Urban Transformation

Singapore is building a ‘forest town' with abundant green spaces and underground roads

image of a forest in Singapore.

This new initiative could be a vision for the future of urban living. Image: Unsplash/Raphaël Menesclou

Natalie Marchant
Writer, Forum Agenda
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Urban Transformation?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Cities and Urbanization is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Cities and Urbanization

  • In Singapore, the ‘forest town’ of Tengah is being built on land once home to a brickworks and later used for military training.
  • Vehicles will run underground to make the eco-development’s town centre safer for walking, cycling and recreational activities.
  • A 100-metre-wide forest corridor will connect a nature reserve and water catchment area, and provide safe passage for wildlife.

In an area of Singapore once home to a brickworks and military training facilities, a vision of the future of urban living is taking shape.

The country is building what it calls its first smart and sustainable town, promising 42,000 homes in an environment where people can be “at home with nature”.

The Tengah project will consist of five residential districts on the 700-hectare site in Singapore’s Western region. Named Garden, Park, Brickland, Forest Hill and Plantation, the areas are designed to improve residents’ health and wellbeing and give them a better quality of life.

How? With smart buildings, greenery everywhere and a prioritization of walking and cycling that routes motor vehicle traffic underground.

image of the plan for Singapore’s new eco town.
Singapore’s new eco town will sit alongside planned innovation and business districts. Image: Singapore Government Housing & Development Board

Forest town

The Tengah project’s new homes and workspaces will be built alongside two other developments, the Jurong Innovation District – for the manufacturing sector – and Jurong Lake District, planned to be the city-state’s second Central Business District.

Dubbed a ‘forest town’ thanks to its abundant green space including areas for community farming, Tengah will feature a 100-metre-wide ‘forest corridor’ that runs through the centre of the town. This will connect a nature reserve and a water catchment area, as well as providing safe passage for wildlife, and a recreational space for residents.

Residents will also be able to travel to neighbouring towns or to the city centre via buses or the planned Jurong Region Line, with the majority of people living within walking distance of a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station.

Tengah will also be the first development built by the Singaporean government to have a car-free town centre, with vehicles running underground to free up space above ground. By separating road traffic from pedestrians, the town centre will be safer for walking, cycling and other recreational activities.

Smart and sustainable

Singapore recently topped the Smart City Index for the second year running – it has long been known as one of Asia’s greenest.

Computer simulations have been used to design buildings and precincts to optimize wind flow and minimize heat, while smart lights will automatically switch off in unoccupied areas in order to reduce energy consumption.

The town will also feature a centralized cooling system in some precincts. Singapore’s Housing & Development Board says this will regulate the temperature in homes and will be more energy-efficient than individual air-conditioning units – significant in a country where air-conditioning typically accounts for a third of household energy use.

Meanwhile automated waste collection will see household rubbish transported down a conveyance system, creating a cleaner and more hygienic living environment and minimizing pest infection.

The Housing & Development Board is also working with power company SP Group to examine the possibility of Tengah becoming a 'smart energy' town. Using artificial intelligence, SP Group hopes to develop a software system that optimizes energy use along with an app that enables residents to accurately monitor their usage.


How is the World Economic Forum supporting the development of cities and communities globally?

Future cities

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Cities initiative seeks to help cities rethink their strategies for post-pandemic economic recovery and building a more sustainable and resilient future for their citizens.

The initiative encourages public-private collaboration on solutions addressing the political, economic and social challenges posed by COVID-19, alongside advancing new frameworks and policy tools for improved planning.

The G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance, for example, brings together government bodies, private-sector partners and residents to discuss shared principles for the responsible and ethical use of smart-city technologies.

Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum’s Shaping the Future of the Internet of Things and Urban Transformation platform works with more than 100 global partners to help ensure that connected devices and smart technologies are used to create a future that is more sustainable, prosperous and resilient for all.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Cities drive global prosperity – but the way they do that is changing

Matthew Cooper and Marco Fengler

June 19, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum