Why Singapore Is The World’s Smartest Garden City (How We Did It!)

Why Singapore Is The World’s Smartest Garden City (How We Did It!)

Aptly called the Garden City, Singapore has truly developed into a city with lush greenery weaved across our concrete landscape.

From the beautiful vertical gardens in Gardens By The Bay to the flora and fauna in our HDB estates, residents and visitors alike marvel at how Singapore today is a green and sustainable city.

This push towards a greener and more sustainable nation started with Cheong Koon Hean, the first woman that led Singapore’s Urban Redevelopment Agency as CEO. 

Her vision saw the development of key sustainable developments including the Marina Bay precinct which laid the groundwork for the Gardens By The Bay and the Waterfront Promenade, an environment-friendly recreation area flanked by palm trees and the bay,

However, Singapore is much more than just an eco-friendly nation! 

Through decades of technological advancements and innovations, we have rapidly developed green infrastructure and architecture, all while powering our nation in a greener and more sustainable manner.

In fact, Singapore has topped the Global Smart City Index (SCI) for two years running, coming ahead of Helsinki, Zurich and Auckland. 

As defined by SCI, a smart city is one that applies technology to enhance the benefits while reducing the shortcomings of urbanization for its citizens.

With a growing population of over 5.6 million in 2020, the need to balance economic development together with sustainability has never been more necessary.

The threats and effects of climate change are becoming increasingly real to Singapore with big potential repercussions from rising sea levels, higher annual temperatures and flash floods.

In order to protect ourselves as a nation, securing a greener future is essential and at the heart of this is developing our city into one that is smart and sustainable.

Here’s how Singapore has evolved from an economic powerhouse to an environmentally advanced city filled with lush urban greenery and green innovations.

8 Reasons Why Singapore Is The World’s Smartest Garden City

1. Expansive Sky Green Spaces & Vertical Gardens

As a land-scarce country of less than 730 square kilometres, Singapore’s solution to developing green spaces lies in harmonising architecture with vegetation and greenery.

To help developers integrate more green spaces into their buildings, the National Parks Boards introduced the Skyrise Greenery Incentive Scheme (SGIS) where they help fund up to 50% of the installation costs of rooftop and vertical greenery.

Since its introduction in 2009, over 110 existing buildings in Singapore have benefited from subsidies to integrate a variety of greenery including edible gardens, forested green walls and recreational rooftop gardens.

The 27-storey Oasis Hotel Downtown, for example, incorporates lush greenery on its red-toned aluminium facade and terraces making it look like a giant tree in the middle of Singapore’s central business district.

Oasia-hotelImage credit to Oasia Hotels

Not only does this help foster a living ecosystem of over 50 species of vegetation, but it also provides an environment of respite to its occupants and the city at large, helping to introduce much-needed biodiversity into the concrete landscape.

The Pinnacle@Duxton, the tallest public housing development in the world, is another example of how living spaces in Singapore can be integrated with lush verdant greenery. The seven 50-storey buildings are connected by two sky bridges on the 26th and 50th floor, each showcasing a 500-metre long sky garden.

Through incentives such as the SGIS, Singapore is effectively integrating lush greenery into its high-density developments where nature can live in harmony with residents and commercial activity.

2. Powering The Nation With Green Renewable Energy

Energy resilience and diversification has always been an important issue for Singapore. This lies at the heart of the Singapore Green Plan 2030 which is a nationwide movement to advance the nation towards sustainable development.

A key part of the plan is to increase Singapore’s energy diversity to include solar power as we move towards a greener and more electric future.

In fact, Singapore is looking to ramp up solar deployment to a 2 giga-watt peak (GWp) by 2030. That is enough to power 350,000 households annually through just solar power!

To accomplish this, both the government and private sector are accelerating the deployment of solar power projects that include:

In addition, the Energy Market Authority has a variety of payment schemes to encourage consumers and businesses to embrace solar energy and start generating solar power for their consumption.

The Enhanced Central Intermediary Scheme (ECIS), in fact, allows contestable consumers to sell back any excess energy to the Singapore Power grid, allowing them to further offset their electricity bills.


3. Incentivising Eco-Friendly & Green Buildings

A key component of a green & smart city is how its buildings contribute to the environment and the carbon footprint contribution.

This is why Singapore developed the BCA Green Mark Scheme, which is a voluntary evaluation of buildings for their environmental impact and overall performance – especially in the areas of energy efficiency.

Since its establishment in 2005, the BCA green mark has helped developers, designers and builders prioritise the reduction of the building’s environmental impact, optimise its energy efficiency as well as champion resources stewardship.

These buildings include both commercial buildings including the iconic Marina Bay Sands and Junction 8 as well as residential developments such as SkyResidence @ Dawson and Parc Botannia.


4. Liberalisation Of Singapore’s Electricity Market

Smart cities utilise energy efficiency and give their consumers choices when it comes to purchasing electricity from the retailer of their choice.

It helps to develop a competitive spirit in the power generation industry and helps unlock energy innovations, especially in the solar power & electric vehicle space.

Since its official roll-out in November 2018, the Open Electricity Market (OEM) has allowed residential households to save more on their electricity bills by selecting an electricity retailer as their supplier.

This, in turn, spurred many retailers to innovate further and develop greener and smarter electricity solutions that include:

  • Helping residential consumers install their own solar panels

  • Implementing battery storage solutions for both residential households and commercial businesses

  • Building electric vehicle (EV) chargers for malls, condominiums, and private homes

The move towards electric vehicles is accelerating in Singapore with ambitious goals to hit 60,000 EV charging stations across the nation by 2030 with all HDB car parks in at least 8 towns being fitted with EV chargers.

5. Using Technology To Keep Citizens Safe During A Pandemic

A smart city is one with empathy and care for its population and Singapore prioritises the health of its citizens, effectively using the power of technology to foster trust and safety within the community.

Ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore has magnificently managed the situation on the ground through effective legislation, education and community awareness.

But perhaps the most effective aspect of the pandemic management is how Singapore harnessed the power of technology to keep its communities safe and informed.

The TraceTogether app is at the forefront of helping Singapore mitigate the spread of COVID-19 through community-driven contact tracing. Using Bluetooth technology, the short-distance signals sent between mobile phones can detect other phones with the app and determine the distance between users and the duration of such encounters.

In addition, it syncs up perfectly with SafeEntry, the nation’s digital check-in system that tracks the contact and personal details of individuals who visit venues such as malls and other areas that provide essential services.

Citizens can effectively visit hotspots and essential venues with just their smartphones, helping to allow government agencies to better keep track and contact individuals who might have been affected by a COVID-19 cluster. 

With Singapore imposing new differentiated rules for social gatherings depending on vaccination status, the TraceTogether app will be playing a vital part in helping establishments check & ensure the vaccination status of their patrons to stay compliant with regulations.


6. A Highly Interconnected & Mobile City

As one of the most densely populated countries, Singapore boasts a robust and efficient transport system that grants residents unparalleled mobility across the entire country.

Apart from the highly interconnected MRT train system which serves over 2 million passengers a day and an impressive network of buses and shuttles, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is opening up new mobility options by harnessing Autonomous Vehicle (AV) technology.

This allows for more on-demand and dynamically routed autonomous bus and shuttle services to increase efficiency and solve our urban mobility challenges. One example is A*Star’s autonomous fleet that utilised sensor technology to let the elderly and less mobile individuals travel around safely.

To help spur greater mobility innovations, Singapore also regularly launches initiatives to help enhance the land transport system in Singapore. One such example is the Singapore Mobility Challenge hosted by LTA, SBS Transit, SMRT and Enterprise Singapore to attract startups to help solve pressing challenges in Singapore’s transportation network including:

  • Improving first and last-mile connectivity
  • Reducing the crowd during peak travel hours
  • Developing next-gen public transportation apps
  • Train component traceability for quicker and more efficient maintenance

Another notable initiative is the Walk Car Cycle initiative whereby residents will be able to go car-lite much more easily in the city.

One example is the transformation of Bencoolen Street where pedestrians now have wider walking spaces and cyclists have a dedicated cycling path, all of which were former car lanes. 

This allows people to take comfortable walks that connect various transport nodes to key developments, all while reducing the use of vehicles and by extension, the individual’s carbon footprint!

7. Changi Airport & Jewel: Green Nature & Smart Tech In Harmony

As one of the world’s best airports, Changi Airport goes beyond just excellent service and entertainment for commuters.

In 2018 alone, over 65 million passengers moved through the airport. This means a huge amount of energy is used on a daily basis and Changi Airport utilises a wide range of technology to better manage its energy, emissions and waste.

For example, Changi Airport installed 80 electric baggage tractors that don’t require diesel to be used, saving over 627 tonnes of CO2 equivalent of emissions since its inception.

In addition, the airport also introduced waste digestor systems across its terminals, processing an average of 1.1 tonnes of food waste daily, diverting away the waste from incineration, further reducing its carbon footprint.

Jewel is not just another attraction for those visiting or transiting through Changi Airport, it is actually one of the smartest and greenest buildings around Singapore.

The Shiseido Forest Valley showcases over 2,000 trees, 100,000 shrubs and 120 specifics of flora that enchants visitors and immerses them into a world of gardens. 

Jewel also features 140 digital directories that utilise facial recognition to classify visitors into groups to provide contextual marketing and helpful applications to even help visitors find their cars amongst over 2,500 parking lots!

In order to maintain a carefully chosen temperature of 23 degrees celsius, specific glass was chosen that filters out heat while allowing light to enter while air conditioning units are dispersed throughout the building with diffuser vents that help create a breeze. 

This allows cool air to flow while gathering mist from the central waterfall. Through such technological advancements and careful engineering, Changi Airport and Jewel are striking examples of Singapore’s commitment to becoming a smart garden city.


8. Forest Eco-Town Tengah

Once used for military training, Tengah is slated to become Singapore’s first smart and sustainable eco-town packed with green technologies and features.

Housing around 42,000 new homes across 5 residential districts named Garden, Park, Brickland, Foresthill and plantation, will deliver to residents a higher quality of life and unique living opportunities.

This is done through two components, transforming Tengah into a true forest town as well as creating a smart and sustainable living environment.

With an abundance of greenery and public gardens, the town will preserve a 328-foot wide ecological corridor through its centre connecting the water catchment area to the nature reserve.

Forest-eco-town-tengahImage credit to HDB

While residents can still visit other towns or gain access to the city through buses or the Jurong Region Line, the majority will be able to freely walk and cycle within and around the town. Additionally, roads will only run beneath the town centre, freeing up spaces at the ground level, making it safe and friendly for pedestrians and cyclists.

The smart and sustainable features of Tengah further cement Singapore’s commitment to becoming a city of the future.

Tengah will be developed around smart energy management that includes:

  • A centralised cooling system that will eliminate the need for less-efficient air conditioning units.
  • An artificial intelligence-powered software system to optimise energy use across the town.
  • Using computer simulation and data analytics to plan the town to optimize wind flow and minimise heat to better achieve sustainability goals.
  • Smart lightings that adjust themselves based on the time and human traffic around.
  • Extensive deployment of solar panels to help power the town with renewable energy

In addition to this, residents in Tengah can look forward to a more electric future with EV charging stations being available to drivers and residents.

Within each home, there will also be an abundance of smart switched socket outlets and a smart distribution board. Through a mobile app, residents can effectively analyze their energy consumption to better adjust their lifestyle to better save on their energy usage for a lower electric bill.

When it comes to waste collection, the process will be automated through the Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System (PWCS), which uses high-speed air to transport waste to a centralised bin centre. 

This helps to deliver a more hygienic living environment for residents, free from pest infestations and spillages.

Through meticulous planning and the power of technology, Singapore is hoping to develop Tengah into a smart city of the future where people can live, work and play amidst nature, protecting the environment for future generations.


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