Posted on March 7th, 2013

Outside the Box – Singapore Supertrees

Supertree_11_16_2012_WV2_50cmnatcolor_ENHANCEThis futuristic overhead view of the Flower Dome, Cloud Forest and Supertrees of the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore makes for something out of a sci-fi flick. Innovative architecture showcasing beautiful plant-life from all over the world, this advanced design relies on green technology to keep the visitors wowed. Image captured November 16, 2012 by the satellite WorldView-2, courtesy of DigitalGlobe. Photo enhanced by Apollo Mapping.

What is a supertree? In Singapore, there is a tourist destination called Gardens by the Bay, and at the destination, there are these trees, some 16-stories high, that act as vertical gardens in order to generate solar power, collect rainwater and serve as air ducts for nearby conservatories. On the eighteen supertrees, there exist some 200 species of plants numbering near 200,000 in total that live on the trees. So are these supertrees natural?

Unfortunately not, but they are feats of architecture! Supertrees are man-made structures that consist of four parts: a reinforced concrete core; a concrete trunk; planting panels for the vertical gardens; and canopies to provide cover and to collect then divert rain. The canopies are comprised of photovoltaic cells which capture the sun’s radiation to create energy for use elsewhere in the Garden. The canopies also act as temperature moderators by dispersing heat trapped by the supertrees. There are numerous skywalks which link the supertrees and allow visitors to see the vertical gardens up close. The skywalks are powered by the solar panels in the canopy, as are the two bio-domes that host conservatories of various plant life.  The bio-domes, one called the Cloud Forest and the other called the Flower Dome, are expected to be the Gardens’ top attraction as they are home to well over 200,000 species of plants from all over the world.

The Flower Dome feels like a Mediterranean country with its cool-dry climate, while a dense fog in the Cloud Forest surrounds a 35-meter tall mountain with plant life that is native to 2,000-feet or higher. There is a lift in the Cloud Forest to allow visitors easy access to its highest points. Both domes feature educational tours to teach visitors about the various species that now have a home in the Gardens.

While supertrees are not the ones that horticulturists would describe in a natural setting as they are concrete constructions designed by combining various aspects of trees from multiple different taxa, they are a unique way to bring together technology, alternative energy and natural resources. One can also see how supertrees could be constructed in other cities around the world as tourist destinations and even for urban agriculture.

Justin Harmon
Staff Writer

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