• Published Date: Issue Sep/ Oct 2019

    More than just flat owners, our residents are instrumental in shaping active, thriving communities in HDB towns. With the many community programmes introduced to spur ground-up participation, more residents have been playing an active role in co-creating and enlivening community spaces in their neighbourhood.

    A group of Woodlands residents came together to create a hydroponics garden for their community, which was one of the three winning ideas at HDB Build-a-thon 2019


    Like a plant that grows from a single seed, the hydroponics farm in Woodlands Glen sprouted from an idea to engage the community through a spot of gardening. Inspired by the success of community gardens elsewhere, Mr Leon Yeo and his neighbours turned a common green area in their precinct into a 30 square metres high-tech hydroponics farm, about half the size of a 3-room HDB flat.

    With the help of eco interest groups, the team rallied over 200 residents, many of them young families, to get involved in the gardening activities. They got to know each other better over eco-talks and workshops, as well as through planting and harvesting edible greens such as chye sim and Chinese cabbage. This unique urban garden, named Hydroglen, was one of three winning ideas at Build-a-thon 2019, a competition that encourages residents to propose and implement ideas, which can enliven communal areas, build neighbourly bonds, and create pleasant environments for the community and their families.


    The community garden has brought residents of all ages together as they plant and harvest their own edible greens


    A Livelier Neighbourhood

    Build-a-thon is into its third edition, and eight ground-up initiatives from its 2019 run have been or are in the midst of being implemented. These include ideas to inject buzz into underutilised spaces, and void deck revamps that turn them from plain to photo-worthy.

    This year, to lend greater support to the ideation process, HDB even organised a Design Thinking course for participants, where they learnt to sharpen their proposals, develop prototypes, and test their solutions with the end user in mind. Apart from providing a platform for ideas to take shape, HDB also set up the Friendly Faces, Lively Places (FFLP) Fund in 2016, offering residents up to $20,000 to bring their community project proposals to life.

    The team behind the hydroponics garden working on their prototype at a Design Thinking workshop organised by HDB and Republic Polytechnic

    The FFLP Fund was extended to HDB shop tenants, lessees and Merchants’ Associations in 2018, so that they, too, can carry out community bonding activities in their neighbourhoods.

    The fund has inspired numerous projects in various HDB towns, including handicraftmaking sessions in Pasir Ris and Tampines, a heritage photography exhibition in Jurong, and a play yard in Aljunied with swings and gardens that residents co-created so people could come and gather.



    A series of 3D murals depicting different eras of Singapore’s development adorn the walls of a void deck in Woodlands Drive 62. A plant wall, as well as additional lightings, has also been installed, adding to its Instagram appeal.



    Residents have been delighted by the rejuvenated void deck, which is now adorned by vibrant and colourful 3D murals


    'Konnect Point’ is the brainchild of a 10-member Build-a-thon team who wanted to create a space that could bring together neighbours of different ages. In refreshing the void deck, the team, comprising Woodlands residents and students from Republic Polytechnic, also sought the support and ideas of some 230 residents in the area.

    The end result is a popular hangout where residents young and old come by to pose for photos, and bond over traditional games such as hop-scotch and snake-and-ladders, which were installed using floor decals. Encouraged by its initial success, the team holds monthly breakfast events at the space, attracting over 100 residents each time. Over food, residents engage in friendly competition over old-school games such as marbles and ‘five stones’, or take part in workshops and community flea markets.


    Volunteer for a Cause

    In another part of the island, a group of residents is taking steps to enliven their living environment through play. Over numerous weekends, Jack Lee, a 23-year-old architecture student from NUS, joined an HDB team in taking some 300 residents through design workshops to decide on the play components that will go into Singapore’s first community-built playground, the Build-a-Playground @ Canberra project. These include slides, bridge and climbers.


    Left: Residents of Canberra designed and built Singapore’s first community-built playground
    Right: FOH Volunteers like Jack Lee play a key role in engaging residents and facilitating community discussions


    “I enjoyed helping the residents envision what the space can be, rather than an area that they just pass by every day,” Jack said. Jack is one of the many volunteers under the Friends of Our Heartland (FOH) network. Started in 2017, the volunteering network encourages residents to contribute to the community through different programmes and activities. With three key tracks – Cultivate, Activate, and Facilitate, the FOH
    network caters to participants with varying levels of experience, skills and resources. Besides participating in outreach events, initiating community projects, and engaging the elderly, trained volunteers also help facilitate community discussions on neighbourhood rejuvenation and
    development plans.

    The role of volunteers is essential in soliciting ideas and suggestions from residents to ensure that the project will meet the community’s needs. To bring Singapore’s first community-built playground to fruition, the FOH volunteers dedicated their time to the Build-a-Playground @ Canberra project, working with HDB to plan and carry out resident interviews, a pop-up roadshow, and design workshops.

    Such efforts to encourage community ownership have paid off. 98% of the participants said that they felt a stronger sense of ownership and are inspired to be more involved in their community in the future.

    FOH volunteers have also been seeking ideas from residents in Toa Payoh, Woodlands and Pasir Ris since early 2018 as part of Remaking Our Heartland 3. Through street interviews and workshops, volunteers have helped gather the community’s views on the preferred activities and spaces to be enhanced for the town-wide renewal programme.


    Supporting Budding Innovators

    Additionally, as part of ongoing efforts to foster stronger community involvement, HDB has steadily built on its successful Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living initiative, which was first incepted in 2011. What started out as an online crowdsourcing effort for fresh ideas to enhance the HDB
    living environment has since expanded into a hackathon, with a stronger focus on scalable Information and Communication Technology-based solutions.

    The Cool Ideas initiatives have generated hundreds of ideas from participants of diverse backgrounds, all looking to make a difference to their community.

    To help bring good ideas to life, HDB subsequently introduced the Cool Ideas Pitch, which offers budding innovators access to mentorship, guidance and resources from industry experts. Seed funding, in the form of the Cool Ideas Fund, was also made available to help close the gap between ideas and implementation.

    A solution that has been implemented is ‘Speedoc’. Recognising the demand for house-call doctor services, especially among a growing ageing population, Dr Shravan Verma developed a mobile application that can quickly and conveniently connect house-call doctors with patients who need medical attention, around the clock.

    Speedoc has since been adopted by Microsoft Singapore, with plans to tap into the latter’s technical expertise to scale up service delivery through the use of data analytics.

    Left: The Speedoc app, an idea pitched under the Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living initiative, offers users quick and convenient access to medical attention.
    Right: The team behind Speedoc recognised the growing demand for house-call doctor services