Reflections on Green Buildings in Singapore with Specific Reference to the ZEB

In my opinion, the ZEB is crucial for building sustainability in Singapore in the future. With the BCA Green Mark in effect, all new buildings have to incorporate green features into their designs, as achieving the basic Green Mark is now mandatory. However, given that fact that Singapore is already an established concrete jungle, most of the country has already been built up and the fact remains that in order to make a large impact on building sustainability, the BCA has to target existing buildings and convert them into green buildings. BCA targets that in 2030, 80% of all buildings in Singapore will be Green Mark certified. The biggest challenge is to get existing and larger buildings to undergo the changes and upgrades needed to improve energy efficiency and building sustainability.

Currently, the Green Mark scoring criteria for existing buildings and new buildings are essentially similar. To me, this is extremely important. We should not be lowering our standards just because the building is already there. Modification and improvements can definitely be made to the building. The ZEB is definitely crucial and is an example of how modifications can be done to not just make a building Green Mark certified, but also a Zero Energy Building. Granted, the ZEB is a small 3-storey shop house and its size means it requires less energy. However, this is the starting point for all buildings in Singapore who can aspire to achieve what the ZEB has achieved.

As for larger buildings, such as skyscrapers and HDB flats, it is definitely a challenge for them to produce their own energy that they require. This is because these larger buildings definitely require more energy than a smaller building. Also technology is inadequate to generate enough electricity for it. Take for example solar panels. Installing solar panels on rooftops of buildings is a basic step to increase building sustainability. However, given that the square area on each floor is the same, percentage of energy the solar panels can produce will decrease with each increasing floor of the building. This poses a large challenge to building developers and architects. One way of getting around this is to install solar panels along the sides of buildings. However, this is also limited as many buildings are made of glass to allow for natural lighting.

Thus, additional research is needed to develop more advanced technology to allow more existing buildings to become Green Mark certified. Possible areas of research include increasing the amount of energy generated per unit area of solar panel and new areas where solar panels can be installed.

As for other systems that these existing buildings can adopt, another important feature, which can be incorporated, are motion sensors for lights. For instance, motion sensors can be installed along common corridors at HDB flats. The lights at these corridors can be dimmed when there is no foot traffic, which is the case during most of the night, especially after 10pm. This will save a substantial amount of non-essential energy which is consumed daily.

All in all, large existing buildings pose the greatest challenge for the BCA and to its goal of improving building sustainability in Singapore. However, with greater research, funding and usage of available technology, we can take great strides to improving on the current situation and thus improving n building sustainability in Singapore.

Singapore’s Own Zero Energy Building

Singapore is the proud owner of the region’s first Zero Energy Building (ZEB). The BCA ZEB is situated at 200 Braddell Road and was converted from a 3-storey workshop. This is similar to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation headquarters which was featured in the previous post in the sense that it generates the energy it requires using solar technology. 1 The total floor area of the building is 4500m2, which is comparable to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation headquarters, which covers 4552 m2. This shows that Singapore is not lagging far behind the western leaders of the green building revolution. The BCA ZEB is also the first ZEB in South East Asia, making Singapore the regional leader in building sustainability.

The other significant part of the ZEB is the fact that it was converted from a workshop. This is in line with the BCA’s target for 80% of all buildings in Singapore to be Green Mark certified. 2 Not all buildings will be built from scratch, others have to be modified to include these green technology that will help to ensure building sustainability and to reduce energy costs in the long run.

The ZEB was designed to raise awareness for green building technology as well as to act as a testing site for common indoor areas in Singapore where manufacturers can test our new designs and innovations. The building is divided into 3 basic zones, the visitor and resource centre, solar energy generation zones and the office of the future. 2 The visitor centre focuses on public education, spreading the word on how building sustainability can be achieved using modern technology. The resource centre showcases how these new green technology have been advantageous to its users. 2

The outdoor areas of the ZEB have two main features, the numerous solar panels and green features. Solar panels are a means of generating electricity from the sun, thus making it a 100% renewable energy source. These solar panels come in two forms, Silicon Wafer and Thin Film panels, with Silicon Wafer panels being more efficient and mature. Both these panels are installed in a wide variety of locations around the property, from the covered roofs in the carpark, to the roof of the building and even along the sides of the building. 3


Solar panels on the roof


side wall

Solar panels along side walls

The second aspect is the greenery incorporated into the façade. This is done to decrease the carbon footprint of the building, reduce heat transmittance, lessen the impact of an urban heat island as well as to beautify the building and increase aesthetic appeal. The plants were planted on the roof  as well as part of green walls. 4

green wall

Green Walls

roof garden

Roof Garden

The last aspect is the experimental offices. These offices are where new innovations are tested to determine suitability and success rates. The most important areas include the efficient chiller plants and cooling towers which reduce energy used by the ventilation and air conditioning system, motion and daylight sensors and personilised ventilation. In my opinion, the personalised ventilation is a very novel method to reduce energy usage and to make ventilation systems more efficient. This works by providing each workstation with its own air vent. This means that surrounding air conditioning can be set a lower rate and hence improve overall energy efficiency. 5

personalised ventilation 

Personalised Ventilation

Other systems incorporate into the building include the usual glass panels for natural lighting and innovative shading devices that are also covered by solar panels, thus maximising the electricity generating ability of the building. 6 However, there are certain aspects that were not incorporated in the ZEB, which I feel, could be added to improve the overall sustainability of the building. These include water tanks to capture water for irrigation as well as usage of recycled materials to build new structures.

All in all this is definitely a huge step forward for green building technology in Singapore. The government is trying to encourage this and the $52 million made available for research can definitely be put to good use at this facility.


1 What is Zero Energy Building? (2014). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from

2 ZEB Brochure. (2014). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from

3 Fully Powered by the Sun (2014). Retrieved

September 22, 2014, from

4 Greenery Systems. (2014). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from

5 Office of the Future. (2014). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from

6 Natural Daylight and Shading Systems. (2014). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from

David and Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters

On 22 April 2014, Architectural Digest named their top 10 green buildings of 2014. Amongst these were many impressive buildings that break traditional boundaries as to what a typical building should look like. 1 These included a sustainability tree house in Glen Jean, West Virginia to educate the public on the structure of a forest while having the least possible impact on the environment. 2

sustainability treehouse

The John and Frances Angelos Law Centre in Baltimore, Maryland was also particularly impressive. Its use of glass panels to provide natural lighting greatly reduced the need for artificial lighting. 3 This concept while possible in Singapore due to the high amount of sunlight we receive directly from the sun may not be as feasible in our more conservative Asian society and many working adults in offices prefer to not be totally “exposed”.

john and frances angelos law centre

As such, from the 10 buildings selected, I feel that the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters in Los Altos, California is the best example for companies and buildings in Singapore to emulate. The headquarters has a floor size of 49,000 square feet, a typical small to medium sized office building in Singapore. 4

david and lucile packard foundation outside

As part of the foundations 50th anniversary celebrations, their new headquarters in Los Altos opened in 2014. The building was designed to be a net zero energy building as well as a LEED Platinum building. 6 A net zero energy building is basically one which offsets 100% of its energy needs using energy generated on-site. In this case it is achieved via 915 solar panels on its roof and using energy efficient heating and cooling systems and natural lighting in place of artificial light. 5 The headquarters is now also officially the largest net zero energy building in the world. This is definitely something that we can adopt in our sunny little island.

david and lucile packard foundation solar panels

A LEED Platinum building is basically the US equivalent of a Platinum award in the BCA Green Mark. The foundation achieved this by using implementing strategies in 5 general areas, namely net zero energy, water conservation, materials and waste, ecosystem impact and work environment. 5 Net zero energy has already been mentioned above. However, their strategies for the other 4 categories can also easily be adopted in Singapore and as such should be studied and possibly implemented here.

Firstly for water conservation, the building is able to store up to 20,000 gallons of rainwater, collected via the living green roof and rooftop gutters. This rainwater is then recycled for irrigation and toilet flushing, thus reducing the amount of tap water used. 5 This strategy can definitely be implemented in Singapore. Instead of tapping into the main water supply for uses of irrigation, we could recycle rainwater, especially during the monsoon periods where the amount of rainwater is plentiful.

Secondly, for materials and waste, the building is made of 95% recycled materials from pre-existing buildings, saving costs in making new materials for the building. 5 This can also be adopted here as the pace at we demolish old buildings to be replaced by new and modern buildings accelerates, we can salvage materials from these old buildings and give them a second lease of life and incorporate them into the new.

As for ecosystem impact, this is not really relevant to Singapore as many of our buildings do come without a front lawn or garden due to space constraints, as such strategies such as only using native Californian plants 5 to minimize need for pesticides would not readily apply as much. However, strategies such as roof gardens could be relevant to us in order beautify the building as well as decrease our carbon footprint.

Lastly, for work environment, the headquarters uses 100% outside air for ventilation. 5 This is also not such a good idea for Singapore as our air quality tends to be worse than that of the Californian desert due to the larger number of pollutants such as haze in our air. However, their strategy of using desktop alerts to indicate when doors and windows should be opened to provide natural ventilation 5 can be modified. In our context, this a better use for desktop alerts would be for opening shades and windows to allow for more natural sunlight.

The David and Lucile Foundation Headquarters is certainly a revolutionary green building. Us here in Singapore can definitely strive to achieve as much as it has and do our part to preserve our environment.


1 Skyrett, A. (2014, April 20). Top 10 Green Buildings of 2014. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from

2 Skyrett, A. (2014, April 22). Top 10 Green Buildings of 2014 – Sustainability Treehouse. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from–Glen-Jean–West-Virginia_8

3 Skyrett, A. (2014, April 22). Top 10 Green Buildings of 2014 – John and Frances Angelos Law Centre. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from–Baltimore–Maryland_5

4 Skyrett, A. (2014, April 22). Top 10 Green Buildings of 2014 – David and Lucile Packard Foundation Headquarters. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from–Los-Altos–California_6

5 Sustainability & Design. (2014). Retrieved September 17, 2014, from

6 Our Green Headquarters. (2014). Retrieved September 17, 2014, from

Journal Review on Need for Smart Green Buildings of Tomorrow

Today, I shall be reviewing an editorial, written by Christopher Chao of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Department of Mechanical Engineering on “Smart Green Buildings of Tomorrow”. This article was published by SAGE, on behalf of the International Society for the Built Environment on 1 August 2013. This journal article can be found at the following URL, 1

This journal article outlines the ever-growing and increasingly pressing need for green buildings to be built throughout the world. Statistics are presented to illustrate this. For example, in the US, buildings contribute 39% of total energy use, 68% of total electricity consumption, 30% of landfill waste, 38% of carbon dioxide emissions and 12% of total water consumption. 1This, considering that there are still many areas that have not been urbanized in the US, is a staggering amount and gives engineers and contractors plenty to think about when they build their next building.

The two main recommendations that Mr. Chao made in his article was to maximize the efficiency of air-conditioning and ventilation systems as well as the use of Phase Changing Materials (PCM). This article was written in the context of Hong Kong. Singapore is in close geographical proximity to Hong Kong and shares many similar climatic characteristics. These include high humidity, large amounts of precipitation and sunlight as well as generally high temperatures during the summer months. However, due to Singapore’s heavy usage of air-conditioning, I will concentrate on this aspect of the article.

In Singapore, you could definitely say that there is an over-reliance on air-conditioning. Many people rely heavily on it to remain comfortable indoors and to combat the high humidity levels and high temperatures. In residential homes, the percentage of Singaporeans with air-conditioning units has risen to 75% in 2008 and it has surely risen today. 2 Offices and community areas such as shopping malls are also nearly entirely air-conditioned to provide a better environment for its users. Schools have even started to install air-conditioners in their classrooms and lecture theatres for their students. This trend calls for more efficiency in using the ventilation system, with smart temperature settings and ventilation control strategies being implemented so that energy usage is kept at its optimal level and other innovations

Mr. Chao’s recommendation of integrating the demand control ventilation with personalized ventilation is a perfect match as it can help to save energy and enhance health and comfort. This could also be implemented in Singapore, through including it in the criterion for the Green Mark or including it in legislation. This would definitely make a large portion of our buildings into greener and even smarter ones in the future.


1 Chao, C. (2013, August 1). Smart Green Buildings of Tomorrow. Retrieved September 10, 2014, from

2 Lee, W., & Yap, Y. (2012, September 1). Household Expenditure Survey 2012/2013. Retrieved September 10, 2014, from

Criterion for BCA Green Mark (Part 2)

So continuing on from the post about the criteria of the Green Mark, today I shall discuss the remaining 3 criterion and their importance to achieving building sustainability.


The next criterion is environmental protection. This explores the following aspects of the building: sustainable construction, sustainable products, greenery provision, environmental management practices, green transport, refrigerants and storm-water management practices. 1This encourages building developers to install miscellaneous products that are environmentally friendly and contribute to the other categories. An example of this is storm-water management practices, where the developers are encouraged to install systems and technology to the building so as to storm water runoff before discharging it into the public drainage system. An example of a building, which scored well in this category example, would be Parkway Parade Shopping Mall. This shopping mall uses green transport technology in order to reduce emissions from transport. This includes parking lots reserved for hybrid cars; a carpark guidance system to guide users to the nearest parking lots; providing a shuttle bus so that its patrons will not travel in personal vehicles as well as providing a charging port for electric motorbikes in its basement carpark. 2 Below is the reserved “Green Lot”.


  hybrid car parking 3


Next, we have the criterion of indoor environment quality. This criterion is important as air quality makes a big difference to the quality of the experience within the building. Indoor air quality can also be controlled to a large extent whereas outdoor air quality cannot. The scoring system incorporates the aspects of thermal comfort, noise level, indoor air pollutants, indoor air quality management and high frequency ballasts.1 An example of a building that scored well in this criterion would be Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun. For its naturally ventilated wards, wing walls were introduced in order to enhance air flow into the wards. This green environment also helps to reduce ambient heat and improve thermal insulation, hence resulting in a cooler micro-climate. This wing wall is pictured below. 4


wing wall ktph 5


The last criterion is for other green features that do not quite fit into any of the other categories. Examples of these include pneumatic waste collection system, carbon footprint of the development, conservation of existing building structure and a double chute system. 1 These systems all help to contribute to building sustainability in their own small but significant ways. For example, the dual chute system refers to having separate rubbish chutes for recyclables and non-recyclables. This reduces costs in the future from sorting the trash produced by these tenants. An example of a building with the dual chute system is Bottania Condominium in West Coast Road. 6

1 BCA Green Mark for Non-residential Building. (2013, January 13). Retrieved August 31, 2014, from

2 Sustainability. (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2014, from

3 Shopping mall with dedicated hybrid car parking lots. (2013, November 2). Retrieved September 7, 2014, from

4 Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. (2014). Retrieved September 7, 2014, from

5 Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. (2014). Retrieved September 7, 2014, from

6 Bottania. (2014). Eco-Features. Retrieved September 7, 2014, from

Singapore Green Building Week 2014

So its Singapore Green Building Week 2014! In honour of this special event I shall elaborate on the latest initiatives the BCA has taken today and continue with the criteria for the Green Mark in future posts. Announced today there are three main initiatives to increase building sustainability in Singapore during the launch of the event by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan. 1

Firstly, it was announced the Small Medium Enterprises will receive government funding to reduce cost of retrofitting their premises for energy improvements. 1 The amount will vary from up to half or up to $3million for building owners and $20,000 for tenants in existing buildings. This is part of an effort to make as many buildings in Singapore as sustainable as possible, not just new buildings. Everyone must do their part to ensure building sustainability in this concrete jungle, existing buildings can be upgraded to have more environmentally friendly features. This could include installation of solar panels, motion-sensor lights and water taps and more efficient lighting and ventilation systems.

Secondly, the $52 million Green Buildings Innovation Cluster will develop; test and showcase green building solutions that are relevant to the tropics. 1  This is crucial to Singapore remaining sustainable. We are now able to develop technology and strategies that are unique to our climatic conditions and hence reduce our dependence on Western countries such as the US. This research can also allow more jobs to be created should there be technology to be manufactured and installed in the various buildings around the island.

Lastly, a new award will be implemented, the Green Mark Pearl Award. 1 This award will recognise buildings that not only have a high Green Mark certification for the base building itself, but also have a minimum number of Green Mark certified tenants. This will encourage building owners to provide incentives to its tenants as it aims to achieve this new award. Even if the base structure of the building is sustainable, its tenants may not be contributing to it, hence diluting the eventual effect on the environment. For example, tenants can install energy efficient lighting or water efficient technology can be installed.

These new initiatives definitely prove that the Ministry of National Development is taking green buildings in Singapore seriously and they are here to stay and will definitely become more numerous in the future.


1 Heng, J. (2014, September 1). $50 Million Fund for Greener SME Premises, $52 Million Fund for Research on Green Building Solutions. Retrieved September 1, 2014, from