In a country where over 80% of residents live in public housing, a government commitment to sustainable urban design could have huge implications. And when it’s a tropical country where convenience and air conditioning are a way of life, the impact could be greater still.
Promising 42,000 new homes across five residential districts, the eco-town of Tengah — the Malay word for “middle,” though it’s in the island’s western region — will be the 24th new settlement built by Singapore’s government since World War II. It is, however, the first with centralized cooling, automated trash collection and a car-free town center, which conservationists hope offers a roadmap for slashing carbon emissions in the Southeast Asian city-state.
The development is being dubbed a “forest town” by officials, due to its abundant greenery and public gardens. Once home to brickmaking factories, and later used for military training, the 700-hectare (2.7-square-mile) site has been reclaimed by an extensive secondary forest in recent years. A 328-foot-wide ecological “corridor” will be maintained through its center, providing safe passage to wildlife and connecting a water catchment area on one side to a nature reserve on the other.
The project has proven a tabula rasa for urban planners advocating green design principles and “smart” technology, according to Chong Fook Loong, group director for research and planning at Singapore’s Housing and Development Board (HDB), the agency overseeing the country’s public housing.
“Tengah is a clean slate,” he said in a video interview, explaining that roads, parking and utilities are being pushed beneath the town center. “We’re going for the ideal concept of segregation of traffic, (with) everything underground and then the ground level totally freed up for pedestrians — for people. So, it’s a very safe environment for all.
“We want a town that allows walking and cycling in a very user-friendly manner,” he added, saying that cycling has “taken off” in Singapore in the “last three to five years especially.”
The master plan will see the installation of electric vehicle charging stations, while the streets are also being “futureproofed” to accommodate emerging technologies, 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.