Singapore is building a “forest town” in the island’s western region that will offer an abundance of nature to its future residents.
Called Tengah, this will be the 24th settlement built by the country’s government since World War II. But with centralized cooling, automated garbage collection, and a car-free town center, this development is the first of its kind.
The eco-town will comprise 42,000 homes across five residential districts—Garden, Park, Brickland, Forest Hill, and Plantation. Officials are calling it a “forest town” because of its abundant greenery and public gardens.
The 700-hectare building site was once home to brickmaking factories and later used for military training but has recently been reclaimed by an extensive secondary forest.
One interesting concept that will be used in this project is the absence of aboveground traffic. That means roads, utilities, and parking will be pushed beneath the town center.
Chong Fook Loong, the group director for research and planning at Singapore’s Housing and Development Board, explained in a video interview:
“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.”
Cycling has taken off in Singapore over the last three to five years, so the goal for this town is to be as friendly as possible to walkers and bikers.
Although the country has a population of under 6 million, its per-capita emissions are higher than that of the UK, Malaysia, and China. That’s due, partly, to the widespread use of air conditioning on the tropical island.
The Meteorological Service Singapore predicts that by the end of this century, Singapore’s average daily temperatures may be at least 34.1 degrees Celsius almost every day during the eight warmest months of the year.
With that, Singaporeans will become more dependent on air conditioning to keep cool. So, instead of demonizing it, Tengah’s planners will install centralized cooling that will use solar power to chill water and pipe it through the district’s homes.
This will generate carbon dioxide savings equivalent to taking 4,500 vehicles off the roads each year.
The settlement will also feature “smart” lights that turn off when public spaces are unoccupied.
As for trash, it will be stored centrally, and monitors will detect when there’s a need to collect them.
“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.”
Prices for two-bedroom apartments start at 108,000 Singapore dollars (USD 82). If everything goes according to plan, the first apartments will be completed by 2023.
All tenants will have access to an app where they can monitor their energy and water consumption. There will also be digital displays in each block informing occupants of their combined environmental impact.
This could foster competition between the residential blocks and, eventually, behavioral change among residents.
“Thinking about food consumption and thinking about the way people use air conditioning is all part of (achieving climate targets),” said Perrine Hamel, an assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University’s Asian School of the Environment.
“Changing behavior is going to be an integral part of it and, of course, urban design is the first way to affect and change behavior.”
A 328-foot long forest corridor that will weave through the heart of the district will connect the town with a water catchment area and a nature reserve that will provide safe passage to wildlife.
The town’s inhabitants will also have access to community farming in the so-called Plantation District.
Here’s a video to give you a glimpse of the eco smart city:
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