Marina Bay Sands is the most iconic structure on Singapore’s skyline – built on reclaimed land across from Singapore’s central business district, the complex comprises of a hotel, a lotus shaped museum, one of Singapore’s first casino’s, restaurants, night clubs, a sky park and numerous other amenities for tourists and locals alike. It was foreseen as a Garden City by the Bay, a 24/7 destination that offered exciting new opportunities for people to explore new living and lifestyle options, exchange new ideas for business and be entertained by rich leisure and cultural experiences in a distinctive environment. Opened in stages between 2010 and 2011, the $5.7billion (US) project was designed by Boston based architectural firm Safdie Architects, engineered by international engineering company Arup and oversaw by the Singapore office of Aedas. An engineering feat of the highest order, the three 55 storey hotel towers, connected at the top by a 1hectare SkyPark, provides the focal point of the site. Comprising of a public observatory, gardens and a jogging path, the SkyPark complements the series of publically accessed layered gardens, tropical landscapes, shaded pedestrian streets and water views surrounding the Marina Bay Sands complex. For architect Moshe Safdie, Marina Bay Sands was about creating a space that emphasised the public – pedestrian culture, public meeting space and integration of green space to promote social well being. As Safdie himself states; Marina Bay Sands is really more than a building project, it is a microcosm of a city rooted in Singapore’s culture, climate, and contemporary life… Our challenge was to create a vital public place at the district urban scale, in other words, to address the issue of mega-scale and invent an urban landscape that would work at the human scale. Marina Bay Sands proves that large scale structures can be designed with the social sustainability of citizens as a priority, in turn encouraging communal societies within high density urban centres and future pluralistic design concepts.

In hand with social sustainability, environmental sustainability is also at the forefront of the functioning of Marina Bay Sands. Director of Sustainability at the complex, Kevin Teng, noted that energy conservation and efficient water usage were high on the agenda even before construction of the complex began. Being a tropical country, a key concern for the central hotel structure was minimising heat gain and maintaining a consistent interior temperature without relying solely on high energy consuming technology such as air conditioning. To achieve this, the west façade is made of a custom made double glazed unitized curtain wall with glass fins attached perpendicularly to the façade to create shading and reflect solar gain. The eastern façade addresses heat gain differently, instead utilising deep planted terraces which help to create microclimate cooling, natural shade and absorb heat. Working in conjunction with the SkyPark, other rooftop gardens and the surrounding green areas within the complex, the external façade of the structure minimises and deflects heat gain quite substantially. The other integral initiative to address interior cooling was the implementation of district cooling. In Singapore, about 70% of electricity usage in commercial buildings is related to air conditioning, thus in the 1990s when the Marina Bay precinct project was initiated, district cooling was decided as the most energy efficient and cost effective cooling method for the buildings that were to evolve in the future. District cooling consists of cold water being distributed from one main plant, via a network of pipes, to a selection of homes, offices, commercial centres (in this case a number of buildings in the Marina Bay precinct) and service facilities in need of cooling. The cold water is pumped around the district cooling network to specific properties where specially designed units cool the air circulating in the properties ventilation systems – once it has completed its cycle, the same water is fed back to the plant and cooled again. Due to the district cooling plant’s high load capacity and 24/7 manned operational and maintenance centre, the Marina Bay district cooling system has delivered greater energy efficiency results than standard air conditioning and chiller models. Both design concepts have upheld the comfort expectations of occupants and contributed to the minimisation of energy output.

Awarded the BCA Green Mark Gold Award, the largest single building in Singapore to do so, the sustainable measures do not stop with the above two concepts. Further initiatives include:

  • Energy efficient light bulbs, in-room movement sensors to control lighting (also respondent to outdoor lighting and weather conditions) and the switching off of all exterior façade lights once a month 
  • Self closing taps and constant flow regulators, collected roof rainwater for toilet flushing systems and drip irrigation systems for the gardens
  •  Increasing room temperatures to reduce air conditioning use and hotel room balcony door sensors which switch off the air conditioning if the door is left open for an extended period
  • Regenerative drives on lifts – require 40% less energy than non-regenerative lifts
  • $25million high-tech system that allows for the control of lighting, heating and water supplies from more than 60,000 control points
  • Recycling, composting and re-using of cooking oils
  • Green Meeting Concierge – service personnel who assist clients in crafting sustainable meetings
  • Removing unsustainable foods, such as shark, from the menu and offering local, sustainable food choices from nearby regions to minimise transportation
  • The implementation of base level logical schemes, all the way through to the integration of smart technology elements, contributes to the overall commitment to environmentally sustainable processes and long term functionality and health of the complex and its residents, permanent and temporary.
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The Marina Bay Sands complex highlights the fact that large scale developments can still be sustainable, both environmentally and socially, if the right infrastructure is implemented from the outset. Invested research into advanced technology such as heat reflective facades, district cooling and smart technology systems, while expensive, ensures less energy consumption and consistent thermal comfort for the life-span of the building, making it a far more environmentally efficient structure all round. Socially, the building is designed with the idea of community in mind – providing facilities, parks, transport and amenities – contributing to the urban vitality and pluralistic landscapes of Singapore. As Moshe Safdie commented in response to Marina Bay, ‘There’s no city if all we build is towers. We have to find a way to deploy towers in a way that creates public place, public realm.” Embracing environmental responsibility, motivating communal behaviour, designing unique iconic architecture and providing consistent comfort in tropical climates has made Marina Bay Sands a global destination and a communal hub for locals.

References 

Image References

Videos

National Geographic, Mega Structures in Singapore

Moshe Safdie interview with Dezeen about the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Lego Stop Motion #24 - Marina Bay Sands - Brick Adjuster

archichannel.com Marina Bay Sands Skypark

ArchDaily interview with Moshe Safdie on MBS design and other work

The making of Marina Bay Sands - Marina Bay Sands