Smart technologies to enhance Singapore's living environment

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Artist's impression of Tengah, a town announced in 2016. The Integrated Environmental Modeller is used in the planning of the town, allowing planners, architects and engineers to analyse its key wind channels and solar heat.
APRIL 26, 2018 - 6:00 AM

SINGAPORE'S Housing and Development Board (HDB) has accumulated more than 50 years of expertise and experience in planning, designing and building public housing.

As the country's largest master planner and housing developer, HDB has to constantly push the frontiers of urban planning, and carry out extensive research and development to build sustainable and smart towns that create a better living environment for residents.

In line with Singapore's Smart Nation vision to improve the quality of lives of Singaporeans through the use of digital technology and Big Data, HDB has been leveraging a suite of smart technologies to improve the planning, development and management of public housing.

In September 2014, HDB unveiled the Smart HDB Town Framework, which maps out how smart initiatives will be introduced in five key domains - smart planning, smart environment, smart estate, smart living and smart communities - to create a more liveable, efficient, sustainable and safe living environment for HDB residents.

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One key dimension of the framework - smart planning - emphasises on good planning and designs in creating a conducive and comfortable environment in HDB towns.

Using 3D town modelling software and environmental simulation tools, HDB planners are able to better understand how environmental conditions interact with the layout and design of the town to derive configurations that will create a comfortable living environment for residents.

Complex decision-making modelling tools help HDB to select the most cost-effective and optimal initiatives for our towns to achieve sustainability goals.

Over the years, HDB has built up its capabilities in urban environment modelling through the development of the Integrated Environmental Modeller (IEM), a modelling platform that integrates the urban planning and design process with environmental simulation.

This software platform uses 3D city models to simulate the interaction of urban micro-climatic conditions such as wind flow, temperature fluctuations, and solar irradiance with one another, as well as their combined effects on the surrounding urban landscape.

Using IEM in the planning of Tengah (a town that was announced in 2016), planners, architects and engineers can analyse key wind channels, and the solar heat gained by different urban features in the town.

This helps them to design open spaces as well as optimise the building layouts and orientation to enhance wind flow and promote natural ventilation within the town.

More greenery can also be introduced in areas that receive more heat from the sun to mitigate heat gain and lower the ambient temperatures.

The launch of Tengah town in 2016 marked a major milestone in HDB's sustainable and smart journey.

While HDB has introduced sustainable and smart initiatives in other housing estates (such as Yuhua in Jurong and Punggol Northshore), Tengah opened up a whole new canvas on which to plan and implement these initiatives at the "whole of town" level right from the onset.

Tengah is set to be HDB's largest smart and sustainable development to date.

Over in Punggol, town planners, architects and engineers use smart planning tools and data analytics to analyse the wind flow, solar irradiance and shaded areas within a town.

They also determine how best new flats can be designed and sited to provide maximum thermal comfort and a more conducive living environment.

In homes, trials are underway to evaluate how smart home applications can help residents achieve greater convenience, utilities savings, as well as ensure peace of mind for families with elderly members.

With approximately 80 per cent of Singapore households living in public housing, various government agencies are working with industry players to develop and test smart home solutions in HDB estates.

Field trials with existing HDB dwellers could allow agencies to aggregate demand from residents and provide sufficient scale to facilitate adoption and deployment of the identified technology solutions.

The feedback will also help commercial firms understand the needs of residents, and refine their products for launch in the market.

Examples of smart home projects

  • My Smart HDB Home @ Yuhua

From April 2016, residents from some 3,200 households in Yuhua estate were eligible to participate in a trial to use smart devices in their homes.

This followed an initial trial of 10 households in Yuhua which yielded positive responses on the ease of use and non-intrusive nature of the devices.

The smart devices available as part of the trial includes the Elderly Monitoring System that provides peace of mind to caregivers of elderly loved ones, and the Utility Management System that help manage household utilities usage.

  • HDB's Northshore Residences I & II

To be completed in 2020, they will also house the first HDB flats equipped with the infrastructure needed to support such smart home solutions.

  • A number of private sector-driven smart home trials have also been launched, such as The Luxurie by M1 and Keppel Land, and executive condominium projects Visionaire (Sembawang) and iNz Residence (Choa Chu Kang).