Urban Redevelopment Authority
MND Cluster | URA

Crafting Cityscapes of Tomorrow

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is dedicated to fulfilling its mission of making Singapore a great city to live, work and play in. Scholars Dilys Teoh and Ng Jia Yi actively contribute to this vision, spearheading strategic initiatives that shape the city’s physical environment and enhance its functionality and liveability.
Urban Redevelopment Authority

Left: Dilys Teoh is an Executive Planner with the Urban Redevelopment Authority. She was awarded the URA Overseas Scholarship and received a Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning, Design and Management from University College London in the United Kingdom and a Master of Science in Sustainability Management from Columbia University in the United States.

Right: Ng Jia Yi is a recipient of the URA Overseas Scholarship and is a Civil Engineer at the Urban Redevelopment Authority. He holds a Master of Engineering (Civil Engineering) from the Imperial College London in the United Kingdom.

Within the tapestry of a city, we often conjure images of towering buildings, bustling roads, and intricate infrastructures. Yes, it’s the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) that breathes life into Singapore’s cityscape, shaping not just our built environment but our way of life.

As the land use planning and conservation authority, URA plays a pivotal role in facilitating Singapore’s physical development. It strives to create a vibrant city through long-term planning and innovation, in partnership with the community.

URA Overseas Scholarship recipients Dilys Teoh and Ng Jia Yi are passionate about driving strategic initiatives to make Singapore a liveable place.

As an Executive Planner in the Strategic Planning Group, Dilys spearheads long-term and strategic land use planning and guides teams to drive planning policies and manage land needs. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning, Design and Management from University College London (UCL) and a Master of Science in Sustainability Management from Columbia University.

On other hand, Jia Yi, equipped with a Master of Engineering in Civil Engineering from the Imperial College London, serves as a Civil Engineer at URA. His pursuits encompass land use optimisation through rock caverns, orchestrating infrastructure for government land sales, and minimising utility diversions to enhance physical environments.

We speak with them to learn what inspires their dedication and passion for crafting a quality living environment for Singaporeans.

What sparked your interest in urban planning?

Dilys: My interest in urban planning began when my neighbourhood celebrated the opening of a new staircase when I was just 10 years old. Back then, I couldn’t grasp why the neighbourhood was so excited about what seemed to be a very normal staircase. When I started to take public transport, I realised that it was saving the neighbourhood around 10 minutes’ commuting time to get to the nearest bus stop. I experienced firsthand how even the smallest change in the built environment makes such a tangible impact on our everyday lives. As I grew up and began to explore our city even more, I learned to appreciate how much of what we see and have in the city is a result of the foresight and planning of past urban planners.

Jia Yi: My interest in urban planning and the built environment began as a child. While gazing out of my window to an open patch of land that now houses Sengkang and Punggol, I pondered how such new towns were built. This ignited my interest in city planning and making tangible changes.

Tell us more about the scholarship. How has it impacted your life so far?

Dilys: The URA scholarship and attachment were pivotal aspects of my university life, and really allowed me to have more direction in my studies, as I could decisively select modules that were more meaningful or useful for a career as an urban planner in URA. The URA attachment also gave me a taste of the practical considerations an urban planner would have when approaching a project.

One of the key lessons I took away was the importance of scale in assessing how a new development interacts with its surroundings. During the attachment, URA colleagues shared knowledge that was incredibly useful for all the urban design projects we had in UCL and remains useful to this day!

Jia Yi: While I was interested in other scholarships for the built environment, I felt that URA’s work was most aligned with my passion for directly shaping the built environment. I wanted a career where the work done is tangibly reflected in the daily lives of everyone.

URA assigned me a mentor and buddy throughout my scholarship journey who gave me advice not just academically, but also on what to look out for when settling abroad. My colleagues were always kind in giving me advice and resources, even beyond my internships while I was still studying.

That’s helpful! Dilys, can you elaborate more on the work you do for URA?

I am an urban planner in the Strategic Planning Group, and my work entails overseeing the trends and planning for the potential land and infrastructure needs around climate resilience, sustainability, resource circularity, and the digital economy.

My team and I collaborate closely with agencies and researchers, such as the Cooling Singapore 2.0 team, to better understand and manage the impact of urban heat in Singapore. For instance, we are leveraging environmental modelling in the planning of new districts, such as Jurong Lake District, to optimise shading provision and wind flow.

To meet Singapore’s net-zero emissions target by 2050, we are also working closely with agencies to plan for the infrastructure transition that is critical for the energy transition towards cleaner and alternative energy sources.

What’s a typical day on the job like, Jia Yi?

My work is not routine, and I work on different projects in my group. While I am trained in civil engineering, engineers in URA take on a broader perspective. I also get to be involved in Mechanical and Electrical (M&E) Engineering projects such as managing the District Cooling Systems.

An aspect of my work also involves reviewing policies and practices of the underground space; and increasing Singapore’s land bank by utilising cavern spaces deep underground. There is a limit to how much we can go upwards and sideways through reclamation, and underground space is a frontier that URA is exploring to increase our land bank. Different from typical aboveground planning, the use of 3D modelling is required to effectively plan, guide and control underground developments. Thus, I was involved in exploring new technology to model and visualise underground spaces in 3D.

Tell us, what is it like working in a collaborative environment like URA?

Dilys: In URA, you have the privilege of working with colleagues in teams with different expertise across the built environment sector, including architecture, urban planning, urban design, engineering, computer science, and real estate.

For instance, URA explores having infrastructure go underground to optimise our space resources and free up valuable surface land for more liveable uses. While my team and I scan and plan for new types of utility infrastructure in the future, we work very closely with engineers like Jia Yi from the Underground Works Department and the Infrastructure Planning Authority Group to explore how such potential future uses can go underground.

While it can be challenging at times to collaborate as each team prioritises different considerations, given how closely and frequently different teams work together, I am learning how to be both a domain expert and an effective collaborator, who can engage and facilitate open discussions, and intermediate misalignments towards making considered decisions.

Jia Yi: In URA, we are always surrounded by the most supportive, sincere, and hardworking people. With Dilys, we were able to marry our assessment of underground studies from both the planning and technical perspectives.

My superiors have always encouraged me to express my views but have also provided me with constructive feedback on my areas of improvement. Since most of us are involved in cross-department projects, our colleagues are always willing to answer queries and help one another as we are all striving towards achieving the same project outcome.

Dilys, what do you find most meaningful about the work you do?

For urban planners, one of the most fulfilling aspects of our job is being able to make a tangible improvement in the lives of residents. Working in long-term planning, the seeds of my work may only be reaped decades into the future. However, just like the work of my predecessors, my work lays the foundations today for a more sustainable, liveable, and climate-resilient future for our children and grandchildren.

That’s amazing! Finally, Jia Yi, do you have any advice for incoming scholars?

URA’s work is dynamic and pervasive and many of us will be exposed to different aspects of work. My mentors were also seconded to different public agencies and the private sector. More importantly, there is always the opportunity for growth given the multiple facades of work in URA. If you are someone who cherishes teamwork and has a passion for city planning and the built environment, join our team of like-minded individuals in shaping a better future for Singapore.