Forest City, situated on four man-made islands in Iskande, Malaysia is the largest mixed-used urban environment in Southeast Asia. Designed by Sasaki Associates, the master plan for Forest City seeks to establish a symbiotic relationship between the natural environment and development. For this reason, Forest City is strategically placed around the Seagrass Preserve; a marine sanctuary which is also one of the region’s essential ecological feature.
Forest City’s layout
Around the Seagrass Preserve, there is an extensive network of complementary waterfront landscapes that gives people the chance to learn more about the region’s ecosystem and measures they can take its protection.
The city also features 31.4 kilometers of coastline with edges that mimic the natural features of Malaysia’s coastal ecosystems like shallow bays and tidal pools that support the local fisheries and provide habitat to marine life.
However, the most essential feature of Forest City is the restored mangroves spread across more than ten kilometers that not only improve the water quality but are also home to many species.
Careful, resilient planning
With the rare opportunity to build on reclaimed land comes great responsibility to ensure that development will be balanced with a robust and sustainable ecosystem. With this in mind, resiliency planning at Forest City was a central principle integrated into all aspects of the project.
Forest City is planned such that it is divided into zones. There is a preservation zone that protects the endangered seagrass beds spread across 250 hectares. In this zone, motorized boats are restricted, and human access is limited. Meanwhile, there are also opportunities for continuous monitoring, research, and conservation of the landscape.
The mangroves habitat zones, on the other hand, help to resupply part of the ecosystem that has been lost due to the urban expansion in Southern Malaysia and Singapore in the last 70 years. In fact, according to UNESCO, over the last five decades, more than 30% of Malaysia’s mangroves have been lost because of deforestation.
Restoring the ecosystem
In an effort to restore the ecosystem, Forest City re-establishes 9.2 kilometers of new mangrove habitats as well as 10.3 kilometers of mudflats and shallow coves. Estimates by United Nations Blueprint for Ocean & Coastal Sustainability state that these coastal systems can absorb carbon at a rate which is up to 50 times the rate of carbon absorbed by the same area of tropical forest.
Partners in the project, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UMP), are responsible for monitoring the various habitat conditions. Researchers are also responsible for monthly on-site audits and quarterly ecology studies. Other efforts have also been put into place including a seagrass nursery that will provide supplemental plants that will contribute in strengthening the ecosystem, and real-time assessments of the water temperature to create optimal conditions so that the seagrass preserve can thrive
According to UNESCO estimates, over 30% of Malaysia’s mangroves have been lost to deforestation over the past five decades. Forest City re-establishes 9.2 linear kilometers of new mangrove habitat, 10.3 linear kilometers of shallow coves and mudflats, and protects 250 hectares of critical seagrass habitat. Based on estimates from the United Nations Blueprint for Ocean and Coastal Sustainability, these coastal systems have the ability to absorb or sequester carbon at rates up to 50 times those of the same area of tropical forest. These various habitat conditions are being monitored in partnership with the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), with researchers responsible for providing a quarterly ecology study and a monthly on-site audit. Additional efforts include real-time assessments of water temperature to ensure optimal conditions for the seagrass preserve to thrive, and a seagrass nursery providing supplemental plants to strengthen the ecosystem.
Seagrass & mangroves – essential!
Forest City, by preserving the mangroves and seagrass, aims to reinforce their importance as essential components of the country’s coastal ecosystem. To achieve this, Forest City educates the public on the importance of both of them to the region’s tourism industry, fisheries, and their role in combating climate change.
Both of these are shallow, nutrient-rich areas that provide shelter to mollusks, crabs, fish, and shrimp. They also provide shelter to various endangered species like seahorses, sea turtles, and dugongs. They also function as nesting grounds for species of migratory birds that are native to Southern Malaysia.
In fact, mangroves support numerous food chains and protect the coastlines from erosion, storm damage, and wave effects. As a result, it also prevents the damage to seagrass beds and coral reefs that are critical for the long-term health of the country’s coastal ecosystem.
Thus, in an effort to educate people, Forest City’s environmental outreach programs also include training so that local residents can become nature guides on experts on Malaysia’s ecology.
More about the infrastructure
The success of Future City also depends on a highly reliable and efficient transportation system that can promote a walkable and compact urban environment. There are civic, and density uses organized around the transit centers such that more than 80% of the development is just a 10-minute walk from public transportation.
Forest City also has a multi-layered approach that focuses on pedestrian connections. So while infrastructure for vehicular traffic is located at the ground level, you will find a contiguous landscape that creates public space right adjacent to the transit stations at the top level.
The end result is a 4 million square meter adjoining landscape that connects all development parcels, re-establishes habitat zones, accommodates stormwater, and filters runoff. At the same time, it also offers recreational opportunities in an entirely automobile-free experience.
Sky gardens and green walls are also integrated into the city’s architecture, and the landscape of rooftops of individual buildings also create vertical open spaces allowing nature and humans to coexist.
Awards & accreditations
Forest City, the world’s first three-dimensional modern residential project, is globally recognized and has won several awards despite only three years in operations.The project in Johor’s most southern tip recently won the Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements Award (SCAHSA) for the second time, and the Global Model of Green Building Industrial Park award for its fabricated construction park.