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.

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