Saturday, 21 March 2009

Urban planning in Singapore

Urban planning in Singapore has formulated and guided its physical development from the day the modern city-state was founded in 1819 as a British colony to the developed, independent country it is today. Urban planning is especially important due to land constraints and its high density.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is Singapore's national land use planning authority. URA prepares long term strategic plans, as well as detailed local area plans, for physical development, and then co-ordinates and guides efforts to bring these plans to reality. Prudent land use planning has enabled Singapore to enjoy strong economic growth and social cohesion, and ensures that sufficient land is safeguarded to support continued economic progress and future development.


Initial planning
The founding of modern Singapore in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles was arguably a planning event in itself, as it involved the search for a deep, sheltered harbour suitable to establish a pivotal maritime base for British interests in the Far East. This was also to protect her maritime trading routes on the East-west axis. Hence, the settlers found the waters of Keppel Harbour suitable, and the entourage of eight ships anchored off the mouth of a small river on January 28 1819. Raffles made landing on the north bank of the river, and discovered favourable conditions for the setting up of a colony. The area on the side of the river's north bank which he was on was level and firm, although the southern bank was swampy. Abundant fresh water was found, and the river itself was a sheltered body of water protected by the curved river mouth. This river was to become the nexus from which the new colony would thrive, and the immediate surrounding areas would form the core of the island's business and civic areas.

Upon its formal establishment with the signing of a treaty on February 6 the same year, Raffles left the settlement, leaving Colonel William Farquhar as the first Resident of Singapore. By the end of May, Raffles returned, and while noting the rapid development of the city, realised the need for a formal urban plan to guide its otherwise disorganised physical expansion. He left the colony again, instructing Farquhar to designate residential, commercial, and governmental land uses for the colony.

When he returned more than two years later in October 1822, however, Raffles was dismayed by the way the colony had grown. He therefore formed a Town Committee headed by Lieutenant Philip Jackson to draw up a formal plan for the colony, which came to be known as the Jackson Plan, and was to become the first detailed city plan for Singapore. This plan was to lay the groundwork of the city's street and zonal layout, the essence of which continues to exist today. For example, the allocation of civic institutions on the north bank of the Singapore River and the creation of the main commercial area in what was then known as "Commercial Square" on the south bank has today evolved into the Civic district and the CBD on either side of the river. The grid-like street pattens continue to exist, while the ethnically segregated residential zones, despite having been largely depopulated by now, have continued to exist as ethnic enclaves attracting the attention of tourists, such as in the Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam districts.

Raffles's foresight and well-intended efforts to maintain orderliness in the city's growth started to spiral out of control just eight years after the Jackson Plan was drawn up. With no updates and no new plans drawn up by the British, the city soon outgrew itself, and the plan soon proved completely inadequate. When Raffles arrived in 1819, the population numbered about 150. By 1911, this figure had mushroomed to 185,000, resulting in severe overcrowding, particularly in the Chinatown area. The road system, planned for travel by foot and horse carts, also could not handle the exploding traffic, particularly when motorised vehicles came to Singapore en masse in the 1910s. The 842 private cars in 1915 had multiplied to 3,506 by 1920.

With the severe overcrowding in the city centre, the population, particularly the better-off, started to move into the suburbs. The better-off families moved especially to the East Coast, where they often operated plantations and maintained large sea-side homes near the beach at Katong. Several wealthy Malay families were to leave a legacy in the area through their family names, including those of Aljunied and Eunos. Less well-off families tended to move into the southern parts of the island as a natural extension of the Chinatown area. Subsequently, however, they also moved into other areas, including the East Coast, spreading the problems of overpopulation to the suburbs with the creation of squatters. This growth also resulted in suburban roads becoming congested by traffic, particularly along Geylang Road which leads to the East Coast.

Public Housing
In 1927, the colonial government attempted to arrest the situation by setting up the Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT), with the main aims of alleviating urban congestion and the provision and upgrading of public infrastructure, particularly in the widening of roads to accommodate rising and modernising traffic. Their efforts were evident only in localised areas, as the body did not have the legislative power to produce comprehensive plans or to control urban development. The Second World War also disrupted their efforts during the Japanese occupation from 1941 to 1945.

Singapore emerged from the war in physical ruins and with a large number of homeless residents. A Housing Committee was thus formed quickly in 1947, and reported an acute housing shortage facing the city, where the population had already reached a million by 1950. With 25% of the population living in 1% of its land area, and with some shophouses housing over 100 people, the SIT's efforts were clearly inadequate in its attempts to rehouse the population into new multi-story apartment blocks.

Under the People's Action Party, which came into power when it won the 1959 Elections of Singapore, the Housing Development Board was founded in 1960, replacing the Singapore Improvement Trust. This proved to be the turning point in the history of modern Singapore. Within five years, the HDB had constructed more than 50,000 housing units, which was several times more than the SIT had constructed within the time span of more than 20 years. Within the 1970s, most of the population had found adequate housing. Most of the current urban planning policy is derived from the practices of the HDB.

Flats 10-15 storeys high were initially built. With time, they reached over twenty and thirty storeys, and at present, fifty-story housing complexes are under construction.

Current policy

The current policy of Singapore's urban planners who come under the Urban Redevelopment Authority is to create partially self-sufficient towns and districts which are then further served by four regional centres, each of which serves one of the four different regions of Singapore besides the Central Area. These regional centres reduce traffic strain on Singapore's central business district, the Central Area, by replacing some of the commercial functions the Central Area serves. Each town or district possesses a variety of facilities and amenities allocated strategically to serve as much as possible on at least a basic scale, and on the regional scale, an intermediate one. Any function of the Central Area not served then is allowed by the regional centre to be executed efficiently as the transport routes are planned to link up the regional centres and Central Area effectively. The Housing Development Board works with the Urban Redevelopment Board to develop public housing according to the national urban planning policy.

As land is scarce in what is the most densely populated country, the goal of urban planners is to maximise use of land efficiently yet comfortably and to serve as many people as possible for a particular function, such as housing or commercial purposes in high rise and high density buildings. Infrastructure, environmental conservation, enough space for water catchment and land for military use are all considerations for national urban planners.

Land reclamation has continued to be used extensively in urban planning, and Singapore has grown at least 100 square kilometres from its original size before 1819 when it was founded. The urban planning policy demands that most buildings being constructed should be high-rise, with exceptions for conservation efforts for heritage or nature. A pleasant side effect is that many residents have pleasant views. Allocating primary functions in concentrated areas prevents land wastage. This is noticeable in Tampines New Town in comparison to the housing blocks found in Dover. Housing blocks turned into complexes, which occupied a large area with thousands of apartments in each one as opposed to smaller high-rise blocks with hundreds. This allows for efficient land use without compromising the standard of living.

Urban planning policy also relies on the effective use of public transport and other aspects of Singapore's transport system. Singapore's Mass Rapid Transit system allows the different districts to be linked by rail to all the other districts without having to rely on roads extensively. This also reduces strain on traffic and pollution while saving space. The districts with their different functions are then allocated strategically according to 55 planning areas.

Post-independence Singapore government, with the exception of public housing in Chinatown, has largely shied away from allocating too much housing in the Central Area and especially the Downtown Core, but with increasing density and land reclamation in Marina South and Marina East, there are current plans for new public housing close to the Downtown Core.

Singapore's land is increasingly crowded, and hence the placement of a district of one function that obstructs more infrastructure development in that area (such as building an expressway tunnel or a rail line), as opposed to the placement of a district of a different function that would accommodate future infrastructure, has become increasingly likely. A district of one function could be inefficient if it does not have proper access to another district of another function, or on the other hand, if it is too close. Public amenities have to be strategically placed in order to benefit the largest number of people possible with minimum redundancy and wastage. A major feature of urban planning in Singapore is to avoid such situations of land wastage.

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Monday, 9 March 2009

Real Estate Trends: the Urban Jump

By. Gary Ashton

The real estate industry has always been one of trends. One only needs to look back over the years to readily identify the numerous trends that have asserted themselves at different times. One of the more recent trends that we have seen is many younger professionals leaving the city for the suburbs. This is partly due to their want to raise children in a more sheltered atmosphere and because of rising property values within the urban core. Conversely one of the newer trends that we are experiencing is the baby boomers who are now mainly empty nesters are buying property in the urban core to get away from higher maintenance homes and into areas with a lot of extra assets and convenience.

The move actually makes a lot of sense. Years ago the boomers left the city to raise children in the relative peace of suburbia. They built or renovated homes to be bigger and more family oriented. Now, with their children reaching their 30's the boomers are finding themselves with these huge empty homes and a ton of equity. This huge amount of saved up equity as most boomers own their homes and have taken care of their mortgages, this has enabled them to pay the higher cost of new development condos and lofts in the downtown core. Some have chosen to move there altogether selling their suburban homes, purchasing in town and still pocketing a nice amount of money in the transition. Others have chosen to keep both and enjoy the flexibility of having two locations to operate their lives from. 

This move has, of course freed up a number of suburban homes to fulfill the needs of the younger generation that is seeking to leave the city to do as their elders did 30 years ago. The benefit of this is that there are already a number of homes that have been specifically designed for the raising of families. Essentially it is a win-win situation all around. What will be really interesting to see is if the pattern repeats itself in another 20 years or so. We only have to wait and see what the future trends will be.

Plant for the Reception and Disposal of Solid Urban Waste: Island

By. Paolo Prosperi

Thanks to its external free-standing structure, ISLAND requires no other brick or reinforced concrete structures. The tank contains all the components of the “Island” system making it a unique sturdy sheet plate structure with strengthened attachment points for the hydraulic lifting system.

The upper edge is fitted with a steel tubing with neoprene gasket that acts as a sealed coupling with the covering platform. 
The internal AISI 304 skip is easy to remove for washing and disinfection purposes. 
The covering of the tank is constructed with the top of the skin in non-slip sheet plate stiffened with steel profiles.

How it works
The user presses the button to open the loading tower automatically. After a preset time the tower closes automatically dropping the garbage bag into the skip. The mobile wall in the skips is used for unloading but also moves to the front of the skip after a preset number of garbage disposal operations and then returns to its original position. This movement is carried out automatically by the skip so that the garbage bags are distributed uniformly inside the skip maximising the capacity but without breaking the bags to avoid spilling of the compacted waste.
A photocell detects the garbage level in the skip and stops the system when a preset level is reached; in this case the text “skip full” is displayed.

The operator uses the remote control to place the skip at a preset height and the mobile wall empties the skip by means of a hydraulic system: the mobile wall pushes the garbage to the front which opens to form a chute through which the waste slides into the rear-loading compactor.
The Island system is available in two models with different capacities:
Island 7 (7.5 cu.m.) and Island 15 (15 cu.m.).

Augmentation of Water Utility in Urban Areas

By. Vinay

Water is a scarce resource and due to its limited supply, the population of urban areas remains always in the grip of water shortage. At present, the quality of water used for watering the garden, washing the clothes and flushing the toilets is the same quality as the water we take for drinking purpose. At least, we can flush toilets by recycling the waste water in a house. With the application of new technology i.e. recycling of waste water, about 33% of urban water can be saved / reutilized. The Government can solve this problem to great extent by making the recycling of waste water as compulsory by way of amending the Building Bye laws enforceable by Town and Country Planning Department, Civic Bodies and Urban Development Authorities.

Types of Waste Water Produced in the Houses
Every house in urban areas produces two types of waste water i.e. 
• Grey Water 
• Black Water
The waste water which is produced from baths, showers, clothes washers, and wash-hand basins is termed as grey water whereas the waste water generated from toilets is called black water. Waste water produced from the kitchen sinks and dish-washers is also called black water due to their higher organic contents. The grey water is considered of lesser quality than potable water, but at the same time it is considered of higher quality than black water.

The Nature of Water Recommended for Recycling
The present society, through traditional practice, flushes toilets through potable high quality water i.e. the water which is being used for drinking purpose. Whereas, toilets can be flushed with waste water i.e. grey water generated from baths, showers, cloth washers and wash hand basins by recycling the same through a system. In this way, Government can save 33 % of total water supply or it can be termed as augmentation of water supply by 33 % without spending any money on additional infrastructure as this proposition is by making provision of this system in the Building Bye Laws which are enforceable through Town and Country Planning Department, Civic Bodies and Urban Development Authorities.

Mechanism of Waste Water Recycling
For the recycling of waste water / grey water, the house owner has to construct a separate waste water (grey Water) Tank below the ground level. All waste water of the house would get collected in this tank through waste water pipes. From this tank, waste water is again uplifted to a separate waste water tank placed on the terrace of a house which would supply water regularly for flushing the toilets constructed underneath of the said tank placed on the terrace. This mechanism evolved very minor changes of plumbing works. As per traditional technology, the waste water pipes are connected with the sewerage pipes at various levels. In the present case, instead of connecting waste water with the sewerage line of the house, such lines are connected with the tank constructed below ground level. 

This system will not create any problem and financial burden on those persons who want to construct new houses. In old houses, some changes are required in plumbing works only. Since, there is no problem for enforcing this technology in new houses to be constructed on vacant plots; therefore, Govt. should enforce this technology by making amendments in the Building Bye Laws so that coming generation could be benefited from this system. This system will also lower down the required capacity of water supply and sewerage net works of the Government.

Rural Areas More Connected Than Urban Areas

by. Maria Literral

According to Ofcom’s regional communications market report, rural households are now more likely to have broadband connections than those who live in urban areas. Indeed, the report’s surprising results indicated that 59% of rural households had broadband services, compared to 57% in urban homes.

The Ofcom report, which surveyed television, radio, internet and telecoms habits, shows that the country has overtaken the town in having broadband access for the first time. This is notable because just four years ago, people who lived in urban areas were twice as likely to have a broadband connection as those who lived in the country.

Ed Richards, who is Ofcom’s chief executive, said that the findings signify a closing of the digital divide in the UK. He said: “Our report highlights a closing of the geographical digital divide in the UK. Rural households are today as well connected to broadband as their urban neighbours.” Ofcom's strategy and market developments partner, Peter Phillips, said that he was surprised by the report’s findings. He said: “I don't think anyone would have predicted two or three years ago that we would have seen the picture that we can see today. If you look back two or three years, rural areas were well behind where urban areas were in terms of broadband take-up and that was driven by a number of factors.”

As well as these surprising findings, the report also indicated that there were large differences in the take-up of modern communications in different areas of the UK. It showed that Sunderland was the most well connected city in the UK, boasting 66% of households with broadband and a huge 96% with digital television. At the other end of the scale, Glasgow had the lowest rate of broadband connections in the UK at just 32%. 

Local government initiatives and poor weather is thought to be the cause of Sunderland’s high uptake of broadband and digital TV. Meanwhile Glasgow's poor rate of connectivity is blamed on the amount of households owning a PC, which is significantly lower than in other areas of the UK. 

Despite Glasgow’s poor rate of connectivity, broadband was much more popular in other areas of Scotland, including Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee, which all boast broadband rates that are higher than the UK average. Even the remote Scottish Highlands and Islands have broadband in an impressive 62% of homes. The high rate of broadband access in these areas can be attributed to a major government drive to bring broadband to every corner of Scotland. This drive was necessary to sustain the economies of the isolated communities in these remote areas, as the internet allows many residents in these areas to work, shop and bank from the comfort of their own home. Internet access also allows residents in these areas watch films and television online, which is particularly important in the absence of other means of entertainment such as live music, theatre and cinema.

Urban Home Plans

By. Michael Mock

Urban Homes Offer a Modern House within Your Favorite City

While some people may prefer to buy a home and raise a family outside of the city, many others are choosing to stay inside the city limits. Urban houses are designed to help conserve a city's green space while providing a chic housing style for homeowners. You will never see two urban houses with the same design or style. Custom home designers are able to work with the property holder to create each room to match their living style while efficiently using the space allowed.

Owners Provided with Numerous Styling Options

Custom urban homes are highly desired by those that want to live in a city and still have a say in how the home is constructed. There are many different features that can in incorporated into the home for a unique look. Urban architecture generally follows some of the same characteristics that loft homes use. High ceilings with many windows are common elements designers utilize.

Unlike other housing options, urban homes won't be limited to certain design features because of community restrictions or landlord rules. You will own every part of the house, which gives you countless options when it comes to developing both the interior and exterior design. Urban architecture is very functional so that every area of space is efficiently used. Open floor plans with multi-level living space creates spacious rooms that are well lit with natural sunlight.

Green living can easily be incorporated into urban homes. In fact, people that choose to live in the city are already playing a huge role by not taking away from natural land. Custom urban home architects can use recycled and non-toxic materials to give you and your family safer breathing air. Taking advantage of the convenient public transportation will save money on gas and maintenance of your car, while additionally reducing the amount of toxic fumes in the air.

Inner City Living Appeals to Professionals of Any Age

With the cost of living on the rise, many people don't want to spend the gas it takes to drive to and from their job in the city. Luckily, urban houses provide families with a chic and resourceful residence that allows them to enjoy being close to popular city attractions, such as upscale bars, restaurants, or shopping centers. Money can be spent on other things rather than expensive gas, while still owning a home that is full of sophisticated style. For those that want to own a house but can't imagine moving out of your favorite city, an urban home can be the perfect solution.

With so many advantages, it's no wonder why people are moving back to the city and working with professional architects to design a home with urban style. They are extremely functional by using the interior space as efficiently as possible. They can follow numerous green building techniques that help preserve the planet's resources while creating a healthier environment for adults and children. Urban homes are located in areas that are close to a wide range of eateries and stores that aren't found outside the city. Choosing an area where you can live, work, and play can fascinate people in any stage of their life, which is why urban houses have become so trendy.

Urban Poverty and Urban Slums in China

By. Peter Foggin

Between 1978 and 2004 the urban population of China grew from eighteen percent to forty-one percent of the total population, commonly said to be 1.3 billion.(1) Given the annual increments in this massive urbanization process, it is not hard to estimate conservatively that China’s urban population is now close to forty-five percent of the total number of people in the country. 

By 2010, probably close to one half of the national population will be urban dwellers. That’s 600-700 million urbanites of one sort or another, the most massive single urbanization in the history of the world. 

The Floating Population 
One of the compounding factors in getting a true figure is the phenomenon commonly referred to as the “floating population”—rural migrants who temporarily move to urban areas, most often living in ghettos filled with people who come from the same province. The proportion of returnees varies: one study says between two and fifteen percent of migrants return to their rural communities2; another suggests the number is closer to thirty-three percent.3 

In China, there have been two classes of urban dwellers: those 
who have the official city residential permit and the more 
recent arrivals who do not. 

Thus in Beijing, for example, one finds the so-called Zhejiang village (the name of a coastal province south of Shanghai) with its tens of thousands of densely-packed people of living in conditions of squalor and a total lack of physical and social infrastructures. Michael Dutton4 describes the police action reflecting the Beijing government’s desire to suppress the “floaters” or mangliu of Zhejiang village, which (along with many other such “villages”) are generally considered to be a “blight” on the urban landscape of the national capital. 

In China, there have been two classes of urban dwellers: those who have the official city residential permit (the notorious hukou) and the more recent arrivals who do not. These latter people are part of China’s floating population. People’s Daily reported in July 2005 that “China's floating population has increased from seventy million in 1993 to 140 million in 2003, exceeding ten percent of the total population and accounting for about thirty percent of rural labor force.”

The Hukou System 
According to Hong Kong’s Department for International Development (DFID), the hukou system in China was designed to prevent the free movement of people from rural to urban places and to protect industrial development in the cities in the planned economy. By attaching different welfare entitlements (subsidies) to urban and rural hukou, the system divided the people into two societies separated by an invisible wall. 

However, as the market economy has deepened, particularly as rural migrants have become an indispensable part of the urban economy, the need for the traditional hukou system is being challenged. The recent relaxation of the hukou system began in 2001. At that point, the government fully recognized the importance of urbanization for overall development and began to develop its new strategy for its tenth 5-year-plan. The hukou system has been further relaxed and the importance of the hukou permit for migrants is now much diminished. In Shanghai and many other big cities in China, a “green card” system, in which there is no basic difference between the local residents and the green cardholders, is emerging.

It is doubtful that more than a small portion of these were even counted in China’s most recent census in 2000. Migrants do not have any of the entitlements—such as subsidized food and housing (even with the growing trend to purchase private housing, interest rates are subsidized and therefore very low), schools, and healthcare—of the official residents of the city. The migrants come to the city because there is no work for them in the regions from which they come, and the jobs they do manage to get are usually comparatively low-paid and often temporary (e.g., domestic and construction workers, menial factory jobs, illegal sidewalk vending of goods or services). 

According to the DFID report, about one-fifth of the entrants in the urban labor force come from rural areas. In spite of their economic fragility, most of these workers manage to send or take a large portion of their meagre wages back to their rural families. A recent report estimated that the approximately 100 million rural residents who work away from their villages sent or carried home a total of 370 billion CNY (about thirty-five billion USD) in 2003, an increase of 8.5% from the previous year. Estimates of the amount sent/brought back by migrant workers range from between three and four thousand CNY.

About one-fifth of the entrants in the urban labor force in China come from rural areas. 

Instead, we have the phenomenon of migrant, disenfranchised, and underprivileged people grouped in villages in each major city. 

Urban Villages 
The eventual goal of Beijing's onslaught is still unclear. A government survey in 2002 found 332 villages with a total population of more than 800,000 migrants in the eight urban districts of the city proper—nearly one-third of the total migrant population of Beijing. Urban villages6 are a unique phenomenon that is part of China’s urbanization process. 

The villages appear on both the outskirts and the downtown segments of major cities. They are surrounded by skyscrapers, transportation infrastructures, and other modern urban constructions. Urban villages are commonly inhabited by the poor and transient, and as such they are associated with squalor, overcrowding, and social problems, and are considered by some as no better than Chinese slums. However, they are also among the liveliest areas in some cities and are notable for affording economic opportunity to newcomers to the city. 


1. National Bureau of Statistics. 2004. China Statistical Yearbook 2004. Beijing: China Statistics Press. 32. 

2. Bai, Nansheng and Yupeng He. 2003. “Returning to the Countryside Versus Continuing to Work in the Cities: A Study on Rural Urban Migrants and Their Return to the Countryside of China.” Social Sciences in China. Winter, 151. 

3. Zhao, Yaohui. 2002. “Causes and Consequences of Return Migration: Recent Evidence from China.” Journal of Comparative Economics 30: 376-394. 

4. Dutton, Michael. 1998. Street Life in China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 147-159. 

5. Bai and He in 

6. Chinese: 城中村; pinyin: Chéng Zhōng Cūn; literally: "village in city"