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
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”.
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
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.
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 http://www.architecturaldigest.com/blogs/daily/2014/04/best-green-buildings-aia-article
2 Skyrett, A. (2014, April 22). Top 10 Green Buildings of 2014 – Sustainability Treehouse. Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.architecturaldigest.com/blogs/daily/2014/04/best-green-buildings-aia-slideshow_slideshow_Sustainability-Treehouse–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 http://www.architecturaldigest.com/blogs/daily/2014/04/best-green-buildings-aia-slideshow_slideshow_John-and-Frances-Angelos-Law-Center–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 http://www.architecturaldigest.com/blogs/daily/2014/04/best-green-buildings-aia-slideshow_slideshow_The-David-and-Lucile-Packard-Foundation-Headquarters–Los-Altos–California_6
5 Sustainability & Design. (2014). Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.packard.org/about-the-foundation/our-green-headquarters/sustainability-design/
6 Our Green Headquarters. (2014). Retrieved September 17, 2014, from http://www.packard.org/about-the-foundation/our-green-headquarters/sustainability-design/