In October I was honoured to take part in the big Singapore Landscaping Architecture Awards Ceremony organised by SILA (Singapore Institute of Landscaping Architects) where designers who have taken big steps in the development of landscape, environmental and urban design are recognised and their works presented and awarded.
The main figure behind the event was Mr. Desmond Lee, Singapore’s First Minister for Family and Social Development and Second Minister for National Development. During his talk and discussions with event participants it was clear that Singapore has a vision of the way forward – they recognise that vegetated (green) cities, together with environment protection and smart green urban infrastructure, bring better living conditions and quality of life for families living in the city, and which consequently has a decidedly positive effect on Singapore’s national development.
And these weren’t just more pretty words… In my opinion, Singapore as a nation is the leader when it comes to Urban Green Infrastructure. Urban Green Infrastructure is embedded in their laws, but also in the mindset of the people and (what I really like) they seem to be very focused on taking care of important, specific issues with which they may be faced in a very thoughtful, well-ordered way. Currently, stormwater management is high on their agenda. It’s not that there’s so much more rain, but the severity of storms has increased. The main challenge now is how to manage excess water so that it doesn’t cause flooding in the streets, while another big challenge lies in how to store big amounts of rainwater for use in the dry season.
The laws in Singapore today have already been adapted so as to help solve those challenges by properly implementing Green Urban Infrastructure. Today every contractor/builder needs to fully compensate for any land degradation that results from a building project with real vegetated areas. So if 70% of the land in use will be covered with a building, parking and paved surfaces and only 30% will be left green, then an additional 70% needs to be greened elsewhere. Singapore is working to solve this with green roofs, green facades, green parking spaces….
Laws like this can be demanding for investors, but at the same time they are also drivers for innovation, as they compel stakeholders to look for new, creative and innovative solutions. Green roofs and Green facades are just one part of the story – further development can also be seen on the ground. Underground cisterns are being replaced by innovative landscaping solutions that are not only helping to prevent floods by storing water, but also focus on bioremediation as one of the most effective ways of cleaning water that comes down from the streets, parkways and similar.