A few weeks’ back, three of the Australasian TerraCottem team popped over to Singapore for Green UrbanScape Asia, aka GUSA. Given Singapore’s reputation as an astonishing garden city-state, the conference and expo’s theme – intense nature in cities – made perfect sense. Tarrant Baguely and Rick and Tim Sharpe share their observations…
Tarrant, better known as Tazz, has been visiting Singapore for many years now, taking part in conferences and meeting with both government and private landscape entities. “We’ve always met with an interesting collection of expertise there, both locally and from overseas where everyone is very welcoming. It’s an environment where there’s already a knowledgeable base, yet the experts we meet are open and keen to look at technologies or advancements. They are looking to have a dialogue with professionals from outside their experience or borders.”
Any first-timer arriving in Singapore would quickly appreciate what a remarkably green city it is, as Rick did. “The first impression you have, just travelling from the airport to the central business district, is of green. Everything is green. From the motorway you see that every space that isn’t needed for walking or driving upon is covered in plants. It’s absolutely attractive. Clearly it’s thanks to this government’s initiative that a modern concrete mega city of close to six million people has been transformed into a lush oasis.”
Singapore’s footprint is diminutive – it’s a mere 700 square kilometres where Melbourne for comparison is around 7,000. And yet, as Rick noted, every horizontal open space is already greened. As was explained during the conference, not content to stop there, Singapore has for some years actively and effectively pushed for the greening of its rooftops and vertical spaces. Rick explains, “This has been thanks to LUSH 2.0 which was the first and base level specification to green the footprint of developments in the city area. As part of the build, a percentage of the building’s footprint must include greenery. Originally this focused on gardens and rooftops, but with the release of LUSH 3.0, vertical surfaces were added into the specifications.” The drive behind the greening of this city is so established, these policies are actively and regularly reviewed in the light of new trends and green innovation technologies. Surely there could not be a better city to host GUSA?
Perhaps not, given Singapore aims to raise the urban greening bar even higher. Currently they’ve achieved a remarkable 100 hectares of urban greening above the ground in this compact and densely populated island: by 2030 they will double this skyrise greenery. “This is made possible because of the perspective and complete support of the sovereign state. I take my hat off to this culture which values greenspaces so highly that they allocate monetary figures against it which include the estimated return on their investment.” Of course, not all of that benefit is best described in terms of dollars. Where locals may take living in a green city for granted, visitors see the benefit with fresh eyes.
From Western Australia Tim says, “Perth is a clean city but Singapore was impressively so. Even the freeways had plantings along their length, with hedges and flowering plants growing in front of the steel barriers. The whole city is a like a high-end park. In these environs you feel safe: whenever we were out and about there were people walking, running on exercise trails, people in the parks.”
There’s also no doubt in Tim’s mind that the greening movement that has created such a socially healthy environment is fully supported. “As part of the conference there were not only many categories designed to recognise what’s been achieved, but many separate awards within each. Learning a little about these projects, it was impressive to see what’s been done.”