Future HDB estates to be ‘nature-centric’

CHEN LIN Today Online 18 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE — Residents of new Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats – starting with Punggol Northshore District – will get to go home to “nature-centric neighbourhoods” that include features such as dragonfly ponds, bird sanctuaries and butterfly gardens.

While green spaces have been part of public housing in recent years, this is the first time the HDB is creating a landscapes in a “holistic manner” as part of the Biophilic Town Framework that outlines strategies needed to plan and design urban landscapes.

And having refined and validated the framework over three-and-a-half years through a research collaboration with the National University of Singapore (NUS), the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), and National Parks Board (NParks), it is now ready for implementation in new HDB projects.

The first estate to experience these nature-centric landscapes is Punggol Northshore District, which comprises about 5,700 flats that will be completed progressively from 2020.

Other HDB projects that will also be adopting the Biophilic Town Framework are Woodleigh Glen and Woodleigh Hillside in Bidadari Estate.

Designing the environment under this framework takes into consideration five key elements - soil, flora and fauna, outdoor comfort, water and people. Architects assess how these elements can be incorporated into the neighbourhood landscape from the outset, and put forth an optimal design that harmonises the habitat and its inhabitants.

For instance, with Singapore’s hot and humid weather, footpaths are placed along key wind channels to offer a pleasant walk, while playgrounds and garden trails where residents linger are shielded from direct sunlight and glare. With such designs, HDB aims to encourage residents to immerse in nature and mingle with their neighbours.

Vegetation in Punggol Northshore will also be specially selected for their effectiveness in sequestering excess carbon and removing air pollutants from the environment. For example, Mimusops elengi (Tanjong Tree) will be planted at the end of the wind corridors as they are effective in removing air pollutants and enhancing the overall air quality, while Filicium decipiens (Fern Tree) is effective in sequestering excess carbon from the environment.

In addition, stormwater management measures will also be deployed to achieve good water quality. A district-wide network of vegetated bioswales and rain gardens were incorporated into the designs to filter out sediments and treat the rainwater runoff naturally.

To offer a multisensory experience and promote residents’ well-being, ecological ponds such as dragonfly ponds will be introduced to encourage residents to draw closer to nature. As dragonflies are predators, it would also be useful in controlling mosquito breeding.

Although these new features under the Biophilic Town Framework will be taken into consideration in its pricing, HDB told TODAY it is “not expected” to have a “significant impact” on the pricing.

This is because pricing of HDB flats takes into account several other factors such as the prevailing market conditions at the time of offer, location, amenities, lease period, ownership restrictions, design features and unique attributes, HDB said.

HDB’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Cheong Koon Hean said: “The Biophilic Town Framework, which we have developed, provides a strong foundation for holistic planning and design of neighbourhood landscapes, so that our residents can enjoy a strong sense of place and well-being.”

“From this month, the framework will be progressively applied to new housing projects. This marks a new milestone in our journey towards well-designed, sustainable and community-centric towns under our Roadmap to Better Living in HDB Towns.”

All new HDB projects to feature nature-centric designs
Wendy Wong Channel NewsAsia 18 Jul 18;

SINGAPORE: Residents of new public housing projects launched from July onwards will live in more nature-centric neighbourhoods, with greenery to reduce heat and noise, as well as space for community farming.

Under the Biophilic Town Framework, all new precincts will be developed with the aim of allowing residents to connect better with nature, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) said on Wednesday (Jul 18).

“(The framework) provides a strong foundation for holistic planning and design of neighbourhood landscapes, so that our residents can enjoy a strong sense of place and well-being,” HDB CEO Cheong Koon Hean said in a speech at the International Federation of Landscape Architects World Congress.

The framework, which was first developed in 2013, comprises five key elements of the neighbourhood landscape - soil, flora and fauna, outdoor comfort, water and people.

Town planners and architects will take into consideration several guiding principles when planning and designing precincts. This includes planting trees which are more effective at providing shade and absorbing heat, and constructing vegetated bioswales to treat rainwater runoff naturally.

Biodiversity surveys will also be conducted before construction to study existing natural habitats, and new habitats such as dragonfly ponds, bird sanctuaries and butterfly gardens built to attract diverse species.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who was present at the event, also stressed the importance of nature-centric design in light of rapid urbanisation worldwide. “It’s easy for cities to neglect their greenery and natural assets. We’ve seen this time and again - trees are cut down and removed, rivers are abused and covered over.

“The result is that we end up with a harsh concrete jungle, and a living environment that is stressful and alienating for all,” said Mr Wong. “So we have to change our mindsets - don’t think about urban areas as being separate from nature, but reimagine cities as being part of our natural ecosystem, and coexisting in harmony with nature.”

Punggol Northshore was the first nature-centric district when its first HDB project was launched in 2015. So far, eight Build-to-Order (BTO) projects have been launched in the precinct, comprising about 5,700 flats, which will be completed progressively from 2020.

Source: CNA/cy

Nature to play bigger role in HDB estates
Greenery to be used in ways that enhance natural environment, residents' well-being
Derek Wong Straits Times 19 Jul 18;

New Housing Board (HDB) projects will incorporate greenery in a more deliberate way than before, using the landscaping to provide not just green spaces, but also to enhance the natural environment and the well-being of residents.

Under the Biophilic Town Framework introduced in 2013, natural ecosystems are part and parcel of town planning and design, going beyond aesthetics to thinking about how nature can be intertwined with the built environment to promote a greater sense of place and create even more liveable spaces.

For example, trees planted in new projects may be chosen for how effective the species is in removing air pollutants.

Biodiversity studies will also be carried out before site works so that existing flora and fauna can continue to flourish. For instance, if a certain butterfly species is found in the native site, "host plants" that attract such species will be planted in habitat zones in the development.

Biophilia refers to an innate affinity for and connection with the natural world. The Biophilic Town Framework was first adopted in 2015 by the Punggol Northshore District, whose 5,700 flats will be ready from 2020.

Since then, it has been refined through collaboration with the National University of Singapore and will be applied to all new projects launched from this month.

HDB announced the updated framework yesterday at the International Federation of Landscape Architects World Congress held at Marina Bay Sands.

HDB chief executive Cheong Koon Hean said: "(It) provides a strong foundation for holistic planning and design of neighbourhood landscapes so that our residents can enjoy a strong sense of place and well-being."

Nature advocates like Ms Chloe Tan were encouraged by the move. "If development must happen, then habitat enhancement is the best thing that can be done," said Ms Tan, an ecologist who specialises in biodiversity. "By knowing what kinds of species there are, planners will have a better idea of how to restore their habitats."

The key elements considered under the framework are soil, flora and fauna, outdoor comfort, water, and people.

This results in strategies such as nutrient recycling using decomposing organic matter such as fallen leaves to provide nutrients for plant growth, where previously it might have been cleared away.

Pest control can also be achieved through natural means, such as creating dragonfly ponds that provide natural predators for mosquitoes.

Under the guidelines, measures were also introduced in Punggol to draw residents outdoors.

Wind and sunlight simulation studies were done so that community facilities and footpaths could be located in suitable places. A district-wide network of vegetated bioswales and rain gardens were also added to the design to filter out sediment and treat rainwater run-off naturally.

Associate Professor Fung John Chye of the National University of Singapore School of Design and Environment said: "Retaining the ecological value of the original land is definitely encouraged."

He added: "Research shows the therapeutic effect of nature and the biophilic practice should in the long run lead to better quality of life, if not health benefits."

Ms Christine Leong, 32, a civil servant, is considering applying for a Build-To-Order flat in Tengah. The first flats there will be launched in November. The estate, dubbed as Singapore's first "Forest Town", will feature the framework's recommendations.

"It would be interesting to see how the natural elements interact with the built environment," said Ms Leong. "It would be nice to live amid such greenery that also serves a purpose."