As they say, “Clean and Green has been the Nation’s Perfect Dream.” According to the Center for Liveable Cities, Singapore’s green cover has grown from 36% in the 1980s to 47% today, increasing simultaneously with our growth in population and the economy. To ensure that Singapore remains a sustainable place for its current and future generations to live in, the Government has introduced the HDB Green Towns Programme. The goals of this programme are to reduce energy consumption, recycle rainwater, and implement large-scale green features to improve the residents’ quality of life.
Through the construction of these eco-friendly HDB towns, the Government has developed novel ways of weaving greenery into the estates such as rooftop organic gardens, green decks above car parks and green building facades. Over the past decade itself, half of Singapore’s residential buildings have gone green in design and also, in terms of the building materials used. Most constructions now use recycled wood, steel or bamboo as fencing/staircase material and even go for air-tight insulation to maintain temperatures and save on water, energy and the environment. All these have long-term health and financial benefits too.
Since 2005, the Housing and Development Board has been trying to achieve a 10% reduction in annual energy consumption as part of the 10-year plan to make HDB estates more sustainable. With the Green Towns programme, the HDB now aims to reduce energy consumption rates by a further 15% by 2030. The HDB Green Towns Programme may seem like an ambitious one, but the objective is to bring together eco-town initiatives that have already been implemented/tested successfully in HDB estates and translate them into new initiatives that have the potential to scale up.
HDB Green Towns programme
Under the HDB Green Towns Programme, the HDB has adopted biologist E.O. Wilson’s “Biophilic Town Framework” to connect residents with the natural world through five key elements of soil, flora and fauna, outdoor comfort, water, and people. As part of the master planning process, the Government conducts environmental studies to better understand the existing conditions of sites which are near sensitive biodiversity areas. The findings from these studies are then used to make adjustments to mitigate the limited land space and establish urban design strategies to provide a sustainable living environment.
You can read more about the HDB Green Towns Programme here. Similarly, if you are looking for private, eco-friendly homes that offer sustainable-living features like that of an HDB, you can start looking at some BCA Green Mark certified condominiums.
Which was HDB’s first Eco-Town?
Home to more than 80% of Singapore’s population, public housing is fundamental to the Singapore story. Punggol was selected as HDB’s first Eco-Town in Singapore due to the Punggol Waterway and Coney Island, which was used for poultry, pig and fish farming. Once a fishing village, a Malay kampung, Punggol is today a technologically transformed green-living neighbourhood on the east coast of Singapore.
Punggol serves as a mock framework of urban sustainable design, exemplified by the Treelodge@Punggol, for integrating smart solutions to create a practical green living experience. There’s also Punggol Waterway, Singapore’s first man-made waterway that stretches 4.2km in distance through the entire Punggol Eco-Town. The river that zig-zags through the residential buildings is called ‘My Waterway’, and the landscaped promenade alongside it is called ‘My Waterfront’.
This iconic architecture reflects the sustainable development narratives Singapore has been stressing upon since its independence. These developments are not only a part of HDB’s first Eco-Town but also marks the completion of HDB’s one-millionth flat!
Punggol Eco-Town: The Punggol Waterway
Embracing the area’s rich coastal heritage, the Punggol Waterway runs through communal spaces along the boardwalk and provides a vibrant living environment, as well as ample opportunities for water-based recreational activities, and sports right next to the heartlands.
Traverse the Punggol Waterway via three different routes:
1. Discovery Route
The route is approximately 3 kilometres long and a leisure walk around its full loop may take up to three hours. The key landmarks that surround this route are…
This bridge captures the idyllic mood of old Punggol. The rustic footbridge with poles and stilts similar to those used in old fishing villages leads passersby along the heritage trail towards the Punggol Point. This is located on the old trunk road, which is preserved for Singaporeans to relive a piece of history while they enjoy the waterway.
Located just next to the town park, the Look-Out Pavilion is the perfect place for selfie enthusiasts to snap themselves with the scenic view of the Waterway and the Sports promenade in the background.
The Adventure Bridge
This resembles a wooden suspension bridge that blends with the natural park setting. From the bridge, you can enjoy the scenic view of the waterway, sand play area, and water play area.
Water aeration and eco-drain
These are two features you can see along Punggol Waterway. Several aerators are placed inside the waterway to increase the oxygen level in the water. This supports biodiversity among fishes and aquatic plants. Additionally, eco-drains on either side of the promenade are a stormwater management feature to collect and cleanse surface runoff before they are discharged into the waterway.
Stretching 280m along the promenade of Punggol Waterway are heritage education panels that reflect Punggol’s transformation from a fishing village to a vibrant waterfront town of the future.
Waterway Town Park
Punggol Waterway Park is a great place for park users to enjoy a fun-filled day of leisure activities. The park is segmented into four different themes: Nature Cove, Recreation Zone, Heritage Zone, and Green Gallery.
The boardwalk stretches into the waterway, bringing you closer to the waters.
2. Explorer Route –
This route is approximately 8.4 kilometres long and a leisure walk around the full loop may take up to half a day. Apart from the aforementioned stops that are a part of the Discovery route, this route also includes…
The Jewel Bridge
This is a sunset point situated at the Western tip of the waterway. Pillared with circular steel bars, the central cove shines as a ‘jewel’ right against the setting sun.
Old Bus stop
This old trunk road is a historical landmark that brings Punggol’s heritage to life. Along the road, an old bus stop has been conserved, which acts as a sheltered rest stop and brings to mind old memories of Punggol.
Sunrise Gateway/ Sunrise bridge
The eastern part of the waterway boasts a rural and rustic horseshoe-inspired footbridge that poses as an ideal spot for residents to watch the sunrise.
Another unique feature of this place is freshwater-tolerant mangroves and wetland plant species. The Sunrise gateway is an approximate 15-mins walk from the Riviera LRT Station.
Last, but not the least, on this route is the Wave Bridge that connects the promenade with future public housing development coming that complements the waterway.
3. Rustic Route
This path is ideal for families, cyclists, or photography enthusiasts. The route is approximately three kilometres long and a leisure walk around the full loop takes about two hours.
The key landmarks are
- Sunrise Gateway/ Sunrise Bridge
- Wave Bridge
Punggol Eco-Town: Treelodge @Punggol
HDB’s first eco-precinct brings the essential elements of nature into play to produce an environment-friendly living experience. This project integrates green building technologies such as rainwater harvesting, solar energy-powered electricity, a community garden, an “eco-deck” that channels wind to create a cooling environment, and a centralized recycling chute. It also consists of seven residential building blocks with a podium car park inclusive of green spaces at the precinct level. This project has therefore won Singapore’s first Green Mark Platinum Award.
In shaping the construction of Punggol’s HDBs around sustainability initiatives, this dwelling, in particular, reiterates Singapore’s view of a “garden city”.
Among the various public residential developments at Punggol, the Punggol Waterway Terraces I at Punggol Walk has recently completed its five-year Minimum Occupation Permit (MOP) and over the last three months, it is one of the most popular resale HDBs on the market.
Shopping for a home in Punggol? Head to PropertyGuru to browse the top properties for sale in Singapore.
Upcoming HDB Eco-Towns: Tampines, Choa Chu Kang and Nee Soon
The HDB Green Towns programme is an ambitious plan that implements large-scale green features to improve residents’ quality of life. These are important under the Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) Programme, as the HDB towns are required to meet the changing needs of the community. Thus, the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) announced in March this year that the Housing Development Board’s new Green Towns Programme will be extended to Tampines, Choa Chu Kang, and Nee Soon.
These developments will see ‘zero waste’ hawker centers that would turn food scraps into fertilizers and water for washing. There will be a considerable reduction in wastage of food with insect larvae. Food waste at home will be segregated and fed to black soldier fly larvae. These larvae break down the food waste into fertilizer that can then be used in a new vertical vegetable farm.
MEWR, in partnership with Singapore Power and Temasek, will also introduce Eco Boards. These low-energy digital boards use smart meters to provide block-level information on water and energy use to residents. This will enable residents to become more aware of their consumption patterns and reduce their usages, whilst also aid town councils to manage resource usage more efficiently.
So far, these locations have undergone some trial runs of the aforesaid eco-features, but not much has been released. More information on these developments will be announced soon.
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Manasi Hukku wrote this article. Manasi likes to cover the intersection between research and relevance to help readers find a place they’ll love. She is a UX Conversation Designer, Medium Columnist and mother of two.