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Gardens by the Bay, Interlace top Universal Design Mark Award

The Universal Design Mark is a voluntary certification that recognises developers and architects who have gone the extra mile in designing for people of all ages and abilities. 

SINGAPORE: Thirty-one projects, mostly residential buildings, are awarded the Universal Design Mark this year - up from 26 in 2013.

The Universal Design Mark is a voluntary certification that recognises developers and architects who have gone the extra mile in designing for people of all ages and abilities including the young, the old and persons with disabilities.

The certification is awarded by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

This year, the highest honour went to Gardens by the Bay and The Interlace condominium, which received the Platinum ratings.

It looks like an ordinary table with seats. 

But after shifting the seats, the table is transformed into a wheelchair-friendly version. 

It is one of the universal design features at The Interlace condominium. 

Some 10 per cent of the units have been equipped with "ageing-in-place" provisions. 

For instance, the entrance to a bathroom in these units is not separated by a step. It is levelled and a metal drain is used keep water out. 

The developers, CapitaLand, say they believe the condominium is one of the first such private residential developments in Singapore that offers some units designed to facilitate ageing-in-place.

CapitaLand Singapore's vice-president for design management (residential), Eng Tiang Wah, said: "There is a big portion of people who are actually getting older, especially in Singapore. 

"(Families) only have only one child or two children. So it is only natural that we start looking at these (ageing-in-place facilities).

"And people's lives are getting longer. They are beginning to live up to 80, 90 years old.

"We are trying to build homes that last as well, so they can stay and age in place." 

CapitaLand Singapore says some of these elderly-friendly features will be incorporated in its upcoming projects such as the D'Leedon condominium, which is expected to be completed later this year.

Other additions will include panic buttons and space provisions for grab bars.

Another project awarded the BCA Platinum Mark is the Gardens by the Bay. 

Opened in 2012, the attraction occupies 101 hectares.

But not a single block of steps can be found on its walkways. 

The walkways at the Flower Dome are sloped so gently - at an angle of 2.3 degrees - that its architects say visitors - young and old - do not need to hold onto hand rails as they tour the attraction.

In comparison, ramps at the entrances of shopping centres and MRT stations are twice as steep.

Before the Flower Dome was opened to the public, a user trial was conducted to engage visitors, including persons with disabilities, to solicit feedback on the features.

To serve users of all ages, the attraction currently has a 1-hectare children's garden.

And there are plans to have an area dedicated to seniors. 

If successful, it will be the first garden in the world to be dedicated to seniors. 

The management says the garden is still in the conceptualisation stage but the public can expect it to incorporate features for "recreation and therapy" and be a "community gathering space for the elderly". 

Gardens by the Bay says it has welcomed over 9 million visitors since opening, with senior citizens making up about 10% of their visitorship. 

BCA's director for building plan & management group, Chin Chi Leong, said: "UD (Universal Design) is increasingly becoming an important cornerstone of design, because of the changing demographics in Singapore. 

"We are an aging society. We are (also) trying to build an inclusive society and to do that, you really need to build an inclusive built environment, which means our spaces and facilities will cater to people of all abilities, 
whether they are on a wheelchair, the elderly, the young, mothers with children or pregnant women, for instance. 

"So we are trying to promote this through the Universal Design Mark where we accord recognition to projects that have gone over and beyond the basic requirement."

Representatives from the 31 projects will receive their awards on 22 May. 

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