May 9, 2009

home & garden

Gardens in the sky

High-rise greenery is sprouting in condos and HDB blocks

By tay suan chiang

High-rise havens at Newton Suites (left) and HDB carpark in Toa Payoh. -- ST PHOTOS: JOYCE FANG, SHAHRIYA YAHAYA

Garden terraces on high-rise buildings are a growing idea.

More condominiums, Housing Board carparks and office towers are sprouting plants and trees amid the concrete, helping Singapore bloom as a 'garden city'.

Everyone is happy: Developers like adding high-rise greens because they say they help keep buildings cool and beautify the urban jungle. Residents like them because they help them keep close to nature, despite being above the ground.

The idea gets the (green) thumbs-up from housewife Mei Wong, who lives in one of Singapore's oldest housing estates, Toa Payoh, which boasts the first sky garden to connect five HDB blocks. It has landscaped footpaths, sheltered seating areas and a trellis where creepers grow.

Ms Wong, 40, who goes there often with her two children, says: 'There's no need for me to grow plants at home. I just come here.

'The plants keep the sky garden cool, and it is pleasant to look out onto it from my 20th-storey window.'

The HDB and the National Parks Board first started a pilot project to green the roof of a multi-storey carpark in Punggol in 2003. At some multi-storey carparks in new HDB projects, there are also roof gardens which the public can access.

The idea is also taking root in the private sector (see separate stories). Last month, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) launched a new programme called Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High Rises - or appropriately, Lush in short - to promote more skyrise greenery.

Its initiatives include making landscaping, such as to shape rooftop gardens or sky terraces, a must for new developments in Raffles Place, Shenton Way, Marina Centre, along Kallang River and Jurong Gateway, the upcoming commercial hub in the west.

Already, since 1997, the URA has encouraged developers to incorporate sky terraces in residential projects by allowing a higher building height if they are provided. Covered sky terraces are also exempt from gross floor area computation, which means a developer has more room to build more apartment units.

Under Lush, these guidelines were revised to require that sky terraces are lushly landscaped and that the greenery is visible externally, to ensure a more attractive communal space.

New condos are showing they are taking the sky garden concept to new heights. At year-old Icon in Tanjong Pagar, residents are living a luxe lush life.

The sky terrace on the 31st storey of the mixed-use development makes for one superb venue for residents' private parties. It is filled with shade-loving plants such as frangipani trees, and small pockets of areas have been created to give some privacy.

Mr Chng Kiong Huat, director of development and planning for the condo's developer, Far East Organization, says the sky terrace was created so residents can 'live, work and play within the compound'.

Property developer Capitaland has also introduced high-rise greenery at two recent residential projects, Citylights near Lavender and RiverGate near River Valley Road. At Citylights, there is a sky terrace on the 24th storey with fitness facilities, plus reading and yoga corners, amid the lush greenery.

Over at RiverGate, its sky gardens are made up of a series of public and private gardens and balconies which give the development a green and ecologically harmonious appearance on Singapore's skyline, says Capitaland.

At Fusionopolis, the science and research centre in Buona Vista, there are 13 sky gardens which the public can visit.

Developer JTC Corporation says the sky gardens provide visual relief and serve as green lungs and social pockets.

Mr Eric Van Steen, 38, senior manager of Accenture, a consulting firm, goes to the gardens about twice a week.

'The greens, with the breeze and the great views, make it a pleasant space to step out of the office to clear the mind,' he says.

Newton Suites, developed by UOL Group, also has a 100m wall of vertical greenery on the 36-storey tower.

Architect Chan Ee Mun from award-winning firm Woha, which designed the Newton Road condo, says 'elevated gardens bring nature closer to the residents and afford the luxury of greenery that was previously reserved only for landed living'.

The greenery absorbs sunlight and carbon dioxide emissions and helps create oxygen. Mr Chan adds that by planting vertically, 'we are also populating our dense urban centres with gardens and greenery that encourage a thriving biodiversity'.

Newton Suites resident, financial consultant Mona Honegger, 43, lives on the ninth storey but regularly goes up to the lush sky terrace on the 31st storey to revel in the unblocked views of the city.

The Swiss expat, who enjoys a drink and relaxes there before bedtime, says: 'Being here among the green gives me a feeling of being close to nature.'

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The high life


A sky terrace on the 31st storey provides private seating areas, with hot tubs from which users can enjoy unblocked views of the city and the sea and floating birdcage swings.

Lush greenery to block out prying eyes creates pockets of private space.

On the seventh storey is a pool deck featuring green 'islands'. The use of trees and plants gives the deck a tropical resort feel.



This 545-unit condomnium near River Valley Road offers residents 45 sky gardens with views of the city, Singapore River and the South China Sea. The sky gardens are made up of a series of public and private gardens and balconies. There are trellises on which creepers grow so residents can feel close to nature.

Newton Suites

This award-winning condominium boasts sky terraces surrounded by lush greenery, giving residents a garden-in-the-sky feel. There is also a 100m-tall green wall along the 36-storey block.

HDB roof gardens

Some lucky HDB flat dwellers are also enjoying skyrise greenery. In 2003, the Housing Board and National Parks Board started a pilot project to green the roof of a multi-storey carpark in Punggol.

These rooftop gardens not only keep the surround- ings cool but are also pleasing to look at for neighbouring residents.

The one on the left is at Toa Payoh Lorong 2. Other rooftop gardens on carparks can be found in new housing estates such as Punggol, Sengkang and Sembawang.


This science and technology centre, developed by JTC Corporation, boasts 13 sky gardens which are open to the public. The sky gardens have water features amid the lush greenery, with clear views of the surroundings.


Taking a leisurely stroll is an elevating experience at this 600-unit condo near Lavender MRT station. Residents have a lush high-rise pool deck and a sky terrace on the 24th floor that has fitness facilities and a jacuzzi plus reading and yoga corners.