Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pushing the envelope in land use

JTC is taking a multi-pronged approach, exploring edgy ideas and methods for industrial land development

A 'SHIP to showroom' warehouse with a retail complex at one of Singapore's harbours. A recycling industrial park. A giant hoisting system to move bulky goods to companies on high floors. These are just some ground-breaking structures that Singapore could soon have as JTC explores cutting edge ideas and unconventional methods to intensify the use of industrial land.

And in the process, the industrial landlord could very well push boundaries to create new industrial standards.

'Right now, industrial land sites in Singapore usually have a maximum gross plot ratio of 2-2.5. We want to increase the plot ratio to 4-5 in future for specific industrial plots,' said Koh Chwee, director of JTC's engineering planning division said.

'We have a multi-pronged approach in maximising the limited land resources we have in Singapore. One method is to build industrial complexes with high plot ratios that are also sustainable in the long run.'

All of the ideas being tossed around now will intensify land use. The giant hoisting system, for example, will allow developers to build taller industrial facilities and intensify land use by at least 20 per cent. Another idea, which looks at housing factories, warehouses and workers' dormitories in a single complex, could cut land take-up by about 35 per cent with shared driveways and fewer setbacks.


JTC staff got the idea for the first concept - a cluster industrial complex with mega hoist - from looking at how cranes at ports work. They came up with a design that incorporates a huge hoist in the middle of a complex. Factories can occupy one side of the complex and warehouses the other, sharing the hoist and loading bay for moving goods.

The complex could be five storeys, with a plot ratio of 2.5 - about 25 per cent higher than the plot ratios for comparable stack-up factories. And because there is no need for a vehicle ramp for trucks to transport goods to higher floors, the design saves up to 0.5 ha of land area.

The second design is based on a 'plug-and-play' concept. A row of warehouses, logistics facilities, car parks and other amenities will form a central 'spine'. Flatted factories and workers' dormitories will be built on top of this spine.

Industrialists can then 'plug in' to this spine by building their own modular factories along it. At the same time, they can share car parks, access ways for moving goods and other amenities.

Locating various facilities together means less space needs to be set aside for internal driveways and setbacks. This complex can have a plot ratio of 1.5, almost double the 0.85 for a comparable standard factory today.

In addition to drawing on its own reserves JTC is also looking at ideas from the private sector and academic institutions in a bid to make more efficient use of Singapore's limited land.

The agency is working with the Centre of Design Research from the National University of Singapore's Department of Architecture to fund a project for students to come up with designs for sustainable industrial complexes with high plot ratios.

To date, several innovative ideas have already been mooted. And even though there is still a fair bit of work to be done before any of the ideas can be implemented, they have the seeds of great potential, JTC said.

One such idea deals with building a new mega scaffolding structure over an existing development. A site in Jurong Industrial Estate is being considered for this and JTC hopes to develop a vibrant high plot ratio industrial complex with green features.

In the blueprint, amenities such as cafeterias, commercial outlets, business centres and outdoor green areas will be interspersed between the first two layers of factory spaces.

The top-most layer of the mega scaffold will have winches and gantry cranes to support warehousing and industrial operations within the complex. The overhead machinery will reduce the need for vehicular ramp access from roadways at ground level. Containers can then be loaded and/or unloaded at dedicated loading and unloading bays at the ground level.

In this way, buildings on the ground could continue to operate until redevelopment into buildings with higher plot ratios in future. These buildings would also enjoy energy savings from cooling due to shielding from solar radiation, JTC said.

Yet another idea is to have a 'recycling industrial complex' to house the entire value chain of recycling businesses that could spawn an entire new industry for the manufacturing and transaction of materials and products made from recycled wastes.

A multi-storey car park without ramps could also be integrated with this complex. Cars will be conveyed by a computerised motorised lift system to various floors. In this way, the space used for ramps and driveways can be saved, and there will be low floor-to-ceiling heights since only cars will be stored. Land use is intensified as the parking capacity per plot can at least be doubled.

A third idea envisioned by NUS's Department of Architecture is a 'from ship to showroom' complex around one of Singapore's harbours - such as the port at Pasir Panjang - where goods could be shipped in and stored in warehousing facilities within the complex, or delivered directly to showrooms within the site where they can be put to other uses.

Cutting edge ideas

The complex will therefore be a novel one-stop mega container port complex where space is optimised 'at berth'. Events such as the Singapore Motorshow could then be held at the complex itself once the cars arrive by boat, which will eliminate the need to truck them to other parts of the island in order to exhibit them.

In addition, the complex could also have living quarters such as blocks of HDB flats stacked on top of the roof. This will allow the land that the complex is situated on to be put to maximum use, and residents will also be able to enjoy views of the harbour - typically enjoyed just by visitors to the port.

Seeking a new set of minds from Singapore's educated talent is one way in which JTC expands its horizon on innovative land.

It is also working to make sure that the ideas keep flowing: JTC recently took the unprecedented step of opening up its innovation 'dream fund' - created in 2004 to fund innovative projects internally - to external partners.

The agency will provide funding of up to $1 million for 'cutting edge' project proposal from the private and public sectors and academic institutions on how to intensify land use and create new industrial space.

'Innovation is a high priority for JTC and we recognise that we can increase our capacity for innovation if we pro-actively reach out to external partners,' said JTC chief executive Manohar Khiatani. 'With this initiative, we hope to seek new inspiration to complement our own ideas and boost industry research in optimising, intensifying and creating new industrial space for the advancement of the economy.'

Proposals should consider three main areas: clustering relevant industries for increased synergy; reducing land use for infrastructure, transport networks, buffer zones and other facilities; and mitigating issues relating to high-rise industrial operations such as goods handling, vibration and urban heat.

The fact that the 'dream fund' is now open to external parties underscores JTC's (and the government's) commitment to the intensification of industrial land use - in line with what was recommended by the Economic Strategies Committee in early February. The committee's report said that Singapore has to support the intensification of industrial land use as there are now greater demands on the country's limited land resources.

As the local economy recovers - and the industrial sector along with it - JTC is poised to support industrialists with these new and innovative industrial development concepts which are slated to sharpen Singapore's competitive edge in industrialisation.

Source: Business Times, 8 Jun 2010

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