• Published Date: 31 Jul 2016

                The Housing & Development Board (HDB) has been conferred the Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES) Prestigious Engineering Achievement Award 2016 for its green engineering innovations – the Floating Wetland System and Freshwater-tolerant Mangroves, which were piloted at HDB’s My Waterway@Punggol.  


    2          The floating wetland system and freshwater-tolerant mangroves were developed in-house by HDB, to intensify greenery and enhance the water quality of the Waterway, thereby allowing nature to thrive and promotes biodiversity. At the same time, they transform the Waterway into a picturesque landmark of Punggol. Since the implementation of these two initiatives, a total of 92 bird species, 11 butterfly species and 17 dragonfly species have flourished along the Waterway.


    3          The award was presented to HDB by Acting Minister for Education (Schools), Mr Ng Chee Meng, at the Opening Ceremony of the National Engineers Day on 23 July 2016. The award recognises engineering achievements which have significantly contributed to the progress of the engineering industry and quality of life in Singapore.


    The HDB team behind the innovative idea receiving the IES Prestigious Engineering Achievement
    Award from Ag Minister Mr Ng Chee Meng


    4          Dr Cheong Koon Hean, Chief Executive Officer of HDB, said, “HDB’s engineers are a key pillar in delivering quality HDB living.  I am very proud of our engineers, who are always pursuing new solutions to better the lives of Singaporeans. This engineering award for the floating wetland system and mangroves at Punggol waterway is strong affirmation of their hard work, and of HDB’s ability to create better homes and a quality living environment through innovative engineering solutions. Moving ahead, we are studying how we can further tap on the potential of the floating system, such as using it to harvest solar energy in Singapore. We also plan to bring our innovations to more housing areas, such as Bidadari and Tampines North.”


    Greening up My Waterway@Punggol through Sustainable and Innovative In-house Engineering Solutions


    5          At 4.2km long, My Waterway@Punggol is the nation’s first and longest man-made waterway that meanders through Punggol Eco-town, providing a good base on which HDB can test-bed eco-friendly features and sustainability-driven solutions to improve water quality, enhance the riverbank and promote biodiversity.


    One-of-a-kind Floating Wetland System Inspired by a Honeycomb


    6          The vast water surface area along the waterway presents great potential for turning it into usable space. The floating wetland system germinated from the idea of intensifying greenery by effectively utilising this water surface area. In designing the floating platforms, the HDB team of engineers was inspired by the organic form of a honeycomb, which is made out of hexagonal cells, bound to one another to create a light-weight structure with high strength and rigidity. The resulting form was a one-of-a-kind floating system, with two key design features :


    • It allows wetland plants to be cultivated, transforming plain water surface into pockets of greenery that beautifies the environment, cleanses the water and improves biodiversity.


    • It allows flexible configuration in any size and shape, through the use of hexagonally-shaped modules, which can be easily assembled and placed anywhere on the water surface. HDB also invented and patented a unique interlocking solution that enhanced the rigidity and stability of the modules.


    Floating wetlands at the gateway to the waterway, near Jewel Bridge, help to soften the concrete structure of the bridge


    7          To enable the “green honeycomb” to improve water quality in the waterway, a total of 15 wetland plant species were carefully chosen for their phyto-remediation abilities, i.e. the ability to effectively absorb excessive nutrients and pollutants from the water, and cultivated on the floating wetland system. Monthly tests conducted at the waterway showed that these wetland plants, together with the freshwater-tolerant mangroves, can improve water quality by up to 30 per cent.


    Innovative Freshwater-tolerant Mangroves


    8          Another innovative solution to green up the waterway, improve water quality and enhance the riverbank, was the creation of freshwater-tolerant mangroves. These freshwater-tolerant mangroves serve to fortify and stabilise the riverbank, by leveraging the natural ability of the mangrove roots to bind soil effectively.


    Freshwater-tolerant mangroves along the waterway enhance the riverbank in a natural and aesthetically pleasing manner


    9          These carefully cultivated mangroves comprise 35 mangrove species, including some endangered species native to Singapore, which were tested and proven to be resilient in the freshwater conditions of the waterway. Today, My Waterway@Punggol has become the first and only man-made site in Singapore where visitors can see such a large variety of native freshwater-tolerant mangroves.


    Moving Forward


    10        HDB is exploring the possibility of using the floating wetland system in areas beyond greening. One area that is being studied is the use of this system to hold solar panels on water surface to tap solar energy. Beyond Punggol, HDB will also explore the possibility of applying these new environmentally-sustainable solutions to both existing and upcoming towns and estates to bring greenery and biodiversity to more residents. For instance, HDB is working with relevant agencies to bring the freshwater-tolerant mangroves to water bodies in new housing areas, such as the Alkaff Lake in Bidadari and the quarry pond in Tampines North Quarry Park.