23 March 2021

The Forest Town

Written by Published in Architecture

Singapore’s first smart town, Tengah, is a remarkable project which incorporates nature into its urban area. Sublime finds out more about the five unique districts that will provide necessary environmental and social aspects to its residents

Tengah, or the 'forest town', is on track to becoming Singapore’s first smart and sustainable town. Built on land that was originally used for farming and fruit tree plantations, then for brick factories and military purposes after that, the infrastructure and design of the town integrates sustainability at every step of the way. In a world where over half of the population lives in urban areas, where the climate crisis only getting worse, it is crucial that we start incorporating nature into our cities. Could the construction of Tengah indicate the future of green cities around the globe? Here’s hoping.

Speaking with the Housing and Development Board of Singapore who are leading the development of this project, they explained that:

Tengah will be Singapore’s first smart and sustainable town

Once completed, the town is expected to provide 42,000 homes and focus on smart technology to facilitate an environment where it is easy to be an ethical and sustainable resident. In terms of the green infrastructure, the design is biophilic at its core. Tengah’s five unique districts - the Plantation district, the Garden district, the Park district, the Brickland District, and the Forest Hill district - will provide residents with the environmental and social aspects they need.


The Plantation district, for instance, will be home to about 2,000 square metres of space specifically designated for community farming and gardening. Stretching 700 metres long and 40 metres wide, this Plantation farmway will also act as a connecting path throughout the housing precincts, bringing communities together to engage in local farming and farmers’ markets. The Park district will be the true heart of the town, bursting with trees and green landscape encouraging locals to live amongst nature.

The Garden district will host the 20-hectare central park, including a forest amphitheatre and water bodies, accessible via the community farmways. Nature will not only be at the core of Tengah’s infrastructure but also at the core of the community values and activities. With homes bordering either the Forest Corridor, the Central Park, or a Forest Fringe, the residents will be given a true ‘forest on your doorstep’ experience.


The town will boast many clever features to help it achieve its green goals. Smart homes, street lighting and waste disposal systems have been designed with energy efficiency and financial savings in mind. The Tengah Housing & Development Board equips the homes with smart technology so that residents can monitor their energy consumption. And in a city like Singapore, where air conditioning is a crucial part of life, monitoring this energy use is essential. The SP group, who are involved with the town development, stated that:

By 2040, air-conditioning could account for up to 40% of ASEAN’s (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) overall electricity demand, up from 25%”

Smart technology makes it easier for residents to know where to cut back on usage to save energy and costs. Smart lighting on Tengah streets uses information on the pedestrian traffic to gather data on pedestrian patterns and lighting requirements. This information allows for the most efficient use of energy on public lighting.  

Even the waste system has been designed with efficiency and innovative technology, with futuristic, high-speed, air waste collection built specifically for the job. The Pneumatic Waste Conveyance System (PWCS) will be a series of tunnels which transports residents’ waste directly from their home to the Centralised Bin Centre. This will keep the streets clean, limiting pollution, litter, and pests.

The town centre will also become Singapore’s first car-free town. With roads running underground, the market place at the town centre will be opened up for pedestrian spaces allowing residents to roam amongst the greenery. Where cars will be permitted, you'll find an abundance of charging stations to accommodate electric vehicles. However, since the city will be bursting with green spaces, plants and wildlife, locals will most likely be eager to walk and cycle where they can, taking in the nature.


Due to the phenomenon of the Urban Heat Island effect (where the temperature of cities is significantly higher than rural regions), as well as dense populations, cities are typically areas of intense pollution, claustrophobic, muggy climates and a dystopian lack of nature. As we move towards building a sustainable world, it's inevitable that we will have to perfect the blueprints for green urban areas. How do we live in harmony with nature in an urban environment? A town such as Tengah holds the serious advantage of being built from scratch. That way, sustainability can be held at its core and prioritised at every stage of its development, woven into its infrastructure.


Transforming an already existing city such as London or New York into a sustainable one is a much slower and more challenging process. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot to learn from a project like Tengah: protecting and growing green spaces, upgrading to smart technology to improve energy efficiency, and investing in community spaces that are green to the core. It isn’t so much a question of how we build sustainable cities; we already have the answers to that. The question that really matters is will we prioritise the integration and protection of nature in our cities, as seen with Tengah? And, if so, when?

GeorgiePowerAbout the author

Georgie Power recently completed an MSc in Climate Change in Dublin City University, studying the environmental, economic, political and social implications of climate change. In working with the Carbon Disclosure Project, helping companies around the world manage and report their carbon emissions, she learned of the role that corporations have in the transition to a sustainable and ethical economy. Now, she works as a climate change author, focusing on her passions for sharing solution-based information for environmental issues and the social, political and economic implications they have on our world. @easy.beinggreen


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