Commentary

Inclusive, cooler cities: A different take on liveability

Inclusive, cooler cities: A different take on liveability
One way of combating heat in cities is enhancing urban infrastructure such as planting trees to increase shaded areas. TODAY file photo
Published: 4:02 AM, May 30, 2013
Updated: 6:50 PM, May 30, 2013
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In Singapore, the universities are taking on the same role; the highly-ranked National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, and new institutions like the Singapore University of Technology and Design have been increasingly involved in plans to develop the city.

COOLER, CALMER SINGAPORE

Singapore is a vibrant city full of energy — literally. Over the last few years, three topics have emerged repeatedly and have taken over many conversations between residents, citizens, politicians, diplomats, students, public servants and taxi drivers. These topics are, not surprisingly, transportation, the economy, and the growing population.

On the other hand, people are also increasingly concerned about the rising heat in the city. Anecdotally, people feel like Singapore is getting hotter, but no one quite knows the reason why. Some feel that it is due to climate change on a global level.

In fact, cities are traditionally warmer than their surrounding countryside due to the phenomenon known as Urban Heat Island effect, and Singapore is no different. The main cause of this phenomenon is the modification of land surface through urban development using materials that retain heat. As a second contributor, heat is generated by energy usage within the city. Both effects increase its temperature.

Cooling down a city goes beyond merely blasting cold air into warm indoor spaces. Furthermore, in conventional urban design, if we blast cold air into a space to cool it down, we will inevitably meet with a trade-off — not only will more energy be required, the heat will also be channelled into an area which will then be artificially warmer than it is supposed to be.

That is why cities are on the hunt for sustainable ways to mitigate the Urban Heat Island effect. These include enhancing urban infrastructure such as growing greenery on rooftops, planting trees to increase shaded areas, or using bright street surfaces to increase reflection. Some of the above have already been successfully implemented in Singapore.

However, these measures only serve to ease the effects of the phenomenon and do not address the issue at its roots. This is a good time for Singapore to think out of the box in tackling the above-mentioned issues alongside allaying the Urban Heat Island effect.

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