Category Archives: Community

The green tiger

 

 

Environmental design consultant Henry Woon of Atelier Ten speaks to architecture writer Sylvia Chan about what makes Singapore one of the world’s most sustainable cities.

 

Tell us about the concept of sustainability in the context of Singapore.

In Singapore’s building industry, there is a term called ESD, or Environmental Sustainability Design. Very often the industry assumes that ESD is the same as the environmental benchmarking practice, which is called Green Mark in Singapore. Green Mark is very much similar to BREEAM in the UK. It covers issues on building design such as energy, water, waste, material, biodiversity, construction process and wellbeing. It is a widely practised system in Singapore.

However, at Atelier Ten, we understand sustainability as a much wider concept that goes beyond benchmarking. A bespoke approach is often required for each project to achieve a truly sustainable design. In a way, benchmarking should only be a baseline requirement. We are pushing for a broader concept of sustainability that encompasses more aspects, and the Singapore market is also going towards this direction.

When did the concept of sustainable design start to prevail in Singapore?

I would say around 10 to 15 years ago, when there was a global push for sustainability in the built environment in response to global warming.

Typically, the built environment accounts for 50% of a city’s energy consumption. Singapore is a country well informed of the situation, and the industry has already started to respond to it. Green Mark was set up in 2005. Recently, Singapore also signed up to COP21 and the C40 initiatives dedicated to addressing climate change.

What triggered Singapore to promote sustainable design?

Singapore has very limited land for development. Most of the energy, materials and other resources for consumption are imports. This drove Singapore to focus on developing high-quality and high-performance projects which are less reliant on imported resources. This can increase the resilience of the city-state.

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay. CREDIT: Jonathan Reid – Arch.Photos

What are some of the signature sustainable projects in Singapore?

I would say the first significant sustainable project is Gardens by the Bay, which was designed by Atelier Ten. The project won a number of awards, including World Building of the Year in 2012. It was designed to be zero-carbon, and sustainability was always at the heart of the project. The gardens feature an educational section at the end of the indoor greenhouse tour. This section highlights global warming issues, and showcases how the built environment and human lifestyle changes can help reduce carbon emissions. It raises environmental awareness at a domestic level.

Another project I would like to mention is the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Campus. The campus is set within the wild nature of Singapore and was designed to blend into nature as much as possible. The cycling network within the campus is very well utilised. The university also has relentless commitment to ensure the sustainable operation on campus. It launched an EcoCampus initiative and developed a campus-wide sustainability framework, aiming to reduce energy, water use and waste intensity by 35% by 2020.

Inside the Learning Hub at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), designed by Heatherwick Studio. CREDIT: Hufton + Crow

Who drives the sustainable design initiatives in Singapore?

The Singapore government has a significant role. A lot of the major developments in Singapore are funded by government agencies. The government is thus both the policymaker and the client. A lot of sustainability policies and their implementation are government-driven. The industry and the government are very much aligned, and sustainability policy implementation is very efficient here.

How does the Singapore government encourage and support sustainable design in the city?

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is the main agency in Singapore that sets up environmental and sustainability standards. It also drives their implementation. BCA’s strategies in promoting sustainability design are quite multifaceted. They include policy and regulation-making, initiatives to improve baseline performances, publicity of the Green Mark best practices, and provision of incentives to encourage developers to embrace sustainability measures. One extremely effective measure in incentivising developers to design projects with high environmental performance is additional GFA allowances.

The School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University, designed by CPG Consultants.

Singapore has a very high population density. What are some of the unique aspects in sustainable design in the country?

I think the density of the city gives designers and developers the opportunity to establish infrastructure and utilise resources in a more centralised way. An economy and lifestyle that emphasise sharing can facilitate Singapore’s sustainable development. The city-state is moving towards this direction by embracing a smart city economy.

The Sustainable Singapore Blueprint 2015 outlines Singapore’s vision to become more sustainable. What new measures will the city take to achieve this goal?

The blueprint covers a wide range of areas, including sustainable resources, environmental quality and community sustainability. The ‘car-lite’ campaign, transportation infrastructure upgrade, waste recycling (particularly food waste) and drainage treatment are some of the key new measures to enhance sustainability.

The Henderson Waves bridge, designed by RSP, connects Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park, and is a prime example of Singapore’s green infrastructure.

What are the latest smart technologies used for sustainable design in Singapore?

Singapore has the vision to become a Smart Nation and is believed to be in the midst of its fourth industrial revolution. The next phase of Singapore’s growth will be driven by IoT (Internet of Things, or the infrastructure of the information society), data and services, as well as sustainable design principles that will improve work efficiency and quality of life.

I think the key contribution of smart technologies is allowing extensive data collection and monitoring at the right time and the right place. This makes timely action possible. Intelligent and interconnected systems also allow environmental design and operational objectives to be met. This is very powerful, and will change industries, businesses and people’s lives.

What are Singapore’s latest goals in sustainable design?

I think Singapore’s commitment to COP21 has a monumental effect on the nation’s sustainability development. The nation will need to reduce carbon emission intensity by 36% based on the 2005 benchmark, and this is a very ambitious target. The government has also set a goal to retrofit 80% of its buildings by 2030 and rolled out measures to encourage energy efficiency, which will reduce the city-state’s dependence on foreign energy import. All these will help Singapore to maintain its competitiveness in global business.

What sorts of investments or resources are needed to meet these goals?

Resources can go in the form of business initiatives, policies, or education and community projects. Investments in smart technologies and infrastructure are also important. As Singapore is very much a government-led society, policies are usually very well coordinated and can be implemented efficiently to promote sustainability design.

Different cities face different challenges. How can other cities best learn from Singapore’s sustainable design initiatives?

One thing that Singapore has successfully established is a simple, straightforward and standardised set of green building regulations. The Green Mark is a single document that covers all the principles of sustainable design, and it delineates regulations for both residential and commercial buildings. The simplicity of the benchmarking system eliminates conflicting and overlapping regulations that could lead to inefficiency or confusion in the industry. This is very important to a successful approach to sustainable development. If a city simplifies and strengthens its sustainability regulations and clarifies it goals, developers, architects and contractors will be able to understand and comply with them more easily. Singapore is a successful example that illustrates how effective this approach can be.

 

Sylvia Chan specialises in research, writing and public relations in architecture. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Hong Kong, and her research interests include architectural representations, translations in architecture and the concept of Chineseness.

Article extracted from Make Annual 13.

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Cycle design for the workplace

Matt Bugg

 

 

Make’s Matt Bugg on the rising popularity of cycling in the UK and how designers are responding to the growing demands of a cycling workforce.

 

Cycling on the rise

Kuala Lumpur has its crowd-sourced cycle maps, Jakarta its car-free Sundays, Copenhagen its Cycle Snake bridge. In the Netherlands, Groningen is home to heated cycle paths and traffic signals with rain sensors, while Krommenie boasts the world’s first solar cycle lane.

And London? The Mayor is investing £770 million in cycling infrastructure across the capital to improve cycle safety and encourage more Londoners to travel by bike, as well as accommodate those who already do. Two new Cycle Superhighways have been announced, London’s first full-time Walking and Cycling Commissioner has been appointed, and a network of backstreet routes known as Quietways are due to open later this year. Another £90 million is going to the Mini-Holland programme, which is giving three outer London boroughs funding to improve streets and facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.

Visualisation of the new road layout at Blackfriars Junction

It’s not just the capital that’s racing to update its cycle infrastructure. Leeds and Cambridge are each now home to a CyclePoint – a Dutch-style, rail station-adjacent facility that offers secure bike parking plus a repairs service, info centre, rental bike concession and retail shop. With space for nearly 3,000 bikes, the Cambridge CyclePoint is Britain’s largest dedicated cycle parking facility.

All these developments are part of a wave of bike-related infrastructure transforming cities around the world – a collective effort to make cycling an integral form of transport and a normal part of everyday life, something people feel safe and comfortable doing. Popularity for cycling is certainly rising here in the UK. Running and cycling app Strava data shows that riders nationwide logged an unprecedented 803 million kilometres in 2016, while TfL expects there to be more Londoners commuting by bike than by car in 2018.

Given that many of these journeys are work commutes, it’s worth asking: how can architects use their office designs to encourage this upward trend?

The workplace response

With the rising popularity of cycling in the UK comes a growing demand from commercial occupiers for better cycling provision. In the fierce battle to attract and retain the best talent, businesses are under pressure to provide cutting-edge cycling facilities – a trend that’s transforming cycle provision in workplaces across the country. Ample bike-parking, showers and changing rooms are fast becoming obligatory features of new-build and refurbished office schemes. What does the modern office worker want from their physical workspace? Increasingly, the answer is a place to secure their bike.

At Make we have a team of specialists in building and property-related cycle design. We take a progressive attitude towards the integration and delivery of cyclist and pedestrian-friendly spaces, particularly in our office designs. In doing so, we encourage low-carbon transport and help make cycling a safe and convenient option for commuters, including those with disabilities.

Take our work on 5 Broadgate, a new world-class office building in the City of London for UBS. Exceeding best-practice cycling facilities formed a key strand of the transport plan. In pursuit of British Land’s ‘Places People Prefer’ sustainability strategy, we provided an exemplary cycling facility with a dedicated cycle ramp and separate mezzanine level containing 523 cycle spaces, 500-plus lockers, and 50 showers and dressing areas.

Substantial cycle provision also proved integral to our designs for 80 Charlotte Street and Rathbone Square, both mixed use office and residential developments. The former includes 226 secure and covered cycle parking spaces, plus shower/changing facilities; the latter, meanwhile, has nearly 500 cycle parking spaces – including dedicated office, retail and residential provision – and heated lockers and showers.

And then there’s Make’s own studio at 32 Cleveland Street, a converted car park completed in 2015. Intent on giving our employees cycle provision, we repurposed a redundant lightwell to maximise our limited space and open up access to wall rack storage for 30 bikes, plus showers and lockers.

The next steps

As designers, we’re faced with the challenge of producing efficient, innovative designs for workplace cycle provision – ones that not only address cyclists’ individual needs but also integrate into the wider infrastructure. This means considering the population at large and allowing for a far greater cycle provision in our public realm projects. There’s even scope to embrace automation. Just look at ECO Cycle in Japan, which provides large-scale automated underground cycle parking facilities – a boon for densely populated cities.

Ultimately, we share the view of architecture writer and friend Peter Murray, who is adamant that “cities which have fewer cars and more active transportation are better cities to live in.” As noted in TfL’s London Cycling Design Standards, which Murray provides training and guidance on, cycling is fast becoming a mass transportation mode, and new developments must reflect this shift and allow for future growth too. We support the guidance these standards provide, and we strive to produce workplace designs that further this vision.

This post has been adapted from Make Annual 12.

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Unique Cities – Questions of Identity

By Greg Willis

What makes a city liveable? That was the question posed recently by a national newspaper. Readers were invited to share pictures and stories in response. From graffiti to open air barbeques, street scenes to ice creams, identifiable monuments to ubiquitous landscapes, the collection was so broad as to make the answer to the question self-evident: the only thing in common was the originality of the response.

It is hardly surprising that it is the uniqueness of our cities which define our emotional reaction to them. After all, cities are made of people and people are as diverse as the cities in which we inhabit. That there is an inextricable link between identity, uniqueness and that which we determine as being liveable only highlights the problem of non-organic growth in many modern urban conurbations.

Organic and non-organic growth

Non-organic growth could be described as when a large urban centre comes into being quickly to meet a specific or a series of time-critical needs. Very few successful urban environments arrive fully formed, with the possible exception of Disneyland. (Although it is debatable whether one could describe this as being liveable and it’s probably not even considered unique considering the proliferation of the brand around the world).

In contrast, organic growth allows multiple peoples, events, markets and cultures to shape the environment in which they live, occur, serve and inhabit. Critically, organic growth also has room for the misguided or the temporary, allowing the loved, workable, pragmatic and lasting environments to remain. It could thus be argued that it is the ability for cities to grow organically, shaped by many different elements with the potential to change, adapt and renew, which gives birth to that which may be considered unique and therefore what we like to define as a place’s identity.

Ultimately, what makes a city liveable is the very fact that, by definition, it is living – capable of change, not complete, alive with possibility – like the occupants who inhabit it, completely unique.

Organic Growth

Organic growth

Inorganic Growth

Inorganic growth

Is it possible to ‘design in’ uniqueness?

Protecting the uniqueness of an area could be argued as championing its identity, or at least acknowledging it and responding to it. The appropriateness of any design response in reinforcing the unique character of an area is of course subjective, with approaches ranging from being complementary and sympathetic to being contrasting and challenging. Both attitudes however, still acknowledge the presence of an original identity.

What happens when there is no, or little, conceived present identity from which to respond? What of those times when non-organic growth is unavoidable? This is a more unique challenge for the designer. One could employ a unifying element to the overall project, a kind of rubber stamp to the component parts which points us to the sense of the whole, however obviously. While this might indeed reinforce an identity, it’s hardly the most persuasive argument for uniqueness. In striving to impose a character, there is a danger of crowding out those myriad of possibilities which might appeal to the multitudes of communities who reside there. A more subtle approach might be one of scale. Care and attention should be given to every element of our cities; streets, neighbourhoods, districts and conurbations. Large or small, macro or micro, every scale of our cities serves to form its identity. Surely our own uniqueness is determined by the minutiae of our fingerprints as well as the more obvious characteristics of our facial features? The skill of the designers and planners is to navigate through the various scales with uniqueness of design which in turn enforces the strength of the overall identity.

Ask the community what they want

Ask the community what they want

How then should we approach the ‘design of densification’, so that the city in which these new homes are being built retains its character?

It is a misconception that densification need be the enemy of character. Instead, considered densification should be championed as the preservation of character; it can allow for the protection of the elements of the city which are standard bearers of its identity while allowing the city to survive, grow and thrive. The successful densification of urban areas should allow for the red line protection of those jewels of our cities which we should jealously guard; the parks, the canals, the squares, the notable buildings in which we all stake a common claim.

Densification should not only be protecting the unique areas of our cities, it should also actively contribute to the character of its landscape. Density should not be a simple multiplication of a base unit, the designer should look for opportunities in densification – height offers views and critical mass requires amenities. Density therefore, should equate to a myriad of possibilities, each unique and identifiable.

The ingredients only a dense city can provide

The ingredients only a dense city can provide

Unique cities

Unique cities

 

This essay was extracted from the Future Spaces Foundation report: Vital Cities not Garden Cities: the answer to the nation’s housing shortage?

 

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The future of architecture – Jet Chu

We asked ten architects – each of whom joined Make in a different year since 2004 – to write about how they see architecture and the built environment changing over the next ten years. Here is ex-Make partner, Jet.

Rebecca Woffenden
Jet Chu
Make Partner since 2010

China is a big country with a huge population. Lots of skyscrapers and high-rise apartment buildings are being built here at the moment and living vertically will soon be a normal way of life for many people. Because a building is such a large object and has to last for many years, it is really important how it is incorporated into the bigger picture of a community and a society. At this stage, most people in China are just paying attention to a building’s appearance, yet in the coming ten years it seems to me there are two other main areas to focus on.

The first is sustainable design and living green. People have a growing interest in and awareness of our impact on the planet and the environment. With new advancements in technology, we should actively use more natural and renewable energies in our day-to-day living, and so reduce our impact.

The second focus is that as more people move into high-rise living, it is important to think about how to rebuild a neighbourhood and a sense of community. In essence, the challenge is how can we bring the ground to the sky?jet-chu-quote

I think the future of architecture should incorporate both of these focuses – using high-tech ideas to provide a modern style of living that also minimises the impact on the environment. We are already working towards that goal but there needs to be much more force. A building is about four walls and a roof in the end. It all depends on how we use what we know to change the way we live for the better.

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Safer streets for all

In just one two-week period late last year, six people lost their lives while cycling through London’s streets. In addition to the inevitable questions about safety and the calls for quick, preventative action, there is also a need to ask how we plan to support moves towards more sustainable transport options in the long term.

Bicycle

The networks that connect communities underpin the work that we, as architects, do to create buildings, streets and spaces that are fit for tomorrow. People should feel as if they can move through a city with ease and comfort and an holistic approach to infrastructure planning is needed to bring this ambition to life.

Through good design we can remove the need for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians to jostle for position on our roads and make getting from A to B much less challenging that it often is now. After decades spent accommodating more and more motor vehicles, we’re now returning to a time of putting people first.

London’s complex mix of the old and the new gives us the ideal opportunity to achieve this. High streets that have been redesigned to force cars to move more slowly and allow pedestrians to move around safely attract shoppers and visitors and create places for people to meet. Oxford Circus, for example, has been transformed through the removal of clutter from the pavements and by introducing clear routes and crossings for people.

Regeneration schemes, such as the Heygate Estate at Elephant & Castle, promise wider reaching benefits. The scheme aims to reconnect communities that have suffered because of past errors which left them isolated from their surroundings, and shift the balance away from a dependence on vehicles. Instead, the focus is on the benefits that can be derived from having easy access to an integrated public transport network and open spaces that encourage social interaction. Walking and cycling are promoted through the provision of appropriate facilities and safe, family-friendly cycling lanes.

There are no easy answers to the challenges we face as we move towards more sustainable transport options and the infrastructure needed to support them. And of course, we’ll only find solutions if we work with local communities to understand the issues. However, I believe the one area that requires consistency is our collective commitment to high quality design. This is something that Sir Terry Farrell is looking into as part of his review of architecture and the built environment in England. His findings are expected shortly and I would welcome any recommendations that help us break down barriers in communities and connect people quickly, safely and sustainably.

Originally posted on Ken Shuttleworth's Building magazine column.

Bicycles

   People

 










Images: Rebecca Morrison and David Hunter
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The socio-economic value of people focused cities

By John Prevc

Cities throughout the world are locked in battle with each other as they try to attract capital investment from both private and public funders. Their focus is to try and attract new jobs and they are happy to entertain both the well-established and the new start-up businesses to help kick start their generally static economies.

Significant financial incentives from both local and national governments tend to be the biggest deal makers, but as businesses try and attract the best people, the quality of the city’s built environment is seen more and more as a significant factor in this extremely competitive decision-making process. This has meant that the role of urban designers and architects has grown significantly over the last ten years. They are seen as being the people who are best able to refresh a city through sometimes small interventions which can really help to change people’s perception and therefore help attract investors.

Very much linked to economic investment is the real opportunity of repairing the social ills that seem to ravage certain areas of our inner cities. If we are to design socially cohesive, well-used, popular cities we need to better understand the relationship between streets and spaces, and the buildings that form their edges.

Public spaces 1 Public spaces 2 Public spaces 3

Public spaces can often feel anonymous – nothing more than connections between buildings. They should, however, be places of substance which add to the interest and excitement of city life. If designed well, they can instil a sense of ownership, pride and wellbeing, as well as promote economic growth. If designed badly, they can produce ghettoes, social tension and communities which may well fail.

The role played by buildings cannot be underestimated; their uses, especially at ground floor level, are critical in defining the nature of the spaces they spill on to. The edges between inside and outside spaces are often where much of city life is to be found; the broader the edge, the better the relationship between the building and the public realm.

Urban edges have a number of characteristics; they have different “thicknesses” relating to their level of accessibility, both physical and visual; they can be external or internal spaces, or both – such as shops, cafes and markets; their use and character can change depending on the time of day, the day of the week, the season and the weather. An appreciation of both the context and the culture of the place in which the edge exists will better ensure the success of the urban realm and the community which occupies it.

Successful cities operate at a very simple level. They need to take the ultimate building block which determines scale, the human being, and measure life accordingly. Having successfully attracted new businesses into our cities, the real challenge then is to have them stay and expand and attract others to join them. I believe that the quality of the public realm and its interface with the buildings that enclose it is so incredibly significant in the success of city economies that if it were to fail, the city would ultimately fail too.

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