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Insights and Stories

A Sustainable Botanical Glasshouse at the Heart of Nature

April 12, 2022

Imagine walking through an ethereal glasshouse garden where you can experience the magic of tropical mountain trails in a montane forest. Here at the Sembcorp Cool House, you can do just that, and even admire the wide range of orchids up close!

As part of Singapore’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2015, Sembcorp donated S$10 million to rejuvenate the temperature-controlled glasshouse at the National Orchid Garden within the Singapore Botanic Gardens. This underpins our ongoing commitment to the promotion and conservation of the broader environment, supporting Singapore’s Green Plan to make the city green and sustainable.

Sembcorp Cool House, an attraction located at the Tropical Montane Orchidetum within Singapore Botanic Gardens

Emulating a tropical montane forest

Together with its cool air, drifting mist and waterfall, the Sembcorp Cool House provides a realistic simulation of high elevation sites in the tropics, where temperatures are around 16 to 23°C at altitudes of 1,000m to 2,000m. These montane forests, characterised by cool climates and high rainfall, are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Visitors can learn more about their ecological diversity while experiencing naturalistic landscapes at the Sembcorp Cool House.

Enhancing sustainability features

Through our contribution, we expanded the glasshouse to four times its original size and upgraded it with advanced cooling and climate control systems for energy efficiency and sustainability. Additionally, we installed solar photovoltaic panels that offset electrical use, as well as spectrally selective glass that reduce the amount of cooling required while optimising the amount of sunlight being let in.

The entire structure was equipped with spectrally selective glass panels, which let light in while cutting out heat

This improved climate control system reduces energy usage by almost 30% while keeping humidity optimal for the plants. The structure’s efficient cooling system also allows for cool air to be supplied through the lowest levels (via vents in the rock walls) while hot air easily rises above the plants and visitors.

Learn more about the sustainability features at the Sembcorp Cool House (Click to open the infographic in a new tab)

Growing an extensive collection of rare orchids

Housing more than 1,000 orchid species and hybrids, the Sembcorp Cool House has a plant collection curated according to five biogeographical regions – Malesia, continental Southeast Asia and South Asia, Australasia, Afrotropics and the Neotropics. This enables local researchers to study rare orchids that are naturally found only at higher elevations; these rare species can be grown before identifying and documenting them during the flowering stage, helping with orchid conservation and hybridisation. There are also collections of carnivorous plants such as begonias, characterised by shimmering leaves that help them thrive in low-light areas.

An extensive collection of orchids in the Sembcorp Cool House

Explore the unique variety of orchids up close!

Sharing our love for the environment

Our commitment to promoting conservation and sustainability through the Sembcorp Cool House extends beyond a one-time donation. In preparation for the opening last year, our employees helped to plant foliage on the rock formations around the glasshouse. Since then, there have been many volunteers who sign up as guide ambassadors to bring visitors around the attraction. Through training sessions with Singapore’s National Parks Board, they are equipped to share about plant biodiversity and sustainability features in Sembcorp Cool House to visitors.

Our volunteers at one of the tour guide training sessions

“Being a tour guide for the Sembcorp Cool House has been one of the most enriching and meaningful volunteer experiences. One of my highlights was being able to showcase this sustainability landmark to our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the grand opening in April 2021. Besides introducing the sustainability features and tropical montane plants, I will also share some fun facts to enhance the visitors’ experience,” Jenny Tey, a volunteer from our Utilities Asset Management division, shared.

Jenny (middle) bringing a group of visitors around the Sembcorp Cool House - she has been an avid volunteer for more than a year!

We are proud to play a part in educating and inspiring the broader community to cultivate a deeper respect for the environment.

To learn more about the Sembcorp Cool House, watch this video!