Skip to content

Did you know?

January 26, 2010


Did you know that our National Library building is eco-friendly and follows bioclimatic principles? I sit here in the National Library building, on the 9th floor within the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, thinking about whether Singaporeans in general know about this architectural icon nested in our arts, culture and civic district. The view from here is stunning. I have full access to a 180 degree view from the Concourse to Shaw to Suntec to the IRs and up till the end of the Esplanade. This was the vision of Dr Ken Yeang.

Dr Ken Yeang

The National Library building has won many environmental awards including the Green mark Platinum Award in 2005. It is considered to be one of the most sophisticated “green” buildings in Asia and one that has “innovatively employed bioclimatic techniques to prototype the environmentally responsive tropical building design” (NLB, 2008: 147). The library also employs three design strategies as to create an efficient, intelligent and fully integrated building to provide quality service and enhance users’ library experience. These include the Passive Mode, the Active Mode and Mixed Mode systems.

The Passive Mode design strategies include planning and site layout, building orientation, building configuration (service cores, balconies, building massing, natural ventilation, façade design, daylighting, building color, bioclimatic use of landscaping, simulations, design criteria, building performance and buildability) (NLB, 2008: 148-155). These strategies work well together in creating a comfortable and livable library environment for the enjoyment pleasure of users. The Active Mode design focuses on energy-efficient design and utilizes it in an integrated way. The lighting system is energy-efficient in four ways: daylight saving, motion sensor controlled lighting, high frequency ballast and energy-saving lamps. The air-conditioning system is also efficient and promotes a healthy environment in providing variable fan speeds, air volume (VAV), carbon monoxide (CO) sensors, automatic blinds, night setback strategy, and displacement ventilation system (NLB, 2008: 156-163). The 32 escalators of the National Library building are also start-stop with sensors and these not just save energy but are a safety feature too.

Garden at the Basement's Central Lending Library

The library also boasts fourteen luxuriant tropical gardens that are located throughout, from the basement to the rooftop, on Basement 1 and Levels 1, 5, 7, 9, 10, 14 and 15 (NLB, 2008: 169). The landscaping comes in the form of gardens, terraces, and sky gardens which articulates Dr Ken Yeang’s concept of ecological design and articulates his bioclimatic architecture. These spaces not only serve as gardens for the enjoyment of the users but also as retreat spaces. Burnett (1997) contends that nature has restorative qualities and can act as healing agents in the built landscape. Although Burnett’s research was done mainly in hospital settings, his research findings can also be applied to the National Library. Plants provide multi-sensory experiences that can promote calm, comfort and offer relief from the stressful atmosphere of the library as a knowledge and research site. The sounds of birds, leaves and water can also sooth and refresh tired students, academic or the public. In addition, olfactory senses may be stimulated with the garden’s fragrances and invoke emotions and feelings that can have a therapeutic effect on users. The library’s Lee Kong Chian Reference Library is an exemplary case of a healthy, wholesome space. It is characterized by an “open-type plan with high ceilings and glass exterior walls” (NLB, 2008: 129). This space conveys the sense of lightness, transparency and freedom. The high ceiling space also serves as a future-proof and to accommodate future expansion of the library’s collections. The space also provides adequate seating space and study areas for users.

Lee Kong Chian Reference Library

Another thing to note is that the internal environment of the library is also well calibrated. The temperature is maintained at an average temperature of 23.5ºC and relative humidity level of 55 for user comfort and protection of the collections. This is a contradiction to Dr Ken Yeang’s bioclimatic and eco-design ideals as 23.5ºC is not an efficient temperature level. In addition, it takes extra energy to regulate the humidity levels in specific places such as the Rare Materials Collection on level 14 and the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library on level 10. Also, the daylight inflow is only available to the areas above ground level.

All in all, the National Library Building boasts spectacular bioclimatic architecture and is an icon of knowledge nested in the heart of the arts, culture and civic district. But the practice of sustainability within the building in terms of air-con temperature and amount of lighting even during the day is questionable. But it is great effort on the part of NLB and I believe that Dr Ken Yeang has done a fantastic job in the creation of this spectacular building.

So take a look around the library the next time you visit! Check out one of the 14 sky gardens and ask about the library’s bioclimatic architecture! Or sign up for their Garden Tours every 1st and 3rd Saturday from 4-530pm! 🙂



Burnett, J. D. (1997) “Therapeutic effects of landscape architecture” in Marberry, S. D. (ed.) Healthcare Design New York, Chichester, Brisbane, Toronto, Singapore pp. 255-274

National Library Board

National Library Board (2008) Redefining the library: The National Library of Singapore GK Consultancy Private Limited pp. 145-199

100 Victoria St

7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2010 2:41 pm

    Linked as ‘cool it!’. Hope that’s ok with you. We always thought that postCOP15 didn’t fully describe this site.

  2. sharon permalink
    January 26, 2010 4:25 pm

    Great research, good work!! 🙂

  3. Mellow permalink*
    January 27, 2010 5:22 am


    Sure no problem! 🙂


    Thanks! Was actually done for an assignment previously but decided to use it for the blog!


  4. January 27, 2010 11:45 am

    We think the name is most apt ‘Mellow’ as its a metaphorical remedy for ‘global warming’. Cheers:) Keep up the good work.

    MM Sz

  5. Mellow permalink*
    January 28, 2010 3:51 am

    HAHA cool!!


  1. Tweets that mention Did you know? « ECO @ COP --
  2. A Green Library for Children… right here in Singapore! | ECO @ COP

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: