Shaping CBD Futures II (Week 6) | Natalie Ng and Diane Lee
We are designing an urban strategy for the future of work such that we can better integrate work and public spaces in the residential areas
As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Singapore has taken several steps and implemented incremental measures leading to the goals. Singapore is working towards creating sustainable cities and communities as part of SDG’s 11th goal: inclusive of subgoals such as inclusivity, safety within the community, public space and reducing the environmental impact of cities. Through circular construction methodologies with sustainable materials, places in Singapore can potentially be augmented, tailored to the needs of the locals.
Mass Engineered Timber (MET) is a potential alternative to the typical construction materials used in building cities: they are lightweight structures that have lower carbon emissions during fabrication and assembly. Studies have shown a 15-20% savings in carbon emissions for timber construction instead of steel. Its prefabrication nature also allows for easier assembly, shorter project timelines and safer construction sites. A secondary benefit that comes with the use of MET is the use of the circular economy. As mentioned by Jensen, a Senior Partner 3XN and Director GXN, “Today buildings are statically welded, glued and cast together. By designing for disassembly future buildings will be flexible and function as material banks.” The use of MET made with a basic kit of parts allows for reconfiguration and the creation of a material bank, reducing the amount of waste during the construction process. Although the use of MET is uncommon in Singapore, we believe that it should be considered as part of future urban projects, such as for office and public space.
The COVID-19 pandemic that continues to affect our lifestyles has caused a paradigm shift towards a culture of working from home. Office spaces become more redundant, and in some cases, have transformed into places just for colleagues to have meetings. However, this cultural shift also results in lower volumes of individuals commuting to their workspaces. This has had a positive impact on the environment by reducing the number of carbon emissions through transportation. Working from home has brought benefits to both the environment and to the individual, as he enjoys the convenience of having his office in his home. There is an opportunity to decentralise office spaces from the Central Business District to residential neighbourhoods, to create dispersed co-working spaces that are conducive for meeting and work. As compared to a standard office building, the co-working scheme allows for greater flexibility for users and reduces the cost of rent, since occupants only need to pay for the amount of space they need. There are increased opportunities for social interaction to occur in such spaces, fostering collaborations at the individual and the corporate levels. Bringing the office spaces within the residential zones provides accessibility, and spaces of varying height can be differentiated into various programmes. To create a co-working space that is convenient for individuals, the design should be located near residential blocks. Void decks and vacant spaces in-between blocks of HDBs are currently underutilized, despite HDB’s attempt to design facilities for public use. Void decks have been a part of Singapore’s heritage, being a space for “building community ties and promoting racial Integration”, as noted by the National Heritage Board. Efforts are being made by HDB to engage with members of the public to create a more vibrant neighbourhood.
Given the availability of void decks and vacant spaces in-between residential blocks, we think that our project can make use of this opportunity to create co-working spaces to accommodate the new work from home culture and improve the liveliness of the neighbourhood through public spaces. By using modules of varying heights, the resultant structural form can better respond to the site. This can also be adapted to suit other site contexts, and parts from one site can be demolished to be relocated to another site when needed. To tackle Singapore’s hot and humid tropical weather, we hope to introduce a canopy of shade that can provide shelter to the users of the space. A field of umbrella structures creates a natural microclimate that helps to increase the comfort levels of the users of the space.