Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, breaks new ground in sustainable building

By Catherine Sturman
Attracting more than 25 million visitors worldwide, Singapores Gardens by the Bay exhibits beautiful horticultural displays which link with Singaporean...

Attracting more than 25 million visitors worldwide, Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay exhibits beautiful horticultural displays which link with Singaporean culture and countries worldwide. The build has transformed Singapore into a “city in a garden”, an initiative by the Singaporean government, creating permanent areas of conservation through a continuous energy cycle. The gardens have won multiple awards and will provide increased sustainable benefits for Singapore for years to come.

“Gardens by the Bay represents the ‘garden of the future’; one that breaks new ground in the way that plants are presented in an urban environment, by fusing nature, architecture and technology to reach out to a new generation of urban visitors. It also plays a role in making Singapore green and liveable – a national garden and an urban oasis where city dwellers can get away from the fast pace of life to sit back, relax and connect with each other amidst nature,” says Chief Executive Officer Dr Kiat W. Tan.

Spanning a total of 101 hectares, the gardens are split into three main areas: Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central, incorporating different themes and placing an increased emphasis on Singaporean culture. Covering an impressive 54 hectares, Bay South encompasses the largest section, containing gardens, lakes and two self-sufficient glass biomes, Flower Dome (1.2 hectares) and Cloud Forest (0.8 hectares). The domes create an aesthetically pleasing and educational space, incorporating over 90,000 plants which are supported by several sustainable features.

Upon selecting Grant Associates, Tan commented: “Grant Associates concept for Bay South captured the essence of a garden in a downtown setting. With careful consideration of day and night programming, the display gardens and activity spaces were strategically located to create an experience of colour and vibrancy at all hours of the day, every day. The concept for the cooled conservatories was also attractive and technically possible to implement, as was the application of sustainable energy systems. Last but certainly not least, the introduction of the Supertrees as iconic structures gave their design concept an edge.”

Grant Associates supported the unique vision in the gardens’ creation by providing a clear aim “to create the most amazing tropical gardens in the world, incorporating cutting edge environmental design and sustainable development principles”.

Standing at 38 metres tall, Flower Dome is now the world’s largest glasshouse. The cooled glass conservatories are not supported internally through the use of columns or beams, but an outer steel frame ensures their distinctive shapes are maintained. Over 3,000 double-glazed, glass roof panels allow sunlight to provide energy for the established vegetation, but a low emissions coating has been applied, in addition to a fabric, sensor-operated sail which provides plants with vital shade. Both dome roofs capture rainwater which is utilised for irrigation purposes.

To ensure these two self-sufficient structures are able to maintain differing climates consistently, architects and designers had to incorporate two opposing aims. Whilst Flower Dome is designed to contain vegetation originating from semi-arid subtropical regions, Cloud Forest adopts a cool, moist climate, with humidity, around 80-90 percent, supporting a 35-metre-tall mountain of plants typically grown 2,000 metres above sea level. Chilled water pipes are installed within the floor spaces to cool air at the lower levels, whilst warmer air becomes expelled through thermal stratification, with a combination of cooling technologies resulting in at least 30 percent savings. One of the key technologies involves the use of horticultural waste as biomass.

Manmade Supertrees within the gardens are aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sustainable. The imposing, 25 to 50-metre-high structures contain approximately 160,000 plants, with 11 out of 18 Supertrees containing environmentally sustainable features, such as inbuilt tanks which lead directly into the cooling of the domes. Seven Supertrees have photovoltaic cells on their canopies to harvest solar energy, whilst three serve as air exhaust receptacles and one is a flue for the co-gen system.

In addition to the vivid designs, visitors are able to view the gardens from 22 metres above ground via an aerial walkway between two Supertrees, incorporating light, colour and sound shows as a result of implanted photovoltaic cells within seven Supertrees which provide solar energy, showcased in an evening show called Garden Rhapsody, “creating a rich fusion of nature, technology and environmental management,” as said by Grant Associates on their website. All developments complement one another to maintain sustainability and balance “becoming a seamless part of the cityscape, even as the city continues to progress and develop”, but also “changes perceptions of what a garden should be”, commented Tan.

When considering several bids for Bay East, Tan reflected that “the strength of Gustafson Porter’s design was in how it brought forth the essence of Marina Bay with subtlety and elegance. The design concept leveraged on the attractive views of the city skyline that you get when you look across the water from Bay East. It also brought out the intimate relationship between the garden and the bay, and provided spaces and display gardens to generate interest and engage people.”  

Whilst Bay South has been created to attract a multitude of citizens and provide entertainment, Bay East will provide peace and tranquility which will be “enjoyed by residents who go there for strolls and picnics, and to jog or cycle alongside the beautiful view of Marina Bay.” The garden will encompass a water theme alongside educational activities which will represent the symbiotic relationship between plants and animals in an aquatic ecosystem.

It is clear to see that the Gardens by the Bay provides continuous sustainability. Situated within Bay South, Dragonfly Lake and Kingfisher Lake incorporate a natural filtration and irrigation system which is utilised to filter captured water. This process reduces the level of nitrogen, minimising the volume of algae and unwanted residue and ensures aquatic life and dragonflies can flourish.

“Unlike a traditional garden, it seeks to entertain and capture the imagination of the public by bringing together the best of garden and floral artistry, creative programming, and innovative technology. In this sense, it is not so much a conventional garden, but rather a horticultural themed attraction with plants as its core theme. It provides a unique tropical garden experience that is quite unlike any other in Singapore and the world,” says Tan.

It has been recently revealed that further developments are planned to connect Gardens by the Bay with the 150km Round Island Cycle Route (RIR). The route will enable cyclists to travel around the island, from their homes and into the city, making the gardens more accessible and an increased focal point. The first corridor, Coastal Adventure, will link with Bay East, with developments commencing at the end of 2016. Gardens by the Bay will increasingly become a central sustainable feature within Singapore, setting the benchmark for environmentally friendly builds and support the health benefits of green building.  

The synergistic partnership between Gardens by the Bay staff, international consultants, local contractors and government agencies facilitated in turning the dream of creating this national garden into reality.

Follow @ConstructionGL

Read the January 2017 issue of Construction Global here


Featured Articles

Saudi Arabia to build three new stadiums for Asian Cup 2027

Tournament will be hosted across three cities and 10 stadiums, SAFF says

Neoen’s Storen Power Reserve begins construction in Sweden

Notice to Proceed given to Nidec at the end of December 2022, French renewable energy producer says

Masdar works with African countries on renewable projects

Agreements with Angola, Uganda and Zambia will see development of renewable energy projects with a combined capacity of up to 5GW

Select Group awards US$816.7m in construction contracts

Construction Projects

Saipem awarded $1.2bn contracts for Guyana and Egypt project

Construction Projects

Saudi Arabia dominates MENA construction sector in 2022

Facilities Management