Digital technology and new innovations have vastly changed the way we commute, live, work and interact with each other. There is no reason to believe change will stop here or indeed slow down. With this in mind, it is imperative that we develop residential projects which will evolve with the times, and perhaps play a leading role in redefining modern living in the years and decades to come.
Think of it as creating a living laboratory where developers, residents, the wider community, R&D institutes and the public sector come together to drive change in the way we live. The government has spearheaded many of such initiatives over the years, be it the integrated public housing for seniors at Kampung Admiralty, or the Punggol eco-town which focuses on sustainable living. Private developers, on the other hand, have not built such similar large-scale residential developments in Singapore.
The opportunity for the private sector to take a lead on developing a fresh approach to housing projects now beckons, with some large redevelopment plots up for collective sale, such as Braddell View in District 20. With a larger swathe of land to play with – and subject to relevant approvals from the authorities - developers can reap economies of scale benefits and incorporate different elements to the new development to turn it into a regional housing showpiece.
Building the gateway to a new way of living
• New model of housing
As family size gets smaller, some people may prefer more modestly-sized homes. However, certain groups of buyers could be more interested in larger apartments to cater to multi-generational families. Meanwhile, singles could look at studio units which better suit their lifestyle.
In addition, new ways of living have emerged over the last few years in tandem with demography shifts. The changing needs of the millennial generation along with the rise of the sharing economy have spurred co-living concepts, while the rapidly greying population has intensified interest in the senior housing or assisted living segment.
As the profile of the population changes and as people move through different phases of the lifecycle, their housing requirements will change accordingly. It would be interesting if the private sector could pilot a new model of residential development, integrating co-living and senior living components, as well as offer a variety of unit types that caters to the entire spectrum of housing needs. Admittedly, this would require developers to have a sizable plot to be able to allocate sufficient land for each segment.
• Age-friendly communities
Following up from the earlier point, having an integrated residential development that brings together different communities – across age groups – can help to foster a more age-friendly environment, an initiative that is also actively championed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to WHO, a key strategy to facilitate the inclusion of older persons is to make our world more age-friendly. It means creating an environment that enables people of all ages to actively participate in community activities, making it easier for seniors to remain connected to the community and people who are important to them. This, in turn, plays an important role in keeping the elderly engaged and healthy.
In addition, we believe the demand for senior housing will only grow as the silver tsunami sweeps through Asia. A Deloitte report in 2017 indicated that Asia will be home to 60% of world’s over 65s by 2030. To this end, Singapore ranks among the fastest ageing countries in the region. Data from the Department of Statistics showed that as at end-June, the proportion of residents aged 65 years and over has increased from 8.7% in 2008 to 13.7% in 2018.
• Wellness and livability
Wellness is a big trend in corporate real estate and there is more room for the residential sector to embrace similar concepts. As we spend a relatively large amount of time at home, developing healthier buildings – with better ventilation, superior air and water quality, good thermal comfort, adequate noise insulation, excellent security, for example – will certainly improve the quality of life.
Apart from the usual condo facilities, developers can also integrate other elements to the development, including indoor gardens, meditation zones, medical clinics, parks and water features, hiking trails around the estate to further support residents’ physical and mental well-being.
• Social connectivity
The public spaces within the development could be activated not only to add character to the project, but also enhance social connections. The placemaking strategies could include offering green lawns, putting up interesting lighting around the development, integrating art to the space, and providing more shared facilities such as community gardens, social kitchens, games room and coworking areas.
These amenities, in turn, provide more opportunities for inter-generational interaction. For example, the social kitchens can be used to hold cooking classes where family recipes can be handed down from one generation to the next, or perhaps the senior family members can socialise with younger ones in the games room and learn about concepts such as virtual reality or augmented reality.
Having exciting public places will encourage residents to mingle, lending more buzz to the development. Forging new ties will go a long way to help build thriving communities with a deep sense of belonging.
In this age of eco-buildings and with the growing focus on climate-friendly initiatives, developers have over the years built-in more sustainable features in their residential projects - many of which have earned the Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark Award. Going forward, bolder efforts can be explored as green technology and practices become the norm.
Other initiatives that can be more widely adopted include: installation of solar panels around the development so that buildings can generate enough energy to run themselves (net zero energy buildings); rainwater harvesting; car-lite initiatives such as bicycle tracks and parking facilities, in-house electric car or electric bike sharing scheme; increasing green cover on-site and integrating green façade on to buildings etc.
• Smart technology
Digital technology and Internet of things (IoT) have touched nearly every aspect of life. We believe having smart technology in homes and residential buildings will increasingly become an important factor for home buyers in the future. Some high-tech features to look forward to may include: facial recognition and biometric access; smart parking technology; use of artificial intelligence in home automation that controls appliances, lighting, and security system, just to list a few.
Now, imagine all those features being incorporated into a single residential development – it would be game changing! A project like that would probably be held up as the best-in-class residential development, possibly in world, in the decades to come.
To create a project like this requires scale, which will allow for master-planning opportunities that will meet the highest urban planning and sustainability standards.
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