Greening the future

Holistic creations for sustainable living

Small, dense and urbanised, Singapore is known for being a garden city. For a city that lacks natural resources, the island is the epitome of lush environments, renewable energy and sustainability.

"Singapore has an ambitious Green Building Masterplan that seeks to green 80% of building area. Today, nearly 40% has been achieved. There is a greater awareness of sustainable architecture," says Tai Lee Siang. "In addition to buildings, there is an increased participation in wide-spectrum of sustainabilty actions such as recycling, urban farming, car-lite day and many others."

According to Tai who is an architect and urban planner, what you love you will sustain. He founded "Cities of Love" Awards (COLA) following a book "Cities of Love" he co-wrote with Valerie Ang in 2016. Tai and Ang, a husband and wife team, aimed to show how city dwellers can play a part in contributing to the sustainability of cities worldwide.

In its second year running, the award which was presented at the Singapore Sustainable Academy in April, celebrates and recognises the outstanding sustainable efforts and creativity of enterprising individuals and organisations that are driving impactful, innovative and inspiring sustainability solutions.

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C O O P aims to develop a stronger sense of care and ownership by making the kit accessible for people to build their own spaces for their own needs.

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The structure supports community-centric spaces such as a garden, pond and lounging space.

Tai acknowledged that the design community now is already well supported by increasing demand for sustainabilty. "More end users or market segments are open to buying green and sustainable solutions and products. There is now an increasing desire to understand greater depth of sustainabilty considerations such as circular economy and responsible procurement of raw materials. These new demands are changing the way architecture and interior spaces are designed."

Green architecture is more than slapping plants on buildings. "While green architecture may involve integration of landscape, its scope goes way beyond landscape. The way to improve the mindset from the ground-up is more education and publicity. This is why sustainabilty awards could play a role to achieve such purpose," explains Tai.

A noteworthy design related submission include C O O P by staff, alumni and students at Nanyang Polytechnic School of Design. It is a system of architecture by staff, alumni and students, kit-of-parts with intent to empower individuals and communities to work together to build their own spatial needs and interventions. The kit can be further assembled into various functions for different contexts.

Amongst the many impressive submissions, a project from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), SUTD‐MIT International Design Centre (IDC), Ugly-Food led by SUTD students has clinched the distinguished and Top Prize award for the corporate /environmental category. Ugly Food is a project on reducing food waste and increasing wellness while decreasing carbon footprint. It diverts food away from the landfill by transforming it into delectable and healthy food products; thereby reducing wastage due to cosmetic filtering.

COLA believes that everyone has the capability to foster change. It aims to be a catalyst of change through holistic creations that promote sustainable living. Its long-term vision is to develop a plethora of diverse creative projects that could include products, publications, multi-media productions and even gastronomic experiences. By introducing innovation and perspectives that are sustainable and economically feasible, it hopes to spawn solutions for sustainable living where cities can contribute to green living.

C O O P Human and ecological units

C o o p consists of a series of modular members of progressive sizes to form into many different configurations. Basic configurations such as seats, steps, platform, roof, flooring, pond, planters, ramp, slides can be assembled simply by connecting different members with just bolts, nuts and a ranch. These basic configurations can be further assembled into various functions for different contexts.

All materials and processes used in this work are ecological, recyclable and accessible. CNC routing technology is used to manufacture the modules. Newer c o  o p versions are underway using panels made of natural renewable forestry waste as the main material. All connections are simply done with bolts, nuts and a ranch.

When disassembled, it can be flat pack for delivery with more efficiency or simply stored away or reuse.    


An improved version of C O O P called The House of Elephantnose is an aquaponics pavilion built on the roof terrace of Nanyang Polytechnic for the public. It includes three hammocks, is totally self-sustaining using solar power as free energy working in an ecological closed-loop.


Cities of Love,