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The World Beyond Walls
Beyond four walls, an HDB home extends into the wider precinct and town, where thoughtful greening and landscaping concepts have been put in place to drive green and sustainable living for the future.
Residents of Alkaff Lakeview in Bidadari can enjoy living within a park, with lush gardens just minutes from their doorstep
A black-naped oriole perches on a tree branch, pausing for just a second, before flying away in search of yet another resting place. It would not be hard-pressed for choice, given the ribbons of greenery that HDB has conciously woven into its towns and estates.
Guided by the Roadmap to Better Living in HDB Towns, HDB adopts a holistic approach to the provision of green spaces and urban greenery—from planning to implementation—to create a quality living environment for residents.
The seeds of greenery were sown from the early days of public housing, with simple tree planting in the 1960s and 1970s to provide natural shade. Thematic neighbourhood parks and common greens were later introduced in the 1990s to boost green spaces between precincts, while offering residents shared recreational facilities and rest areas.
However, it was only in the last decade that innovative landscaping really took flight. Elevated gardens became commonplace, injecting new layers of greenery into sky bridges, within residential blocks, and atop car park roofs. Often integrated with communal areas such as playgrounds and fitness corners, these landscaped spaces not only beautify and offer visual relief, but also serve as focal points for the community to meet and interact.
The various types of elevated gardens found at HDB housing projects
In 2013, HDB developed a Biophilic Town Framework to guide the enhancement of existing natural assets and the development of neighbourhood landscapes to promote a greater sense of place, better well-being, and an enhanced quality of life for residents.
The Framework was first applied at Punggol Northshore in 2015, and subsequently rolled out to newly launched housing projects from July 2018. Upon its completion, Punggol Northshore will see nature incorporated as an integral part of the neighbourhood, providing greater environmental health and human well-being, with plenty of opportunities for residents to reconnect with nature and enjoy its intrinsic benefits.
Today, plans are afoot to make HDB towns and estates even greener, with higher greenery provisions introduced for all new HDB projects designed from 2016. Greenery is incorporated into housing designs from the planning stage, so residents get to enjoy quality greenery from the onset of moving in.
An enhanced greenery indicator is Green Plot Ratio (GnPR), a 3-dimensional measurement of the development’s 'green density', calculated by using the total leaf area of the plants provided, divided by the site area. From 2016, all new HDB developments have to meet the minimum GnPR of 4.5, which means the total leaf area of the greenery will have to be at least 4.5 times the size of the housing estate.
GnPR will help guide consultants in planning and choosing plants to effectively replace or increase greenery. It can also estimate the semi-mature greenery that will be achieved after planting, and serves as a check to ensure that adequate greenery is provided in the development.
Another indicator, Green Cover Provision, measures the percentage of land area covered by greenery as seen from the sky. It includes canopies of trees over paved areas, shrubs, and turf planting areas. From 2016, new housing developments have implemented an estimated green cover of 45-60% to improve thermal comfort for residents.
Over 80 projects across Singapore have adopted the higher greenery provisions, including Tampines GreenView, Bedok North Woods, West Plains @ Bukit Batok, and Anchorvale Plains.
Apart from providing visual relief and shade, landscaping and greenery is leveraged to shape endearing and distinctive town identities.
In Dawson, ground level and elevated gardens as well as lush landscaping will integrate seamlessly into the 7 new housing projects, bringing to life HDB’s ‘Housing-in-a-Park’ vision, where residents live in a scenic park-like environment.
Lush greenery stacks surround SkyTerrace @ Dawson
They can also look forward to a 200-metre long Dawson Eco-Corridor, a shaded pedestrianised street within SkyParc @ Dawson that connects to the precinct garden of SkyVille @ Dawson.
During Dawson’s development, much care went into maintaining its rich biodiversity—about 80 mature trees were conserved, while more than 4,300 new trees from over 70 species will be planted in the estate. When fully completed, the Dawson developments will achieve a GnPR of more than 4.5 and an average of more than 50% green cover.
Mature trees are retained in Dawson to strengthen the estate's identity and provide residents with comfortable shaded areas as they use the parks
Inspired by the rolling greens and undulating topography, Bidadari will be transformed into a tranquil urban oasis, where residents can relax in a garden-like setting.
To be completed progressively by 2022, the 10-hectare Bidadari Park is a multi-agency collaboration between HDB, National Parks Board, PUB, Singapore’s National Water Agency, and National Heritage Board. Situated in the heart of Bidadari estate, the park will adopt Bidadari’s wooded and rustic nature, and create a unique park experience. Aside from experiential trails, the park will feature a new Alkaff Lake that aims to recreate the sense of tranquillity of the former Alkaff Lake Gardens, which was built in the area in 1929, and to double up as a stormwater retention pond.
Flanking Bidadari Park is the Bidadari Greenway, a 1.6-kilometre green spine traversing the full length of the housing estate from Bartley Road to Upper Serangoon Road. Facilities and amenities, such as rest stops, will line the Greenway, creating opportunities for interactions in lush landscapes. Pedestrian and cycling paths running through the Greenway will enable residents to walk and cycle seamlessly in the estate.
To bring back the rich heritage and memories of Bidadari, the former Upper Aljunied Road was expunged and will be transformed into a 700-metre Heritage Walk to safeguard the beautiful mature rain trees lining it. The Heritage Walk, which will cut across the park and link Woodleigh MRT station to a new Memorial Garden, will recount the history and stories of Bidadari through a series of storyboards.
Bidadari Greenway connects the housing precincts and the town's recreational facilities
The masterplan for the ‘forest town’, Tengah, was unveiled in 2016 to much excitement, as the first HDB town to be sensitively integrated with the ecosystems surrounding it. One of the major features is the creation of a forest corridor, which will form part of the larger network of greenery that connects the Western Catchment Area and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
In Garden District, one of Tengah’s 5 housing districts, a 900-metre long Garden Farmway is planned as an organic and meandering common green, traversing several housing districts within the town. It will provide opportunities for social interaction among the Tengah community through shared recreational activities, such as hobby farming and gardening.
With designs inspired by nature or motifs such as flowers and garden creatures, 6 thematic playgrounds along the Garden Farmway will further strengthen the visual identity of the Garden District and inspire imaginative play. The Farmway will also connect residents to 2 key recreational features in the town: the Tengah Pond, where residents will be able to take a stroll along the waterfront promenade; and the Central Park, an extensive 20-hectare green lung, where residents can enjoy a variety of recreational activities.
Tengah residents at the Garden District can enjoy easy access to green spaces around home and within the town
Over in Choa Chu Kang, green spaces in Keat Hong Neighbourhood 8 are treated as a single landscape entity. Seamless connections between the landscaping and residential blocks take the form of paths, gentle ramps, and elevated link bridges, providing residents access to extensive greenery right at their doorsteps.
Lush rooftop gardens built at the housing projects help to soften the urban edges and reduce heat gain. They can also be converted for gardening and farming use, creating opportunities for community bonding and interaction.
At Keat Hong Colours, residents can readily access expansive rooftop gardens that are well connected to the residential blocks
60 years on, HDB has progressed beyond providing basic brick-and-mortar flats to homes that immerse one in nature. Verdant landscapes are now integrated with high-rise buildings, strengthening the connection between the built environment and nature, and forming a mantle of greenery across all towns.
All perspectives used in this article are artists' impressions only; actual developments may differ.