Thursday, August 13, 2009

Little red dot with much to offer in urban planning

WHAT do Singapore companies, coming from a tiny island, have to offer in urban solutions to big towns and cities elsewhere?

Plenty, says Jeffrey Ho of Surbana International Consultants, an offshoot of the Housing and Development Board.

'Singapore is one of five cities with the (world's) greatest population density,' the executive vice-president of Surbana's urban planning group points out.

'This gives us a special understanding of the issues of high-density living in cities,' he says. 'It qualifies us as an expert on compact urban development solutions.'

Mr Ho and his colleagues in Surbana's planning group 'have fundamentals that guide all our actions and thoughts'.

'These came from our Singapore experience, our heritage of nation building - internalised in our planning and design philosophy and acquired from our work at HDB and our participation in the Singapore Concept Plan.'

Mr Ho says that Surbana is therefore well-placed to tailor and apply the principles of Singapore's success in nation building to overseas markets.

'The iconic value of 'our little red dot' is most appreciated and sought after by overseas clients,' he says.

Coming from Singapore, which is recognised for good governance and long-term integrated planning, Mr Ho says that Surbana is seen as a professional urban planner that can provide 'tested, grounded, implementable solutions'.

'Because of Surbana's urban planning group's multi-culturism, we can address issues from a multi-faceted perspective,' he says. 'Over many years, we have completed many first-move projects that became global case studies. We are reputed to be capable of transforming all urban challenges into a liveable future.'

According to Mr Ho, a bright future as a global player awaits Singapore's providers of urban solutions.

In the short term, he sees urban solutions in demand to reduce and manage greenhouse gas emissions, promote greater accessibility, develop a wider range of transport options, conserve natural resources by using land more wisely and manage water resources.

In the mid to longer term, growth is not the issue, Mr Ho says. 'It's not about whether growth will occur, but how and where.'

Master-planning will be a key element in urban development, according to him. 'You must have a master plan to guide growth. The challenge is not to sprawl, but to continue to grow and create better suburbs and stronger cities - to focus on rebuilding the old before building new.'

Mr Ho says that the trend will move towards more compact development that relies on existing infrastructure.

So policies must encourage 'reconstruction, redevelopment, reinvestment and re-invention'.

Source: Business Times, 13 Aug 2009

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