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Pushing the Boundaries of Greening our Built Environment

SBD2021_ED02_Pix01Climate change is a global concern. In Singapore, buildings account for over 20 percent of Singapore’s emissions. The greening of buildings is one of our key efforts in building more sustainably and in mitigating our emissions. Singapore has set a target of greening 80 percent of the nation’s building stock and has committed to reduce carbon emissions by 36 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

To drive the energy efficiency of buildings, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has been working closely with industry stakeholders towards the target of greening Singapore. Since 2005, BCA has rolled out a suite of initiatives such as Green Building Masterplans, Green Mark schemes and the Green Buildings Innovation Cluster (GBIC) programme. Various government agencies have embarked on several national sustainability programmes such as the Sustainable Singapore Blueprint, Smart Nation initiative and SolarNova, driving a multifaceted approach towards the development and adoption of sustainable technologies and solutions for the built environment.

On 5 September 2018, BCA launched the Super Low Energy (SLE) Building programme to encourage firms to go beyond the existing Green Mark Platinum standards and achieve best-in-class building energy performance in a cost-effective manner.

Progressive developers agreed to take the lead in developing close to 20 SLE buildings through good designs and cost-effective technologies. To recognise these SLE projects, BCA introduced a new Green Mark for SLE.

As of 2019, there are 17 GM – SLE buildings in Singapore, amongst which are recognised forerunners such as Samwoh Smart Hub, NTU and NUS under 2019’s inaugural GM-SLE Awards. The projects from seven private and public sector developers demonstrate best-in-class energy performance while maintaining cost effectiveness.

Samwoh Smart Hub incorporates energy and water saving measures in its design, including double glazed windows on the north and south facades to harness natural daylight, and a windowless design on the east and west facades to reduce heat absorbed by the building. The project will also have on-site water recycling measures and leverage a smart Building Management System (BMS) and Facility Management to optimise utility management and consumption. Together with high-yield solar panels which will produce about 110 percent of the building’s energy consumption, the Hub targets to save close to S$180,000 a year in overall utility bills. The ambitious development, a pilot under the BCA Green Mark Super Low Energy programme is slated for completion by 2020, and will set the precedence for future positive energy buildings here.

The Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) sets a high standard with eight campus projects such as its sports hall, The Wave, the School of Humanities, the School of Social Sciences and the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. NTU implemented a variety of energy saving initiatives such as the campus-wide solar energy harvesting system that generates 5.9MWh/year and a ‘Passive Displacement Cooling’ system which uses convection to keep rooms cool. NTU will also progressively roll-out Smart Integrated Building Management systems that will see up to 10 percent energy savings from air-conditioning units.

Fueling Green
As part of advancing the Green Building agenda, BCA has been supporting research and innovation efforts to push the envelope and accelerate the adoption of promising building energy-efficient technologies and solutions in the industry.

The support of the Green Buildings Innovation Cluster (GBIC), which was set up by BCA in 2014 with an initial grant of S$52 million from National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF), has enabled the development of several energy-efficient technologies. Over the past five years, GBIC has supported a total of 32 projects, many of which have been translated into industry solutions and have been adopted in actual building projects in Singapore and overseas. Samwoh Smart Hub project is also a recipient of the GBIC fund in recognition of its efforts in adopting promising building energy-efficient technologies and solutions.

Another example is SMU’s Tahir Foundation Connexion, a net zero energy building, currently under construction and due to be completed by Q3 2020. MKPL Architects designed the building to respond to the surroundings and tropical climate through the use of advanced cooling systems as well as on-site solar energy and sensors, leading to energy savings of 500MWh per year, comparable to the energy consumption of 110 4-room HDB flats a year. The Tahir Foundation Connexion and its campus-wide green initiatives showed that going green makes good business sense. MKPL Architects was also involved in two SLE projects and in more than five Green Mark higher rating projects.

In a commitment to support the national drive toward SLE buildings, NRF provided a funding of S$20 million to enhance the GBIC programme. This was announced by National Development Minister Lawrence Wong at the opening of the inaugural International Built Environment Week (IBEW), organised by BCA, on 4 September 2019.

The latest recipient of grant support as a GBIC-Demonstration project is the PSA Corporation, who will develop a Net Zero Energy Building as part of the Tuas Port, projected to achieve energy savings of 58 percent when compared to the same building had it been designed to comply purely with energy efficiency regulations. Exploring the use of coloured building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPVs) which will be integrated with the administration building walls, it is replacing the need for ordinary facade cladding. Besides providing an alternative to conventional photovoltaics (PVs) for buildings with limited roof space, BIPVs can better manage energy demands of the building by providing a steadier power generation pattern throughout the day. The silent system that generates on-site electricity is estimated to generate 130,000 kWh of energy annually for this building when it is completed by Q4 2020.

In addition, to help building owners and developers source for innovative SLE technologies, BCA and Hitachi launched the Super Low Energy Building (SLEB) Smart Hub, the first digital knowledge portal for green buildings in the region. The initiative was unveiled at IBEW 2019.

The SLEB Smart Hub is an open database that collates and analyses green building technologies such as air-conditioning, lighting, facade and renewable energy. Beyond being a data repository, its Smart Advisor recommends suitable green technologies and predicts the associated costs and energy savings, using cutting-edge big data analytics and artificial intelligence techniques based on a building’s current data set and user’s requirements. It allows building owners and designers to evaluate and source green technologies to transform buildings to attain high energy performance. This will ease the adoption of green technologies and support the national target to green 80 percent of buildings in Singapore by 2030. Close to 90 companies participated in the pilot phase and leveraged on building energy efficiency data to benefit their businesses.

Mr Cheng Tai Fatt, Managing Director of Built Environment Research and Innovation Institute, BCA, said: “SLEB Smart Hub offers a one-stop platform for building owners and designers to access the latest technological information and performance data of Green Mark buildings. This database, together with built-in artificial intelligence tools in the Smart Hub, enables users to improve their building design and operations, thereby saving energy and providing a better indoor environment for occupants.”

The Next Lap for Green Buildings
Moving to the next phase of greening Singapore, BCA and the Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) will co-create the next Singapore Green Building Masterplan (SGBMP 2020) with stakeholders from the public, private and people sectors, including Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs).

One of the key initiatives under the SGBMP 2020 is to review the mandatory minimum environmental sustainability standards for buildings. To support the push towards more energy efficient buildings, BCA plans to raise the minimum energy performance standards for both new and existing buildings in the coming years. BCA will engage stakeholders to work on the details through the SGBMP 2020 co-creation process.

BCA also intends to publish the energy performance data for all buildings with the building’s name, address and energy performance data made public on BCA’s website. This will allow building owners to benchmark their buildings’ energy performance against others, encourage them to retrofit to improve their buildings’ energy efficiency, and benefit from energy savings.
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