Energy guzzler Singapore boosts 'green' buildings

Apr 24, 2012 by Bhavan Jaipragas
Rows of solar panels on the roof top of the United World College Southeast Asia in Singapore. Since 2005, 1,000 government-certified green buildings have been built in Singapore, accounting for 13% of gross floor space in the country.

From the bone-chilling air conditioning that pumps through Singapore's malls and offices to lights that burn all night, the city state is one of Asia's most intensive energy users.

Nearly all electricity used by the industrialised island is produced by , which in 2010 contributed to the largest per head in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

South Korea and third-placed Japan follow close behind.

For environmentalists, the scenario is all too familiar in the Asia region whose urban population is set to soar from 1.9 billion to 3.3 billion by 2050 according to United Nations data.

Such growth puts sustainability on top of the agenda but critics say Asia's are not doing enough to curb their voracious appetite for energy, with Singapore having been recognised as one of the worst offenders.

The WWF added that buildings contribute some 16 percent of Singapore's .

While the city-state contends that the WWF's per capita measurement of carbon emissions "disadvantages countries with small populations" -- compared to the likes of rapidly industrialising China -- it has nevertheless been spurred into action.

City Square Mall in Singapore has an integrated park and solar-panelled roof. In 2005, the government embarked on a project to promote the development of high-tech, low-energy buildings and the retrofitting of older ones in a push to "green" at least 80% of all buildings by 2030.

In 2005, the government embarked on a project to promote the development of high-tech, low-energy buildings and the retrofitting of older ones in a push to "" at least 80 percent of all buildings by 2030.

Since then 1,000 government-certified green buildings have been built in Singapore, accounting for 13 percent of gross floor space in the country.

Along with cash incentives, developers who meet targets set by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) are given more leeway to have bigger floor areas.

United World College , an international school, is one of the torchbearers of the drive.

"Many new buildings are savagely overdesigned, wasting capital and upkeep costs. If you rationalise your design and spend on green technology, the savings are going to be immense," said Simon Thomas, its director of operations and facilities.

Features like rooftop solar panels, cascading walls that block off heat and optimal use of natural light make the campus about 30 percent more energy-efficient than conventional buildings of similar size, Thomas told AFP.

The college worked closely with architects to design a building that had energy efficiency as a central objective, he said.

The 2,500 students are also kept aware of daily water and electricity consumption levels, thanks to prominently displayed meters on every floor.

Its 5.5-hectare (13.5 acres) campus in Singapore's eastern region was awarded the nation's Green Mark Platinum award in 2011, the highest accolade in the official rating system.

Simon Thomas, director of operations and facilities at United World College Southeast Asia, explains the functions of the solar panels intalled on the college's roof in Singapore. Rooftop solar panels and optimal use of natural light make the campus about 30% more energy-efficient.

Despite the surge in the development of such buildings, BCA chief executive John Keung said some developers are still averse to riding the green wave, due to what they see as relatively high costs of technologies such as solar.

"Although there are some who see great value in going green for their own corporate branding, others are discouraged by its perceived high upfront costs and low return on investments," Keung told AFP.

Developers who shun green technologies may not be fully aware of the scale of savings they are missing out on, according to Keung.

"The cost premium involved in green buildings is gradually decreasing with greater economies of scale and the industry's familiarity with green building design".

Despite the cost of solar panels falling by about four percent every year, solar-derived electricity remains more expensive than that from the power grid.

This is mainly due to its relatively high capital costs as well as maintenance costs, according to Singapore's Energy Market Authority.

City Developments Limited, one of Singapore's top property groups, is nevertheless confident that environmentally-friendly buildings will become the norm as "green consumerism" gains traction.

Its City Square Mall has an integrated park and solar-panelled roof. Some tenants sell eco-friendly products and offer discounts to customers who bring their own shopping bags.

With Singaporeans increasingly aware of environmental issues, there will be greater demand for investments in green innovations and technology, said Esther An, the company's head of corporate social responsibility.

In addition to making buildings more energy-efficient, Singapore is also aggressively developing desalination and sewage-recycling technology to address its chronic water shortages.

Explore further: Old timey car to replace NYC horse carriages shown

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Green buildings save green

Nov 18, 2011

In addition to emitting less carbon dioxide and using less water, sustainably designed federal buildings cost 19 percent less to maintain, according to a report by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.  The results are i ...

Toward greener, more energy-efficient buildings

Nov 17, 2008

In the face of growing environmental concerns and a renewed interest in energy efficiency, the construction of homes and businesses that emphasize "green" construction materials is on the rise, according to an article scheduled ...

Workers say 'green' buildings boost productivity

Aug 11, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Workers who moved from conventional office buildings to environmentally friendly “green” buildings said they called in sick less often and were more productive, according to a study by a team of Michigan ...

Empire State Building going green

Apr 07, 2009

The Empire State Building is being converted into an eco-friendly skyscraper, transforming the landmark into a "green" architectural marvel as part of a multimillion-dollar upgrade, officials said Monday.

Recommended for you

Obama launches measures to support solar energy in US

19 hours ago

The White House Thursday announced a series of measures aimed at increasing solar energy production in the United States, particularly by encouraging the installation of solar panels in public spaces.

Tailored approach key to cookstove uptake

19 hours ago

Worldwide, programs aiming to give safe, efficient cooking stoves to people in developing countries haven't had complete success—and local research has looked into why.

Wireless power transfer achieved at five-meter distance

19 hours ago

The way electronic devices receive their power has changed tremendously over the past few decades, from wired to non-wired. Users today enjoy all kinds of wireless electronic gadgets including cell phones, ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Venture investments jump to $9.5B in 1Q

Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into an increasing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

White House updating online privacy policy

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...