The School is justifiably proud of its sustained accomplishments as the only provider of professional architectural, building and real estate education in Singapore for over five decades, until quite recently. The magnificent modern skyline and efficient urban structure we see today is a testament to a job well done, where our graduates in various roles have greatly contributed to the Ministry for National Development’s vision of making the city-state into “An Endearing Home and a Distinctive Global City”. Indeed, Singapore has consistently been ranked amongst the most liveable cities in Asia and in the world, excelling in features such as smart infrastructure and sustainable developments. Our faculty, researchers, students and alumni continue to contribute tirelessly to this dynamic vision.
Furthermore, the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Ranking by Subject introduced Architecture/Built Environment as a category for the first time in 2015, and NUS was ranked amongst the top 10 universities in the world. In some way, the path to this specific domain accomplishment was laid almost two decades ago. Through much deliberation by all stakeholders concerned, the University approved a name change to the School of Design and Environment (SDE) in 2000, from the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Real Estate, breaking away from the traditional professional industry-driven academic silos, and reflecting a more broad-based and integrative educational opportunity for our students.
This name change strategically conveyed the core values of the School, that design is preeminent in every facet of our collective academic endeavour, be it in the social, cultural, aesthetic domains, or in the science, technology and business domains. Such pursuit would also be firmly rooted both in the natural and the built environment contexts that we operate in.
These core values are ever more critical to the vision of a sustainable and resilient Singapore today. So, in this sense, the vision has not changed but it will continue to take many more creative and bolder missions to continuously fulfil that dynamic vision. As we celebrate our current achievements, we should be cognisant that there are still significant and persistent challenges that lie ahead, which the building industry in Singapore and around the world have to confront.
In September 2014, the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore unveiled its 3rd Green Building Masterplan that represents an ambitious vision of Singapore as “a global leader in green buildings with special expertise in the tropics and sub tropics, enabling sustainable development and quality living”. It contains three strategic goals of nurturing continued leadership, cultivating wider collaboration and engagement with all stakeholders, and scaling up the deployment of products and processes with proven sustainability performance. This plan reiterates the earlier target of greening at least 80% of Singapore’s building stock set by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development in 2009, and establishes a tactical pathway to setting new industry standards with innovative solutions to achieve zero or net positive energy low-rise buildings and low energy high-rise buildings. At the macro scale, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore has also been engaging in research programmes on sustainable urban design and development with the vision of making Singapore “A great city to live, work and play”.
SDE continues to be well positioned to be a strategic partner with these and other Government agencies and the industry stakeholders to work collaboratively towards accomplishing all these national goals. We recognize that it is no longer an option but a prerequisite to broaden each individual’s learning experience and knowledge acquisition to a certain level whereby effective cross-disciplinary and transdisciplinary collaborations can occur to generate innovative and deployable solutions within an increasingly complex business environment. We will offer future professionals a holistic educational experience and prepare them for an exciting and challenging career ahead in the industry and imbuing the spirit of creativity, teamwork and entrepreneurship.
SDE is in a favourable position to attract more outstanding and passionate young people to its comprehensive range of educational and research programmes related to the built environment as well as industrial design. Creative, integrated and cross-disciplinary modules and programmes will continuously be developed in close consultation with industry partners so as to keep abreast of the rapid changes in terms of expected knowledge and skill sets of the work force to meet emerging national, regional and even global market needs. Curricula renewal and content development will be intrinsically linked to timely research, development and demonstration efforts, including our state-of-the-art net zero energy building (SDE4) which will commence construction very soon. Such a strategy, coupled with a firm understanding of the scale-up economics and deployment processes, would help to accelerate the adoption of the RD&D findings by our building industry.
The government has played its pioneering role in supporting such ventures, and continues to actively do so. It is incumbent on us as an educational institution to produce sufficient numbers of well-trained and highly competent professionals to support the anticipated scale-up demand through strategic capacity building programmes. Only through such concerted effort can we have a real chance to help in reversing the increasing trend of carbon emission contributed by our built environment that is impacting global climate change.
Our collective active engagement is not just a necessity but mission critical. I therefore invite all aspiring students as well as faculty to join us in our endeavour. You will be able to get more detailed information on the various programmes within the web sites of the respective Departments in the School. Enjoy this virtual tour of our School, and of course, you are always welcome to visit us in person.
Lam Khee Poh, PhD, RIBA
Provost’s Chair Professor