Singapore is building a ‘forest town’ with abundant green spaces and underground roads

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Natalie Marchant, Writer, Formative Content


  • In Singapore, the ‘forest town’ of Tengah is being built on land once home to a brickworks and later used for military training.
  • Vehicles will run underground to make the eco-development’s town centre safer for walking, cycling and recreational activities.
  • A 100-metre-wide forest corridor will connect a nature reserve and water catchment area, and provide safe passage for wildlife.
  • Singapore will host the World Economic Forum Special Annual Meeting 2021 to discuss sustainable pandemic-recovery.

In an area of Singapore once home to a brickworks and military training facilities, a vision of the future of urban living is taking shape.

The country is building what it calls its first smart and sustainable town, promising 42,000 homes in an environment where people can be “at home with nature”.

The Tengah project will consist of five residential districts on the 700-hectare site in Singapore’s Western region. Named Garden, Park, Brickland, Forest Hill and Plantation, the areas are designed to improve residents’ health and wellbeing and give them a better quality of life.

How? With smart buildings, greenery everywhere and a prioritization of walking and cycling that routes motor vehicle traffic underground.

image of the plan for Singapore’s new eco town.
Singapore’s new eco town will sit alongside planned innovation and business districts. Image: Singapore Government Housing & Development Board

Forest town

The Tengah project’s new homes and workspaces will be built alongside two other developments, the Jurong Innovation District – for the manufacturing sector – and Jurong Lake District, planned to be the city-state’s second Central Business District.

Dubbed a ‘forest town’ thanks to its abundant green space including areas for community farming, Tengah will feature a 100-metre-wide ‘forest corridor’ that runs through the centre of the town. This will connect a nature reserve and a water catchment area, as well as providing safe passage for wildlife, and a recreational space for residents.

Residents will also be able to travel to neighbouring towns or to the city centre via buses or the planned Jurong Region Line, with the majority of people living within walking distance of a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station.

Tengah will also be the first development built by the Singaporean government to have a car-free town centre, with vehicles running underground to free up space above ground. By separating road traffic from pedestrians, the town centre will be safer for walking, cycling and other recreational activities.

Smart and sustainable

Singapore recently topped the Smart City Index for the second year running – it has long been known as one of Asia’s greenest.

Computer simulations have been used to design buildings and precincts to optimize wind flow and minimize heat, while smart lights will automatically switch off in unoccupied areas in order to reduce energy consumption.

The town will also feature a centralized cooling system in some precincts. Singapore’s Housing & Development Board says this will regulate the temperature in homes and will be more energy-efficient than individual air-conditioning units – significant in a country where air-conditioning typically accounts for a third of household energy use.

Meanwhile automated waste collection will see household rubbish transported down a conveyance system, creating a cleaner and more hygienic living environment and minimizing pest infection.

The Housing & Development Board is also working with power company SP Group to examine the possibility of Tengah becoming a ‘smart energy’ town. Using artificial intelligence, SP Group hopes to develop a software system that optimizes energy use along with an app that enables residents to accurately monitor their usage.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the future of cities?

Cities represent humanity’s greatest achievements – and greatest challenges. From inequality to air pollution, poorly designed cities are feeling the strain as 68% of humanity is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050.

The World Economic Forum supports a number of projects designed to make cities cleaner, greener and more inclusive.

These include hosting the Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization, which gathers bright ideas from around the world to inspire city leaders, and running the Future of Urban Development and Services initiative. The latter focuses on how themes such as the circular economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be harnessed to create better cities. To shed light on the housing crisis, the Forum has produced the report Making Affordable Housing a Reality in Cities.

Future cities

Singapore will host the World Economic Forum Special Annual Meeting 2021 on 17-20 August. It will be the first global leadership summit to address how to recover from the pandemic and create a more inclusive and sustainable future.

The event will build on the work of the World Economic Forum’s Future of Cities initiative, which seeks to help cities rethink their strategies for post-pandemic economic recovery and building a more sustainable and resilient future for their citizens.

The initiative encourages public-private collaboration on solutions addressing the political, economic and social challenges posed by COVID-19, alongside advancing new frameworks and policy tools for improved planning.

The G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance, for example, brings together government bodies, private-sector partners and residents to discuss shared principles for the responsible and ethical use of smart-city technologies.

Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum’s Shaping the Future of the Internet of Things and Urban Transformation platform works with more than 100 global partners to help ensure that connected devices and smart technologies are used to create a future that is more sustainable, prosperous and resilient for all.

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