HDB to explore use of smart planning tools for more towns and estates

Modelling tools help the Housing and Development Board to simulate environmental conditions such as wind flow, sun and shade for better estate planning.
Channel NewsAsia 27 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: Modelling tools to visualise heat, shade and wind flow were used to plan and design new precincts and building forms within Singapore's first "eco-precinct" Punggol town. These resulted in smart Housing and Development Board (HDB) homes in districts such as the waterfront Punggol Northshore.

On Sunday (Dec 27), the HDB announced in a news release that it will explore applying such smart planning tools beyond Punggol and to existing and upcoming towns and estates.


There are two types of smart planning tools used to improve the planning and design of HDB towns under the Smart HDB Town Framework, the housing board said.

The first, Urban Environmental Modelling (UEM) simulates environmental conditions such as wind flow and solar irradiance, which is the amount of energy generated by the sun per unit area.

This was put to use at the Treelodge @ Punggol precinct, where simulations allowed town planners to orient blocks to maximise wind flow, thereby optimising natural ventilation and minimising the need for electrical cooling, HDB said. UEM also helps planners identify areas within the town that would receive large amounts of heat from the sun throughout the day, so they can introduce more greenery in such areas to reduce heat build-up.

The modelling tool highlights shaded areas within the town as well, enabling planners to site community facilities like playgrounds and childcare centres in places which get more shade.

"This allows us to identify better placement of facilities, such as children's playgrounds," explained Mr Leroy Tan, senior engineer at HDB's Building Research Institute.

"Because normally we know children usually come out during the evenings or late afternoons to spend their time in the playgrounds, so this is one example where we can use it to identify placement of facilities so we can encourage the community to come out and have activities at these places."

The second, Complex Systems Modelling (CSM), is a decision-making tool that simulates the impact of green initiatives.

This helps town planners, architects and engineers more accurately assess the trade-offs involved when introducing new sustainable features in HDB towns and choose the most effective combination of solutions to achieve the desired sustainability targets, HDB stated. For instance, the tool can be used to study the most effective way to place rooftop solar panels, which in turn could influence the orientation and design of buildings.

"This is particularly useful for our town planners because they cannot afford experimentation with actual developments in land-scarce Singapore," HDB said.

CSM has been tested in the Yuhua precinct in Jurong. Planners for the neighbourhood used it to weigh the energy savings of "smart lighting", which adjusts the intensity of lighting based on the footfall throughout the day, against the higher cost of installing such lighting compared to LED lights for corridors.

After Yuhua, CSM was also used in the urban planning for Punggol Northshore. In future, the tool could also be applied to existing towns to help assess the feasibility of rolling out the HDB Greenprint programme, the housing board said.

A simulation model of Yuhua neighbourhood created by the prototype of the Complex System Modelling Tool (Image: HDB)

HDB added that it will progressively leverage such modelling tools to complement town planning efforts to provide well-designed homes in green, sustainable and self-sufficient towns.

Under the Smart HDB Town Framework introduced in Sep 2014, data collected by a network of sensors will help build more accurate simulations for planning and can offer real-time feedback on an estate to optimise maintenance cycles and to pre-empt problems.

- CNA/mz

The model approach to HDB's smart planning
Janice Heng, The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Dec 15;

Sensor-controlled smart lighting saves energy but costs more to install than normal lighting. Greenery lowers a building's temperature and hence the need for cooling - but also requires water. To help weigh such trade-offs, the Housing Board (HDB) has a new computer modelling tool.

It is part of the HDB's smart planning efforts, which include designing towns for optimal wind flow and shade.

The Complex Systems Modelling (CSM) tool helps the HDB simulate the effects of a given feature - like solar panels or rainwater harvesting - on variables such as energy consumption, costs or greenhouse gas emissions.

It can therefore be used to decide between different options.

"This is particularly useful for our town planners because they cannot afford experimentation with actual developments in land- scarce Singapore," said the HDB in a factsheet released to the media.

For instance, at Yuhua estate in Jurong, the CSM tool was used to investigate sensor-controlled smart lighting versus low-energy LED lighting. Such simulations help planners find the best solutions without physically testing the options.

The CSM tool was developed by the HDB, Electricite de France and Veolia Environnement Recherche et Innovation. The first prototype was unveiled at last year's World Cities Summit in Singapore.

It has since been tested in the planning stages of the Punggol Northshore district, and will eventually be tested at the town level.

Besides new towns, CSM may also be used to study the feasibility of the HDB Greenprint programme, which brings green initiatives to older towns.

Another of the HDB's smart planning tools allows planners to test how blocks of flats affect the wind flow and shade in an estate.

With the Urban Environmental Modelling (UEM) tool, planners can tweak the shape and position of flats, and see the results in a computer simulation.

It can also be used to identify hot or shady spots within a town.

Greenery can be planted in hot areas to lower the temperature; amenities such as playgrounds can be located in areas with more shade, and housing units can be angled to reduce heat gain from sunlight.

Treelodge @ Punggol, completed in 2010, was the first HDB project planned with the help of wind flow simulation.

The UEM tool was later used to help plan new precincts in Punggol town, and will be applied to new housing areas such as Bidadari and Tampines North.

The tool helps planners "determine how best our new flats can be designed and sited to provide maximum thermal comfort and a more conducive living environment for our residents", said the HDB.

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