Can We Achieve This Target?

The future is definitely bright for green buildings in Singapore. With government intervention in the form of the BCA Green Mark already in place, the incidence of green buildings and building sustainability technology will definitely increase in Singapore and around the world. However is the BCA’s target for 80% of buildings to be Green Mark certified by 2030 actually realistically achievable?

As I have examined in my previous posts, there are many areas in which we can improve upon. Firstly, education and public awareness of green buildings and green building technology has to improve. Without public awareness of such technology and its benefits in the long run, the number of green buildings in Singapore will never increase. Also there will be no constant upgrading of buildings. For example, after an owner of a Green Mark certified building becomes aware of the long-term benefits of green buildings, he may seek to actively upgrade to be Green Mark Platinum certified instead. Public awareness and education can be improved by increased media coverage, education in schools or by improving public displays, such as the one in JCube mentioned in a previous post.

Secondly, the mind-sets of Singaporeans have to change. As explained in the Ted Talk by Lindsay Kindrak in my previous post, there are many aspect of psychology that can be improved upon. However, the most important in my opinion is to focus on long-term gains rather than the short-term benefits. This again relates back to increased public education and education in schools so that these aspects can be improved. Again the government would be the key stakeholder to improve this.

Thirdly, there has to be increased economic stimulation in this field. Be it for usage in research and development, or the actual subsidy for green technology in buildings, there has to be sufficient funding to ensure that the private sector will comply with the goal of the BCA. This is where the $52million grant that was announced during Green Building Week is crucial. This can be used directly to subsidise building owners and tenants as well as on R&D to reduce initial costs and efficiency, which is one of the biggest barriers for many green building initiatives.

Lastly, there is a need to target residential areas and especially government built HDBs, as I earlier pointed out in a previous post. The criteria for residential buildings have to include private areas, not just limited to public areas such as common corridors and lift lobbies. This will ensure the sustainability of the whole building and only this will have a significant impact on the environment. This again goes back to public awareness and education so that every citizen will incorporate green technology into their homes. This can be as simple as energy efficient appliances, or more complex systems to reduce energy or water wastage.

At the end of the day, there are many different motivating factors for stakeholders to improve building sustainability. With global climate change upon us, we need to make concerted efforts not just limited to using public transport instead of driving, or turning off the tap while brushing my teeth. We can start from the most obvious environment that we have in this bustling city, the built environment and make changes to it so as to better connect to the external and larger environment that we live in today. It is never too late to make a difference to the building sustainability movement and every little bit counts as we seek to preserve this planet for our future generations to enjoy.

Are We Afraid Of Green Buildings?

This week, I watched a TED talk, titled “Are We Afraid of Green Buildings?”, by Lindsay Kindrat,  hoping to get a better understanding as to why green buildings are catching on so slowly overseas and require legislation before they became commonplace in Singapore. The link to the video is as follows, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzPpH9WexDc.

The video started by giving summaries on what green buildings are and the benefits of green technology. The main part of the introduction that I found to be particularly interesting was on the need to integrate science to help increase building sustainability, in particular physics and thermodynamics. For instance, dark objects absorb heat and lightly coloured objects reflect heat or cold air sinks and hot air rises. Taking into account these basic scientific principles would definitely ensure that our buildings are greener in the future.

I also found some of the statistics to be extremely interesting. Kindrat claims that green buildings reduce the number of sick days taken is 80% lower than for conventional buildings and solid waste is reduced by 90%. These statistics were not substantiated and I find them rather dubious and hard to believe. Even though I do see the good points of green buildings and that they indeed have a large role to play in our futures, these statistics just seem too good to be true and are dependent on other external factors, not just the “green-ness” of the building.

Kindrat gave a total of four excuses that people commonly given when they choose to build a conventional building over a green building in the US. Green features are optional there, unlike Singapore and hence many building developers still do not see the value. Looking at and addressing these excuses is extremely important to change mind-sets and improve public awareness to make a larger impact in the future. The first excuse was that it was too expensive as building developers only take into account the up-front costs and do not factor in long-term maintenance and operational costs. This is prevalent not just in green buildings, but also in many climate change related issues. Mind-sets of the public need to be changed and for people to think long-term rather than short-term.

The second excuse would be that these green buildings are just some “left-wing hippie crap”. However, one does not have to be a hippie to be concerned about his or her health and well-being. Nobody would rationally want to be exposed to more toxic and harmful chemicals on a daily basis.

Thirdly, people do not like being told what they should do or what to do. Extreme ultimatums do not work and people do not like being portrayed as the bad guy. People respond that they need to be encouraged to make positive changes instead of being told they are criminals or villains for ruining the environment. This point can be noted by governments and other parties during their education campaigns to increase their effectiveness.

Lastly, many do not see the need to save water or energy now. Many people are not worried that they will not have power to turn on the lights or have water to drink as the media tends to portray these resources to be abundant and unlimited. However this is definitely not the case. Every little bit counts and everyone has to do their part to improve building sustainability in the future.

We should not be afraid of green buildings. It will not change the way we work, eat or act. It will be a part of our environment. We are part of this complex environment and we need to know our place and role in this system. We need to embrace this new technology instead of constantly nit-picking its flaws and giving excuses. We cannot be afraid of making small changes to the way we live to reap the benefits now and in the future.

JCube

As I was walking around JCube after dinner today, I noticed this small noticeboard on the ground floor of the building. It was a small display, no more than up to my waist height, that attempted to educate the public about the efforts the shopping centre took to make it more sustainable. There were four segments that gave facts and figures regarding the energy efficiency, water efficiency, innovative green features and environmental protection of the buildings. The fact that the management of the building makes an effort to educate the public on the building’s green features is commendable and this initiative should be done in more locations around the island, so that public awareness on this issue is enhanced.

20141004_134312

Granted the management made a conscious effort to educate the public, the application of their efforts was sorely lacking. Firstly, the noticeboard was in an inconspicuous location, beside a set of automatic doors that were no longer in operation. Personally I have been to JCube numerous times and today was the first time that I actually noticed this display. There are so many better locations to situate this noticeboard, where it is more easily noticeable to a higher volume of foot traffic. Secondly, the fact that it was extremely small compounded the effect of it being extremely hard to spot. It was barely at my waist level and I had to bend down to read the bottom part of the display, making it extremely inconvenient for the casual shopper to notice. Lastly, the facts and figures presented had little impact on me. I knew how much water is saved and that energy efficient appliances and features are installed throughout the shopping centre, but I do not actually get to see them or the long-term impact. These numbers could be presented in a more easily comprehensible way that the general public can understand.

Overall, it is definitely heartening to see building management taking the initiative to educate the public about their own green initiatives. However, the application of the idea left much to be desired and it seems like the display was just left there, amidst the rebranding and renovation works in the mall. Much effort still needs to be made to educate more members of the general public on this issue and everyone needs to play their part. Hopefully more shopping centres and public buildings can follow JCube’s lead and building sustainability in Singapore will increase.

Improving Residential Building Sustainability in HDB Flats

When many think of the iconic buildings of Singapore, Marina Bay Sands, the Esplanade or even the shopping centres along Orchard Road. However, many do feel that the humble HDB flats are in fact the most recognizable buildings of heartland Singapore. To many Singaporeans and visitors, HDBs are the unmistakable and quintessential part of heartland living in Singapore. Built by the government and the HDB in order to provide housing for Singapore’s ever growing population, they are able to house many citizens in a smaller land area. They also incorporate elements of our kampong past into these high rise buildings, such as void decks and separate shelters to serve as common areas, as well as convenience shops or hawker centres at void decks.

In order for the BCA to reach their 80% target, a large effort must be made for residential buildings to become green too. In Singapore, 80% of the population live in HDB flats. As of 2010, a total of 992,089 HDB units have been completed and additional flats have continued to be built, especially in the newer towns such as Punggol and Sengkang (HDB, 2010). Many of these flats are not green buildings, especially those built before 2008, when the BCA Green Mark came into effect. However, this does not mean that these buildings can play a part in improving building sustainability in Singapore.

Improving the environmental friendliness of residential buildings is not exactly a new revolutionary idea. 60 years ago, in California, developer Joseph Eichler incorporated green features into residences in Granada Hills. These included improved insulation technology, day lighting, natural ventilation, solar power to heat the outdoor swimming pool and a large garden with local drought resistant plants (Hahn, 2014).

Making a HDB flat green does not mean that we need to tear it down and build it back up again. The BCA has a separate criteria for existing residential buildings which guides the HDB on how to make their flats more “green”. The criteria is similar to those for new non-residential buildings, the 5 main categories are again energy efficiency, water efficiency, sustainable operation and management, community and well-being and other green features (BCA, 2011). However, the main problem with these criteria is that they mainly targets general areas. For example, the energy efficiency requirements only target common areas, such as corridors, lift lobbies, car parks and the lifts. However, making a building green means that more than just common areas have to change. The government, BCA and HDB have to promote greener technology to residents, for residents to change their habits and as such really improve building sustainability.

Green retrofitting is an example on how existing residential buildings can be upgraded to be more sustainable. The US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) has taken the lead in the US. They have developed a toolkit to show how green retrofitting can be used to make residential buildings more sustainable. This toolkit can be assessed at http://www.huduser.org/portal/pdf/HUD-LAMultifamilyGreenRetrofitToolkit.pdf. The HUD argues that every family should want to make their homes more green and efficient, due to the potential costs savings in the long run. They claim that families spend an average of 3.5% of their household incomes on utility costs, while lower-income families actually spend up to 20%. This can easily be reduced, with the advent of green retrofitting.

Green retrofitting involves taking small steps, which will allow your home to be more environmentally friendly. The HUD provides a long list of initiatives homeowners can take. I have chosen to elaborate on three of them which I feel that HDB residents in Singapore can adopt too.

Firstly, replacing major appliances with energy efficient appliances. This can definitely be applicable in Singapore. These appliances include air-conditioners and refrigerators. These are important as these appliances use the most energy, especially for refrigerators as they are required to be on 24/7. Energy efficient appliances are sold in Singapore, however, they tend to be cheaper than the normal varieties. Hence, more can be done to make them more accessible and attractive to consumers.

Secondly, the installation of solar panels can be done on the roofs of HDB flats. Due to the climate in Singapore, much energy can be converted using solar panels. The power generated can then be used to operate the lifts or for common areas, such as the lighting at common areas.

Lastly, the HUD suggests using energy efficient compact fluorescent blubs. These can definitely be installed at common areas so as to prolong the lifespan of these lights as well as to increase the energy efficiency. Further expanding on this, motion sensors can also be installed so as to reduce the amount of electricity wasted by keeping these lights on at full power for long periods of time. For instance, in car parks motion sensors can detect the presence of residents, which would then turn the lights on at full power. When there is nobody in the car park, then the lights can be dimmed to save power.

As such, there are many measures that the HDB as well as every single home owner can adopt in an effort to increase building sustainability throughout Singapore. Every little effort counts towards improving the overall situation in Singapore and even throughout the world.

 

BCA. (2011, May 19). Green Mark Criteria for Existing Residential Buildings. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://www.bca.gov.sg/greenmark/others/GMERB_v1.pdf

Hahn, K. (2014, January 1). Reuse Existing Buildings: The Revival of Mid-Century Modernism. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/reuse-existing-buildings-the-r-98783

HDB. (2010). HDB Key Statistics. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://www.hdb.gov.sg/fi10/fi10221p.nsf/0/d4a0f107613b79944825766200236310/$file/Key Statistics.pdf

HUD. (2011, March 1). Multi-Family Green Retrofit Toolkit. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from http://www.huduser.org/portal/pdf/HUD-LAMultifamilyGreenRetrofitToolkit.pdf

Economic Benefits of Green Buildings

As they say, money makes the world go round. No one can claim to not be concerned about money. Whether it’s the strength of the overall economy, amount of profits generated for their companies and corporations, or simply the amount of money they earn. The environmental benefits of green building technology have been expanded upon to a large extent in the previous posts. Today, I will focus more on the economic benefits of green buildings and why it is beneficial to invest in green building technology.

There are a wide variety of economic benefits of green buildings. In today’s blog post, I will elaborate on three different aspects of economic benefits from green buildings.

Firstly, green buildings help to save costs. This can be further divided into construction and operating costs. It is a myth that the construction of a green building costs more than a normal one. This all depends on the effort made by the investor and the contractor to source for recycled materials which would lower the building costs and could decrease construction waste by 95% or more. Re-using the original building structures can also help to reduce demolition costs and production costs as this further reduces the amount of materials used in construction. This also preserves the heritage of the country as certain structures have been retained (Kamschroeder, 2009). This trend is further highlighted in the graph from figure 1 below, which shows that green buildings actually do not cost more per square foot compared to non-green buildings.

Economics_Academic-Buildings-CostSF

Figure 1: Graph comparing cost per square foot and level of building sustainability (Institute for Building Efficiency, 2010).

As for operating costs, green technology helps to reduce costs in many different ways. For example, top tier green buildings that incorporate an integrated design approach had 45% less energy consumption, 53% lower maintenance costs and 39% less water use (Kamschroeder, 2009). This results in decreased electrical and utilities bills for owners and tenants. In the long run, this could help cover the possible higher costs and rents, and help to increase savings.

Secondly, they increase the property value, should the owner of the building wish to sell the building in the future. The asset value of the overall property increases as consumers and investors become more aware and educated about the benefits of building sustainability. This results in better marketability for the building. Based on a study conducted by Insight, the business of workplace design and management, greener buildings are able to attract more tenants and command higher rents and sales prices (Insight, 2013).

Lastly, green technology increases occupant productivity. Numerous studies have shown the positive correlation between increased natural light and fresher air and productivity and quality of work. Also, studies have shown that poor indoor environments have led to decreasing productivity. A study by the Herschong Mahone Group (2013) found that natural lighting and fresher air in a workplace would improve working efficiency by up to 20%.

Accumulatively, investors and building owners would definitely benefit in economic terms, both by reducing costs in the short run and long run as well as increased productivity leading to better work efficiency. In addition, the property prices of the buildings would also increase. Knowing these facts, the BCA could use them to promote the constructions of green buildings in Singapore, to further convince the public of their importance, rather than just merely implementing laws and policies. It is always more effective if you are able to convince rather than enforce.

 

Herschong Mahone Group. (2013). Windows and Offices: A Study of Office Worker Performance and the Indoor Environment. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://h-m-g.com/projects/daylighting/summaries on daylighting.htm

Insight. (2013, March 6). Economic Benefits of Green Buildings Highlighted. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://workplaceinsight.net/economic-benefits-of-green-buildings-highlighted/

Institute of Building Efficiency. (2010, April). Economics of Green Building. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.institutebe.com/clean-energy-finance/green-building-costs.aspx

Kamschroeder, K. (2009, July 16). Benefits of Green Buildings on Costs, the Environment and Jobs. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/103662

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

roof

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 https://www.bca.gov.sg/zeb/default.html

2 ZEB Brochure. (2014). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from https://www.bca.gov.sg/zeb/files/BCA-ZEB-Brochure-eng.pdf

3 Fully Powered by the Sun (2014). Retrieved

September 22, 2014, from https://www.bca.gov.sg/zeb/poweredbysun.html

4 Greenery Systems. (2014). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from https://www.bca.gov.sg/zeb/greenerysystems.html

5 Office of the Future. (2014). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from https://www.bca.gov.sg/zeb/officeoffuture.html

6 Natural Daylight and Shading Systems. (2014). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from https://www.bca.gov.sg/zeb/daylightsystems.html

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 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/

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, http://ibe.sagepub.com.libproxy1.nus.edu.sg/content/22/4/595. 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 http://ibe.sagepub.com.libproxy1.nus.edu.sg/content/22/4/595

2 Lee, W., & Yap, Y. (2012, September 1). Household Expenditure Survey 2012/2013. Retrieved September 10, 2014, from http://www.singstat.gov.sg/publications/publications_and_papers/household_income_and_expenditure/ssnsep12-pg1-7.pdf

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 http://www.bca.gov.sg/greenmark/others/gm_nonresi_v4.1_rev.pdf

2 Sustainability. (n.d.). Retrieved September 7, 2014, from http://www.parkwayparade.com.sg/Whats-On/Sustainability

3 Shopping mall with dedicated hybrid car parking lots. (2013, November 2). Retrieved September 7, 2014, from http://sgcarowner.com/2013/11/02/shopping-mall-with-dedicated-hybrid-car-parking-lots/

4 Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. (2014). Retrieved September 7, 2014, from http://www.greenmark.sg/building_directory_detail.php?id=112&page=1

5 Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. (2014). Retrieved September 7, 2014, from http://www.cpgcorp.com.sg/CPGC/Project/Project_Details?ProjectID=1068

6 Bottania. (2014). Eco-Features. Retrieved September 7, 2014, from http://www.cdl.com.sg/botannia/ecofeatures.html

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 http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/50m-fund-greener-sme-premises-52m-fund-research-green-bu

Criterion for the BCA Green Mark

The criterion upon which the BCA Green Mark is handed out is based on 5 different categories. These are namely energy efficiency, water efficiency, environmental protection, indoor air quality and other green features and innovation. 1 The assessment process constitutes points being awarded under each of these criterion and the overall points score will correspond to which level of the Green Mark is awarded, from the Platinum, Gold Plus, Gold and certified ratings. 1 Over the next 2 posts, I shall discuss these various criteria and use them to give examples on the sustainable features of buildings.

The first criterion is energy efficiency. This encapsulates air-conditioned areas, non-air-conditioned areas as well as general areas. This covers important aspects such as ventilation, lighting, lifts and escalators, energy efficient practices and renewable energy. 2 This is essential as energy is still mainly generated through the burning of fossil fuels and this releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which accelerates the process of global warming among other concerns. An example of a building that scored well in this category includes 313@Somerset with its carbon-offsetting carpark and solar panels.3 A small portion of the car park fees is used to fund solar panels on the development and these solar panels provide the energy for the carpark’s lighting and barrier systems. 3 These solar panels are shown below.

 img_313_sustain3  4

The second criteria is water efficiency. This includes water efficient fittings, water usage and leak detection, irrigation system and landscaping and water consumption of cooling towers. 2 This is important as water is a precious resource and usable water only constitutes 3% of the world’s water resources. Hence, we need to save as much water as we can without impacting our daily lives to a large degree. One example of a building that scored well in this aspect is Nanyang Polytechnic. The polytechnic has installed a rain sensor which is linked to the auto-irrigation system so that no unnecessary water is used to water the greenery around the school. 5Also rainwater harvesting is practiced and this water is then re-used for irrigation on non-rainy days. 5

I shall discuss more about the next 3 criterion in my next post.

 

1 BCA Green Mark Criteria. (2014, July 1). Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://www.bca.gov.sg/greenmark/green_mark_criteria.html

2 BCA Green Mark for Non-residential Building. (2013, January 13). Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://www.bca.gov.sg/greenmark/others/gm_nonresi_v4.1_rev.pdf

3 313@Somerset. (2014, January 1). Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://www.greenmark.sg/building_directory_detail.php?id=111&page=1

4 Sustainability. (2013, January 1). Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://www.313somerset.com.sg/sustainability/sustainability

5 Nanyang Polytechnic. (2013, January 13). Retrieved August 31, 2014, from http://www.greenmark.sg/building_directory_detail.php?id=38&page=15

Article Review from the Business Times

Today, I shall be reviewing the article “Green Buildings in Singapore: Adding the Green Touch with Technology”, which was published in a local newspaper, the Business Times on 26 April 2011.  The article can be found at the following URL, http://www.eco-business.com/news/green-buildings-in-singapore-adding-the-green-touch-with-technology/.

The article basically outlines how the property industry in Singapore has embraced the need for building sustainability and Green Buildings, especially in light of the Green Mark Legislation, which was imposed in 2008 for all buildings above 2000m2.

The article states that there are two main causes for Singapore growing into one of Asia’s leading green building leaders. Firstly, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of companies in Singapore. CSR is defined as the corporate initiative to assess and take responsibility for the company’s effects on the environment and impact on social welfare. 1 Companies now try their best to stand out from the crowd and give back to the community as well as do their part to improve environmental sustainability. Examples cited in the article include Siemens.

In my opinion, companies that exhibit strong CSR and aim for the platinum award in the BCA Green Mark instead of just barely achieving the baseline required for certification, should be awarded with incentives as well as increased recognition in the media. Firstly, the government and its regulatory bodies could give corporations and construction firms greater incentives should they achieve the Platinum Green Mark. These could include reduced utility bills, which would motivate these companies to invest more into building sustainability in the long run. Secondly, the media has to play a role in bringing public recognition and prestige to the company. This will result in more members of the public knowing about their efforts and hence spread count towards a kind of “advertisement” for the company involved.

The second cause stated in the article is the usage of regulation by the government, which is basically the implementation of the BCA Green Mark in 2005. In my next post, I will discuss more about the BCA Green Mark, and in particular the criterion upon which it is awarded.

1 Corporate Social Responsibility. (2014, January 1). Retrieved August 25, 2014, from http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/corp-social-responsibility.asp

What is the BCA Green Mark?

Global warming is one of many issues that the global population faces today. Singapore, like all other countries, has to do its part to help combat this problem. Many organisations in Singapore are stakeholders when it comes to solving this increasingly alarming problem, the BCA is no different.

As evidenced from its website and I quote, “As Singapore aspires to be a leading global city in environmental sustainability, there is scope to further improve on energy efficiency requirements in buildings, to address the impact on climate change.” 1

This has resulted in the need to regulate buildings in Singapore to be environmentally sustainable. The BCA has constantly enhanced the Building Control Act and since 15 April 2008 has implemented the Building Code (Environmental Sustainability) Regulations in the hope that there will be a minimum environmental sustainability standard for new and existing buildings that undergo major retrofitting.  This code applies to all buildings with gross floor area above 2000m2, additions or extensions to buildings with gross floor area of 2000m2 or more and building works that require major retrofitting with gross floor area of 2000m2 or more. 1

Beginning in 2008, BCA has constantly updated the criteria and codes for the Green Mark scheme, with the first version implemented in 2008, and with revisions in 2010 and 2012. The latest Code for Environmental Sustainability for Buildings was released in October 2012. It spells out requirements for the various different buildings and includes the various scoring criteria in which the Green Mark is awarded, such as water and energy efficiency, as well as environmental protection and indoor air quality. 2

Further information on the BCA Green Mark will be posted soon as well as further analysis of the scheme.

 

1 Legislation On Environmental Sustainability For Buildings. (2013, July 30). Retrieved August 20, 2014, from http://www.bca.gov.sg/Envsuslegislation/Environmental_sustainability_legislation.html

2 Code for Environmental Sustainability for Buildings Third Edition. (2012, October 1). Retrieved August 20, 2014, from http://www.bca.gov.sg/Envsuslegislation/others/Env_Sus_Code2013.pdf

Building Sustainability in Singapore, an Introduction

Sustainability is definitely a buzzword nowadays when during discussions about the environment. In view of the latest global environment crises the earth is facing, such as global warming, the world population has become much more aware of the need to put in place practices or to innovate in order to save our precious home. This has resulted in the term sustainable development being coined. The Brundtland Report defines the term as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 1 Many countries are now aware of the need to consider their environmental footprint and impact and are thus devising new strategies in order to continue to develop without too adverse an impact on the global environment.

Singapore is no different. Organisations such as the National Environment Agency (NEA) have continuously implemented different policies and measures to control problems such as water pollution and air pollution. These include guidelines for vehicle emissions of harmful gases as well as controlling noise pollution from various worksites and construction sites.

rick fedrizzi quote2

Another aspect of environmental sustainability is building sustainability. As the quote by Rick Fedrizzi goes, there is definitely a future for green buildings. Hence, this blog will focus on a relatively new initiative rolled out by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), the BCA Green Mark Scheme and how it aims to promote and increase the number of green buildings in Singapore and hence increase the sustainability, and more specifically building sustainability, in this concrete jungle. 

BCA Green Mark

 

1 What is Sustainable Development? (2013, January 1). Retrieved August 18, 2014, from http://www.iisd.org/sd/

2 Rick Fedrizzi Quote. (2013, January 1). Retrieved August 18, 2014, from http://www.pinterest.com/pin/129830401730443822/