In this time of rapid globalization, the need for sustainable yet comfortable public housing is at an all-time high. People now know the importance of sustainable architecture and its positive contributions to everyday life. The spaces and structures around the globe have fallen prey to the image of global architecture. This resulted in dead, non-interactive, unsustainable architecture that adds in no way to the social, architectural, or communal image of the area or the inhabitants. With the rise of global warming, there is a huge demand for green, sustainable, zero-energy buildings. Punggol Waterway Terraces is one such contribution to public housing designed with the awareness and need of the site and its surroundings.
Architects- Aedas, G8A Architecture and Urban Planning
Building Type- Residential (public)
The tropical climate of Singapore and the high-density urban areas of this region needs public housing which can adapt to both of these factors. The Punggol Waterway Terraces aim to bravely present the basic design principles to its residents instead of having to hide them. The main aim of the planning of this housing was to aid cross ventilation through all units as well as the common areas to respond to the harsh tropical climate of the region. The planning strategies include maximizing the orientation of the built mass towards the waterway that moves through the site. The ribbon-shaped shading device in the form of ‘Juliet’ balconies not only for the aesthetics but it protects the apartments from the actions of the sun and rain. The hexagonal voids act as an urban oasis with themed landscapes, selective species of plants, and a subtle intervention with the waterway. According to the book ‘Dense+ Green Cities- Architecture as an Urban Ecosystem’ by Thomas Schröpfer- close to 80% of the green space vegetation had biodiversity attracting properties.
The public housing comprises linked hexagons in plan with ‘arms’ descending in form of terraces. The terraces were inspired by the Asian rice fields stepping down the water. This allows the residents of the building to experience a direct connection with the surroundings and the carefully designed landscapes. Due to its hexagonal planning, the corridors are strategically placed at 120° allowing the breeze from the lift core to aid in natural ventilation and vertical cooling. Contrary to the conventional doubly loaded corridors with no play of air and light, in this structure, the lobby contributes to the passive strategies. The no dead-end, doubly loaded corridors provide cross ventilation to all units and corridors.
The promenade on the canal creates an attractive communal space for various activities for the residents including cycling and skating. People are invited to the walkway over the canal through the common green spaces. The ‘Water Points’ are round basin fountains spread along the promenade that also serves as a play area for children. The ‘Water Points’ are a direct connection between people and the water body. The ground floor is designed with landscapes connecting multiple paths to ensure a visual and physical connection between the green spaces. The vegetation of the Punggol Waterway Terraces strikes a perfect balance with the canal and the water points.
To minimize the thermal effects and energy consumption of the building various passive strategies are used at different levels of the site as well as built mass. The parking, corridors and public spaces are passively illuminated and ventilated, with large vertical and horizontal openings intergrade with the façade. Every unit is equally well ventilated and enjoys a complete view of the landscapes due to its orientation and placement of the hexagonal blocks. Even the living spaces and individual rooms in the dwellings are designed with effective natural light and ventilation. There are three divisions of units based on nature and interaction with the landscape spaces. The first belongs to private terraces. The second with the public spaces connected through a vertical garden. And third with nature surrounding the plots. In all three typologies, the designers have attempted to bring nature and its experience into the dwellings.
The Punggol Waterway Terraces is a perfect example of bridging the gap between the need for housing and sustainability. The interaction of the indoor and outdoor spaces creates a feeling of an urban forest in a densely populated and fast-paced globalization of the region. The building and the ancillary spaces respond to the context, and nature whilst providing the basics of public housing. It has created a striking image of the global trends in housing against the stereotypical image of public housing all around. Their attempt toward total sustainability through various active and passive strategies has resulted in one of the first zero-energy housing. Along with simple strategies like orientation and shading to absorption of the greenhouse gases while managing and treating the stormwater- this project does it all.
As the architects say, this project “is a genuine precursor to the zero-energy mass housing that will be essential for the continued growth of Asia’s cities.”