In 50 years time, the projected Singapore population growth to 6.5 million inhabitants would exert its toll on our current resources. One of these resources that are critical to sustain our growth, is our requirement for more energy. Yet, as studies point out that we may have passed the world’s oil peak output, the paradigm shift of fossil fuel dependence to a renewable resource calls for a new exploration of possibilities to empower our nation.
To pursue this, we entertained harvesting energy from biological solutions that continually self-regenerate in the form of algae culturing to produce bio-fuel. We begin colonizing our unwanted dead urban spaces- our expressways as cultivation alga-culture grounds. The PIE (Pan-Island Expressway) provides us with limitless supply of CO2 that nourishes these microphytes, while we reap cleaner bio-fuel. This intervention has a theoretical potential to meet our energy demands, [equivalent to 2 Tuas power station’s fuel oil requirement] upon conversion of the algae cultures into bio-fuel. Thus, a series of nerve centres along the highway spine provides opportunistic programmatic functions and are connected to one other above the PIE expressway as alga-farmlands.
The first nerve centre, which is explored in this thesis, is intended as a research village to cross-breed native algae species into super alga-strains suitable for mass commercialization. Concurrently, the intervention is also designed to heal the reserve by means of stitching the currently cleaved Central Nature Reserve with Bukit Timah Nature Reserve together, to encourage animal crossings and floral dispersion. This perseverance for greener energy spearheads our city’s metamorphosis from an industrial to an ecological one, simultaneously healing our environment.
A diagram is employed to summarize the gist of the thesis. Three main components of concept, strategies and outcome chart the translational flow of conceptual ideas derived from current issues to the final execution of the intervention.
The concept is derived from real current issues that warrants our attention to vanguard betterment to heal our already embattered environment. We question how do we heal our already damaged environment with the sprawl of our urbanscape. How can we heal our land when our population is projected for an even intense growth, yet benefit from such a healing process? The concept deals with 3 contemporary issues stemming from an increasing population growth of Singapore-of its corresponding increasing need of energy requirement, to its implication of atmospheric contamination due to the current reliance on fossil fuel as well as possibilities of location to site a new system of healing alternative energy to sequestrate that atmospheric contamination.
The strategies deployed to deal with the above said issues that drive the concept-energy generation, cleaning atmospheric contaminant and land management, is the utilization of humble green technologies. Microphytes (algae) are used to deal with all 3 issues.
The final outcome of the thesis project is to generate a possibility of an intervention that attempts to heal our damaged environment by addressing the 3 issues that form the concept. What typology of architectural postulation could we speculate that could meet all 3 criteria of energy production, and cleaning the air that we breathe and yet not impose additional land requirement by effective land management. A possibility is further explored in depth by the utilization of dead wasted space above the expressways of Singapore to achieve all 3 criteria.
1.2 The Main Driver-A projected population increase in Singapore
The initial drivers for this thesis project stems from an imminent anticipation of an increased population projection by the Singapore government in the near future. The nation is slated for growth from the current 4.5million inhabitants to 6.5millions. Quintessentially, this translates to a higher demand for more resources to sustain the current lifestyle of its citizens. In emphasis, one of the basic resources to keep the nation literally “on-the-move” of its infrastructure to maintain its functional health is the need for energy. Thus, an increased in population would mean that the nation needs to consume more energy to remain functional.
1.2.1 The energy demands on this new projection of population increase.
The statistics provided from Data Tables, Earth Trends, International Energy Agency (IEA) Statistics Division, 2006 informs us that Singapore’s energy consumption per capita per annum is 21.6 Gigajoules, or 6000kWh. An increase in population of 2 million additional inhabitants from 4.5 to 6.5 million inhabitants would equate to an additional infrastructural need of 1.95 power station required operating at Tuas Power Station maximal output (Tuas Power Station being Singapore’s most efficient power station currently).
1.2.2 The fuel oil requirement needed to power that said 1.95 more power stations for our population projection
So how much more fuel do we need to match up to that additional 1.95 power station? As calculated from Tuas Power Station Financial Report 2006/07, approximately 520,000 gallons of fuel oil is required to keep that said power station in operation per annum. That would work out to almost double that amount for our projected increase in population. However, it is noteworthy that the fuel that powers Tuas and the other power station in Singapore is still highly dependent on fossil fuels.
We see how from Singapore alone that a population projection increase requires a substantial energy requirement and its corresponding consumption fossil fuel volume. Yet further data from IPCC’s (InterPanel against Climate Change) reports revelate that Singapore is not the only nation on the globe that has a projected expanding population. In fact, the whole world in general is as from the above graph data. This translates to more energy demands, subsequently, more reliance on fossil fuel to power the whole globe. Our civilization, in short, is in need of more energy in the coming short future.
So at this juncture, we ask ourselves in a hypothetical case that we allow our future energy demands to be based on the dependence of fossil fuels:
What are the implications of increased reliance of fossil fuel on the environment globally?
1.3 The impact of fossil fuel reliance on our atmosphere
We see how from the burning of fossil fuels, we contribute to cause greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) to be generated and be trapped in the atmosphere and reflected down to us. But what does it really mean to experience global warming, and how severe can it imply to us.
The above image visually maps out in colour bands the distribution of global temperature increase of 2 degree Celsius. While the general temperature of the world heats up 2 degree Celsius, the actual land mass temperature increase rockets up to as high as 4 degree Celsius as observed in the red banded region in the map. And it is rather clear that the Arctic region receives much of that high increase in temperature, with a possibility that polar ice caps and glaciers would be impacted to melt, causing a plethora of other domino repercussions from increasing sea-levels to vegetation shift away from the ice caps, destroying countless natural eco-systems.
We see how from the past impact of an increase in 2 degree Celsius has on the glaciers of Upsala Glacier, Patagonia in Argentina from a dated photograph of that glacier taken in 1928 to its current condition today. The glacier is almost gone, leaving only a lake behind. IPCC scientist attribute that change to the effects of greenhouse gases post-Industrial revolution.
Here we ask ourselves again: Is there any renewable energy source that does not add on to the detrimental level of atmospheric greenhouse contaminants that we are already clouded with today?
Is there an alternative energy source that sequentiate the level of CO2 in the atmosphere?
1.4 Alternatives to shift our dependence on fossil fuels for our energy needs in Singapore
As we pass the peak oil production in all known oil/gas wells (left graph), we start to see the urgent need to persevere for alternative energy solutions to meet to our power demands. The rise in oil prices of late, legitimizes the usage of other previously costlier alternatives to produce energy. On a comparative scale, the graph on the right indicate to us that energy produced from biofuels under the Solar Energy Group is just almost as cost-effective from energy produced by other energy groups of wind and hydro-electricity, albeit costlier.
In the case of localized context of sunny Singapore, we lack the means to generate power through such mediums of wind and hydro power. However, we have an abundance of solar radiation that would provide us with the option to develop the third effective means of generating energy from biofuels, under the Solar Energy Group. Biofuel production in Singapore could perhaps be an option in our quest for the search of an alternative energy source.
On a more visual representation, the above diagram summarizes the notion of the decreased availability of fossil fuel of oil and diesel that prompts us to rapidly search for energy alternatives.
And we could see how biofuel ranks in third of potential possibility behind wind and hydro power to provide an abundance of energy to secure our future energy needs. In the case of Singapore, the geographical lack of access to wind and hydro potentials but a heavy recipient of solar radiation, validates the assimilation of biofuel energy alternative, with regards to our climate and geographic limitations.
To have a rough impression of how the Solar Energy Group is efficacious in energy production, the above diagram summarizes the footprint of solar surface area required to power the entire world. The little small white box located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is the area size required to be filled with solar harvesting devices to power the entire globe with its energy requirement ( Dr R K Panchauri, Energy [R]evolution). Yet, the surface area required for the Singapore Island is only mere fractions of that small box.
We therefore, question ourselves: where in land scare Singapore are we going to locate that box fraction, a representation of the solar harvesting biocrops to provide the energy that we need. We look further to case studies that have been executed out around the world.
1.5 Land Management to Locate New Solar Energy Group through an environmentally conscious approach
The United Nations Climate Change Conference spearheaded an unprecedented move in November 2007 in its effort to prove that crops for biofuel production could harness the solar energy from the sun to produce the energy requirement of Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia. Through this project, they managed to illustrate another important aspect of combating climate change through the culturing of algae crops for biofuel. The algae farm evolved into an algae carbon sink. This is due to the fact more than 50% of the world’s photosynthesis occurs in the ocean and 80% of that figure is attributed to microphytical algae to convert sunlight into its own food. Needless to say, algae farming for biofuel not only provides energy that we need to power our world but also sequestrate atmospheric greenhouse gases for its growth and culturing,
However, while such a move is admirable, environmental critics proved that the algae monoculture in the seabed actually upset the existing eco-system of the sea. We know we should adopt the algaculture but where do we site them to prevent such environmental upsets?
In addition, the above image depicts an even harsher intervention that contradicts its noble intention of sustainability. The move to provide renewal energy from the sun, as a means to be less dependent on fossil fuel is nullified when hectares of green forest are cleared to attain sustainable means of living. 100 hectares of green forest are slashed down in Jumilla, Spain, just to power 20,000 homes. Is this contradictory move acceptable? While the intention of utilizing cleaner energy source is appraisable, both case studies missed in its thoroughness by violating current environmental considerations. Succinctly, both scenarios would fall under the category of ineffective land management considerations.
This leads us to our critical question:
How can we manage our land to prevent additional environmental degradation?
One of the most straightforward answers would be to use wasted, dead spaces that are already existing, and better them to be useful, usable spaces not only for energy production and remove greenhouse gases (algae culturing for biofuel), but also usable social spaces given back to the people.
We take a peek of a successful case study in Paris, France, that deals with issues of effective land management that uses dead wasted spaces and converts them into usable social arenas.
The Esplanade de la Defense is built on top of an existing highway, called Autoroute 14, that connects Paris to other parts of France. Yet the French executed a bold but confident move to created a multi-layered concrete deck above Autoroute 14 and made that concrete deck a green promenade for the people, at the same time connecting both sides of the French Central Business District. That green promenade or “ Le Grand Parvis”, in a simplistic way, made full use of dead wasted spaces above the expressway to be a green strip, enjoyed by the people and the users of the business district.
With such audacity yet simplicity, can we strive to achieve such finesse in Singapore by making full use of the dead wasted space above our expressways? Could we instigate a reformation of our polluting expressway by building a green alga farm over our expressway that sequestrates the excessive level of CO2 that our cars and buses churn out day to day n yet produce biofuel for our energy needs?
A section of Esplanade de la Defence reveals not only the Green Promenade at the top most level but also multi-story shopping arcades and transport facilities.
However, such a move occurs only in France. How about Singapore?
In March 2003, Singapore executed a local competition that resembles the French’s Explanade de la Defence. The competition was to have a green deck over CTE (Central Expressway) with a winner, Lau Cho Cham from NETec Architects, Singapore. It is clear from this competition that the Singapore Government desires a green bridge over our very expressway. However, contained in the competition brief were clarifications to the contestants to suggest and provide programmatic possibilities over the CTE to justify its costs. We observe from this competition the need for a functional programme that could be cost justified. In fact, we could justify that costs, instead of dollar and sense, to that of environmental value when we establish a green alga-farm over the expressway that absorbs all the pollutants the expressway churns out. When we control the environmental impact that the expressway cause, we attain better health. We breathe cleaner air, we reduce the Urban Heat Island effect reducing the need for more energy guzzling air-conditioners, as well as produce clean energy biofuels. Our health wins and that is worth more than the dollars and sense required to justify an alga farm over our highways.
Therefore, in summary, the 3 issues that we wish to deal with concurrently are as follows: To provide for a clean source of renewable energy, to improve our atmospheric environment and to make use of dead wasted space above our expressways as effective land management strategies. These 3 issues drive our concept to provide for a healing intervention to repair our already damaged environment and instigate the metamorphosis from an industrial city to an ecological one.
1.6 The 3 Key Issues Driving the Healing Concept
The 3 key issues could be dealt with using the strategy of microphytical green algaes. The strategies of green is further explored in the thesis intervention.
1.7 The Strategies to the Healing Concept
The 3 issues that we identified previously is further validated by United Nations Division for Sustainable Development, where they fall under each pillar of sustainable definition. Our issue for renewal energy falls under the economy pillar consideration, while land management and air quality falls under the pillars of social and environmental sustainability considerations. And in the Venn diagram, we could attempt to solve all 3 issues concurrently by the usage of microphytical greens.
By growing an alga farm above the expressway, we could achieve our energy needs by converting the algae strains into biofuel, simultaneously purifying the air by sequestrating the CO2 released by the expressway and make full use of dead wasted spaces above the expressway as a green farmland that allows the public to enjoy the farmland as a green promenade.
The microphytes work by mitigating our everyday rejects into their resource as nutrients to grow. Expanding on this concept, we get a cyclic process:
Here, the cyclic loop is set up when we allow microphytes (algae) to sequestrate the released CO2 from the expressway as their nutrients to photosynthesize in making their food. Essentially, these algae are harvested subsequently to produce biofuel as well as other health products from its remaining residue or algae cakes such as nutritious food and cosmetics. The other byproduct would be oxygen released back into the air. Hence these products are consumed by us humans where we release CO2 back into the atmosphere when we respire and burn the biofuel for energy. (Note, algae biofuel is carbon neutral upon combustion because the carbon released during combustion was absorbed by the algae from the air during its growing lifespan).
Therefore, by setting up such a cyclic process, would we be creating an interdependent cyclic process that would be sustainable in the long run.
The final outcome is to establish a more sustainable urban environment that has already shown symptoms of ails through its environmental damages.
1.8 The Outcome of the Healing Process
The final outcome of the healing process is to vanguard the first sparks of transforming our industrial city to an ecological one, where the coexistence of the environment and the city takes place in harmony. Eventually, this would mean a certain retro-fitting to an existing problem as well as introduce new building typologies to prevent the same degenerating mistakes that we have been accustomed to. In tandem, both methods will allow us to seek and postulate a better means of coexisting with our natural and built environment.
1.9 A Summary View
In summary, the 3 issues would form the what agenda that the thesis wishes to address, the green microphytical strategies as the how component to address those issues and the outcome reveals the why aspect of our intervention with an admirable cause to convert our industrial city to an ecological one.
1.10 Translating the Green Strategies
As established beforehand, we would require 1.95 more power stations operating at Tuas maximal capability to sustain our energy demands.
We calculated the amount of fuel requirement for 1.95 power stations needed to be set up to sustain our energy needs and the volume of biofuel that could be generated by an algae farm. And it is at this point of discussion that the finding points that an intervention above Pan Island Expressway, with its corresponding land area of 45hectares of land would provide the volume of fuel necessary to be generated to feed 2.07 power stations. PIE, being Singapore’s longest expressway, would be ample to supply us the additional fuel that we need to sustain our projected increase in population’s demand for energy.
Hence, our conclusion of the wasted space above the entire Pan Island Expressway to be converted into alga farmland is translated onto the Singapore Map. However, note the dark green circles on the PIE (light green line). The dark green circles represent collection-conversion algae centres while the light green light represents the alga farmland above the highway. Since the wasted space above the highway is converted into a green spine, then the collection-conversion centres would be called nerve centres.
However, it is emphasized that there shall not be a singular centralized nerve centre and that there should be a series of them. We observe the following image to better understand the need of a decentralized energy infrastructure when it comes to the Solar Energy Group (biocrop for biofuel and Photovoltaic).
1.11 A Decentralized Energy Infrastructure
One of the limitations of the Solar Energy Group is that it requires plentiful surface area to capture and harvest as much sunlight as possible. Just like a tree, the plant deploys as much surface area as possible to capture as much light energy as possible to photosynthesize. Correspondingly, the Solar Energy Group, be it biocrops for biofuel or photovoltaic has to occupy as much unshaded surfaces as it could to harvest as much solar radiation. This would mean that much existing building roof and façade would have to be colonialized to allow the surface requirement that it needs. Hence a decentralized energy infrastructure to convert the gathered energy is much more sensible as opposed to a centralized one to reduce excessive piping and power loss through longer distribution lines from a central power station only. The next image further substantiate against the use of a centralized energy infrastructure.
The power distribution lines from Central Power Stations to users would experience typically 28 units of power loss from an initial 100 units. Subsequently more is lost when the high voltage electricity is converted into low-voltage power in the transformer at the substation. This means that the longer the power lines are, the more loss through distribution is experienced.
In conclusion, a decentralized energy infrastructure is preferred due to the sprawl necessary to occupy much needed surface area to capture the sun’s rays by the algae farms. Concurrently, spreading the small nerve centres along the expressway reduces energy transmission loss as well as provide architectural opportunities of various programmes with respect to each context programmatic needs.
1.12 Examples of Programmatic Insertion into the Nerve Centres at each specific context of the adjacent neighbourhood fabric along the Pan Island Expressway (PIE)
To illustrate an example of how unique programmatic insertion could be achieved with the introduction of the nerve centers into the fabric of the surrounding areas adjacent to the expressway, we look closer to 3 nerve centers as highlighted in the red box.
1.13 In summary, the 3issues discussed previously are visually summarized as below: