Monday, 20 August 2012

Crowdsourced Veggies And Laundry Poles

Lee Yi Shyan - Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living
I like the idea of crowdsourcing; to use the parlance of the Tech world.  The collective wisdom of the masses is harnessed to reach a satisfactory solution through the suggestion of creative ideas that will be of benefit to all.

"Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living" should be seen in this context.  If you ask the residents of these estates what it is they need and want to make their living more pleasurable you will get some good ideas thrown into the cerebral arena.

Far better to adopt this approach than attempt to impose a solution or set of solutions from afar.  Singapore HDB's (Housing Development Board estates) are a model for many other countries, as they too grapple with the problem of housing  a large population within a small landmass.

The HDB concept from the beginning is one of ownership rather than renting accommodation from the government.  This engenders a greater pride and encourages self-sufficiency rather than relying on government handouts, as often happens in countries such as New Zealand with its State Houses.

But the HDB's, especially the earlier ones, are not perfect as they were primarily designed for the able-bodied. For those suffering a disability, mobility in the older blocks has been a problem.  With a rapidly aging population these challenges are multiplied.

I was particularly impressed with one of the innovations suggested in the Cool Ideas competition. The "iStepup" is a retractable three-step stairs which flatten into a ramp to make it easier for those in a wheelchair to move around, according to the reports.  It was designed by three polytechnic students which clearly shows their design education is already paying dividends to society.

Domestic servants falling out of windows has been problematic over the years.  Washing hanging our from the windows of HDB's on long bamboo poles is a a very practical solution, as they capture the sultry breezes of Singapore.  However leaning too far out to retrieve the load has proved fatal for many.

Therefore another competition winner; a retractable laundry pole invention which promises to make hanging clothes out to dry easier should prove a winner.  It is already being user-tested in four households.

I should point out that washing on bamboo poles is a feature throughout Asia, not just Singapore. Flying into the old Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong entailed running the gauntlet of public housing with its flapping washing, on the final approach to landing.

Another idea submitted involves the use of multiple plant containers to water and grown one's own vegetables on the tiny HDB balcony.  Not sure of the dengue fever implications with this one as we were always actively discouraged from keeping pots with sitting water for fear of encouraging the mosquitoes.

Once these prototypes have passed the testing process then the government will facilitate the next step to commercialisation of the product or idea.  Of the eighty eight ideas submitted, fifteen have been selected for the prototype phase.  You can see some of the ideas and the participants on this Facebook site complied by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry & National Development, Lee Yi Shyan.

Speaking of urban development and HDB's, here is the photographic portfolio of Sam Kang Li, one of the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 nominees. His work neatly captures the atmosphere of the residents in his HDB block and the friendliness of Singaporeans in their multiracial environment.

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