Tengah poised to be Singapore’s first smart energy town

Image credit: HDB

The Housing & Development Board (HDB) in exploring the potential of developing Tengah into a first-of-its-kind Smart Energy Town, today inked three new research agreements with industry partners at the World Cities Summit. HDB intends advance its goal of creating smart and sustainable homes for Singaporeans. Through these partnerships. HDB said it aims to further leverage technology to optimize energy usage, construction efficiency and design capabilities in HDB estates of the future.

HDB signed a Memorandum of Understanding with SP Group to study the potential of developing Tengah into a first-of-its-kind Smart Energy Town. It also entered into an agreement with Robin Village Development Pte Ltd to conduct research into the use of 3D concrete printing for the production of unique architectural forms, to expand our design and construction capabilities. A research collaboration with ISO Landscape Pte Ltd to study and develop a floating solar system for marine conditions, is also in the works.

HDB’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Cheong Koon Hean said, “In the face of increasingly complex urban challenges, HDB needs to continually experiment and embrace urban solutions that help us to build better homes of the future, homes that remain endearing to Singaporeans. Together with our local and international partners, we hope to broaden our knowledge and deepen our expertise in the way we harness technology to develop practical solutions to enhance the liveability of HDB estates and support sustainable development in Singapore.”

Tengah, HDB’s newest town announced in 2016, will be Singapore’s first and largest smart and sustainable town, planned with green and sustainable features, and smart technologies from the outset.

To realise this vision, HDB will be partnering the SP Group to study the potential of developing Tengah into a Smart Energy Town. This involves developing and test-bedding a centralised energy software system, akin to a ‘brain’ that will collect, process, analyse, and learn data on energy consumption at the town-, neighbourhood-, and apartment-levels. The study, which will enable a more efficient and sustainable model of energy management, will be conducted over a one-year period from July 2018.

Called the Smart Energy Concierge, the system will be powered by artificial intelligence and designed to be connected to the energy grid, energy storage systems and solar photovoltaic (PV) generators. It will be programmed to identify patterns and anomalies in energy flows to minimise disruption to services, channel energy more efficiently to optimise energy use, and promote greater conservation of energy.

For example, the system could be programmed to detect power failures occurring in residential blocks, street lamps, or traffic lights, and to channel energy from other sources such as the grid, energy storage systems or solar PV generators, to the affected site, thus minimising disruption of services to residents. Similarly, excess energy obtained from solar PV systems can be channelled into storage and be used at a later time to power estate services such as lifts or water pumps, instead of using energy supplied from the grid. This will contribute to Singapore’s national goal of energy conservation.

This holistic approach in energy planning and management will be the first-of-its-kind for an HDB town, and the largest of its scale in Singapore.

As part of the collaboration, an Energy Concierge App will be developed to tap on the artificial intelligence of the Smart Energy Concierge software, opening up the potential for innovative services to be created for residents.

For example, future residents of Tengah, as well as the Town Council, could choose to link their utilities account to the app, to view their energy consumption rates, pay utility bills, subscribe to products and services such as smart home solutions and devices, and explore electricity retail packages.

With the growing prevalence of Electric Vehicle (EV) charging points, residents with EVs could also access charging points throughout Tengah and remotely monitor their charge status through the app.

HDB will also work with SP Group to explore the development of a Centralised Cooling System in a housing development. This will offer residents the option of subscribing to the service, as a more energy-efficient solution compared to conventional air-conditioning systems.

In another first for public housing, HDB will be embarking on a 3-year research project with Robin Village Development Pte Ltd and collaborators Witteveen+Bos South East Asia Pte Ltd and Nanyang Technological University (NTU), to explore the potential adoption of 3D concrete printing for the production of unique architectural forms and components which would otherwise be expensive and time-consuming to produce.

For example, currently, the design of precast architectural building forms requires the creation of customised mould sets. Depending on the intricacy of the design, a set of large volumetric moulds could take up to 1.5 to 2 months to fabricate. The research collaboration, costing an estimated $3 million, will look into developing digital fabrication technologies through the creation of a 3D concrete printer.

If proven successful, it will offer more design options for HDB developments, and expand the capabilities in the construction industry. In addition, it will raise construction productivity, and reduce the dependency on conventional precast fabrication workers, thus addressing potential labour shortages.

To support the acceleration of solar adoption in Singapore, HDB is studying the use of its floating modular system – an in-house invention by its own engineers – for the deployment of solar panels in open sea conditions. It will partner ISO Landscape Pte Ltd to study and develop a Floating Solar System for coastal marine conditions, that can address the harsher environmental conditions at sea. The collaboration will look at how to overcome the challenges of marine conditions, such as strong winds, wave action, and the accumulation of marine organisms. The study is expected to be completed by 2019.

In high-rise, high-density Singapore, greenery is an integral part of our urban landscape. It improves the quality of our living environment, and contributes to a healthy ecosystem.

To further these efforts, HDB has developed a Biophilic Town Framework to guide the enhancement of existing natural assets and the development of residential landscapes that promote a greater sense of place, better health and well-being, and enhanced quality of life for residents. The framework outlines the strategies needed to plan and design urban landscapes to achieve the larger urban development goals of sustainability, liveability and resilience, through a comprehensive set of considerations in the aspects of soil, flora and fauna, outdoor comfort, water, and people.

HDB said that this Biophilic Town Framework is documented in a book, titled “Nature, Place & People”, in collaboration with NUS, and with support from NParks, and URA. The book crystallises the role of urban landscapes in creating a balanced socio-ecological system in towns, estates and neighbourhoods, and sheds light on the principles and strategies in landscape planning and design that could be applied in urban environments to achieve this.

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Written by Ravi Chandran

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