Campus greening ramps up

29 January 2020 | Community
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Tree planting events, such as one organised together with student group NUS SAVE, helped drive interest in campus greening

Twelve months after the launch of the Planting 10,000 Trees joint initiative by the Office of Facilities Management and the NUS Sustainability Steering Committee’s Green Spaces Task Force, some 4,100 trees have already been planted. This, together with positive preliminary findings from temperature sensors installed to record ambient temperatures, is expediting the initiative and it will be completed in December 2020, a year ahead of schedule.

The trees will act as one of the main methods of cooling the NUS campus. “In our planting journey, we have learnt much from our faculty and researchers.  One example is the use of thermal satellite images to identify ‘hot spots’ — areas on campus with higher ambient temperatures, which we study to identify the most aesthetically pleasing combination of plants and trees which will thrive in those areas. We then install an array of outdoor sensors to record the outdoor temperatures as the trees grow,” explained Mr Chew Chin Huat, Senior Director, Campus Operations & Maintenance, University Campus Infrastructure (UCI).

In the densest parts of the groves, UCI has already measured a drop of one degree Celsius in ambient temperature compared to the surroundings. “We noted such occurrences in 10 different locations, and will be installing additional sensors to capture more data to better understand the effects. Planting trees will be one of the key initiatives in our big ‘Cool NUS’ project, “said Mr Chew.

Aside from the cooling of hot spots, the trees also serve to improve campus liveability and biodiversity. Over the last 12 months, numerous endangered species of trees were planted in campus. These included the Podocarpus polystachyus, the Ficus virens and the Garcinia hombroniana. “Our campus will be a good tree species ‘reservoir’ for our national greenery,” Mr Chew added.

After the completion of this initiative, we hope to create and nurture secondary forests, vertical greenery and green roofs that will help to sequester carbon; leading to the creation of a carbon-neutral campus by 2030. 

In addition to planting the trees, the team has completed some 12,000sqm of green walls to-date, with the latest one at NUS Design and Environment’s Block SDE 1. The team also aims to install green walls on the façades of buildings such as the new Block E7 building at NUS Engineering, and along all covered walkways such as the linkway between the bus stop on the Ayer Rajah Expressway and Block S17 at NUS Science.

Said Mr Chew, “These vertical green walls cool the buildings and walkways and will reduce energy demand for air-conditioning, hence reducing carbon footprint. So far, measurements of the interiors and ambient temperatures have been encouraging.”

Since the launch of the initiative, the team also organised outreach and community engagement events to drive interest within the community in campus greening. These included annual tree-planting and community urban farming events during the Clean & Green Weeks last November, and tree planting and terrarium workshops for individual departments.

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Members of the NUS community working in a community garden

Spurred on by the encouraging results from the Planting 10,000 Trees initiative, UCI is targeting to plant up to 8,000 new trees and install eight skyrise greenery projects yearly from 2021 to 2030. “After the completion of this initiative, we hope to create and nurture secondary forests, vertical greenery and green roofs that will help to sequester carbon; leading to the creation of a carbon-neutral campus by 2030,” said Mr Chew.

UCI hopes to share more information on the “Cool NUS” and “Carbon-Neutral Campus” with the rest of the NUS community soon.