The Green Towns programme will see HDB estates incorporate various green features, including heat-reflecting paint, solar panels, LED lights, green canopy and rainwater recycling.
While the government’s 10-year plan to make Housing and Development Board (HDB) towns liveable and more environmentally sustainable is ambitious, it is doable, according to experts.
Since 2005, HDB has been driving efforts to reduce annual energy consumption in towns by 10%. It now hopes the Green Towns programme, which was recently announced by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, will lower this further by 15% comes 2030.
To achieve this eco-target, various initiatives have been lined up by HDB, such as the use of a new kind of paint containing pigments which reflect the sun’s heat, reported The Straits Times.
HDB’s preliminary studies showed that the cool paint could lower ambient temperature by up to two degrees Celsius when applied to roofs, pavements and building facades.
A two-degree drop in energy consumption is a “very big deal”, said Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, Executive Director of the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University.
“For west-facing blocks and top-floor units, which get more heated than other locations, cool paints on the building facade can help reduce the air-conditioning load very significantly,” he noted.
“When you adjust your air-conditioning temperature from 22 Degree C to 24 Degree C, your electricity consumption drops tremendously. It drops even more if you switch the air-conditioning off and supplement with fans or natural ventilation.”
To be trialled first in a large-scale pilot on several neighbourhoods, the paint will be adopted nationwide if successful.
Experts said the move brings Singapore one step nearer to other established green cities like Amsterdam, Vancouver and Copenhagen, even as it faces various challenges requiring innovative solutions.
“Our tropical climate and land constraints place additional burden on incorporating sustainable design features when we build and improve our towns. This is when technology comes into play,” said Prof Subodh.
Under the Green Towns programme, more housing precincts will be fitted with urban water harvesting systems which collect, stores and treats rainwater for non-potable uses such as the washing of common areas and irrigation.
Aside from reducing the use of potable water by over 50%, the system would also be helpful in mitigating flood risk since it slows the discharge of stormwater to the drainage system.
All common areas within HDB estates will also be installed with smart LED lighting that uses sensors to progressively illuminate a user’s path in advance, minus the sudden brightening effect.
The sensors also keep a record of how and when residents use the estate’s common areas, enabling planners to better design spaces.
By 2030, 70% of HDB blocks will also be installed with solar panels to further reduce energy consumption.
A typical HDB block could generate enough energy to power common services such as water pumps, lifts and lights, leading to a net-zero energy consumption for the block’s common areas.
The top decks of multi-storey carparks will also be injected with greenery, in the form of community gardens, urban farms and skyrise greenery.
Aside from an ecological impact, the integration of greenery in HDB estates also has a social component, said Professor Thomas Schroepfer, Founding Associate Head of Architecture and Sustainable Design at Singapore University of Technology and Design.
“Greenery increases biodiversity, decreases surface temperature and generally creates a nicer environment,” he said.
“What greenery also does is make public spaces more used as people appreciate them more, and injects life and energy into a space – all these make a city more liveable.”
He also cited SkyVille@Dawson as a successful example of integrated greenery in a public housing project.
While the HDB did not specify how much the programme is expected to cost, experts say the electricity consumption savings will likely offset the set-up cost in the long run.
Prof Schroepfer noted: “LED lights, solar panels and cool paint are not terribly expensive; many cities have implemented them. Over time, the return on investment will by far exceed the upfront cost so it makes economic sense.”
Victor Kang, Digital Content Specialist at PropertyGuru, edited this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email firstname.lastname@example.org