The Push for Green Buildings

Singapore is now a global leader in green buildings, as industry players gather in the city to share insights


Nanyang Technological Universityʼs Learning Hub – also known as The Hive – holds a BCA Green Mark Platinum Building Award for its innovative design, which ticks all the boxes for energy efficiency by maximising natural light and ventilation.


orldwide interest in green buildings has been growing as the effects of climate change, such as global warming, become more apparent. To meet global sustainability goals, it is critical that more innovative ways are found to drive development. People are also becoming more conscious of energy and water consumption. All these tie in to the key ideas shared during the International Green Building Conference (IGBC), one of the flagship events of the annual Singapore Green Building Week (SGBW).

“Buildings are constructed for people, so it stands to reason that occupants need to understand what a green building is and make necessary steps to help their building become truly green,” says Yvonne Soh, executive director, Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC).

Soh says Singapore is aiming to reduce its emissions intensity by 36 per cent from its 2005 levels by 2030. In line with this effort, the next step in its green building journey is to make a bolder and deeper impact on behavioural change. “In the areas of climate change and environmental sustainability, achieving significant progress requires the active involvement, cooperation and mindset change of the greater community,” she adds.

According to Ang Kian Seng, group director, Environmental Sustainability Group, Building and Construction Authority (BCA), a shared vision for a future-ready and environmentally sustainable built environment in Singapore was what brought BCA and SGBC together. “We believe that a concerted partnership with the people and industry stakeholders is critical to achieving this,” he says. “We synergised our efforts, and with support from other partners, organised the first annual Singapore Green Building Week (SGBW), including IGBC, in 2009.”

IGBC provides a platform for the gathering of international and local experts, green building advocates, manufacturers and industry professionals to share the latest green building policies, initiatives, trends, architecture, products and solutions, as well as best practices in the industry.

“This year’s event was attended by close to 20,000 built-environment professionals from more than 50 countries. This offers great opportunities for Singapore companies to network and collaborate with key international industry players,” says Ang. Themed “Build Green: Be The Change”, it ran from Sept 12 to 14 at Marina Bay Sands.

IGBC 2017 saw many practical ideas being shared, and participating countries can look into implementing those relevant to their needs. Keynote speaker John Mandyck, chief sustainability officer for United Technologies Corporation (UTC), shared on the increasing interest in green buildings in the US.

“In 2005, green buildings took up 5 per cent of commercial development in the US; that has grown, reaching 40 per cent last year. Over the last five years, US$7 trillion has been poured into green building project development. Investors believe their real estate investments will derive higher returns if they invest in green building projects,” says Mandyck. “Research has also shown that green buildings derive better rent rates and cash flow for building owners, as more people want to live and work in green buildings. Tenants can also derive greater economic benefits, as green buildings can improve the health and productivity of the people working in them.”

VIPs who attended IGBC 2017 included Desmond Lee (fourth from left), Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, and Tai Lee Siang (far right), chairman, World Green Building Council.

Another keynote speaker, Isabelle Louis, deputy regional director, UN Environment (Asia Pacific), says green buildings hold immense potential for private sector investments. “There is money to be made by entrepreneurs in green building, and money to be saved by the occupants and owners of these buildings. We need private sector investment and innovation to drive change. For example, UN Environment works with national housing authorities in the Philippines and Thailand to develop green housing for low-income groups. We help them link up with the private sector in this endeavour.”

Apart from protecting the environment, making a city more sustainable can also help to strengthen its economy, says Morten Kabell, Copenhagen’s mayor of technical and environmental affairs. During the IGBC, Kabell shared how Copenhagen had been on the verge of bankruptcy 13 years ago, but managed to reverse its fortunes by rolling out a series of sustainable initiatives, including lower carbon emission and lower energy consumption.

The Danish capital chose to invest heavily in walking and cycling paths, green buildings, and renewable energy, and is now ranked as one of the most liveable cities in the world.

Bukit Panjang Hawker Centre won a Green Mark Platinum Building Award for utilising sustainable materials, being highly energy-efficient, and having rainwater collection and food-waste recycling systems; the massive cooled conservatories at Gardens by the Bay have also managed to meet Green Mark Platinum requirements.

Louis says Singapore can help developing countries in the region by sharing information on technologies for increasing energy efficiency, costs of implementing said technologies, and information on actual energy savings achieved. “We would like to engage building developers in Singapore to come and share their experience in these areas with the private sector in other countries,” she adds.

Mandyck says the US can take a leaf from Singapore’s green area plot ratio regulation, by which a certain amount of space within a property development needs to be designated for green space. “That’s why you are seeing an increasing number of roof terraces and places with natural lighting in Singapore,” he adds.

In fact, Singapore was ranked second in the world for green buildings in 2016’s The Top 10 Global Cities For Green Buildings report by Solidiance, a leading corporate strategy consulting firm in Asia. “From almost zero in 2005, we now have ‘greened’ more than a third of Singapore’s building stock (by gross floor area). In addition, over 300 projects overseas have applied for BCA Green Mark certification,” says BCA’s Ang.

“ We aim to get companies to consider the health and well-being of their staff when designing interior fi t-outs and provisions, as well as programmes and policies for their workers. ”

Ang Kian Seng, group director, Environmental Sustainability Group, BCA

Since 2015, BCA Green Mark schemes have been encouraging innovative building and design solutions in the areas of climate responsiveness, building energy performance, and smart and healthy building through technologies such as high-performance air filters and indoor air-quality sensors for continuous monitoring.

BCA is also jointly exploring, with the Health Promotion Board, the development of a new Green Mark scheme to encourage green design – such as the provision of energyefficient lighting and office equipment – and the development of health-related workplace programmes in offices. “We aim to get companies to consider the health and well-being of their staff when designing interior fit-outs and provisions, as well as programmes and policies for their workers,” says Ang.

Soh believes that through events like the IGBC, Singapore has built up a reputation as a world leader of the green building movement. “We have a national goal of greening 80 per cent of our buildings by 2030. We have received visits from many organisations and individuals, all of them wanting to learn more about how we advocate for green building. This year alone, we have had exchanges with organisations from China, India, Ireland, Myanmar, the Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, and Vietnam,” she notes.



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