What are the various typologies of elevated green space in Singapore Public Housing Estates and what is their design evolution of such spaces over the years? This week, we seek to explore the various typology of elevated green space as well as the design intention and planning put into developing these elevated green spaces in Singapore Public Housing Estates.


1.1         Late 1960s: Podium Roof Deck with Low Rise Housing

The first elevated green space in Singapore public housing estate can be dated back to the late 1960s. During the period of 1967 to 1969, the immediate task then was to meet urgent housing needs of the nation (HDB, 2006). Moreover under the Urban Renewal Scheme “Precinct South 1”, there was a rising need for commercial spaces for hawkers who were being cleared from the streets to shift into (HDB Annual Report, 1967).


To maximise space, residential units were pushed above the commercial complex, with void deck starting from the second or third storey. The Roof Deck is then designed to integrate with the void decks, and housed communal facilities like gardens as well as children play areas and functioned as a communal space for the residents (HDB Annual Report, 1967).


Such a typology of Podium Roof Deck with Low-Rise Housing (Fig. 1a) became the first type of elevated green space adopted by the Housing Development Board (HDB) in the late 1960s. Some examples of such typology of space include the Outram Road Development (1968) as well as the Park Road Redevelopment Scheme (1969).



Figure 1a: Podium Roof Deck with Low Rise Housing (1960s)

[Diagram drawn and created by the Author]


1.2         1970s: Podium Roof Deck with High Rise Housing

In the 1970s, the elevated green space during this period generally adopts a similar typology as those in the 1960s (Fig. 1b). However, higher rise blocks were introduced to integrate with the commercial podium as a means to house more people and hawkers from the Urban Renewal Scheme (HDB Annual Report, 1970 & 1978).


During this period, there were also plans to segregate pedestrian movement from vehicular traffic through such roof podiums (HDB Annual Report, 1974/75) and at the same time to bring greenery to commercial complexes and residential areas (HDB Annual Report, 1978/79). This explains the introduction of more “Podium Roof Deck with High Rise Housing” typology elevated green spaces such as the Chin Swee Road Development (1975), Waterloo Center (1978) as well as the Bras Basah Complex (1980) during this period, to achieve the visions of the HDB. Such introduction of these new communal spaces also seek to inject new life in the city to address the sharp decline in night life in the city center due to decentralisation of the population from the city core during that period (Heng & Low, 2009).



Figure 1b: Podium Roof Deck with High Rise Housing (1970s)

[Diagram drawn and created by the Author]

1.3         Late 1970s to 1980s: Neighbourhood Park as Supplement

During the 1960s till early 1970s, provision of green spaces was basic but adequate (HDB. 2006). However, moving into the late 1970s and early 1980s, with new directions in design and planning, a shift in emphasis on Streetscape and Urban Design of HDB estates was introduced (HDB Annual Report, 1979/1980 & 19980/1981). In addition, in response for more privacy in homes from residents, this resulted in a shift from roof podium block typology to point block typology (HDB Annual Report, 1986/87).


However, with the point block design and increase in surface carpark requirements, open spaces available for communal green spaces had decreased significantly (HDB Annual Report, 1986/87). Responding to such a problem, neighbourhood parks (Fig. 1c) were introduced as supplement to green open spaces in HDB Estates as well as a means to develop the streetscape and urban design of HDB new towns (HDB Annual Report, 1986/87).


Such a shift in planning explained the absence of new elevated green spaces during this period as HDB had instead focused on developing ground green spaces to address its new planning directions (HDB Annual Report 1986/87).



Figure 1c: Neighbourhood Parks as Supplement (Late 1970s / 80s)

[Diagram drawn and created by the Author]



1.4         Late 1990s: Multistorey Carpark (MSCP) as alternative

Moving forward to the 90s, high technology advancements in structures allowed for larger and longer span for concrete buildings. This allowed for Multi-Storey Carparks to be introduced, freeing up more land for more meaningful communal usages (HDB Annual Report, 1993/94).


In addition, there was also continual effort to link up neighbourhood green open spaces with park connectors, as well as more emphasis to rejuvenate older estates by building more MSCP in upgrading projects to provide more green spaces for communal usages (HDB Annual Report, 1996/97). However, green spaces were still mostly concentrated on the ground, rather than elevated during the 90s (Fig. 1d).



Figure 1d: Multistorey Carpark as Alternative (1990s)

[Diagram drawn and created by the Author]


1.5         Early 2000s: Multistorey Carpark (MSCP) Roof Gardens

It was only until the early 2000s, in line with the nation’s wide’s objective of having more greenery, roof gardens on top of the MSCP (Fig. 1e) was implemented (HDB, 2006). Such elevated green spaces were aimed at optimising land use on communal spaces available, and also to create a more integrated environment within public housing estates (HDB Annual Report, 2002/03).


Some examples of such typology of elevated green space built during this period include Rivervale Drive, Sengkang (2000), Bukit Panjang Estate (2002), as well as Chao Chu Kang Estate (2003).

cp roof garden

Figure 1e: Multistorey Carpark Roof Garden (2000s)

[Diagram drawn and created by the Author]


1.6         Mid 2000s: Eco Deck (E-Deck) & Sky Gardens

During the mid 2000s, focus on the eco town development and the sky rise greening project had influenced HDB to explore new means to create a more sustainable living environment (HDB, 2007).  As a result, sky gardens were introduced in very high rise estates of more than 30 storeys as part of the sky rise greening project. Some examples of such spaces include Central Horizon (2008) and Pinnacle @ Duxton (2010).


On top of that, Podium Car parks, also known as Environmental Deck (E-Decks) was also introduced as an alternative green space (Fig. 1f), to create a traffic free elevated green space for residents to interact and use (HDB, 2007).


Such elevated green space allows for larger inter block spacing, creating larger green spaces as well as providing a convenient parking facility which spreads across the entire precinct on the 1st level. The 2nd level then houses a large vehicular free roof deck which maximizes greenery and creates a safe environment for community to bond (HDB. 2007). Such a typology of elevated green space could be observed in projects like Treelodge @ Punggol (2010)



Figure 1f: Environmental Deck (E-Deck) (Mid 2000s)

[Diagram drawn and created by the Author]


1.7         2011 to Present: Podium Roof Gardens

Moving on from the mid 2000s till today, HDB has continued to achieve more greenery through elevated green spaces (HDB, 2006). Today HDB have continued to include larger podium roof gardens (Fig. 1g) with more facilities, in its design of new housing estates to allow more breathing space for residents to enjoy the communal green spaces in HDB housing estates (HDB, 2006).


Such roof podium also includes link bridges to better connect the residential block to the elevated green spaces for easy access to communal areas on these roofs. Some examples of such newer typology of elevated green space includes Commonwealth 10 (2013) and Punggol Crest (2013).

roof podium
Figure 1g: Podium Roof Garden (Present)

[Diagram drawn and created by the Author]


1.8         In Summary

In summary, elevated green spaces in Singapore HDB Estates had come a long way. Starting from the early podium roof deck with low-rise housing in the 1960s, HDB had then introduced podium roof decks with high-rise housing in the 1970s to handle the housing needs of the nation.

During the 1980s till the late 1990s, elevated green spaces were not further explored and more emphasis was put on developing green spaces on the ground instead to achieve HDB’s objective of streetscape and urban design. It was only until the early 2000s with more technological advancements as well as the exploration into high rise greenery in HDB Estates that elevated green space was once again in the limelight, and developed further into our E-Decks and MSCP Roof Gardens today.

Through this study and research, we have gotten a clearer picture of the elevated green space development in Singapore Public Housing Estates over the years. As we progress on in this journey of elevated green space, lets always remember to look back, and not forget the various typologies, which may hold the key to building better communities.



* This article is an edited abstract  from the author’s dissertation ” Elevated Green Space Design & its Impact on Community Bonding in Singapore Public Housing Estates” under the M(Arch) Programme of the National University of Singapore.



  • Heng, Chye Kiang, and Low, Boon Liang (2009). “New Asian public space: Layered Singapore.” Urban Design International 14, no. 4 (2009): 231-246.


  • Housing Development Board (HDB) (1970). “First Decade in Public Housing: 1960-69”, Housing and Development Board of Singapore


  • HDB, “HDB Annual Report (From 1967 to 2006)”, Housing and Development Board of Singapore


  • HDB (2006). “HDB Universal Design Guide for Public Housing in Singapore”, Housing and Development Board of Singapore


  • HDB (2007). “The Green Housing Book: HDB’s Approach to Sustainable Development”, Housing and Development Board of Singapore


  • HDB Building Research Institute (2010). “Sustainable Neighbourhoods HDB Developments”, Housing and Development Board of Singapore