Common Service Tunnels & District Cooling- Singapore Marina Bay City

If there’s a country’s urban planning to be fascinated about in SEA region, here’s my take, Singapore, Again. Oh well perhaps I am very near to Singapore, well soon enough I will study more about the northern neighbor, Bangkok. I spotted information about Common Service Tunnel CST 2 years ago when I was visiting URA center. It was briefly said in the City Exhibition Center that CST will help facilities in the long run, but this is some deeper elaboration I would like to make.


CST, however, is not found throughout Singapore, nevertheless, it’s expensive to be built throughout the island too. It is a development of the Marina Bay area in Singapore. As the name suggested, the tunnel houses telecom cables, power lines, water pipes as well as provision for pneumatic refuse collection pipes. The 1.4-kilometre phase one of the tunnel has cost about S$81 million (about US$51 million) while the 1.6-kilometre phase two cost S$137 million (about US$86 million).


The true mega scale implementation that comes together with CST is actually the District Cooling Plant, which will supply chilled water for the air conditioning of buildings in the area through pipes within the tunnel.  The District Cooling Plant, located within the One Raffles Quay development, will supply chilled water through a network of pipes housed within the CST for the air-conditioning of buildings in the area.  I am quite certain this is a long term capable project, as the CST itself is able to extend its length to supply the demands of the new development area. The concept of CST helps a lot in high-density area with heavy M&E Demand especially in the CBD of Singapore, who knows there will be a new “CBD” popping up in the newly reclaimed land on the South ( even though the Gardens By the Bay do not suggest otherwise).


The CST comes in the right time to support the growth of Marina Bay. Personally, I’ve been to that area for more than 3 times and I anticipated that something better and greater development will come over the next 20 years in that area. Marina Bay is set to be a 24/7 destination with endless opportunities for people to “explore new living and lifestyle options, exchange new ideas and information for business, and be entertained by rich leisure and cultural experiences” .Marina District is the new Area of development The government is pumping in close to S$2 billion to build the infrastructural base for MarinaBay, including the CST, the MarinaBarrage, a Rapid Transit System and a new waterfront promenade and bridge.

All kinds of National Level Events have taken place here!By 2020, the 360 hectares Marina Bay will boast a comprehensive transport network as Singapore’s most rail-connected district. The first three new MRT lines will open between 2012 and 2014. By 2018, the Marina Bay district will have six or more MRT stations, all no more than five minutes of each other. A comprehensive pedestrian network including shady sidewalks, covered walkways, underground and second-storey links will ensure all-weather protection and seamless connectivity between developments and mass rapid transit stations. Within Greater Marina Bay, water taxis will even double up as an alternative mode of transportation.


While it cost several folds to build the CST throughout a new district instead of the conventional pipes and cables running beneath the road, or hanging on to the poles, there are a lot of benefits for a first world country government to go on with this idea. The purpose-built CST tunnels house electrical and telecommunication cables, as well as district cooling, NEWater and potable water pipes.  The tunnels also provide for the future installation of a pneumatic refuse conveyance system, which is being planned for MarinaBay.

The government first announced its intention to build a comprehensive CST network for MarinaBay in March 1998, in line with its vision to position MarinaBay as a world-class business and financial hub integrating state-of-the-art infrastructure with a beautiful urban environment.  The benefits that the CST would bring include:

A) Minimal traffic disruption
In the long term, Laying, repairs and maintenance of service pipes and cables are carried out within the tunnel without the need to dig up roads and hold up traffic. Conventionally, public amenities are paved along beneath the road on the assumptions that road grids follow to buildings eventually.

B) More reliable services
In some cases where soil erosion happens or private works drilling may be over depth, hence causing damage to utilities set beneath the road. With utility services protected within a concrete tunnel, utility supplies will no longer be threatened by disruption due to the accidental hacking of existing cables and pipes. Reliability of services is also improved as pipes and cables can be inspected and maintained regularly within the tunnel.

C) Faster laying of services
Having able to decrease the time to dig and repatching roads in order to lay new utilities, laying of new service pipes and cables within the tunnel is easier and can be done in a shorter time compared to the conventional method of laying them under the road.

D) Increased flexibility
Future changes in the demand for utility services by developments can be easily accommodated.

E) A better urban environment
Developments at MarinaBay will not be subject to noise and dust pollution caused by road excavation for the laying of new services for new buildings.

F) More land for development
With the CST, part of the road verges previously set aside for the laying of underground utility services can now be released for development. Normally utilities dig beneath or beside the road will take up buffer space for safety reason. Highly populated countries like Singapore could not afford such.

District Cooling benefits many aspects when it comes to a high concentrated area needed to be chilled. It’s also good to have things being centralized where indicators can be done more accurately and significant measurements can be taken upon for improvements. I once did a post on Putrajaya Planning HERE which has district cooling too.
  1. To optimize the use of land and fully integrate infrastructure with developments at MarinaBay, the government had planned and provided for the District Cooling Plant to be integrated within the first sale site, One Raffles Quay.

  2. With the District Cooling System, individual developments within MarinaBay need not provide separate chiller plants and cooling towers for their buildings.  This will not only free up some space within the developments but also enable their roof areas to be put to better use.  Architects and developers will be able to capitalize on this benefit to design more interesting and attractive roofs, including rooftop gardens for their buildings, achieving a better roofscape for the MarinaBay area.
  3. The District Cooling System is also able to take advantage of economies of scale and greater efficiency, resulting in savings in water and energy consumption for the air-conditioning of buildings within the MarinaBay area as a whole.


Here is with some project data fact sheet for your information. Credits to URA.
Length First Phase: 1.4kmSecond Phase: 1.6km
Construction Cost First Phase: S$81.1 mSecond Phase: S$137 m
Maintenance Owner : Ministry of National Development (MND)Managing Agent : Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)Operations & Maintenance Contractor for the First Phase : CPG Corporation Pte Ltd
Contract Period First Phase: 42 months(Completion: May 2006)Second Phase: 41 months(Commencement: Sept 2005,Targeted completion: Feb 2009)
Consultants Joint Venture between Maunsell Consultants (Singapore) Pte Ltd & NikkenSekkei Civil Engineering
Contractor First PhaseEcon Corporation Pte Ltd and Koh Brothers Building & Civil Engineering Contractor Pte LtdSecond PhaseKoh Brothers Building & Civil Engineering Contractor Pte Ltd
Credits to URA Website and Wikipedia.