Architecture

Designing for tomorrow: New typologies for Singapore

Architects need to anticipate the needs of Singapore in the next decades as it confronts climate change.

Designing for tomorrow

Over the last few decades, according to the National Climate Change Secretariat, Singapore has become hotter and wetter with the sea level rising each year. The annual mean temperature has risen more than 1°C to 28°C. Rainfall has intensified and the mean sea level in the Straits of Singapore has increased at the rate of 1.2mm to 1.7mm per year in over 30 years. Since we import 90 percent of our food, we face greater risks of a disrupted food supply chain.

As a small island nation that is being impacted by climate change, it is vital that our architects, engineers and specialists design for a more resilient future. As Singapore marked its 56th birthday in August, we shine the spotlight on how Surbana Jurong is helping to secure Singapore’s future by designing better.

Designing in layers for mobility and interconnectivity

(Above) Layering of networks at Bulim where hi-tech factories are built upwards, goods movement is concentrated below ground, cars on ground level while people move on an elevated walkway called the Sky Corridor (below).

Bulim estate is the first out of five estates to be developed as part of the future-ready Jurong Innovation District (JID) designed for Industry 4.0. 

Significantly, Bulim is no conventional tech park. It is an infrastructure project which includes two distinct new typologies – the Sky Corridor (otherwise known as Mobility Deck or M-Deck) and the underground Dedicated Logistics Network (DLN).

The design philosophy is a people-centered holistic infrastructure planning approach. First and foremost, it is a car-lite district with a pedestrian-friendly ground level. This necessitates the design of an efficient logistics system for heavy goods vehicles to move in the estate and infrastructure which supports alternative modes of transport, such as a people mover system.


The result is the layering of various networks:

  1. Goods and services are concentrated underground. The common services spaces and DLN that support estate-wide goods movement are located in the Basement levels.
  2. At ground level are the roads and public parks with park connectors. 
  3. Pedestrians and cyclists alike are elevated above the ground, where they use the M-Deck or Sky Corridor to connect with the buildings within Bulim and to the rest of Singapore via future Mass Rapid Transit lines. The Sky Corridor comprises three lanes; a sheltered pedestrian footpath, a cyclist lane, and a people mover system lane.


It is a challenging project as the team needs to juggle different timelines while designing structures for interim and permanent use, and coordinate construction and contract boundaries as building vertically and horizontally. 

An example is the construction of the Sky Corridor: its columns that land within the roadside table must not land within the DLN tunnel driveway below. With different timelines and contract boundaries, the loading and location of Sky Corridor columns had to be carefully coordinated. 

It was a massive learning experience for Ms Nurul Marsya Binte Mohd Shahruddin, an Architectural Associate with SJ Architecture involved in Bulim Phase 1, which comprises mainly infrastructure works such as roads, sewers, drains, the Sky Corridor, the DLN network, and park spaces that serve the respective plots. 

She said: “It is exciting to be part of a team spearheading new typologies that has the potential to redefine the way we plan and use our public spaces in Singapore, especially such a visible structure like the Sky Corridor.”

A one-stop poultry processing hub boosting food resilience

(Above) A serving of fried chicken, a popular dish in Singapore (Below) Exterior and interior views of the JTC Poultry Processing Hub in Buroh in Singapore. (Photo of dish by Ke Vin on Unsplash.com)

Chicken is Singapore’s favourite meat protein, with 36kg consumed by each person on average in 2020. Live slaughtering of chicken in wet markets was banned in 1992 but there are some 10 standalone chicken slaughterhouses in Singapore today. The JTC poultry processing hub was designed to integrate, in one place, all the components of slaughtering and processing chicken for consumption. 

Various stages of the process are streamlined in a systematic matter. The ground floor has two lines that handle slaughtering of live birds, as well as the collection of waste products, harvesting giblets, chilling and grading of dressed chickens. From Levels 2 to 5, a cold chain system provides for a safe and hygienic transfer of the dressed chickens to the respective processors and storage facilities.

The direct transfer from the slaughterhouse via a vertical system means less manual handling to cut contamination risk

The cold chain involves direct vertical transportation via a pallet system (see above) serving the second to fifth storeys. This mechanical system minimizes manual handling of the poultry and cuts the risk of contamination whilst keeping it fresh. 

In the event of any avian pandemic, the “dirty zones” at the ground floor can be quarantined, while the rest of the hub continues to operate with an alternative supply of chickens. The transportation system and stages of processing can also be closed to ringfence disease spread. Poultry operators at the hub can continue to supply chicken to consumers. 

This is a new building typology in Singapore. The hub could be a reference for future design, such as: 

  • Safe distancing/ hygiene zoning – to prevent mixing of products/ of people
  • Lockdown optionality 
  • Scalability of processes  
  • Adaptability and flexibility of space – Processing units and office floors are open for tenant configuration
  • Sufficient space for Inventory management. For instance, the second-storey warehouse or cold room can be converted from just-in-time to just-in-case

For Ms Lina Heng, Executive Architectural Associate from SJ architecture who worked on the project, the poultry processing hub has challenged the team to design along “the fine line of functional relevance through land intensification and upscaling, whilst balancing the need for resilient and safe workplaces.”

Land-based fish farming goes vertical

The view of the Apollo Aquaculture Group’s vertical fish farm from the outside.

Surbana Jurong has delivered the first vertical fish farm in the world this year. The eight-storey vertical fish farm which sits on 1.5ha in Neo Tiew Crescent  in the north of Singapore is producing grouper, coral trout and shrimp which are highly popular among Singaporeans. 

Surbana Jurong partnered with Apollo Aquaculture Group to develop the floating ponds high-intensity urban farming concept, a closed loop system with a bio-secured farming environment. The floating ponds design won the WAFX (World Architecture Festival – Xth Edition) Prize in the Water category in 2017. The team also won “Project of the Year – Sustainability and Environmental” at SJ Group’s Global Awards 2020. 

The fish farm houses fish tanks across all eight floors. It uses proprietary water filtration technologies that help to reuse 90 percent of the water. As fish-farming is conducted indoors, it has a controlled environment that prevents any cross contamination between tanks.

The zero-waste system at Singapore’s first vertical fish farm also produces shrimps. (Photo by Aleisha Kalina on Unsplash.com)

The nutrient-rich wastewater expunged from the fish tanks is used to grow vegetables through aquaponics, and for cultivating the wetlands on site. The fish waste is used to rear crustaceans such as shrimps, which sell well. The nutrients carried in the water are also used to grow algae which can be consumed by the fish.  After it is treated, most of the water is recirculated back into the fish tanks. 

Solar cells, which can be installed on the rooftop, can also contribute to harvesting energy for the use of the farm. Currently, the energy consumed for this project is about 75 to 100 kWh per sqm per year. To put that in context, according to this report, strawberries grown in vertical farms require energy to the tune of 1,404 kWh per sqm per year. the average electricity consumed by a four-room flat in Singapore is 3.99 kWh per sqm per year.

For Ms Diana Tjiong, an Architectural Associate with SJ architecture who worked on the project, “The project allows me to understand the various means of architectural intervention, where we don’t just learn to create spaces for human use but also how to house an ecosystem for fish and shrimps, eventually supporting the larger population. It’s a very meaningful first project upon joining SJ and I am very proud to be a part of it.”

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