Monday, 23 April 2012

Jurong to be first 'green' neighbourhood

Makeover for 38 blocks in Jurong
By Rachel Chang, The Straits Times, 22 Apr 2012

Solar panels, rainwater collection tanks and a state-of-the-art refuse collection system are coming to Jurong East, as part of a nationwide push to 'green up' public housing estates.

The Housing Board yesterday released details of a pilot scheme for a group of 38 blocks along Jurong East Street 21, under its 'Greenprint' scheme to make mature estates more environmentally sustainable.

Expected to be completed by 2014, the project will cover about 3,200 flats that are 30 years old, and will cost $17.7 million.

More than half of this will go into revamping the estate's trash collection and disposal system. A pneumatic refuse collection system will link trash chutes from individual flats to an underground network of pipes, allowing rubbish to be sucked directly to a central waste collection point.

This will spare residents the usual sight - and smell - of workers carting off containers of waste from their blocks.

It will also reduce the number of collection points, from the current five to six per block to just one or two for all 38 blocks.

Recycling bins will also be installed at every block, and linked to the same network.

HDB says the new system will reduce the manpower needed by 70 per cent.

This refuse system has been tested in new blocks in Clementi and Choa Chu Kang. But this is the first time that an entire older neighbourhood will have its waste disposal facilities upgraded.

The Jurong East neighbourhood will also have solar panels and fuel cells installed on the roofs of the blocks. They will produce enough renewable energy to power all the street lamps, lifts and common lighting in the estate.

LED lighting and motion sensors in little-used areas like staircases will also cut energy consumption, while rainwater collection tanks will be installed at void decks to supply water for the washing of common spaces.

Together, the energy-saving features will cut energy consumption for the 38 blocks by 30 per cent, or about $144,000 every year.

The green plans extend into individual flats too: HDB will work with vendors to provide a 'Green Homes package' of energy-efficient home appliances such as refrigerators and microwave ovens. It hopes that discounts will get home owners to bite.

HDB is also mulling over ideas such as a bicycle-sharing scheme and handing over some of the responsibility of estate management to home owners. For example, residents can choose to limit the operating hours of their lifts to conserve energy.

A consultation exercise with Jurong East denizens to nail down the exact changes they want will start in the third quarter of this year. But unlike other schemes such as lift upgrading, residents will not have to vote for the project to go ahead - nor do they have to pay for it.

HDB said its pilot project will be used to refine its Greenprint model before it rolls it out in other estates.

The plans have drawn mixed reactions in Jurong East.

'I'm glad that we won't have to see the waste being carried off any more, the new system sounds much more hygienic,' said teacher Hema Kesavalu, 36.

But retired resident Cheong Kam Foo, 64, said the changes will make less of a difference than upgrading works to his own flat. 'This won't raise the value of my property by much,' he said.

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