Thursday, April 30, 2009

More 'sky gardens' set to blossom

EXPECT to see more 'gardens in the sky' in Singapore, especially in areas like Orchard Road, Raffles Place and along the Singapore River.

A new plan launched yesterday by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) makes it a must for new developments coming up in several areas from December to have landscaping.

This can take the form of rooftop gardens, planter boxes and sky terraces on the upper levels.

Developers will also be encouraged to landscape their grounds.

The areas affected by this new ruling are the Downtown Core - which encompasses Raffles Place, Shenton Way, and Marina Centre - along the Kallang River, and Jurong Gateway, the upcoming commercial hub in the west.

Existing buildings will not be left out.

Those in Orchard Road and the business district will be allowed to open outdoor refreshment areas on their rooftops. To do this, they will be given additional gross floor area of half the roof area or up to 200 sq m.

This complements a programme launched on Monday by the Building Construction Authority (BCA) and URA. Under it, private buildings which are eco-friendly enough to achieve high standards under BCA's Green Mark scheme get additional gross floor area.

The new URA initiative, launched yesterday, is called Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises (Lush), and is part of a national sustainability blueprint launched by an inter-ministerial committee on Monday.

The blueprint sets national targets for pollution standards, energy usage and green areas over the next 20 years, and aims to create a more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient nation.

In addition to the Lush programme, the National Parks Board also announced yesterday an $8 million fund that developers can tap to create rooftop gardens on existing buildings.

To be launched in September, the fund will offset up to $75 per sq metre for landscaping costs - about half the $150 to $180 per sq m usually charged by gardening companies.

Landlords in the Orchard Road and downtown areas can apply to the fund.

In announcing the plans yesterday, the URA said that encouraging private developers to include greenery in their buildings is becoming increasingly important as Singapore becomes more built up.

Developers that The Straits Times spoke to yesterday welcomed the moves, but had suggestions to make the scheme more attractive as URA had said that the the usual development charges (DC) would apply.

The DC rate is pegged at 70 per cent of a building's enhanced land value.

Managing director of City Developments Kwek Leng Joo felt that while developers can make use of the additional area, they would have to grapple with the additional costs.

'We would suggest that the DC rate be pegged at the previous rate of 50 per cent instead of the current 70 per cent, which most developers find too high.

'This could make the incentive more attractive and effective to help the policy take off quickly,' he said.

Source: Straits Times, 30 April 2009

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