My Real Estate Learning Notes on Marina Bay Sands Singapore

marina bay sands

Marina Bay Sands Sunrise
Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands Sunrise Silhouette

In my last post and video, I started walking around the City of Singapore, more specifically in the strolling lanes that starts in One Fullerton and passes the Merlion, Esplanade, Hellix Bridge, ArtsScience Museum, Crystal Pavilions and up to the rest of the Marina Bay Sands. I took notes on what I saw not just with my eyes, …but also with what my imaginative mind saw.

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This time I’ll share my notes based on my research. How did I fare in trying to guess the architect’s inspiration in the designs? If you haven’t seen the previous video yet, do read the previous post and view the video on Singapore’s Real Estate.

For my references, if you wish to know more details and do further study on the subject, I listed them down below.

Part 1 – Greatness and Grandness

MBS or Marina Bay Sands is a complex, costly and thereby, a very challenging project. The developers spent $8B, more than their intended budget. It faced DIFFICULTIES and DELAYS due to site conditions, technical considerations and one of the worst financial crises of our age.

Before we delve into the problems, issues, and negativities the builders faced, let’s first look at the project’s greatness and magnificence via
MARINA BAY SANDS’ “BY THE NUMBERS”

“BY THE NUMBERS”.

3 – no. of towers
57 – no. of tower floors
2,500 – no. of hotel rooms and suites
110,000 – area of the Convention Center, in sqm.
45,000 – no. of people the Convention Center can fit in
9,000 — area of the ArtScience Museum, in sqm.
90,300 — floor area of The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands in sqm.
300 – no. of stores, café’s, bars and restaurants inside
1,600 and 500 — the number of slot machines and game tables
$1 billion — expected annual profit from the Casino
10,000 – no. of people MBS employs directly
20,000 – no. of people MBS employs indirectly
3,900 – no. of people the Skypark can accommodate
150 – length of the infinity swimming pool, in meters
340 – length of the SkyPark, in meters
14 – no. of separate prefabricated steel sections that make up the Skypark

As you saw there, the SKYPARK is long—longer than the Titanic and the Eiffel Tower if it fell to its side. It contains landscaped gardens with 250 trees, dining facilities, an entertainment venue and one of the world’s best swimming pools.

Fullerton Hotel Singapore
Fullerton Hotel and the Singapore Skyline

The 150 meter infinity pool is 200 meters above the ground!
Imagine the view from up there. By the way, an Olympic size pool is just 50 meters—so 3 of that. It’s the highest and largest elevated pool in the world.

It contains 1.4 million liters of water!

It has the world’s longest cantilevered platform at 167 meters. The word “cantilevered” means the supports are not at both ends by columns, but only on one side. How long is that? A city bus is 14 meters long. The cantilever is 12 buses long. Thank God for structural engineers!

Question: How did they build the Skypark?

It was built in an extraordinarily shorter period. They used 14 prefabricated sections, which were lifted up using hydraulic strand jacks. These were 7,000 tons of steel lifted up.

How about the 3 towers—what’s so special about them? They are not straight up as normal buildings are. They are curved!

From afar, the towers appear straight up. But get closer, and you’ll notice that they’re actually bent. By the way, Arch. Moshe Safdie’s inspiration here are stacked playing cards.

One tower is inclined 26 degrees. Why 26 degrees? 2 +6 = 8, and 8 is a lucky number according to ‘feng shui’!

The MBS development is also a marvel for the ECONOMY, Marina Bay Sands is projected to add $2.7 billion or 0.8% to Singapore’s GDP.

Part 2: Greenness of MBS

Another admirable character of MBS is its being “green” or being earth-friendly, following a lot of green architecture principles. Here are just some of what they did:

Power

  • MBS uses 40 percent less energy by using what are called “regenerative drives” in the elevators.
  • MBS has installed over 12,000 fluorescent and LED lights, which are more energy-efficient.
  • The air- conditioning of MBS use water-cooled chillers, which are about 80% more efficient
  • Additionally, the heat emitted by the chillers is used to heat the water for the kitchens and hotel showers.
  • MBS installed computerized control systems, which automatically dims or brightens lighting depending on the time of the day and weather conditions
  • The curtains are also automated to fully cover the windows when the guests leave the rooms

Water

  • MBS uses water efficient plumbing fittings that save more than 6,700 m3 a year, and installed delayed-action, self-closing taps and constant flow regulators in the bathrooms within the public areas to minimize water usage, limiting water use by more than 350 million liters of potable water yearly.
    • The amount is enough to supply the water needs of more than 800 Singaporean households per year
  • Rainwater is harvested or collected from the roof and is recycled for use in flushing in the toilets
  • They water the plants via a drip irrigation system so they avoid wasteful spraying or evaporation

Matter

  • MBS recycles over 160 tons of aluminum, plastic, cardboard, paper and glass every month.
  • They used non-toxic paints to reduce the toxic fumes released to the atmosphere
  • MBS has built “Green Roofs.” The Skypark alone has 250 trees and 650 plants, with some rising up to eight meters
    -The building’s glass exterior takes advantage of the natural daylight to brighten the indoors
Marina Bay Sands Hellix Brisge and Museum in Singapore
Marina Bay Sands, Hellix Brisge and the Art & Science Museum in Singapore

Part 3: Genius and Grit

We’ve seen back there how green and grand Marina Bay Sands is. It was conceptualized by visionary entrepreneurs, planned by the most competent of architects and engineers, and constructed by thousands of able builders.
Mr. Sheldon Adelaton of the Las Vegas Sands Corp said they want “nothing less than ASTOUNDING” and Arch. Safdie wants “something TIMELESS.”

Their VISION and their DREAM is now reality, but it has been well documented how difficult it was to get these accomplished.
It required no less than GENIUS and GRIT— all the problem-solving prowess and willpower one can muster.

They, literally, had to battle or harness the elements:
EARTH, AIR, WATER, METAL and … FIRE, or rather GETTING FIRED

First, EARTH.

Marina Bay Sand was built in reclaimed land, meaning it was formerly part of the sea, just filled up with imported soil material. On the very site there is presence of marine clay, which is known to be dangerous and very difficult to work with. It all STARTS with the FOUNDATION; and all, too shall END because of the FOUNDATION— if it has not been well designed and built.

Second, WATER:

they had to build on water, several floor levels deep. How can work progress? Have scuba divers working? Yup, they did that! Build a DIKE around yourself? Yup, they did that too! There is soil and water pressures to contend with, thus these structures—DIAPHRAGM WALLS and COFFER DAMS —-need to be strong and watertight.

Third, AIR or in this case WIND:

Strong winds and other forces in the higher elevations plus the 3 towers moving in different extents, no matter how small pose a problem. (animate the 3 towers swaying due to the wind) The SKYPARK expanse might break into sections. To avoid this, some movement or flexibility should be allowed. Engineers found innovative solutions by way of “terraced bridges” that connected the separated sections of the pool, making them appear as one. Such joints allow for 500mm or half a meter of movement.

Fourth, is METAL:

The shape of the towers, sloping down and curved towards the other, applies much force that needs some structural solution. Certain sections of the building like the mall area needs expansive roofs with minimal columns. Steel trusses, steel struts, steel tension wires, and prefabricated steel sections helped solve many of these problems. The designing structural engineers worked together with on-site construction engineers to solve all these problems. Arch. Safdie’s designs are known to push structural engineering to the limit.

And fifth… is the fear of all getting FIRED:

Part 4: Conclusion: Gems and Games

…that is if the project stalls because of the financial crisis. The project proponent had to go back to number crunching and re-evaluate their investment options. With rising costs and dwindling funds for investments, they had to chose among their options, which to prioritize. In real estate development finance one has to look at several metrics—profitability, payback period, size of investment, rate of return, inflation, cost of money, etc. Such shall need several videos to cover; but for this MBS case, they regrouped, refocused, and made this project their priority, I presume after careful analysis of the pros and cons.

Gem

The Marina Bay Sands is now a certified real estate development GEM. Firstly, … because it is now an architectural icon, “timeless and astounding,” and unique and identifiably Singaporean. Just a few years after its completion the world has the MBS in mind when you say Singapore or vice versa—that is much like what Sydney Opera House is to Australia or what the Petronas Tower is to Malaysia. It is a GEM in another sense because it was brought to existence under much pressure and fire.

Game

Real Estate Development is a game in a sense that one can be a winner or a loser. The one who is most prepared, familiar with the rules; and the one who thinks more than one move ahead; and one who flexibly adjusts to the adversaries and adversities has the best chance of winning. Real Estate Development is NOT a Game of Chance. It is as much science and math as it is art. A lot of tests and studies had to be conducted prior to planning. Measurements, monitoring, analyses and a lot of technical problem solving are done through all stages of construction until the turn over. Risks are analyzed, and if they are too great, the game is not played at all.

For serious development students who want to learn more about the details, you may refer to the references I list down below. I also recommend for you to watch the National Geographic’s documentary on the same subject. I try to keep technical jargon to a minimum and illustrate and animate for most everyone’s easier understanding.

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