Clean, green living

20 Nov 2021

Straits Times, 20 Nov 2021, Clean, green living
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has threatened cities, communities and national economies, has sent urban planners and architects back to the drawing board.

A radical rethink of designing for the new normal is needed, so that communities in high-density metropolises are better prepared, should a similar global disruption strike again.

According to Switzerland's Institute of Management Development (IMD), cities that have successfully incorporated digitalisation in their urban planning are in a better position to manage the pandemic. And Singapore is at the top of the class.

The business school publishes the annual Smart City Index in collaboration with the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

Singapore has held the No. 1 spot for the third year running - ahead of other metropolises such as Helsinki (No. 2), Zurich (No. 3) and New York (No. 10). The index ranks 118 cities by how "smart" they are. A "smart city" applies technology to enhance the benefits and diminish the shortcomings of urbanisation for its citizens.

Mr Giancarlo Roggiolani of Grundfos, a global water technology and pump solutions multinational, believes Singapore can do more - like reviewing the carbon footprint created by the built environment, which contributes to climate change and impacts quality of life.

"Buildings account for more than 40 per cent of the world's total energy consumption, and this includes water management," says Mr Roggiolani, who is Grundfos' regional sales director for domestic building services in the Asia-Pacific and China.

"By using efficient water pumps to cool residential buildings, developers can go a long way in meeting sustainability as well as energy and water efficiency standards," he adds.

Professor Tai Lee Siang, head of the architecture and sustainable design pillar at SUTD, notes that Covid-19 has drawn urgent attention to the importance of a clean and safe environment, as well as green urban spaces to help boost physical and mental health.

The work-from-home experience, he says, has revealed the inadequacy of work spaces in homes.

"Architects must now design for health and well-being as well as pandemic resiliency in all buildings," he adds.

"Proximity to nature brings much-needed comfort and well-being. In the light of the pandemic, there is a need for balanced environments where one can live, work and play - all in the same location."

This will most likely require a fundamental review of existing planning parameters, Prof Tai explains, such as a new hybrid housing design that allows for a better work environment within a home setting.

He adds that there could also be provisions made for housing that facilitates networking while minimising movement.

Property developers here are already taking heed of the changing needs wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead of focusing on the maximum number of homes that can be built on an area of land, they are opening up spaces to accommodate nature and healthy living experiences.

Recently completed private housing developments which boast technology, wellness and pandemic-resilient features are being snapped up.

One such development is GuocoLand Singapore's 450-unit Martin Modern in River Valley, which was sold out in September. The luxury condominium, completed four months earlier, is a tropical sanctuary with 15 gardens, lawns and more than 200 species of trees and plants.

At Jervois Mansion in District 10, which has sold 104 of its 105 units, developer Kimen Group says the freehold low-rise condominium is designed for a "post-Covid-19 lifestyle".

The development, due to be completed in 2026, will deliver healthy living experiences for residents - such as edible gardens and rooftop farming.

Also taking note of the need for wellness spaces and experiences is Singaporean architect Brian Yang, who is based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

He helms the CanningHill Piers project, the residential section of a mixed-use development. The site has two towers that include 696 apartments; one block for Somerset serviced apartments; and the last for Moxy Hotel.

The joint venture by CapitaLand and City Developments Limited sits on the former Liang Court shopping mall site and is expected to be ready in 2025.

Mr Yang, 42, who works for Denmark's Bjarke Ingels Group, says the pandemic has presented the opportunity to re-examine the relationship between people and green spaces.

"We need to ask what the ratio of green space to open space should be, and which allows for a certain density of people to gather and still feel safe together."