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Seed Bank Singapore: Alfa Tech Singapore’s new design-and-build project helps seed conservation

Seed Bank Singapore is the embodiment of Alfa Tech’s expertise focusing on engineering solutions combining design & architectural aesthetic and project delivery.

13  July 2019 - N’PARKS has unveiled Singapore’s first seed bank designed and built by Alfa Tech Singapore. The facility is fully equipped with laboratories, a storage capacity of 25’000 plant species, rooms for seed processing and storage freezers.

Located in the heart of the botanical garden, House 4 at 1D Cluny Road is the largest of the five colonial-style houses within the former Raffles College, now the NUS Law Campus. The building was built in 1928 and gazetted as a conserved building in October 2006.

This project stands apart through its purpose and the fact that it is in a heritage building. An extensive process was undertaken to ensure the facility was structurally sound and sufficient to bear the new use. Once the extensive exploratory and non-destructive testing was complete and analysed by Alfa Tech’s engineers, they determined that the colonial house was able to house the new function.

Being a design build project, Alfa Tech was also responsible for the entire creative process. Working hand in hand with their customer at Singapore Botanic Gardens, they crafted a facility that is state of the art yet respects the architectural legacy. The design includes several types of labs dedicated to seed cleaning, seed preservation, germination, cryogenic storage and research. In addition, the facility includes a cold and dry room with strict temperature and humidity regimes to enable long term storage of possibly some of the world’s most valuable plant species and genetic material.

Not only complex in its program, the 100-year-old building also required extensive upgrades for fire, life and safety issues as well as circulation. The new facility required a new lift which was tastefully installed to respect the heritage of the building and elegantly marry modern design with historic character.
The project is highly technical in many ways and highly novel in that we built a state- of-the-art scientific facility in a historic national heritage building. The original purpose of this 100-year-old home was to house the principal of Raffle’s College, the first university in Singapore. The building is unique on the historic campus being one of the first buildings in Singapore to use steel reinforced concrete.

The original architects from Swan and Maclaren would have never imagined that the original residential home would someday be here a century later housing a scientific research and preservation facility.
Battling through tough weather and coordinating with other external works in the garden itself, the facility was constructed to meet the grand opening deadline of July 13th, 2019. The technology deployed includes some leading-edge technologies such as internet of things, gas fire suppression, laboratory equipment, and cooling technology that was achieved despite the challenging Singaporean weather context.

There is also an extensive interpretive element to the project which was co-designed with WY-TO, which ensures its pedagogic role as a public institution. All visitors can learn and be informed about global environmental problems and the importance of preserving biodiversity for future generations while enjoying the beauty of a heritage building.

Alfa Tech not only built the facility but is also a gold sponsor of the Singapore Botanic Gardens Seedbank. The mission to research and preserve the beauty and diversity of the Singapore flora is a noble cause and we were honored to have played our part in this inspiring project of national and global importance.

Alfa Tech would like to sincerely thank the staff at Millennium Seedbank in the UK, the design professionals at WY-TO for their thoughtful design of the interpretive elements, and all the wonderful dedicated and thoughtful staff at National Parks Board for their partnership, guidance and trust to create what we at Alfa Tech feel is a crowning achievement of our firm to date.

A seed is the first spark of life.

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