The house system in Tembusu College was established in 2011 and each house chose as their namesake an endangered Asian animal species (using its indigenous name). These houses are Shan (Snow Leopard); Ora (Komodo Dragon); Gaja (Asian Elephant); Tancho (Red-Crowned Crane), and Ponya (Red Panda).

The idea of choosing endangered animals was to instil in students a sense of concern and appreciation for animals and the environment in general. Tembusu aims to create a culture of commitment to conservation, biodiversity, and the ethical treatment of sentient beings.

Each resident in the college is a member of one of the five houses that make up the tower block. Each house comprises about 100-130 students living in three to four levels of accommodation and sharing common facilities under the care of a Residential Team.

The Tembusu (Fagraea fragrans) is a large evergreen tree in the family Gentianaceae. It is native to Southeast Asia. Its trunk is dark brown, with deeply fissured bark, looking somewhat like a bittergourd. It grows in an irregular shape from 10 to 25m high. Its leaves are light green and oval in shape. Its yellowish flowers have a distinct fragrance and the fruits of the tree are bitter tasting red berries, which are eaten by birds and fruit bats.