Singapore school targets green values beyond eco buildings

Marsiling Secondary School sees green actions and values, rather than just infrastructure, as necessary in spreading and sustaining energy efficiency motto.

SINGAPORE--The building blocks of a lasting impact from adopting an energy-efficient philosophy involve instilling green values within a community of people, and not simply to erect eco-friendly buildings.

In an interview Thursday, Tai Lee Siang, president of Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC), noted that while energy-efficient buildings were important "hardware" in a green strategy, focus should also be on community involvement to advance the green message, particularly in schools.

He explained that while Project Green Insights, an initiative led by SGBC, aims to help schools in the island-state monitor and improve their energy performance, it will ultimately serve as "gateway for green schools" in the future. "[These] are energy-efficient not only in terms of hardware but in the software aspect, by influencing the next generation of young kids to be aware that they can improve the environment, and enabling them with ways of doing so," Tai said.

For example, the energy audits conducted as part of the project will help students understand how energy is consumed and their behavior can influence energy usage and conservation, he added.

Project Green Insights commenced last year with SGBC receiving a US$100,000 grant from IBM to develop a new system that can track power usage and find ways to lower energy consumption and costs.

The council is working with the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) and 20 schools to monitor energy usage patterns through smart meters installed in each school. The network of smart meters will collect data for analysis which then can be viewed by the school's staff members and students in a cloud-based dashboard provided by IBM.

According to Tai, the 20 schools were selected from a list of 50 identified by MOE. Out of the 50 schools, 32 expressed interest in participating in the project and the final 20 were then chosen.

While the selection criteria looked at the readiness of schools both in terms of technical infrastructure and existing green initiatives, he pointed out that it was important to have a geographical spread of schools across Singapore.

Marsiling Secondary School is one of the 20 schools selected, and among the first three schools to have completed installation of the smart meters and connected to IBM's cloud. According to Tai, the remaining schools were in the process of installing the smart meters.

Foong Lai Leong, principal of Marsiling Secondary School, said the project was well-aligned with the school's emphasis on green values and actions.

"Green is not just about infrastructure and saving energy, but a deeper lesson in values inculcation [among students]," she told ZDNet Asia.

She said while the school had implemented solar panels, water catchment tanks and 10 classrooms with LED lights, it also appointed from the student body environment champions who helped "propagate the green message" among their peers.

Foong noted that the biggest gain from the school's participation in Project Green Insights was two-fold. First, in terms of educational value, students were able to pick up research skills, learn to be analytical and create insights from data. Second, the school's management could also ensure energy use was both economical and optimal by observing patterns and trends from the data collected.

Tai shared similar sentiments on the importance of the energy analysis, noting that it allowed for benchmarking and diagnostics.

"We don't just look at all the schools in isolation. There is a lot of application use with benchmarks," he explained. "For instance, if we see all the schools experience a similar spike in energy consumption at a particular time of day, we can see and learn together what can be improved. A little checking makes a big difference."