by Emma Sloan

Designer: ADDP Architects LLP
Construction: Tiong Seng Contractors (Pte) Ltd.

Known as “the garden city,” Singapore, an island city-state off southern Malaysia, has been living up to that moniker with mandated green buildings since 2008. Currently ranked second among global cities for green buildings, it aims to have 80 percent of its structures certified as sustainable under its Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark Scheme by 2030.

According to a report by Research and Markets, they hit 30 percent in 2017, and they’re currently revving up to bridge the remaining 50 percent with sustainable features like efficient cooling devices, streamlined energy usage, and insulating coatings to protect from UVs. One of Singapore’s most notable examples of this sustainable architectural movement is the Tree House.

Earning a spot in the 2014 edition of the Guinness World Records for the world’s largest vertical garden, Singapore’s Tree House condominium sets a sustainable example for the world to follow, saving approximately $500,000 in both energy and water costs annually when compared to similar structures. The nature-inspired development consists of four 24-storey towers, each with 429 units, in the Upper Bukit Timah private residential estate in the city’s west side.

The Tree House’s signature vertical garden is more than an architectural trademark: it acts as a natural insulation and reduces the condominium’s carbon footprint by filtering pollutants and carbon dioxide from the air. This, in turn, reduces heat absorption and lowers the amount of energy required to cool its indoor spaces. Through this insulation, the Tree House achieves air conditioning savings of between 15 and 30 percent annually for the 48 master bedrooms that face the vertical garden wall. The buildings also use a sloped design to maximize the harvest of rainwater, which is funnelled into a self-sustaining irrigation system for the garden.

In addition to the outdoor wall, the Tree House includes laminated green-tinted heat-reducing windows, motion sensors at staircases that automatically activate lights, and lifts with variable voltage and frequency. Through its excellence and innovation, the Tree House received the Green Mark Platinum award by the Building and Construction Authority in 2010, a special award for design for maintenance at the National Parks Board Skyrise Greenery Awards in 2013, and honours in the best innovative green building category at the MIPIM Asia Awards 2013, which honour outstanding projects in the Asia Pacific region.

ADDP Architects LLP’s ingenuity in eco-friendly architecture and Singapore’s commitment to sustainable buildings could be an inspiration for housing here in Canadian cities, where structures produce 17 percent of the country’s greenhouse gasses and 40 percent of emissions from electricity generation is for energy used in our buildings.