group director of physical planning, Urban Redevelopment Authority

To expand our space supply, we will continue to explore greater use of our underground space – beyond the MRT, basement shopping malls and underground pedestrian networks such as those in Orchard Road and Marina Bay.

For example, we could study whether certain industrial, utilities, commercial and other suitable uses could be built underground in basements or caverns. The central and western parts of Singapore are potential areas where more caverns could be built as the geology is favourable.

As for the Southern Islands, they are envisaged more for recreational purposes, so there is not much residential development at this point. The islands are largely undeveloped and have a rustic character, providing a different kind of recreational experience from what is available on the mainland.

Under the Master Plan 2008, we are developing areas like Kallang Riverside and Paya Lebar Central now, over a period of 10 to 15 years.

At Kallang Riverside, we will see waterfront homes with a beachfront setting developed on the west side of the river, while the east side will have quality office space with hotels, entertainment and retail offerings.

Some of the old airport buildings in Kallang will be conserved and developed as a lifestyle spot. By the end of next year, we should have put together its development plans.

At Paya Lebar Central, we will see more offices and educational institutes. A new civic centre will also be developed that could include a community centre and a public square.

Closer, shorter blocks – for sustainable growth

· Vikas Gore, director at architectural firm DP Architects

There’s been a set of objections that’s been around for a long time – that the way we do high-rise housing is not particularly sustainable from an energy and resource-consumption standpoint.

High-rise is extremely expensive to build and maintain. You need lifts and a lot of electricity to keep all the elevators running. Water has to be pumped to the top too.

If we do more low-rise housing, like four or five storeys, where we need lifts mainly for the elderly, we could probably build larger apartments and still have high densities. We would occupy more of the land than we do at present.

The typical HDB estate would have buildings much closer than they are now, yet feel greener – because everyone would have a little green patch in front of their apartment, and would need to walk only two levels down to the ground, or walk up two floors to the roof garden.

Doing housing that is, say, four storeys high instead of 20 doesn’t mean you can get only a fifth of high-rise density. You can get close to 60 per cent to 70 per cent.

Truly green town within reach

· Peter Head, director at engineering firm Arup who leads its global planning business

Singapore is presenting leadership in eco-city development in China and has the skills to showcase this at home. Also, an eco-community could encourage new businesses in green products, with Singapore’s brilliant young product designers.

Our experience from China suggests that a low-carbon, resource-efficient and low ecological-footprint community could be planned and built starting now. There are investors and developers who would be interested in creating this.

There is already good public transport access – MRT stations are within a short walking distance.

But more could be done, such as mixed-use villages catering to about 20,000 people – with social services, and good public transport access within.

An eco-town should be highly accessible with local jobs. It would be best if it were close to the city, instead of being on outlying islands.

Buildings could be designed to capture breezes without unnecessary exposure to traffic noise and pollution. Natural ventilation could predominate building design, with some cooling potential using energy from waste.

Freight deliveries could be made from a consolidation centre using electric vehicles. The community could be the first to be offered use of electric cars on a large scale. Power for this could come from energy produced by waste plants.

Source : Sunday Times – 8 Aug 2010

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