Have you heard about how Singapore uses science to stay cool? As a professional engineer, I often underline the importance of integrating science and policy to address climate change effectively. A brilliant example of this integration can be found in Singapore’s approach to combating the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect.
The Urban Heat Island Effect and Its Impact
The Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect is a well-known phenomenon. It happens when urban regions absorb more sun heat than rural areas. This absorption is due to the abundance of concrete and asphalt. As a result, city temperatures rise, often several degrees higher than the surroundings. There’s a YouTube video that discusses this issue in depth. Titled “How Singapore Uses Science to Stay Cool,” it reveals Singapore’s innovative solutions.
Researchers from the government-backed project “Cooling Singapore” are at the forefront of urban heat island mitigation strategies. As temperatures in Singapore regularly rise above 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit), mitigating this heat is essential to maintaining a livable city environment.
Singapore’s Strategies for Reducing Urban Heat
Singapore’s approach to cooling is multifaceted, combining traditional methods with innovative scientific advancements.
One of Singapore’s most noticeable strategies is the inclusion of green infrastructure in its urban design. A striking correlation exists between areas of vegetation and lower temperatures, underscoring the importance of trees and other greenery in mitigating urban heat.
Singapore aspires to be a “Garden City.” This is clear in places like Kampung Admiralty. It’s a community center that offers plenty of green space. The space surpasses that of the original plot of land. Another example is the Parkroyal on Pickering hotel. The design aims to enhance the site’s green-growing potential. It features sky gardens, reflecting pools, planter terraces, and green walls. The government is also deeply committed to green infrastructure. Over the next 10 years, the plan is to plant 1 million trees. They also intend to add more green spaces.
Innovative Cooling Systems
Singapore also boasts what is probably the world’s largest underground district cooling system, which cools water in a central plant and then pipes it into various urban structures. This system allows buildings to save 40% in electricity usage compared to traditional air conditioners, an energy efficiency that equates to the emissions savings of removing 10,000 cars from Singapore’s roads.
The Future of Urban Cooling
Despite these impressive measures, Singapore has been warming twice as quickly as the world average over the past six decades, demonstrating the need for even more innovative solutions.
To address this, Cooling Singapore has been exploring a range of potential heat-mitigation measures:
- Shading of windows and clear areas for wind movement
- Usage of water as a thermal buffer
- Construction of less heavy facades for heavy buildings
- Gradual conversion of city roofs and facades into production areas for renewable energy
Even with geographical limitations, it is estimated that up to 20-25% of Singapore’s electricity needs could be met by this renewable energy if all available building surfaces were utilized.
Digital Urban Climate Twin (DUCT)
Perhaps one of the most exciting initiatives from Cooling Singapore is the development of a Digital Urban Climate Twin (DUCT). This virtual model of the city will enable researchers to calculate the impact of each element of the city’s design on the UHI effect, essentially providing a testing ground for mitigation strategies before they are implemented in reality.
Singapore’s Scientific Approach: A Model for the World
Singapore’s rigorous, science-backed approach to urban heat mitigation is a valuable model for cities worldwide. As the climate crisis worsens, more cities will face the challenges of urban heating. By integrating green infrastructure, innovative cooling systems, and science-based design, we can make our cities more resilient to rising temperatures, ultimately improving our quality of life.
I highly recommend this video to anyone interested in learning about the future of urban planning and the intersection of science and policy in addressing climate change. The insights provided are not only mind-opening but also essential as we grapple with creating a sustainable future. As we strive to stay cool in a warming world, Singapore’s example shows that science and strategic urban design can go a long way in mitigating heat in our cities.