Tuesday 7 October 2014

On a recent visit to Singapore where I spoke at the International Green Building conference on “Innovations in energy efficiency financing”, I learnt more about Singapore’s commendable policies to promote green buildings. The island state of Singapore, which will mark the 50th anniversary of independence next year, has made sustainable development a national priority and has made impressive progress in many areas. It has a vision of becoming “a global leader in green buildings with special expertise in the tropics and sub-tropics, enabling sustainable development and quality living”. The Building Construction Authority (BCA), my hosts for the trip, launched their green building standard Green Mark in 2005. Comprehensive measures to promote green buildings were included in the 1st and 2nd Green Building Master Plans and the 3rd Green Building Master Plan builds upon these earlier programmes and includes initiatives such as; a Green Buildings Innovation Cluster, an incentive scheme to encourage more owners to adopt Green Mark, mandatory periodic energy audits and mandatory energy reporting. There will also be more of an emphasis on behavioural change for tenants and occupants.


There are now more than 2,100 property developments that meet one of the Green Mark standards, which like LEED has different levels of certification – Certified, Gold, Gold Plus, Platinum. A Platinum building can achieve 30% better energy efficiency than a code-compliant building. The total gross floor area of Green Mark buildings is now 65 million square meters, which equates to 25% of the total built up area and the national target is to have 80% of all buildings qualified as Green Mark by 2030.


At the conference the BCA launched the inaugural Green Building Benchmarking report. The report covered more than 800 buildings covering offices, hotels, retail buildings and mixed developments. From 2008 to 2013 the total electricity use of commercial buildings increased by 14% but gross floor area went up by 20%. The Energy Utilization Index (EUI – measured in kWh/m2 year) of these buildings had increased by 5%. For each category of buildings in the benchmarking report a top 10 list was produced and the report highlighted some interesting results from 54 buildings that had been retrofitted. On average chiller plant efficiency had been increased by 38%, from 1.05 kW/RT to 0.65 kW/RT. The average total building electricity of retrofitted buildings was reduced by 16%, equivalent to S$30 million each year. In a separate study the BCA looked at the value of 40 retrofitted buildings and concluded that for retail buildings Operating Expenses of retrofitted buildings were reduced by 13.5% and capital value increased by 2.7% while for office buildings Operating Expenses were reduced by 11.6% and capital value increased by 2.3%. This is important evidence to support the business case for green retrofitting.


The conference was also an opportunity to stay in the Marina Bay Sands hotel. Marina Bay Sands is the largest single Green Mark certified building in Singapore and its green credentials include; regenerative drives on the lifts, LED lighting and intelligent lighting controls, water saving features, District Cooling and green roofs. Its most famous feature, however, is the amazing 150 m long infinity pool, on the 200 metre high cantilever platform which spans the three towers. I was pleased to experience the infinity pool even if going to the side was “interesting” given that I now seem to dislike being near the edge in high buildings. Being in the Marina Bay Sands hotel, the associated shopping mall and conference centre, really is like being in a science fiction movie – sort of like being in a benign “Blade Runner” or an arcology. The arcology concept – a large self-contained building that contains living, working and agricultural facilities and is sustainable – was pioneered by architect Paolo Soleri and although it never gained much traction it seems to have been almost implemented in buildings like the Marina Bay Sands. A great science fiction book involving an arcology, which I thought of often while in the Marina Bay Sands, is “Oath of Fealty” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Written in 1981 it describes the technologies of an arcology but also examines some of the social issues we now live with every day such as the pros and cons of continuous CCTV surveillance: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Oath-Fealty-Larry-Niven/dp/1416555161.


Back in the real world Singapore recognizes the barriers to meeting its ambitious green building and energy targets but continues to be a leader in designing and deploying policies to increase the uptake of green building techniques. Its policies and programmes are well worth studying and it is certainly well worth visiting.


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Dr Steven Fawkes

Welcome to my blog on energy efficiency and energy efficiency financing. The first question people ask is why my blog is called 'only eleven percent' - the answer is here. I look forward to engaging with you!

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