Landscape Architecture – Is It a Walk in the Park?

 An Interview with:
Oliver Ng Boon Lee
Director, Landscape Architecture
Surbana Jurong Group

Apart from the brick and mortar of delivering urbanisation, infrastructure and engineering solutions for our clients, Surbana Jurong’s (SJ) Landscape Architectural team provides the competitive edge with a suite of solutioning services, and explores multi-dimensional areas of ecology, biology, botany, tourism, horticulture, fine arts, architecture, soil sciences, geography, urban & natural resources, and water engineering.

Oliver Ng Boon Lee, Director of Landscape Architecture, gives us the low-down on how Landscape Architecture helps project owners fulfil their journey of building a sustainable living and work environment, and its pivotal role in end-to-end design and build.

Q: What does the Landscape Architect perform in the design and build sector?

First and foremost, we need to debunk the myth that the role of the landscape architect is purely designing the landscape for commercial and residential properties. The truth is actually quite different. Landscape architects do work on large scale projects, most of which are public urban and natural environmental spaces.

These range from the creation of different hierarchy public and nature parks, to master planning for new cities and township developments, and major green infrastructure projects such as streetscapes, public parks, rivers, waterfronts, green building solutions and ecological habitats.

More often than not, the landscape architect is faced with the challenge of  working on or around structures with limited external spaces, while integrating ecological sustainability. At the design stage of the project, there is an exchange of valuable inputs based on the complexity of technical challenges. Ideas are then generated, and design created based on the organisation and use of space.

The landscape architect adopts and conceives the overall concept and prepares the master plan, of which promotes innovation by developing regionally scalable but locally contextual solutions that increase resilience (refer to Illustration A for an example of a Landscape Concept Masterplan).

Illustration A – Landscape Concept Masterplan for one of SJ’s project “Ecological Wetland, Resilient Riverfront Park and Coastal Belt at Yazhou Bay, Sanya China”

Q: Please give examples of some project successes that involve the works of Landscape Architecture.

Singapore’s very own “Garden City Vision” was first mooted by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1967 – to transform Singapore into a city with abundant lush greenery and a clean environment to make life more pleasant for the people. The Parks and Trees Act1 in the 1970s mandated Singapore government agencies like the Housing Development Board (HDB) and the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), as well as private developers, to set aside spaces for trees and greenery in projects such as the development of housing estates, and construction of roads and car parks.

Currently, Singapore’s greening policy is guided by the “city in a garden” vision. Unveiled in 1998 as the next phase of the “garden city” vision, the new concept aimed to integrate greenery into not just the built environment, but also into the daily lives of Singaporeans.

A subset of the “City in a Garden” concept, My Waterway @ Punggol is a 12.25 hectares waterfront park located in the north-eastern part of Singapore. Designed with these thematic zones in mind – nature cove, recreation zone, heritage zone and green gallery, SJ Landscape Team undertook the challenge of transforming a piece of bare land into a 4.2km waterway that meanders through a new town, a Light Rail Transit (LRT) viaduct, two reservoirs and a beautiful waterfront living experience for the residents.

My Waterway @ Punggol (refer to Illustration B) was developed with an aim to bring people closer to water, amongst shared communal spaces, coupled with water-based recreational activities. The residential blocks were even built with an ABC water systems – where rainwater is collected and distributed to the parklands around the waterways.

Illustration B – My Waterway @ Punggol

On global playing field and a project undertaken by the team, Yixing Water Ecology in Jiangsu province of China aims to restore the ecology of the area, particularly in the water system, integrated with landscape design (refer to Illustration C). For years, water pollution in the area is a major deterrent for social and economic activities to be carried out. This ‘W-ECO3’ project aims to create a resilient space integrating the surrounding landscapes and water management based on Green & Blue infrastructure design, which emphasizes on sustainable and low-impact development. The team adopted the concept of “001” as guiding principles for the project:

  • Zero (0) contribution to water pollution – potential water pollutant discharge to any public water system will be stringently controlled and removed;
  • Zero (0) impact on flood control – ensure the flood-discharge capacity of all the key flood-discharge channels are not impacted upon in terms of protection and improvement;
  • One (1) clean water source – One Central Wetland with 2.5kmsq area in the masterplan was proposed to produce clean water after treatment. A world-class monitoring technology and Smart IT analysis system has been adopted to manage the cleaned outflow.

Illustration C – Yixing Water Ecology in Jiangsu province of China (Central Wetland with 2.5kmsq area to produce clean water after treatment)

Q: What do project owners look out for when they engage SJ to do landscape design?

We now know that at master planning and design stage, the landscape architect already plays a pivotal role, which often requires him/her to design key open space components such as community urban plaza, social activities spaces, play spaces and park connectors.

For project works which involve the sensitivity of natural habitats & resources, landscape architects are required to conduct deep research into local people, their culture and lifestyle. The outcome includes well-constructed wetlands, coastal environment, riverfront and green infrastructural projects. The design of such spaces contributes to local identity which brings upon economic, social, and environmental benefits to the local people.

With economic and social viability on the forefront, Ya Zhou Bay in Sanya, China – another recent global project win by SJ’s Landscape Architectural Team – aims to achieve solutioning to urbanism whilst protecting existing ecology (refer to Illustration D). A key criteria of the design concept is to mitigate the risk of ecological extinction caused by natural disasters, pollution and soil erosion.

The Waterfront Eco-Park, which consists of a Coastal Belt Park, Wetland and a Riverfront Park, will be home to a long stretch of windbreak forest with endless coastal entertainment, a wetland reserve preserving ecologically sensitive areas, and an attractive waterfront with large urban and leisure space.

Illustration D – Ya Zhou Bay in Sanya, China

In most, if not all, of our projects, developers are constantly seeking new, sustainable design ideas, and our belief is that no single design solution can be applied across all projects.

Q: What are your views on the future of Landscape Architecture?

It will be dynamic, yet ever-changing – due to the ever-evolving living environment. Climate change also has its effects on how we plan and design our landscape and environment. When the ozone layer is depleting each day, how should we grow our trees and vegetation to ensure we have a holistic cycle to human habitat.

The role of the landscape architect will become even greater, when we move away from the traditional way of planning and designing, and emphasize the importance of green movement and building a resilient environment.

The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to achieve landscape analytics, and AI metrics to evaluate spatial impacts of design is the new norm in Landscape Architecture. Amidst combining AI to create sustainable and resilient designs, Green Infrastructure can only be achieved when we start with understanding our natural ecosystem.

** End **

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Oliver Ng Boon Lee


Three cities in Indonesia to implement their first sewerage scheme with help from Surbana Jurong

sewerage scheme in Indonesia
Bill Sinclair, SMEC’s Regional Manager in Indonesia, after signing the MSMIP contract with a representative from the Ministry of Public Works and Housing.

Surbana Jurong’s Southeast Asia’s Water & Environment team has secured a milestone win with first-time sewerage projects in three cities in Indonesia and one of the nation’s first sewerage schemes in years.

The team will provide consultancy services for Metropolitan Sanitation Management and Investment Project (MSMIP) in Indonesia. Appointed by the Directorate General of Human Settlements under the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, the project will see sewerage systems to be built for the first time in Indonesia’s three major cities, Makassar, Jambi and Pekanbaru.

In partnership with MWH Global and leveraging local expertise at PT SMEC Denka, the team will provide design development, tender preparation and evaluation, and construction supervision of the sewerage systems. Design development will cover areas such as the wastewater treatment plants and networks associated with the cities’ business districts. The MSMIP will heighten the environmental value of the cities, which presently depend on poor standard holding tanks to collect and dispose of household effluent.

Brian Hayden, SEA Division’s Water Manager, said, “There have been a number of water supply schemes in Indonesia over the past 20 years, but this is the first sewerage scheme hence it is a great win for the team amidst strong competition. There will be some major engineering and construction challenges on this project which can be associated with first-time sewerage schemes in very populated cities. The social and environmental aspects of this project need to be closely managed throughout the term of the project as well.” He added that this is a significant win for both SMEC and the growing Indonesia team whose water infrastructure capabilities continue to develop. The project will take 40 months.

Surbana Jurong to deliver seawall reconstruction project in Cairns

seawall reconstruction
PDR and SMEC will combine efforts to deliver the Flying Fish Point Seawall Replacement Project in the south of Cairns

Queensland-based PDR has reached a major milestone with its first project win since it was acquired by SMEC, member of the Surbana Jurong Group, in March 2017. Under the guidance of Project Director Peter De Roma (Cairns) and Project Manager Anthony Folan (Brisbane), the team is currently delivering the Flying Fish Point Seawall Replacement project for Cassowary Coast Regional Council, in the south of Cairns.

The project will involve concept through to detailed design, regulatory approvals, procurement services, construction supervision, and Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ) certification of approximately 650m of seawall reconstruction as part of the Council’s planned four-stage seawall replacement.

The seawall design will include green engineering ‘fish-friendly’ features, adding structural complexity which encourages ecological development.

The team will collaborate with James Cook University to study the long-term effects of the design on the local fish population, for potential use in other coastal regions.

Building on PDR’s marine works capability, PDR will provide local client interface, on-site inspection and construction administration, while SMEC will offer design development and technical expertise, and statutory approvals support.

The win provides a promising look into the future of the PDR and SMEC partnership.


Improving water sector reform in Sierra Leone

water sector Sierra Leone
The Water Sector Reform Project seeks to improve the delivery of water and electricity services in Sierra Leone

The West Africa team in Sierra Leone has been engaged to provide consultancy services to the Guma Valley Water Company.

This project is part of the Government of Sierra Leone’s Water Sector Reform Project under its Threshold Program, which seeks to improve the delivery of water and electricity services, and enhance transparency, accountability and customer service practices.

Scope of work includes:

  • Project management and reporting
  • Physical mapping of water infrastructure and associated infrastructure
  • Water infrastructure condition assessments
  • Implement health and safety systems
  • Hydraulic modelling

SMEC will work with the Millennium Challenge Coordinating Unit, an independent unit established by the Government of Sierra Leone which is responsible for administering all contracts and grants related to the Threshold Program.


Celebrating World Water Day 2017

water africa
A boy samples the clean water. Image source:

It is estimated that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages due to rapid urbanisation. The Surbana Jurong Group provides innovative and sustainable water solutions for every aspect of the water cycle and invests in research, development and new technology including computer-aided design and flow simulation packages to enhance our capabilities.

As we mark World Water Day today, we are heartened to be able to help raise the livelihoods of local communities by improving access to water supply, sanitation and drainage services. Below are two significant water projects which we are proud to be part of.

Khulna Water Supply Project, Bangladesh

Bangladesh water
The project will help to provide access to safe drinking water to the residents of Khulna in Bangladesh

“As a result of the project, 490,000 people have been connected to a piped water network for the first time, and 220,000 people have received improved water supply services.”

This project was developed to secure a sustainable urban water supply for residents of Khulna in southwest Bangladesh.

In the city of 700, 000 people, more than 80% of its residents do not have access to a piped water supply. To ensure safe drinking water for the people of Khulna, the Government of Bangladesh and the Khulna Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (KWASA) sought to implement major capital works through the rehabilitation and strengthening of the water supply system as part of a long-term investment plan.

SMEC, member of the Surbana Jurong Group, provided management development support to KWASA, to transform it into a professionally managed corporate body.

Water Supply and Sanitation Improvement Project, Zambia

Water Supply and Sanitation

Urban areas of Lusaka will benefit from a reliable water supply and improved sanitation

“This project will help to increase access to a reliable water supply, and improve sanitation and drainage services in selected urban and peri-urban areas of Lusaka.”

Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia has a population of nearly two million people. Not all of its residents have access to a treated water supply and only 30% have waterborne sanitation.

Engaged by the Millennium Challenge Account-Zambia Limited (MCA-Zambia), SMEC provides programme management services for citywide water supply, sanitation, and drainage improvement works in Lusaka. Our role also includes ensuring MCA-Zambia’s compliance with environmental, health and safety standards.


Surbana Jurong clinches first water project from Water Authority of Fiji

water project fiji
An overview of the project site

SMEC, member of the Surbana Jurong Group, secured its first ever project with Water Authority of Fiji in a joint venture with MWH Global, to provide design and tender documentation for Rewa River Water Supply Scheme and Kinoya Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade.

Funded by Asian Development Bank (ADB), this infrastructure project will improve access to clean water supply and wastewater management in the greater Suva area of Fiji.

Brian Hayden, Water Manager – Southeast Asia, said: “There are limited water-related opportunities in Fiji and when one presented itself, the team eagerly pursued it. The win was made possible with a strong local partner with in-market knowledge as well as SMEC’s track record in ADB-funded projects. We have also established a capable Water Supply design team in our Jakarta office to deliver the detailed design components of the project and have been able to leverage their skills to support our expanding portfolio.”

SMEC’s Water team was tasked to design a new water intake structure by the Rewa River with a water treatment plant, a 10mld reservoir and a 26km transmission water pipeline. The team will lead the civil engineering works for Kinoya Wastewater Treatment plant upgrade.


Surbana Jurong inks MOU with PUB to tap on growing water market

surbana jurong mr wong heang fine mr ng joo hee PUB
Left to right: Mr Maurice Neo, Mr Ng Joo Hee, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Mr Wong Heang Fine & Mr Philip Tan

Singapore, 12 July 2016 – Surbana Jurong has signed a MOU with Public Utilities Board (PUB) during the Singapore International Water Week 2016 to provide closer business collaboration and knowledge transfer.

As Singapore’s national water agency, PUB will be providing capacity building programmes for Surbana Jurong staff and clients in water-related areas. It will also allow cooperation with various development agencies, knowledge institutes and cooperation promotion outfits. PUB will also cooperate on a project advisory basis for Surbana Jurong’s water-related projects.

“A report by the U.N. University Institute for Water, Environment and Health estimates that almost US$1.8 trillion is needed over the next 20 years to re-divert water flows to water stressed regions around the world. The business of managing floods and water shortages around the world will continue to grow as a result of climate change. As Singapore becomes a recognised world leader in water management, Singapore Inc companies will do well to foster closer collaboration in order to provide integrated water solutions. Surbana Jurong’s expertise in urban planning, infrastructure development and Smart City solutions, in partnership with PUB and other water management companies, will enable us to provide end-to-end solutions to our clients who are looking to solve their water problems.” said Mr Wong Heang Fine, Group CEO of Surbana Jurong Private Limited.

The MOU was signed by Mr Philip Tan, Managing Director of Surbana Jurong’s Urban Planning & Design and Mr Maurice Neo, PUB’s Director, Industry Development, during PUB’s launch of Singapore Water Academy at Marina Bay Sands. Witnessing the signing were Surbana Jurong’s Group CEO, Mr Wong Heang Fine and PUB’s CEO, Mr Ng Joo Hee. The event was graced by Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Mr Masagos Zulkifli.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Alvin Hang Group Director, Group Corporate Communications T: 6248-1100 |

Tian Zhiyuan Senior Specialist, Group Corporate Communications T: 6839-8529 |

About Surbana Jurong

Surbana Jurong is one of Asia’s consultancy powerhouses for urbanisation and infrastructure developments.

We have a distinguished track record in shaping Singapore’s urban and industrial landscape over the last 50 years and we deliver total urbanisation, infrastructure and engineering solutions to support sustainable social and economic growth for our clients.

Our multi-disciplinary team of specialists provides one-stop complete value chain consultancy services harnessed through years of successfully completing a wide array of projects in more than 200 cities in over 50 countries worldwide. We have designed and completed more than a million homes in Singapore, completed masterplans for over 30 countries and developed more than 50 industrial parks around the world.

In June 2015, Surbana Jurong acquired two companies – KTP Consultants Pte Ltd in Singapore and Sino-Sun Architects & Engineers Co. Ltd in China. These two acquisitions grew our staff strength by 25%, strengthened our infrastructure development capabilities and brought our market reach in China to 16 cities.

We announced in November 2015 that we had taken up a 20% equity stake in China’s CITICC (Africa) Holding Limited, a USD300 million investment platform set up between International Financing Company (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group and Chinese multinational construction and engineering company, CITIC Construction Co., Ltd – which would see us potentially developing 30,000 affordable homes in Africa in the next five years.

Surbana Jurong also took up a 8.4% stake (USD 9.25 mil) in an American software company, FLUX Factory, Inc, a spin-off from Google X, which builds collaborative cloud-based software tool used for building design, urban solutions and master planning, which will grow our sustainable and building design capabilities.

With over 600 international and local awards under our belt, we have what it takes to understand, anticipate and exceed our clients’ expectations. Today, Surbana Jurong employs over 4,000 employees from 40 nationalities in 26 offices across Asia, Africa and the Middle East.