Singapore’s Punggol Eco-Town a test-bed for energy, water and waste management technologies

  • Thirteen urban solutions now being test-bedded at Punggol Eco-Town
  • Living lab to cultivate freshwater-tolerant mangroves and wetland plants 

By Celia Alphonsus

Solar photovoltaic panels installed on the rooftops of some HDB flats. This is increasingly being done to tap renewable sources of energy, but not at extra cost to the people (photo credit: SunSeap)

Imagine living in an urban flat that is cool and yet bright with natural lighting, that comes with lush open spaces and, to top it off, rooftop gardens to put your green thumb to practice. This is what the Housing Development Board (HDB) of Singapore is aiming for with the development of Punggol Eco-Town.

Urban solutions and people are at the heart of the project as its main objective is to enhance the living environment in HDB estates and to encourage residents to adopt a greener lifestyle. Resource-efficient homes and estates with high standards of liveability are the long-term goals. 

Key areas that most townships and cities struggle with are: energy management, urban mobility, water management, resource and waste management and maintenance.

HDB has identified 13 urban solutions to meet these challenges and they are being test-bedded at Punggol. Among them are: 

Energy: HDB is testing out four energy solutions – solar photovoltaics, elevator energy regeneration systems, energy-efficient lighting in common areas and smart grid/meters.

For instance, it recently implemented Singapore’s first solar leasing project that entails the installation, operation and maintenance of two MWp solar photovoltaic systems on 45 blocks (see our January issue). 

The solar energy generated will be used to power lifts, lighting in common areas, and water pumps. The solar leasing model is expected to help cut 20% of energy consumption by 2015.

Urban mobility: A car-sharing scheme using electric vehicles has been launched to encourage residents to adopt greener transportation. E-bicycles are also provided as an alternative for residents to commute within the town. Various strategic charging points for electric vehicles have also been set up.

Water: Water efficiency and quality is a crucial aspect of an eco town. The water solutions deployed in Punggol will promote recycling, decrease usage and enhance water quality. To achieve a 10% reduction in consumption by 2015, the buildings in Punggol Eco Town will have:

Water-efficient fittings

Rainwater harvesting

Smart water metres

Water-quality monitoring

Resource and waste: Resource and waste minimisation is another key feature of an eco-town. Recycling of waste is a good way to utilise resources. To encourage a threefold increase in recyclables by 2015, all buildings will have centralised recyclable chutes at every level in the residential blocks. 

Planning and design: Traversing through Punggol town is a 4.2 km man-made waterway which offers communal spaces along the promenade that will provide an attractive and vibrant waterfront living atmosphere. In promoting the concept of “Green Living by the Waters”, HDB will be building more green buildings that will draw from elements of nature like sun, rain and wind as inspiration for the planning and design of Punggol Eco Town. 

A key feature of the project is the eco drains along the promenade that capture and cleanse surface water run-off before discharging it into the waterway. 

At the eastern end of the waterway, HDB introduced the living laboratory to cultivate fresh water-tolerant mangroves and wetland plant species. In days gone by, mangrove swamps used to line the lengths of rivers surrounding Punggol. However, the total mangrove coverage area has now reduced from 13% to 0.5% due to rapid urbanisation. 

Through the living laboratory, the waterway is now the only place in Singapore where visitors are able to see fresh water-tolerant mangroves.