Address by SMS Desmond Lee at PEAK Forum

Sep 9, 2016

Friends, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, good morning, a warm welcome to this year’s PEAK Forum. We will also be launching the Tengah Forest Town Exhibition today. It is exciting because it is very near to the constituency where I serve. I can see it from some of the blocks looking across and one of my residents was wondering what the development will be and I will tell them to come to this exhibition.

A great deal of thought and energy actually goes into the planning and designing of every new town. The challenge in our land-scarce, highly-urbanised city is to make our towns liveable, and retain a sense of space. With the kind of density, level of urbanisation, and the scarcity of land in Singapore, this challenge is particularly acute compared to other places around the world. And so we want one where our living environment is green and sustainable, and close to greenery and nature, rather than being boxed up in a concrete jungle. The projects that won HDB’s Design Awards this year are good examples of how we have created green spaces and eco-friendly features through deliberate planning and creative design. 

Tengah which is our 24th and newest town gives us the opportunity to do even more, with new sustainable features and smart technologies when planning and designing the town. Two years ago, HDB launched the “Smart HDB Town Framework”. This Framework guides how we use technology to make HDB towns more liveable, more sustainable, and safe for our residents. These are important principles that guide HDB in the development of new towns. And since then, many of such initiatives have been implemented in Yuhua and in Punggol Northshore - such as the system for households to help them monitor their utilities usage and smart sensors that control lighting in common areas.

HDB is taking this one step further in Tengah by tapping on smart technology in town planning itself. So, not just technology incorporated into the buildings and the functionality of the buildings, but incorporating this into actual town planning itself.

And so the Urban Microclimate Multi-physics Integrated Simulation Tool, or what you call the UM-MIST, allows HDB’s planners to model different configurations of the new Tengah town and to collect data that will guide their final design. In virtual design and construction for BCA, we talk about using technology to help you build virtually before you actually build physically. Here, you are actually using technology to help you plan the town and conceive it virtually before you actually start the actual works on the ground. 

And so this environmental simulation tool uses 3D city models to simulate how environmental conditions, like wind flow, temperature changes and sunlight, interact with the urban landscape. So by better understanding how such environmental conditions affect the town, our planners and architects in HDB and our engineers can then decide how best to plan the building layout to achieve the best comfort level for our residents. And this really goes to the heart of sustainability – planning a town for the benefit and the comfort of every single resident in there. And I am sure the outcome will greatly benefit future residents of Tengah.

We must continue to make good use of technology. HDB is working with a consortium led by NCS Pte Ltd to develop a Smart Urban Habitat Masterplan. This will set out the strategy to implement more of such smart initiatives and technologies in our HDB towns. And the team will explore what might work in Tengah, before deciding how to implement the Masterplan on a much wider scale. 

We also want to weave greenery into the fabric of the Tengah new town. And Minister had very recently articulated this important characteristic and feature of Tengah. To achieve this, HDB has carefully planned the town around the existing greenery, its terrain and the waterways. HDB and NParks are working together on a forest corridor that will stretch about 5-kilometres long and about 100-metres wide – or the size of about 90 football fields, for those who want to have an easy way to get a sense of the scale. And so the name “Forest Town”. This corridor will safeguard an important green link that we want to maintain between the Western Catchment Area and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

For those of you who have been following us in NParks, we have many of these corridors, eco-corridors that involve enhanced streetscape, careful planting in order to serve as an eco-corridor for links. But this would be one major one that will help to connect two very important biodiversity areas in Singapore - the Western Catchment as well as the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. In addition, NParks will plant trees that are native to our rainforests to enhance the rich forest habitat, and also hiking trails, for residents to appreciate and to enjoy within close proximity of their homes. So it is not just any planting, it is careful planting, selection of native species, partnership between NParks and HDB and of course many of our green friends to choose plant species and types to bring nature closer to home. 

At the heart of Tengah will be the central park – it is a huge green lung that will connect the town’s green spaces and offer recreational spaces for the community to enjoy. And within the neighbourhoods itself, Community Farmways will provide opportunities for community gardening and urban farming. This is increasingly very popular amongst our residents and the “Community in Bloom”, an urban farming movement has been growing all over Singapore. And certainly in Tengah that must be one important aspect. 

So when ready, the new Tengah town is expected to have about 42,000 homes, all integrated with the surrounding ecosystem and the existing natural landscape. Now, incorporating homes, urban spaces, smart technology and greenery is actually not very easy. It is not easy at all, it is a challenge. But it is worth it, because we want all residents to have a good liveable environment, and experience being “at home with greenery” in our urban city in Singapore. 

So do take the time to explore the exhibition to find out more about HDB’s plans for Tengah. I invite all of you to share your ideas and suggestions on Tengah’s development in the Dream Forest, or by voting for your favourite ideas at the Feedback Booth. More importantly when the Town is up and it is nascent, when its saplings are planted, be a part of it. Grow old with the Town, grow up with it and live through the development of each and every one of our new towns, with the 24th being Tengah. So congratulations, and I look forward to meeting all of you later. Thank you.