Urban sustainability and universal design

A distance picture of a three column building in Singapore with trees and people in the foreground. Sustainability and universal design.Singapore has taken sustainability seriously. As an island state with limited land, every square metre has to count. Singapore meets high standards for urban sustainability and has a strong commitment to universal design. However, universal design is not included as a sustainability indicator. One researcher thinks it should. 

Adaku Jane Echendu appraises Singapore’s sustainability measures in a new article. The aim is to show how other cities might learn from the ‘Singapore Model’. She argues that universal design for inclusion should be included in the list of Urban Sustainable Indicators. 

Urban sustainability is about vibrant cities that enhance the quality of life for residents. At the same time it ensures the availability of resources for future generations. A sustainable city is compact and promotes efficiency, innovations and production capacity. The aim is to do this with minimal environmental impact. That’s the built part. The other part is the wellbeing of citizens.

A sustainable city is also a healthy and secure place for people to grow, find work and housing. It also has good public transport, public participation, and good health and education systems. Good governance makes it all possible. 

Sustainability and universal design

There are three commonly used pillars to Urban Sustainability Indicators: social, economic and environmental. But there are many additional measures used across the world. Echendu includes universal design for inclusivity in her appraisal of these. She claims universal design is a key element of best practice in urban sustainability.

Sustainability was at the core of the country’s design before it became a global concern. Singapore was also an early adopter of universal design. Their universal design and accessibility code went beyond new builds to include retrofits. Part of the drive for this is their ageing population.

The weaknesses of the Singapore model are reliance on importing food. To mitigate this, rooftop farming is becoming more intensive. With global temperatures set to rise further, urban heat is another issue. Public participation in governance is improving, but needs more work. There are still pockets of poor who battle with getting adequate food and healthcare. 

The title of the article is, Critical appraisal of an example of best practice in urban sustainability.  Using the term “universal design for inclusion” is a good way of expressing what universal design is about for the uninitiated.  

Front cover of the UD guide.Other articles on Singapore and universal design are:

From barrier free to universal design: Singapore’s experience 

Universal Design Guidelines from Singapore 

Universal Design the Singapore way