Green destinations: Singapore

Gardens by the Bay. Photo: Holly Tuppen

Gardens by the Bay. Photo: Holly Tuppen

This skyscraper filled city is not the first place you would think of when it comes to sustainable destinations. But watching young, fast-moving cities turn to the sustainable agenda is both important and pleasing, even if there’s a long road ahead.

Some of Singapore’s biggest hotels have very high standards when it comes to sustainability. Marina Bay Sands, for example, is the largest building in Singapore to be awarded the Green Mark Gold Award by the Building and Construction Authority. Last year it also hosted the Responsible Business Forum, which brought hundreds of CSR leaders from around Asia together to discuss pressing sustainability issues. This year a similar event, the Responsible Business Summit Asia, is taking place at the Novetel Clarke Quay, making Singapore a hub of CSR debate.


Singapore’s Intelligent Transport System, using technology to reduce congestion by sending real time traffic reports to taxis, has made the city one of the world’s least congested.  Efforts to reduce congestion also include offering free public transport pre-morning peak hours and increasing the overall public transport available.

Waste and water are also areas of innovation. The NEWater project has successfully addressed Singapore’s long term water shortage issues – by taking treated, used water and purifying it so that it’s safe enough to drink. The city also has four waste-to-energy incinerators, reducing waste volume by 90%.

Activities & education

Some of Singapore’s ‘eco’ activities are still lacking in real sustainable credibility and are often more theme park than genuine. That said there has been a shift in attitude recently, particularly when it comes to preserving the city’s heritage. Turn of the century ‘wet markets’ and neighbourhoods are being restored in the heart of the city and the tourist board is campaigning for the Botanical Gardens to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here are a few of the greener activities on offer:

Mandai area
The redevelopment of this 1.2sq km site will create an integrated wildlife and nature heritage site by 2020. Whilst tourist attraction remains paramount, the project will inject a huge amount of green space and wildlife into the outskirts of the city. The developers, Tamasek, are working with the National University of Singapore to ensure the development goes ahead sustainably – particularly when it comes to water and energy use.

Nature itineraries
Singapore Tourism Board features itineraries for visitors to discover the green side to Singapore on its website that include visits to The Labrador Nature Reserve, a haven for flora and fauna like magnificent monitor lizards and beautiful fish poison trees where trekkers can go on enlightening heritage and nature trails, and the Pasir Ris Park where biodiversity flourishes.

Gardens by the Bay
This 101-hectre theme park for plants is a haven from the high rises of the city. Tree-like structures and climate controlled domes loom overhead paths that weave through gardens of all varieties. Beside from offering respite from the city, Gardens by the Bay has a vital education role. School groups and tourists plough through here on a daily basis to understand energy sustainability strategies, how plants adapt to their environment, appreciating the importance of Cloud Forests to humans and animals, develop awareness of the threats and effects of climate change and appreciate the need for conservation and living responsibly. The site includes one of the oldest fragments of primary forest and the world’s largest tropical orchid collection.

Park Royal on Pickering. Photo: Holly Tuppen

Park Royal on Pickering. Photo: Holly Tuppen


Marina Bay Sands
Marina Bay Sands has embedded sustainability into their core business, which given their size, isn’t that surprising. The consequent investment, and results, are impressive. At the heart of their green initiatives is a S$25 million Intelligent Building Management System, which automates lighting, heating and water supplies for the entire resort. For example, lights are dimmed or brightened depending on the time of day and weather conditions, curtains are closed automatically in unoccupied rooms and air con units are shut down if balcony doors are left open. Air conditioning units make use of water-cooled chillers, which are 80% more efficient than air-cooled models. Water saving fixtures have reduced water consumption by more than 350 million litres of potable water annually. There is a recycling bin in every hotel room and 2,200 metric tonnes of waste is recycled annually. See more on their CSR initiatives here.

Holiday Inn Orchard Road
Last year the Holiday Inn Express Orchard Road won the HICAP award for Sustainable Project Design.  The 221-room property was green from its inception with emphasis on water and energy efficiency.  An energy display unit, prominently located in the lobby, is fed real time information from the Building Management System allowing management to monitor and assess on-going performance as well as being a highly visible guest educational tool. S$1 million was spent on sustainability items over and above those required to meet the BCA Green mark, and IHG’s internal standards. Mainly relating to engineering components, financial payback was originally budgeted to take five years. But, based upon the first year’s numbers, payback is likely to happen between two and two and a half years. See more on Green Engage at the hotel here.

Parkroyal on Pickering
This iconic green hotel is also a past winner of the HICAP sustainability awards. The hotel is impressively green inside and out, covered with 15,000 sqm of vertical gardens, double the hotel’s land area.  Such design has provided the hotel with many impressive sustainability accolades, including the BCA Green Mark Platinum, Singapore’s highest green rating. Sustainable design features include short building depth to maximise natural light, high performance glass to reduce solar heat, 51% of corridors ventilated with fresh air and roof gardens insulate upper levels. See more on Park Royal's green living policies here.

Read more articles about green hotels and sustainable tourism in Asia on Green Hotelier or check out our previous Green Destination piece on New York StateFor green places resorts just outside of Singapore check out our Best Practice Case Study of Nikoi Island

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