This summer Singapore opened Gardens by the Bay, a government strategy to raise the country’s quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city. The Supertree Grove (below right) is one of several attractions in the park, including the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. The Grove is made up of 18 Supertrees, 25 to 50-metres tall vertical gardens that have large canopies that provide shade in the day and come alive with a display of light and sound at night. The Flower Dome and Cloud Forest are two greenhouses that feature a variety of exotic plants.
The Gardens’ attractions were designed to incorporate sustainable functions through various energy and water cycles. The two cooled greenhouses (above left) are built with technologies that provide energy-efficient solutions in cooling. This includes the use of structural glass material that allows optimal light in but cuts out a substantial amount of heat. Then, by cooling only occupied zones in the conservatories and dehumidifying the air beforehand energy is also saved. In addition, the chillers that cool the air are powered by a steam turbine fed by agricultural waste. This collection of technologies achieves up to 30% savings in energy consumption, compared to conventional cooling methods.
The 18 Supertrees at the Gardens are covered with a total of 2,500 planting panels. These are made up of 162,900 plants, with more than 200 species and varieties. The plants are chosen for their suitability for vertical planting, being lightweight, soil-less and easy to maintain.
Eleven of the Supertrees have environmentally sustainable features. Some of these have photovoltaic cells on their canopies to harvest solar energy for lighting up the Supertrees at night. This reduces reliance on the electric grid and contributes to about 67% of the energy used to light the Supertrees. A number of the Trees are also linked to the greenhouses, and are effectively exhaust systems to help release accumulated hot air. The Supertrees are like the ‘ecological engines’ in the Gardens, they collect rainwater, absorb heat and provide shade for the gardens below.
The aim of the project is to present the plant kingdom in a compelling way that illustrates the important relationship between humans and the ecosystem. The Supertrees also showcase the ecological functions of trees through environmentally sustainable technologies. Although these technologies call for a hefty financial investment, in the long run it is outweighed by the benefits of the sustainable functions. Developers continue to work with relevant agencies, such as the Public Utilities Board (PUB), to ensure that their practices are sustainable.