S'pore on track to 'green 80 percent' of buildings by 2030

The nation's Building and Construction Authority gave ZDNet Asia an update on its efforts to ensure at least 80 percent of new and existing buildings are eco-friendly 20 years from now.

Since the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development (IMCSD) announced its second Green Building Masterplan, which aims to green 80 percent of all buildings in Singapore by 2030, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has been hard at work changing the mindsets of the entire construction ecosystem.

The second Masterplan roadmap was launched after the introduction of the Green Mark scheme in January 2005, and together, these green initiatives have driven the industry toward more environmentally-friendly buildings, noted a BCA spokesperson.

"There are now about 450 green buildings in Singapore with a total floor area of 16 million square meters," he said. "This amounts to 8 percent of the nation's total gross floor area (GFA)."

By 2030, at least 80 percent of new and existing buildings will have attained the Building and Construction Authority's (BCA) Green Mark certified rating. That is if the target set by the Inter-Ministerial is achieved.

The IMCSD's second version of the Green Building Masterplan, announced in August last year, will result in annual savings of S$1.6 billion (US$1.1 billion) in terms of energy cost reductions when fully implemented, the press release stated then. Furthermore, as a spinoff, 18,000 "green collar" PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) will receive training in the development, design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings.

For existing buildings, a S$100 million (US$70.5 million) Green Mark incentive was dangled in front of property owners to retrofit their existing buildings. Additionally, the regulatory body promised more GFA for private properties that attain higher-tier Green Mark ratings, such as Green Mark Platinum or Green Mark Gold Plus, pointed out the spokesperson.

"Green Mark buildings will benefit building owners through lower usage of energy and water, which will lead to cost savings. Such cost savings will help fully recover the initial additional cost of greening the buildings within two to eight years," he said.

This two-pronged strategy of incentivizing green initiatives and establishing a minimum level of standards as part of the industry's regulations gets the thumbs up from GBI Research analyst, Jeetendra Bisht.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia in a phone interview, the analyst said that Singapore is "one of the more aggressive" governments within the Asia-Pacific region pursuing a green building program.

He went on to add that while the total Green Mark projects in the pipeline currently represents "less than one percent" of total buildings in the country, the number of such certified buildings has grown exponentially, from 17 in 2005 to 120 in 2008.

When quizzed about the state of green buildings in the Asia-Pacific region, the BCA spokesperson reiterated Bisht's views, saying: "The green building movements in other countries within the region are in various stages of development, but they are mostly in their infancy."

Green features for the tropics
As for features that are most commonly seen in local green buildings, the BCA spokesperson pointed out that Singapore's hot and humid tropical climate requires a lot of energy to cool the indoor environment. This typically amounts to as much as 50 percent of the total building's energy consumption.

To combat this, he said a good green design will have the ability to reduce heat absorption into the building, while allowing for as much natural ventilation as possible. Building designs should avoid an East-West orientation, as this would invite in the most sunlight and hence heat.

"These features, such as better passive design, maximizing natural ventilation, efficient air-conditioning and lighting systems, are fast becoming mainstream practices in many of our new buildings, which are certified to Green Mark Gold or higher ratings," said the spokesperson.

He went on to add that BCA expects to see more green buildings mushroom within the city in future.