Building greener high-rise

Green transition 19 March 2018 Tobias Baur

The number of green high-rise buildings in urban cities around the world has become increasingly popular due to its ability to meet the requirement of a megacity’s rapid development while achieving excellent human conditions.

Expert columns
12 min

Urban density remains as a pressing issue in most developed countries. Singapore is known as one of the most populated cities in the world dealing with land scarcity. The increasing ground stress demands creative ways of intensifying land use through building vertically with a range of building systems and usages. Coupled with the country’s identity as a model garden city, the progressive integration of green and blue infrastructure becomes an imperative gesture in developing a sustainable, biophilic eco-living. 

The number of green high-rise buildings in urban cities around the world has become increasingly popular due to its ability to meet the requirement of a megacity’s rapid development while achieving excellent human conditions. The sustainability of the building is an important factor as it constantly ensures good quality of urban life for its users. 

Some examples of green high-rise around the world can be seen in urban counties such One Central Park by Jean Nouvel in Sydney Australia, Bosco Verticale by Boeri Studio in Milan Italy, and The Met by WOHA Architects in Bangkok Thailand. 

When designing a high-rise, the Ramboll high-rise design team considers an integrated design that combines structure and all other services. Creating a quality of life for building users is a priority, placing people at the heart of every design. Ramboll creates liveability of high-rise buildings and provides sustainable cost-effective solutions. 

Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl have recently completed their work as landscape architects on Kampung Admiralty, Singapore's flagship "vertical village" which has transformed a compact 2.2 acre site into a dynamic community heart where integrated social and ecological spaces enables an evolution of active living. Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl collaborated with renowned architects, WOHA Architects, who have completed some of the most exemplary green high-rise projects in Singapore and the region, such as Oasia Downtown and Newton Suites.

The concept of Kampung Admiralty explores designing layers of green and blue infrastructure woven into the building that intuitively responded to the community’s well-being, nurturing the youth, and graceful ageing came with a twist. The development was sought to connect residents and the greater Admiralty neighbourhood to the historical "Kampung" village spirit within today's highly densified urban context, to forge a deeper symbiotic relationship between people and nature, to develop enhanced eco-lifestyle possibilities through natural place making in and around the built environment. Serving as a model development for active living space where nature and people are at the heart.

Biophilic Living 

The human environment acts as a vital factor to consider when building vertically. The living environment changes as we progress upwards, forming a wider gap between human and nature on the ground level. As a high-rise building gets increasingly saturated, greenery will become extremely beneficial for both environmental sustainability and human satisfaction. The use of green materials acts as a tool for architects to redefine a space, clad on the cold surface, and support the various functions of a building. 

With Kampung Admiralty, nature was the integral element throughout the design process. It also meant more than just a revitalization of “Kampung Spirit” for Singaporeans. It is a shift in ways we envision built space, dense livability and proximity to green and blue. Continuous layered vegetation and integrated blue features for climate change adaptation and ecological interaction are weaved within the building from ground to top. The building was designed with the intention of bringing nature and green gardens found on ground level back up onto the high-rise building, allowing users to reconnect with nature, as well as create a natural environment to live in. 

The proximity to green outdoor features help increase human comfort and ease, encouraging outdoor physical activities and help develop a sense of belonging in the natural environment. As proven that plants can make you feel better, a research by Miller-McCune mentions that the positive impact of nature on the human condition whereby having plants, going for a walk in the park, or even looking at a landscape poster could produce psychological benefits, reduce stress, and improve concentration1. A biophilic design to a building is an innovative way to ensure that natural environments are created. 

Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl developed a diverse and dynamic planting palette to serve as an inviting public environment for active living, including community gardens that display sets of local fruit tree species that were once in abundance at kampungs, reminding the old of familiar memories of the past and the young of their history. As colourful seasonal plants are rarely seen in a tropical setting, the ever-changing landscape of flowering, fruiting and colour-changing foliage can create intrigue and be a conversational piece that leads to social bonding among the community. Over a 100% of landscape replacement was achieved through ground level planting, intensive green roofs and vertical green walls. 

Blue Integration 

Kampung Admiralty stands out as an excellent example of urbanized developments that strive to harvest, cleanse and recycle rainwater for non-domestic use such as irrigation and water features. A major part of rainfall runoff from the upper strata (level 9,8,6 & 3) are collected and filtered through downstream Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD) treatment features such as vegetated filters (at level 8,7,6) and bio-retention basin located at the central courtyard. The cleansed water together with the direct runoff from the two tower roofs is conveyed directly to the two harvesting tanks at the second level, which are sufficiently sized for three consecutive days of irrigation and eco-pond refill. In case these tanks are full, the west tower tank will discharge directly to the external drain while the east tower tank will overflow to the eco-pond in level one which helps to top-up this water body. 

Other than the water's aesthetic and therapeutic values, the presence of the eco-pond in the first level also helps to promote biodiversity and natural cooling effects in this urban context. To maintain an output of high water quality for the eco-pond and to minimize the risk of algae blooms in tropical Singapore, a cleansing biotope was introduced to recirculate and cleanse the eco-pond's water. Rainfall runoff from the adjacent areas is cleansed and conveyed into the eco-pond via the vegetated filter which removes sediments and nutrient amounts from the incoming storm water runoff. 

The average annual rainfall in Singapore is 92 inches (2340mm). This means over a million gallons of tap water can be conserved each year if the storm water runoff is stored in the rainwater harvesting tank and reused for irrigation. This translates to approximately the average water consumption amount of 200 public housing (5-room flats) in one month, a huge saving figure for such a multi-functional urban development located in the heart of a dense residential area. 

Total Building Optimization 

The irrigation of the large amount of landscape through the utilization of gravity flow, minimising on the use of pumping systems allowing water to naturally flow down the building structure reduces energy consumption. The energy usage is reduced and could in turn be tailored for other parts of the building such as flushing of toilets. 

The lush greenery forms a contiguous horizontal canopy, capable of lowering surface and air temperatures through providing shade and evapotranspiration2. This creates cooling microclimates, dissipating urban heat island effects which in return reduces energy such as air-conditioning usage, keeping the building and its users naturally cool. 

Just like how any sustainable and green high-rise should be designed, the design approach of Kampung Admiralty circles around the harmonisation of urban landscape, built environment and ecosystem services. The results come to play before the public eyes, offering stakeholders, investors, officials opportunities to see how we address the contemporary challenges of resource management, environmental protection and quality of life.