Will Singapore’s First Buddhist Monastery Spur Green Building Boom?

Mass timber adoption is growing across Singapore and Asia Pacific

Thu 14 Dec 23


The Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, which was highly commended last week by the Architecture Masterprize, is an excellent example of how mass timber is now being used to drive greener construction in Singapore and across the Asia-Pacific.

As Singapore’s first and largest Buddhist temple, it holds major significance to the 3.07 million ethnic Chinese who live in the city-state.

The building, which, when constructed, was for the time one of the largest timber structures in Southeast Asia, merges traditional Chinese architecture with modern sustainable building techniques. 

This includes a massive 1500-square-metre pavilion and facade made from glue-laminated timber supplied by Venturer Timberwork, also behind the Fari Islands development in the Maldives.

According to Kevin Hill, CEO of Venturer Timberwork, the highly detailed project used more than 300 cubic metres of timber and was installed on-site “super fast.”

Earlier this year, Wood Central Southeast Asia contributor Ken Hickson interviewed the project team involved in the project – footage courtesy of @ministryoftropicalconstruc6090.

Speaking to Ken Hickson, Wood Central’s Southeast Asia Contributor, in February, he said the timber superstructure was installed in just four weeks, showcasing the speed and efficiency of modern mass timber construction techniques.

But it is more than just the detail and speed, with the installation unique given the significant savings in embodied carbon.

“When factoring in processing, we’ve locked in approximately 200 tonnes of carbon – that’s the equivalent of planting 10,000 trees.”

“With one cubic metre of timber sequestering a tonne of carbon, accounting for processing and manufacturing, we can confidently say that this structure will sequester all that carbon for at least the next ten years.”

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Ventuter Timberwork was also behind the ‘Skyspace’ – a 400 sqm free span roof with razor-sharp soffits and a 16-sq-m hole in its middle, which presented a challenge. It was judged that timber would weather the corrosive marine environment better than steel. (Photo credit: Global Construction Review).

Mr Hill, a pioneer in introducing sustainable mass timber construction into the Singapore market, has witnessed increased timber projects in Singapore and across the Asia Pacific region.

Over the past two decades, Mr. Hill has witnessed the emergence of innovative digital construction solutions, making timber a relevant material for modern construction markets and a viable solution for various global challenges.

“Together, these have made timber highly relevant for today’s sophisticated construction markets, as well as the means to meet several global challenges,” he says.

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Biophilic design: The powerful connection between wood, well-being, and enhanced learning environments. (Photo credit: Toyo Ito & Associates).

Earlier this year, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) opened its new “‘Gaia’ building.” Billed as Asia’s largest mass timber build, it uses over 7,000 square metres of cross-laminated and glue-laminated timber supplied by European forest giant Stora Enso. 

However, Mr Hill has even greater ambitions, with Ken Hickson revealing that he is using mass timber technology to develop housing solutions over climate-changed impacted land and sea.

Based in Chennai, India, the goal is to create lightweight structures using locally grown plantation hardwood timbers, engineered together in a process akin to cross-laminated timber (CLT).

Not only are the timbers sustainably sourced and have low embodied carbon, but they must also meet industry standards and maximise efficiency in production.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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