When cars go out of fashion, what happens to car parks?

September 16, 2014

It seems hard to imagine at the moment, but a day may (soon) come when cars go out of fashion in Singapore.

It is already happening in some European cities. Youngsters no longer see a need to take driving lessons, let alone buying a car. People are walking, cycling, taking public transport. The occasional car needs can be satisfied more cool-ly, via Uber or Zipcar or many such local ridesharing equivalents.

That will transform lifestyles and city landscape, for the better! Car parks will become excessive and redundant.

To help re-imagine such a scenario, URA is supporting PARK(ing) Day on Friday, offering all its parking lots for the public to transform into creative, temporary public ‘PARKS’. This is part of a global PARK(ing) Day initiative.

The mission is to get everyone to envision a city with fewer cars, and more space for people, for living.

All ideas are welcome. We have so far received about 50 registrations, from community groups, local businesses and student bodies. The variety and creativity of the entries are inspiring.

One group intends to create a display area to showcase growing crops on roofs and walls, and harnesses solar energy to power fans and lights. Another intends to set up a pop-up repair café, where people can learn how to mend everyday items such as furniture, shoes and clothes, thus reducing the amount of waste.

You may have other ideas. Do join us on PARK(ing) Day, and continue to share your thoughts on how to enliven our public spaces and our city.

For more information on where the ‘PARKS’ are created, you can visit URA’s PARK(ing) Day website.


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Lifts for cars too

September 14, 2014

Lifts for cars too

We try to meet the demand for car parking in HDB towns. Given rising car population, we have increased the norm for car park provision in new precincts. But in existing precincts, meeting the new norm will require us to build new car park lots. This is sometimes not possible for lack of available land.

One solution is to build mechanised parking systems or MPS, as it takes up less land than conventional car parks. Our GPC MPs led by Er Dr Lee Bee Wah suggested it, before a joint study visit to Japan and South Korea with HDB staff.

Minister Khaw at Commencement CeremonyMPS is not new in Singapore: several private condos and hotels have it. But it will be new in a HDB town. We decided to pilot it in Bukit Panjang, Changi Village and Yishun. These pilot sites were selected due to their high parking demand and severe site constraints. We announced this initiative last year.

The plans for MPS are progressing well. I have just launched the commencement ceremony with Mayor Dr Teo Ho Pin at his Bukit Panjang site. Construction will start next week. The new MPS, with 60 car park lots, should be up and running before the end of next year. The residents there will get much-needed relief to their parking situation.

Below are some artists’ impressions of what the MPS car parks at the three sites will look like.


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Run free at Sembawang

September 12, 2014

Some of my residents living in the north have asked me for a dog run.  There are now 5 in Singapore. The nearest is at Bishan-AMK Park where my pets have had a great time occasionally.

They will be happy to note that this coming Sunday morning, I will be launching the sixth dog run at Sembawang Park!

It will have 2,700m² of space for the dogs to run free, and get the necessary exercise. I am sure it will be popular with our residents and their dogs.

While we have fun with our dogs, we must be considerate towards other park visitors.  Some may be fearful of animals.

Three simple steps will avoid accidents and unpleasantness:

- please clean up after our dogs;

- leash them when outside the dog run; and

- be extra mindful when children or babies get too close to our dogs.

This will go a long way to make our shared public spaces enjoyable for all.

There will be a pets carnival to accompany the launch, with many exciting activities: a hamster race, a dog obedience demonstration, and free pet health screening. More information can be found here: Sembawang Our Home.

My pet dogs will be joining in.  Do come and join us too :)

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Lease Buyback Can Be More Flexible

September 3, 2014

Current Lease Buyback Scheme (LBS) is good, as it allows seniors to get a monthly income from their flat, while continuing to live in the home they love.

But it can be more flexible.

This was the distinct feedback we got from Singaporeans when they shared with us their views during the Our Singapore Conversation on Housing.

Today’s announcement on the 4 enhancements to the LBS is our response to this feedback and request.

The extension to 4-room flats is the most significant enhancement, as it opens up this monetisation option to many households. Altogether, 75% of elderly households will soon have access to this option.

Another enhancement is the introduction of different lease options. Younger seniors can choose longer leases, while older seniors can choose shorter leases in return for more cash proceeds.

The enhancement to the CPF top-up rule is another major enhancement. It has direct impact on joint flat owners who make up half of the LBS-eligible households. Currently, joint owners will have most of their cash proceeds used to top up their Retirement Accounts. The enhancement has halved the top-up requirement. This means that they will have more upfront cash proceeds when they join the LBS.

While these enhancements are good, I do worry about some elderly spending unwisely away the substantial cash proceeds. For example, many overseas properties are being marketed here. There are bound to be disappointments and even losses.

I urge our seniors to exercise prudence and caution.

The best advice I can offer, is to use the substantial cash proceeds to voluntarily top-up you and your spouse’s Retirement Accounts. That will be a sure way to ensure that you can both enjoy a steady income each month in your golden years.

Of course, the best option is to live with your children to enjoy their company, and rent out your flat as your additional retirement income. Then there is no need for LBS.

But for some, because of their family circumstances, the enhanced LBS offers additional security.

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Make our SUN work harder

August 28, 2014

In Singapore, HDB has the most experience with solar (photovoltaic, PV) panels and has the largest installation.

There are now 176 HDB blocks with solar panels and the number is growing.  Next year, it will be 300 blocks.  They help to power common services such as lifts and corridor lighting.  It is clean energy and helps Town Councils offset rising energy costs.

Being the largest, HDB is also taking on the role of helping other government agencies harness solar energy.   This way, we help to expand the use of solar panels beyond HDB blocks.

These agencies ride on HDB’s bulk tenders for solar panels, and enjoy lower costs due to economies of scale. This way we accelerate solar deployment in Singapore through aggregating solar demand across government agencies.

The first demand aggregation tender will be called next year. MINDEF has expressed interest to install solar panels on the rooftops of their camps. MOE is also looking into using the rooftops of schools.

Overall, Singapore plans to raise the adoption of solar energy to 350MWp by 2020. HDB’s contribution will amount to 220MWp, involving solar PV panels at some 5,500 HDB blocks. This could generate enough electricity to provide for common services and households in a town the size of Woodlands!

And this would mean a cleaner and greener Singapore — for our children and the generations to come.

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Re-imagining Jurong

August 18, 2014

Singapore’s industrialisation journey began in Jurong.  But we have come a long way since.  While some old factories remain in some parts of Jurong, it has largely been transformed.

Last night, PM’s ND Rally explained that Jurong’s transformation would be even more exciting going forward.

Since 2008, Jurong has made steady progress to be our largest regional centre, outside of the city.  J-Cube, JEM, Westgate and the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability, are just some developments which have been completed in recent years.  Many more are just round the corner: Ng Teng Fong Hospital, Jurong Community Hospital and Big Box. They have injected vibrancy, jobs, and amenities for the 1 million residents who live in the west of Singapore.

Pop over on a weekend and the buzz is overwhelming.  Indeed, Jurong East is fast emerging as a great place to live, work and play.

And as PM shared, more is in store.

NParks will masterplan and develop the Jurong Lake Gardens* into an endearing garden for the community.  Spanning over 70 ha, the Jurong Lake Gardens will integrate Jurong Lake Park, the Chinese Garden and the Japanese Garden. It will offer residents in Jurong and all Singaporeans access to another beautiful green space for leisure and recreation.

So you can imagine and look forward to a place where communities can come together from all over Singapore to co-create and maintain show gardens with the experts.

Families can unwind amidst Nature where biodiversity thrives, and yet buzzing with programmes!

And the jewel in Jurong will be the new Science Centre.  We will make it fun, educational and spectacular, in keeping with changing times and our achievements over the decades.

Its location will enable NParks to integrate the future Science Centre with the new Gardens, combining themes such as science, technology and horticulture in a uniquely Singaporean way.

There are many other exciting plans, including major improvements to the transportation networks.  All these will take years to realise. We shall stage the implementation.

Residents can start enjoying the Gardens as early as 2017 when Jurong Lake Destination Park is completed.  Heritage elements at the Chinese and Japanese Garden will be retained but refreshed as part of Jurong Lake Gardens.

Most important of all, this is your garden and we want to hear from you. NParks will be seeking ideas on how we can develop the garden. Do share your ideas with us.

* All visuals used are artist impressions of the upcoming Gardens.

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Game-changing Technology to Up Productivity

August 14, 2014

We need game-changing construction technologies to boost our construction productivity and reduce our reliance on construction workers.

A 10-storey building extension to the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Hotel, owned by OUE Limited, will be constructed using Prefabricated Pre-finished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) method.

This is a proven game-changing technology elsewhere but still relatively new in Singapore.  We hope it will become common practice soon.

The public sector is also joining in the productivity drive.

NTU will be constructing its sports hall using Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). This is another game-changing technology.

PPVC and CLT enable manpower and time savings of up to 50% and 35% respectively, as compared to conventional construction methods.

PPVC relies on building components which are manufactured in a factory, thus reducing the need for workers, and cutting down on noise and dust at the construction site.

CLT is a new construction material which is safe and is commonly used in Europe. CLT meets the same fire safety requirements as concrete and steel.  Our Singapore Civil Defence Force has assessed the material and is allowing the use of CLT for buildings up to 24 metres.

We are speeding up the adoption of such game-changing technologies.

First, the Government will walk the talk and deploy such technologies in selected public sector projects.

Second, we will now make it a requirement for successful bidders of selected government land sales sites to adopt productive technologies like PPVC and CLT.

Third, BCA will provide funding support to adopters of such technologies.

Fourth, BCA and the industry are working closely with SPRING Singapore to develop Singapore Standards on the codes and guidelines for these new technologies.

Fifth, the BCA Academy will roll out a series of workshops and seminars on new technologies to build up expertise in the industry.

The desired outcome of these efforts is for our construction industry to be cleaner, quieter and faster, without compromising on safety and quality.

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