Prof Yu calls for rethink of Singapore’s suburban skyline

The view towards the Anchorvale neighbourhood in Sengkang (Picture: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Professor Yu Shi Ming has been a judge for the EdgeProp Singapore Excellence Awards for three consecutive years. A leading academic, Yu is the head of the real estate department at the National University of Singapore, where he has taught for 35 years. He has also done extensive research in real estate valuation, sustainability issues, housing provision and pricing.
Having toured residential projects across Singapore over the years, Yu is concerned about suburban HDB towns such as Sengkang, Yishun and Woodlands with “their massive blocks of concrete” – dense, high-rise HDB blocks, as well as large-scale private condos and executive condos – that have sprung up over the past two decades. He blames the profile of these towns on plot ratios and height restrictions stipulated in the government land tenders. “These two constraints naturally force developers to build these tall, box-like structures and very dense projects,” he says. “The result is a monotonous skyline.”
Professor Yu Shi Ming, head of department of real estate at NUS (Picture: Albert Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
This is in contrast to the prime districts where there is a mix of old and new developments, low- and high-rise residential blocks, conservation shophouses and private housing estates. Buildings of different vintages, different heights and designs make for “a more interesting skyline”, says Yu. “Our CBD skyline is a good example.” He points to the tall skyscrapers – office and apartment towers in Tanjong Pagar – which are juxtaposed against conservation shophouses.

Paradigm shift: ‘Two-envelope system’

A paradigm shift is needed in the real estate industry. “It’s time for a rethink,” says Yu. He says government awards of some land tenders under the two-envelope system – based on design, then price, instead of just price – are a step in the right direction. The two-envelope system was implemented for the South Beach site on Beach Road, which was awarded 12 years ago...