Guidelines on including nature in built-up spaces

The National Parks Board (NParks) is working with international experts and the Centre for Liveable Cities to come up with guidelines on how aspects of nature can be incorporated into buildings and other developments here.

Professors from top universities in the United States and Australia will join representatives from government agencies to examine local case studies - such as the Jurong Lake Gardens.

The idea to create the guidelines, expected to be ready by next year, was revealed yesterday at the Biophilia and the Future of Sustainable Cities Symposium held at the Civil Service College.

More than 300 academics, public servants and industry partners present discussed how cities can inculcate biophilia- a love or attachment for green spaces - by integrating nature with built-up spaces.

While Singapore is already a biophilic city, NParks chief executive officer Kenneth Er said the guidelines will take the country to the "next level" as government agencies will be able to use them and better develop facilities.

Projects such as the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park have brought nature closer to Singaporeans.

In 2012, its concrete canal was transformed into a 3km-long river. Today, otters and various species of water birds and dragon flies can be spotted there.

"Currently, we are able to commit about 10 per cent of our total land area to parks and nature reserves - a significant achievement considering how land-scarce Singapore is," said Mr Er.

Nonetheless, Professor Stephen Kellert from the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, one of the experts who spoke at the symposium, felt more can be done to integrate nature into the everyday experiences of Singaporeans.

One way would be to create structures or designs that mimic aspects of nature. He added: "We think of nature as something outside and the built environment is where people are. We have to think about the indoor built environment. How do we make another terrain like that experientially rich with the qualities of nature."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Guidelines on including nature in built-up spaces'. Subscribe