Trees and Greenery One of Ten Principles for Liveable High-Density Cities

Washington, DC (January 24, 2013) – A new report from the Urban Land Institute, using Singapore as a model, offers a top 10 list of principles for making high-density cities more liveable. Coming in at number three is “draw trees and nature closer to people.” Trees make everybody happier–improve the air, mitigate heat, and provide city dwellers pockets of respite from the bustle of urban life.

Urban Land Institute study“For new cities that are forming and older cities that are redeveloping…the ten principles can be a starting point for city planners, developers and dwellers to trigger ideas about how they want their city to evolve and be shaped,” states the publication. “Creating a highly dense yet liveable city, while not always easy, is very possible.”

10 Principles for Liveable High Density Cities: Lessons from Singapore draws upon Singapore’s successful urbanization experience. Despite its population density, the city-state has consistently ranked favorably in various surveys measuring the liveability and sustainability of cities around the globe.

The ten principles in the publication were developed during two workshops hosted in 2012 by Singapore’s Centre for Liveable Cities and Urban Land Institute Asia Pacific, bringing together 62 thought leaders, experts and practitioners from different disciplines related to urban planning and development.

Each of the 10 principles in the publication reflects Singapore’s integrated model of planning and development, which weaves together the physical, economic, social and environmental aspects of urban living. Here are the ten principles:

  1. Plan for long-term growth and renewal –A highly dense city usually does not have much choice but to make efficient use of every square inch of its scarce land. Yet city planners need to do this in a way that does not make the city feel cramped and unliveable. A combination of long-term planning, responsive land policies, development control and good design has enabled Singapore to have dense developments that do not feel overly crowded, and, in fact, are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
  2. Embrace diversity, foster inclusiveness – There is a need to ensure that diversity is not divisive, particularly in densely populated cities where people live in close proximity to one another. Density and diversity work in Singapore because there has always been a concurrent focus on creating a sense of inclusiveness through encouraging greater interaction.
  3. Draw nature closer to people – Blending nature into the city helps soften the hard edges of a highly built up cityscape and provides the city dwellers pockets of respite from the bustle of urban life. By adopting a strategy of pervasive greenery and by transforming its parks and water bodies into lifestyle spaces for community activities, Singapore integrated nature with its dense developments. Nearly half of Singapore is now under green cover, which is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also improves the air quality and mitigates heat from the tropical sun.
  4. Develop affordable, mixed-use neighbourhoods – The ease of living in a compact neighbourhood that is relatively self-contained can add to the pleasure of city living. With density, it becomes more cost effective to provide common amenities. Neighbourhoods in Singapore’s new towns have a mix of public and private developments which are served with a full range of facilities that are easy to access and generally affordable.
  5. Make public spaces work harder – Often, parcels of land that adjoin or surround the city’s infrastructure are dormant, empty spaces. Singapore has sought to maximize the potential of these spaces by unlocking them for commercial and leisure activities, The idea is to make all space, including infrastructural spaces, serve multiple uses and users.
  6. Prioritise green transport and building options – An overall reduction in energy consumption and dependence adds to city sustainability. Singapore has adopted a resource-conscious growth strategy that relies on planning, design and the use of low-energy environmental systems for its buildings. It has also developed an efficient public transport system and well-connected walkways to give city dwellers transport alternatives to driving.
  7. Relieve density with variety and add green boundaries – A high-density city need not be all about closely packed high-rise buildings. Singapore intersperses high-rise with low-rise buildings, creating a skyline with more character and reducing the sense of being in a crowded space.
  8. Activate spaces for greater safety – Having a sense of safety and security is an important quality-of-life factor. As Singapore became denser, designs of high-rise public housing estates were modified to improve the “visual access” to spaces so the community can collectively be the “eyes on the street,” helping to keep neighbourhoods safe.
  9. Promote innovative and non-conventional solutions – As a city gets more populated and built up, it starts facing constraints on land and resources, and has to often look at non-traditional solutions to get around the challenges. To ensure sufficient water, Singapore developed reclaimed water under the brand name NEWater-to drinking and industrial standards.
  10. Forge “3P” (people, public, private) partnerships – With land parcels in close proximity to one another, the effects of development in one area are likely to be felt quickly and acutely in neighbouring sites. The city government and all stakeholders need to work together to ensure they are not taking actions that would reduce the quality of life for others. URA launched the Singapore River ONE partnership to get the various stakeholders to feel a stronger ownership of Singapore River so that social and economic activity in the precinct would be developed in a coordinated and sustainable manner.

Source: News Release: 10 Principles for Liveable High Density Cities: Lessons from Singapore

Related Resources:
10 Principles for Liveable High Density Cities: Lessons from Singapore
10 principles for making high-density cities better
Urban Land Institute