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HDB architect uses digital tools to continue urban planning efforts despite the pandemic

HDB senior architect Tan Hwee Ting says the HDB Undergraduate Scholarship primed her for the challenges of the 21st century, such as dealing with climate change, urbanisation and conservation. PHOTO: MAX CHAN


Like most working professionals, Ms Tan Hwee Ting had to adjust to working from home at the onset of the pandemic. However, unlike many others, her challenges as a senior architect at the Housing Development Board’s Research and Planning Group were compounded by the demands of her work, which involved the engagement of HDB residents.

She is part of the team in charge of the master planning of new housing areas and the rejuvenation of existing towns and estates in Singapore. A key project is the Remaking Our Heartland (ROH) programme, where she works hand in hand with community stakeholders to co-create new features in housing estates that will benefit the community.

With HDB’s fourth ROH initiative for Choa Chua Kang in the works, she had to find new methods of working to ensure that the resident engagement sessions would not be compromised, given the restrictions on physical meet-ups. Instead of conducting physical focus group discussions, she opted to do virtual ones instead. This meant using online tools such as virtual maps and digital icons to draw and gather ideas on.

She says: “Through these avenues, we engaged residents to draw up rejuvenation plans for their towns. It was a very fulfilling experience, meeting and talking to residents, listening as they recounted their stories of growing up in Choa Chu Kang and how they went about meeting their daily needs through the various planned facilities and amenities in the town.”

Equipped for the job 

To undertake such complex projects involving multiple stakeholders is no mean feat. Ms Tan, who holds the HDB Undergraduate Scholarship, under the Ministry of National Development (MND) EDGE Scholarship programme, credits her scholarship programme with equipping her with the know-how and connections to coordinate and manage inter-agency requests for the betterment of the community.  

Beyond helping Ms Tan to perform well at work, she adds that the scholarship programme also primed her for the challenges of the 21st century, such as dealing with climate change, urbanisation and conservation.

“Having a deeper understanding of such challenges has helped shape our approach to the way we develop and build our towns,” she says. “The modules I took also helped me to broaden my perspectives, and to remain open to ideas and adaptable to change.”

Ms Tan says that she is ready to face whatever 2021 may bring. “In the new year, I hope to keep growing as a professional, and continue to have an open mind to explore new ideas,” she says.

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