Sustainable, by definition, refers to the ability of a system to maintain its own viability over an extended period of time. In other words, sustainable designs are made of recycled material, uses renewable energy, non-toxic to the environment, using least amount of energy or it is beneficial to the people and the consumers.
The word Sustainable has become one of the most important vocabulary for the designers. However, almost all or possibly all products are not fully sustainable. The topic itself to become fully sustainable requires both technology and design for a product to be fully sustainable. So far, we have yet to reach such level but we are reaching to a point where we can call something sustainable.
One of the man-made monuments that is reaching the sustainability level is Gardens By the Bay, Singapore. Gardens by the Bay is one of the most celebrated
new addition to Singapore’s growing tourist hot spots. Even though it is
man-made, it often brings out astonishments similar to natural wonders because
of its cleverly designed architecture and diverse species of plants never
before seen in one pristine habitat all together.
To measure whether Gardens by the Bay is sustainable, we would have to determine if:
- Gardens by the Bay will be able to endure the test of time and maintain its conditions in the years to come
- Gardens by the Bay will function not solely as a tourist hotspot but also as a functional research and conservation institute that promotes the conservation of diverse fauna and as a mode of education to the public.
One of the way in which they were designed cleverly is that the heating within the glass conservatories were minimized by the strategic placement of the beams, the irrigation system was also designed for optimum productivity. It is also partially self-sufficient,
with its own power production by burning its own bio-waste or having solar
panels attached at its Supertrees.
A central on-site energy centre will provide cooling and power to the biomes and the primary energy source for this will be waste wood. The National Parks Board is responsible for some 3 million trees in Singapore which generate about 5000 tonnes
of timber clippings a month. Instead of being dumped this will be be chipped and burnt in a steam biomass boiler and used to drive the CHP system. Ash from the boiler will be re-used in the garden whilst heat from the CHP unit will be used to regenerate a liquid dessicant. This dessicant will be used to remove moisture from the fresh air supply. This helps cut power consumption; dry air requires far less energy to cool it than
moist air does.
Waste water from the dessicant circuit will be exhausted to the atmosphere through a flue concealed in the trunk of one of the on-site ‘Supertrees’. These giant steel and concrete sculptures will have planting around their trunks creating striking vertical
gardens whilst their branches will also support solar hot water collectors, PV panels and rainwater harvesters. The tallest trees will contain lifts for access to a high level walkway and a treetop café.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, non of the products are fully sustainable by itself.
Regardless of their efforts to make this development as self-sufficient as possible, the designers were not able to make these gardens completely self sufficient, and they instead pride themselves by claiming that the cooled conservatories only consume as much electricity as a similar sized commercial building.
While those who have visited the gardens may be impressed that such extensive amount of air conditioning in the two giant conservatories can only cost as much as a normal commercial building, I found it extremely ironic that we are spending so much energy in sustaining, simply put, a bunch of producers. Plants are the producers of this planet, and they are supposed to be receiving the Sunlight and converting the light energy into usable forms of energy for other consumers, not the other way round! At this rate, as the energy becomes more and more scarce in the future, the possibility of maintaining the cool and pleasant inner temperature of the gardens may become tougher, thus the garden is not very sustainable.
However, what’s important is that we are one step closer to create a sustainable design and hopefully all the man-made products are sustainable.