Ahh the ‘Garden City’, the green elaborate landscape also known as Singapore. It most definitely lives up to its name. City streets are filled with an abundance and variety of native plants and trees, vertical gardens that drape architectural elements, and the wonderful smell of fresh clean air constantly surrounds you. Even the alleys are green! I travelled to Singapore this past June after visiting Thailand and I’ve never experienced a city/country as green as Singapore.
Singapore is an innovative, sustainable urban landscape, but they weren’t always this green. When this island gained its independence in 1965, it was filled with inadequate housing, pollution, congestion, contaminated rivers, and a lack of employment. Land was scarce and natural resources were lacking. In the short span of 50 years, Singapore has managed a novel approach to address these challenges with a diversified economy, rich culture, and efficient infrastructure to provide a more pleasant life for the residents in a clean, modern city.
The Garden City’s revitalization kicked off in 1967 with an intensive tree-planting program to line the streets with an urban forest. By the end of 1970, over 55,000 new trees were planted. A park development program created new recreational spaces for residents and established green spaces to create a cleaner environment. Since then, numerous programs have been implemented to support this green vision. Singapore’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action was introduced in 2009 to conserve and enhance the biodiversity in the city. These green initiatives can be seen throughout the city’s physical structures, roadways, and parks.
Green buildings have been mandatory since 2008. New developments are required to have plant life through green roofs, cascading vertical gardens, and green walls. An incentive program is in place to replace the city’s green space lost to new development on the ground with greenery in the sky through high-rise terraces and gardens. This creates another layer of space for recreation and gathering. Due to their land constraints, Singapore has adopted a model of livable density. Livable density is about creating quality of life in high-density environments. It offers proximity to shops, schools, entertainment, healthcare, and the outdoors while prioritizing parks and recreation facilities. Parks, rivers, and ponds are developed within high-rises featuring new technology and innovative designs to create the illusion of space using “green” and blue” elements. These bodies of water also act as flood-control mechanisms.
Over two million lush trees have been planted throughout Singapore. Their many parks comprise a network of trails which foster a cycling and walking culture. Residents and visitors use this network of major parks and nature sites to access a plethora of historical, cultural, and recreational sites.
Despite the many challenges this densely populated island-nation faces, Singapore sets a bold precedent for cities seeking to create livable environments with a high quality of life by providing innovative, sustainable solutions throughout different aspects of their societal structure. Although the framework and size of this city appears to set Singapore apart from other cities across the globe, there are lessons to be learned and innovative solutions that can be looked at. I’ve really enjoyed exploring this sustainable and diversified community and highly recommend visiting. I will definitely be back!
Here are a few of their sustainable goals towards 2030:
- 35% improvement in energy efficiency
- Improve the recycling ratio from 59% in 2011 to 70%
- Provide .8 hectares (2 acres) of green park space for every 1,000 people
- Open up 900 hectares (2224 acres) of reservoirs and 100 km (62 miles) of waterways for recreational activities
- Increase greenery in high-rise buildings to 50 hectares (124 acres)
- 70% of journeys made by public transportation during morning peak hours
Jazmin Kimble is an Urban Planner and Urban Designer from Long Island, NY. She has a passion for empowering and planning adequate, equitable communities through the lens of Geodesign, Urban Design, Community Development, Architectural Design, Sustainability, Environmental Solutions, and Community Engagement. Jazmin believes the culture and the history of a community is what makes it unique. This approach allows her to design with communities from a holistic viewpoint.