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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Restoring Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

August 11, 2014

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) is a gem.  400,000 visit it yearly.

Over the years, the Reserve has undergone natural wear and tear.  Some slopes have suffered landslides, making it difficult for plants to flourish.  Trails have undergone erosion, exposing tree roots and thus affecting the stability of the trees.

Public safety is paramount and NParks will begin a restoration process to repair the affected slopes and trails, from 15 September.  We are sorry for the temporary inconvenience but will minimise it through phasing the works.  We will start with the most commonly used parts of BTNR and strive to re-open the grounds to visitors as soon as possible.

NParks will start with stabilising the slope along the main tarmac road next to the visitor centre.  These works are expected to be completed within six months.

After March 2015, the main tarmac road will be reopened on weekends, so that visitors can go up to the summit.  However, NParks will close this road on weekdays for use by vehicles carrying construction equipment.  All this planning is with the safety of visitors in mind.

Some have asked if the trails will still appear natural after these repair works are completed. While boardwalks will need to be installed in some areas to prevent further erosion, this will be done in a sensitive manner. The boardwalks will be cantilevered above the ground and in fact, the wooden planks used to construct the boardwalks will be hand carried, piece by piece, into the narrow paths of the Reserves.   Natural vegetation along the trails will be restored and we hope that these efforts will help the forest trails recover.

Meanwhile, the mountain biking trail that runs around the periphery of BTNR will not be affected.  It will remain open throughout the restoration process.

While NParks is working to restore the forest environment, another team will be working to improve the visitor centre.  This way, when the BTNR fully re-opens, it will be a whole new experience for Singaporeans.

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Farewell, Sir Peter Hall

August 8, 2014

Last week, we bid farewell to a great friend of Singapore, Sir Peter Hall.

Sir Peter of the UK was a leading urbanist and academic. He was well-known for his sharp mind and expertise in urban theory and practice.

In recent years, he had been a valued Nominating Committee member of the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize. He was also a respected member of URA’s International Panel of Experts, and provided valuable insights to help improve Singapore’s urban planning.

Sir Peter’s passion had inspired many. He will be remembered fondly by all of us as a humorous, kind gentleman who was generous with his thoughts and time despite his many other obligations.

Sir Peter Hall will be missed by his many friends in the urban planning fraternity. My thoughts are with Sir Peter’s family during these difficult times.

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Each bench has its story

August 6, 2014

When the former National Stadium was demolished to give way to the new Sports Hub, we salvaged the seating planks. We have an idea that if the planks can be recycled into well-designed benches, it would be a meaningful way to commemorate the grand old dame of Kallang.

We then commissioned local designers and held an open competition to invite Singaporeans to share their ideas on how they would design such benches.  The many designs were put to the public for their preferred designs, and their preferred location for their chosen designs. The ‘Pick a bench, Pick a place’ initiative by the URA was very well received.

More than 6,000 votes were cast. Eventually, 10 designs and 15 locations were selected.

The benches will be placed in Marina Bay, Sentosa, as well as our heartlands like Jurong Pedestrian Mall, Punggol Promenade, Tampines Community Plaza and Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.

More details on the locations can be found here.

Each bench design holds an interesting story behind it, based on the designer’s interpretation or memories of the former stadium.

My favourite is the DREAM bench. Each alphabet is a seat on its own. But together, they inspire like-minded friends to sit together to banter and share their dreams for the future.  Our pioneer political leaders did just that and modern Singapore was born.

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Ageing Well with EASE

August 1, 2014

HDB’s Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme has been very well-received since it was introduced in 2012. EASE helps our seniors install grab bars, provide slip-resistant treatment to toilet floors and ramps in their flats. EASE seeks to prevent falls at home, a major cause of hospital admission.  Many seniors have told me that they can now move around at home with peace of mind.

Mdm Hong Xiudan is one example. I read her letter in Zaobao (Jun 25).  Her family had gone through a difficult period after her husband suffered a stroke. Despite their challenges, she took the time to thank those who had helped her, including the rehabilitation therapist who helped her family apply to HDB for EASE improvement items. She said HDB swiftly installed the EASE improvement items in her flat, facilitating her husband’s return from the hospital.

It is residents like Mdm Hong who spur us to design better programmes and policies that will make a difference to their lives. Since its launch, HDB has received feedback from hospitals, beneficiaries and their caregivers, on how EASE could be further enhanced.

In response, HDB will make two refinements to EASE.  First, we will lower the age criterion to 65 years old (or 60 to 64 years old, for those who require assistance in daily living). This will allow an additional 100,000 households with seniors to benefit from the programme.

Second, HDB will extend the scope of works to cover a second toilet within the flat. So if seniors opt for it, HDB will carry out slip-resistant treatment to the floor tiles and install grab bars for their second toilet.

I believe these enhancements will be welcomed.  Meanwhile, I encourage seniors as well as their caregivers or family members to apply for EASE. You can do so here.   EASE is really a good scheme, designed to help our seniors age well with ease.  Do take advantage of it.

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Public Spaces Should Be Fun

July 25, 2014

We have been enhancing the public spaces in the heart of our city.  We are discovering that little things make great impact!

At Kampong Glam,  we placed some benches and garden swings at the Sultan Gate open space.  This ‘Picnic in the Park – Under the Gelam Trees’ became an instant success.

This being the month of Ramadan, many families gathered at the benches to break fast after their prayers at the Sultan Mosque. Each night, the space comes alive with colourful lights hanging from the Gelam trees.  This is a gem!

At the Asian Civilisations Museum Green and Marina Bay, IKEA kindly provided 60 moveable chairs for people to rest their feet and enjoy the surroundings.  This ‘Chairs in Squares’ was also a great hit. Different chair arrangements were observed!

The simple addition of chairs and benches can magically transform our public spaces. This was in fact a suggestion from participants at a recent focus group discussion at MND on “Vibrant Spaces for the Community”.

I look forward to more interesting public space projects under URA’s ongoing PubliCity programme.

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