How Singapore’s Jurong Lake District reimagines business districts for a climate-conscious era
By Woo Hoi Yuet
Urban Redevelopment Authority group director Yvonne Lim tells GovInsider how the country’s largest business district outside the city centre aims to be a model of sustainable, inclusive and resilient urban planning.
Jurong Lake District is slated to be the largest business district outside of Singapore’s city centre, with a focus on sustainable and inclusive design. Image: Jurong Lake District
In recent years, Singapore’s smart city ambitions have been paired with a desire to embrace principles of sustainability and inclusion. At the centrepiece of this urban metamorphosis lies the Jurong Lake District (JLD), a mixed-use development envisioned to become the country's largest business district outside the city centre.
This district not only embodies a commitment to sustainable growth, as outlined in the Singapore Green Plan 2030, but also aims to foster the harmonious co-existence of work, liveability, and nature.
Nevertheless, while the JLD is a new development, its urban planning principles are rooted in principles of sustainable growth and foresight that have been instrumental in shaping Singapore’s urban landscape. In this article, GovInsider explores Singapore’s urban development and planning approach, and how JLD aims to reimagine what a sustainable and resilient district looks like today.
Striking a balance in urban planning
Navigating the challenges of limited land resources and ensuring high liveability is a difficult task. By optimising land use through innovative and flexible planning, Singapore strikes a delicate balance between efficiency and quality of life, shares Yvonne Lim, Group Director (Physical Planning), Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).
For instance, complementary facilities and uses can be co-located into one development to free up space. Our Tampines Hub, an integrated development in the city, exemplifies this approach. It houses a regional library, sports facilities, and community and arts facilities under one roof, says Lim.
Moreover, by integrating greenery with urban landscapes, Singapore takes another step toward fulfilling its vision of becoming a “City in Nature”.
URA’s Master Plan 2019, a land-use development plan which guides Singapore’s development in the next 10 to 15 years, sets the stage for an even greener future. Another 1,000 hectares of parks, gardens, and park connectors will be added, ensuring that every household will be within a 10-minute walk from a park by 2030, highlights Lim.
In the midst of urban transformation, however, Lim emphasises that “strengthening our sense of identity is another important consideration in land-use planning.” As part of the Long-Term Plan Review, URA developed the Heritage and Identity Structure Plan to map out the city’s heritage and identity assets. These include national monuments, conserved buildings, and symbols of heartland heritage.
An initiative of the plan is the five Identity Corridors, gazetted based on their unique features and sense of place that resonate with Singaporeans, Lim adds. The Geylang Serai Cultural Belt, for instance, will be rejuvenated with a new festive plaza, shared walking and cycling paths, and a children’s play area, while preserving its distinctive low-rise streetscape.
Sustainability in practice
In the bustling heartlands of Singapore lies the JLD, where the city’s commitment to sustainable urban development is taking shape. The district in the southwestern half of central Singapore reflects a strategy to distribute commercial hubs away from the city centre and closer to people’s homes.
Envisioned as a model sustainable district for the future, it aims to embody a blend of nature, community engagement, and forward-thinking urban planning.
Over 40 per cent of the district will be reserved for parks, greenery, and water bodies, shares Lim. New developments must also implement a 100 per cent landscape replacement, “a programme where developers must replace greenery lost from the site due to development, with greenery in other areas within the development,” says Lim.
The JLD precinct, expected to be fully developed between 2040 and 2050, also aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2045. New developments will need to meet minimum energy certification standards by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).
Government Land Sales developments in JLD will have to achieve additional BCA certifications, which include the Whole Life Carbon and Intelligence badges. These certifications assess a building’s carbon footprint during its entire life cycle, including construction, usage, and demolition, and the incorporation of smart building designs to increase energy efficiency.
At least 85 per cent of all journeys will be conducted via walking, cycling, or riding by 2035, says Lim, a critical step toward achieving JLD’s zero-emissions goal. To encourage more residents to adopt public transportation, some roads – Transport Priority Corridors – will have wider footpaths and cycling paths, and bus-only lanes. There will also be fewer car parks.
Youths pick up the baton
With urban development playing a crucial role in shaping the future of cities, more young people are imagining innovative ideas to address the challenges ahead. In the APAC Hines Student Competition 2023, twenty teams were challenged to transform JLD into a thriving, mixed-use neighbourhood that integrates green, blue, and heritage elements.
Team Omusubi from Waseda University won the judges’ hearts in June this year with a proposal for the Jurong Urban Health Campus (JUHC), a design rooted in the concept of environmental education for all.
The students put forth a concept where opportunities for environmental education weave seamlessly throughout the site, with mini-educational structures and eco-gardens, such as mini-libraries, mini-study rooms, communal sitting areas, and community gardens, along the waterfront. While enriching the public space, these structures also serve as bite-sized touchpoints and learning opportunities for sustainable living.
Innovation plays an important role in the design of the JUHC, as the existing Science Centre has been reimagined as a hub for the research and development of green technologies. New facilities proposed include vertical farms, recycling centres, and solar power farms.
These creative ideas not only offer a glimpse into a promising urban future, but also reflect the aspirations of youths who are striving to create cities that are inclusive and responsive to the needs of both the community and the environment.
“Just like how the generations before us had planned and developed sustainably, we are hopeful that the younger generation will pick up the baton in time, to create a Singapore that can support the collective aspirations and dreams of Singaporeans, both present and future,” says Lim.