HDB Inks Two Research Collaborations to Keep HDB Towns Future-Ready

  • Published Date: 23 Jul 2019

         The Housing & Development Board (HDB) today inked two research collaborations with industry leaders to address the challenges faced by urban cities, such as climate change and sustainable use of limited resources. The collaborations, signed at the Ministry of National Development’s (MND) 5th Urban Sustainability R&D Congress, will augment HDB’s work in creating a highly liveable and sustainable living environment, now and in the future. Through these collaborations, HDB aims to develop new housing solutions to ensure that HDB towns continue to be future-ready to meet residents’ evolving needs and aspirations.

     

    2     The two collaborations are:

     

    1. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Evonik (SEA) Pte. Ltd. (Evonik) to explore solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change and enhance concrete manufacturing processes for productivity and sustainability.
       
    2. A Research Collaboration Agreement (RCA) with V-Key Pte Ltd under HDB’s Cool Ideas Enterprise programme to look into developing an open and secure ecosystem in HDB’s smart-enabled flats that enables the use of a variety of smart appliances across brands.

     

    3     HDB’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Cheong Koon Hean said, “As the master developer of public housing in Singapore, R&D is an integral part of HDB’s work as we strive to build better homes for Singaporeans. We are constantly exploring solutions to address the challenges faced by urban cities around the world. Today, we welcome on board new partners who are leaders in their respective fields to join us on this continuous journey of progress. We are excited to tap on their expertise to broaden our knowledge and adoption of advanced technology, to ensure that our towns will remain highly liveable and sustainable.”

     

    Research & Development Collaboration with Evonik

     

    4     Leveraging Evonik’s expertise in material science, HDB will collaborate with Evonik on the following projects: 

     

    1. Study the application of additives or compounds in advanced construction materials, to provide better heat insulation for HDB buildings in Singapore’s tropical climate;
       
    2. Study ways to enhance the performance of concrete for 3D printing.

     

    5     “This collaboration with HDB will enable us to explore innovative approaches and sustainable solutions to address today's urban challenges. It is a win-win partnership, and we look forward to making a significant contribution to advance the quality of Singapore's living environment in the long-term,” said Peter Meinshausen, Regional President of Evonik Asia Pacific South.

     

    (a)    Mitigating Heat Gain in HDB Buildings to Reduce Ambient Temperature

     

    6     Singapore’s annual mean temperatures have climbed steadily at 0.29oC per decade in the last 40 years (1979 – 2018). Based on Singapore’s Second National Climate Change Study, it is projected that Singapore could face an increase in daily mean temperatures of between 1.4oC and 4.6oC by 21001. With rising temperatures, it will become increasingly more challenging to reduce heat gain in the buildings during daylight and cool the buildings in an energy-efficient manner. Beyond adopting passive design strategies such as natural ventilation and building orientation to reduce heat gain, HDB is also exploring other solutions that can improve thermal comfort for our residents.

     

    7     HDB and Evonik will embark on a study to reduce heat transmitted into HDB buildings through the use of Evonik’s CALOSTAT®, a high-performance insulation material that can offer heat protection for buildings in Singapore’s tropical climate. The silicon-based material, which is sustainable, non-combustible, hydrophobic (able to repel water) and pressure resistant, has been tested and proven to have good thermal insulation properties, and adopted in developments in Germany, Switzerland and London. HDB will study the incorporation of CALOSTAT® into the secondary roof panel of HDB buildings to improve its thermal insulation.

     

    HDB Image HDB Image    
    Tests will be conducted to measure the effectiveness of Evonik’s CALOSTAT® in improving the heat insulation of secondary roof panels in HDB buildings.
    [Images credit: HDB]

     

    HDB Image
    Evonik’s CALOSTAT® has been tested and proven to have good thermal insulation properties.
    [Image credit: Evonik]

     

    8     To measure the effectiveness of CALOSTAT® in HDB buildings, lab and on-site trials will be conducted to compare the surface temperature before and after application of the material. The study targets to achieve a reduction of 2oC, in line with the national target of reducing ambient temperature by 2oC by 2025 under the Cities of Tomorrow programme2.

     

    9     The trials will also assess how the addition of CALOSTAT® will affect other properties of the secondary roof panel, such as its structural strength and water repellent capability, and whether this method is cost effective. The study is expected to commence in 1Q 2020.

     

    10     Upon successful trial, the solution could potentially be applied to other parts of HDB buildings beyond the roof, such as the façade and gable ends, to improve the buildings’ thermal insulation and enhance thermal comfort for residents.   

     

    (b)    Enhancing Concrete for 3D Printing

     

    11     Since 2018, HDB has been conducting research into the use of 3D concrete printing for the production of unique architectural forms, to expand our design and construction capabilities. Currently, the design and fabrication of concrete building elements using the conventional precast production process is time-consuming, as it requires the creation of customised mould sets. Depending on the intricacy of the design, a set of large volumetric moulds could take 1.5 to 2 months to fabricate. The digital fabrication of such components using a 3D concrete printer will offer more design options for HDB developments, and expand the capabilities of the construction industry. In addition, it will raise construction productivity, and reduce the dependency on conventional precast fabrication workers, thus addressing potential labour shortages.

     

    12     To further enhance the performance of 3D-fabricated concrete components, HDB will embark on a study with Evonik to improve the strength and workability of such concrete, through the use of Evonik’s special silica or metal oxides as additives to the concrete pre-mix. These additives are known to increase the early strength, homogeneity and flowability of the concrete. Good flowability, or workability, is crucial in allowing the smooth laying of concrete layers and ensuring that printed layers are well-bonded.  The study is expected to commence in 4Q 2019.

     

    13  Lab trials will be carried out to assess the outcome of incorporating these additives into the concrete pre-mix. Upon successful trial, new standards could potentially be developed for concrete pre-mix for 3D-printed components in the construction of HDB buildings.

     

    HDB Image   HDB Image
    Concrete for 3D printing requires early compressive strength and good workability as the printing is done in layers
    without the use of
    moulds. [Images credit: HDB]

     

    Enhancing Digital Infrastructure for Smart Living

     

    14     In tandem with Singapore’s move towards being a Smart Nation, HDB has been leveraging technology to create better homes and improve the lives of Singaporeans. This is guided by our Smart HDB Town Framework, which maps out how smart initiatives would be introduced to create a more liveable, efficient, sustainable and safe living environment for HDB residents. Within HDB flats, HDB is test-bedding the provision of smart-enabled HDB flats – flats that are equipped with digital infrastructure such as smart distribution boards (DBs) and smart sockets. This will support the use of smart technologies in flats and provide the springboard for residents to adopt the wide variety of smart home solutions offered in the market to meet their needs, thus paving the way for intelligent homes.

     

    HDB Image
    Each smart-enabled flat will come with a smart socket in each room and a smart distribution board (DB).
    [Images credit: HDB]

     

    15     To take smart living a step further, HDB will collaborate with V-Key to study ways to enhance the smart DB in the smart-enabled flats, so that smart home solutions from across different commercial providers can be connected in a secure and seamless manner, potentially removing the need for external hubs for each individual smart solution. This is especially useful for smart home appliances that do not have a built-in gateway3, such as smart lighting, motion sensors and smart curtains. For example:

     

    • With smart lighting, smart curtains and motion sensors installed in a smart-enabled flat, residents can have the lights switched on and curtains drawn automatically when they step into a room.
       
    • Households with elderly members can also choose to conveniently install an elderly-monitoring system, where a system of motion sensors in the home can detect and “learn” the movements of the elderly, such as the time they usually get out of bed or leave their homes for their activities. If the sensors fail to detect the regular movements, an alert can be sent to their next-of-kin or caregiver.

     

    16     This research project with V-Key comes under HDB’s Cool Ideas Enterprise programme, and is supported by Enterprise Singapore through the Government-Partnership Capability Transformation (Gov-PACT) initiative. Launched by HDB in 2018, Cool Ideas Enterprise is an open innovation programme that welcomes ideas from aspiring entrepreneurs or enterprises to improve the HDB living environment. (More details are in the Annex.)

     

    Top Honours for Outstanding Research and Development

     

    17     Separately, three of HDB’s projects were conferred the Minister for National Development’s R&D Awards, which recognise the important role that research and development plays in creating an endearing home and a distinctive global city.

     

    18     Amongst them, HDB’s development of the Smart Hub was conferred the Distinguished Award. The Smart Hub serves as a central data repository for the collection, integration, management, processing and analysis of data on estate services across 10,000 public housing blocks in 24 towns, and is akin to the ‘brain’ for the estates’ operations.

     

    19     The data collected can be analysed to transform the way HDB towns are planned, designed and maintained to provide a better living environment for residents. For instance, dashboards can be created to monitor and analyse the performance of key estate services such as lighting, pumps and waste collection; identify patterns; and predict potential maintenance issues; thus allowing for proactive upgrading and replacement of systems. Data collected on energy consumption patterns can also be used to identify opportunities for improving energy efficiency, such as through:

     

    • Smart Lighting – Through motion sensors, lighting levels in common areas can be reduced when little or no human traffic is detected. The Smart Hub will collect and analyse data on smart lighting so HDB can better understand human traffic patterns and optimise the provision of lighting.
       
    • Solar Energy – To achieve net-zero energy consumption for the common services, HDB will need to increase the amount of solar energy generated to cover the demand for lifts, water pumps and common area lighting. Data analytics of the solar energy generated will enable HDB to study the energy generation trends in relation to location, block layout and weather conditions, in order to determine the optimal blocks to install solar panels. The information also enables solar vendors to detect solar panels that are not functioning well, and rectify faults quickly.

     

    20     HDB also received merit awards for two other projects:

     

    • the Biophilic Town Framework, formulated in collaboration with the National University of Singapore, National Parks Board and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. The framework outlines the strategies needed to plan and design urban landscapes to achieve the larger urban development goals of sustainability, liveability and resilience, through a comprehensive set of considerations in the aspects of soil, flora and fauna, outdoor comfort, water, and people. Through this, HDB seeks to promote a greater sense of place, better health and well-being, and enhanced quality of life for residents.

      and
    • the Integrated Environmental Modeller, a joint project with A*Star. This modelling software platform uses 3D city models to simulate the interaction of urban micro-climatic conditions such as wind flow, temperature fluctuations, and solar irradiance with one another, as well as their combined effects on the surrounding urban landscape. This enables HDB planners to better understand how environmental conditions interact with the layout and design of the town, to derive configurations that will create a comfortable living environment for residents.

     

    1 Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources’ (MEWR) Press Release - Singapore To Strengthen Capabilities In Climate Science (17 July 2019)

    2 The Cities of Tomorrow programme was launched with the aim to build a highly liveable, sustainable and resilient city of the future through integrated development of R&D in four key verticals, namely, a) Advanced Construction, b) Resilient Infrastructure, c) New Spaces, and d) Greater Sustainability, and two key horizontals, namely a) Urban Environment Analytics and b) Complexity Science for Urban Solutions.

    3 A smart home gateway is an appliance that bridges smart devices to an internet connection / network (local area network i.e. Wi-Fi) and allows the device to “communicate” over the network (i.e. send and receive data) for it to function. A gateway can be implemented completely in software, hardware, or a combination of both.