Methods for Commercial Buildings to Attain Higher Rating Tiers of GMS

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Chapter 1 Introduction 1.1 Background

Introduce the research problem and its background. Provide the logical argument for the problem.

The increase in Singapore’s population has in turn, led to an increase in the construction of building and infrastructure projects. Thus, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Green Mark Scheme was introduced in 2005 to promote a sustainable built environment in Singapore. It aims to shift Singapore’s construction industry towards sustainable construction among developers, designers and builders. Simultaneously, it also seeks to increase stakeholders to consider the project’s life cycle and impact on the environment through the adoption of the Green Mark Scheme (GMS). A Green Mark building is defined by incorporating designs and technologies that improve the building’s energy, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and reducing its impact to the environment, resulting to better building performance. The benefits of adopting GMS are underlined in three different aspects, and they are namely the environment, economy and social aspect. The environment aspect is covered through the use of passive design features that enable maximum optimization of natural resources. Thus, it reduces Singapore’s reliance on non-renewable sources and lowers the country’s national carbon footprint. The economic benefits are mainly derived from savings in utility bills resulted from reduced energy and water consumptions. The social benefits are for example, the increased in comfort, safety and security level for users of the building.

Therefore, it is important to pressure more stakeholders to adopt GMS, especially developers, who are the main influencing figures to decide whether the scheme is implement in their development. GMS has been rather successful, considering its projection to certifying approximately 2100 of 7000 buildings in Singapore with a Green Mark award by the end 2014. However, many developers and developments only achieved the lower tiered, “Green Mark Certified” rating which is imposed mandatorily for developments with a gross floor area (GFA) of 15,000m2 more. The probable explanations to developers achieving only the “Green Mark Certified” rating are, the lack assurance to a return of investment, lack of in-depth understanding to how the GMS works and the lack of information to prove an increasing demand for green buildings in Singapore. Hence, most developers are intimidated to target the higher tiers of the Green Mark Scheme such as Gold, Gold Plus or even Platinum.

1.2 Research question

State main and subsidiary questions (and explain their logic)

The aim of this paper is to identify various methods and measures to motivate and increase the number commercial buildings attaining the higher rating tiers of GMS. It is important increase the number of better performing buildings in Singapore because of Singapore’s scarcity of natural resources and land space. Thus, it is crucial that resources and land space are optimised to its fullest potential. Firstly, the paper will set out to investigate the factors that hinder developers from adopting the Green Mark Scheme. It will also include the scheme’s importance to the built environment and the benefits that derives from adopting GMS. Subsequently, the paper will set out to identify the limit to green investment. One example for a limit is, when the premium spent to attain green building certifications exceeds its return. Having the knowledge to GMS limit will enable stakeholders to ascertain if, attaining the higher rating tiers of the Green Mark Scheme will be value of money. Thereafter, the paper will look at how GMS can be improved, based on other green building certification schemes of other countries. Simultaneously, the paper will also aim to illustrate how key industry players in the construction industry can help further the success achieved by the current GMS. This will aid the continuity and sustainability of the scheme for the future.

1.3 The scope of research

What the boundaries of your research- what is included and what is not?

The research will focus mainly on the implementation of the GMS in commercial building in Singapore. Additionally, it will look at various well-known green building schemes implemented overseas, to identify factors to improve BCA’s current GMS. The paper emphasises on commercial buildings because the commercial building type is known to have the biggest impact on resources and the environment, especially in a city-state like Singapore. The research samples will include both existing and new commercial buildings that are awarded with any of GMS’s rating. Although, it will also include existing buildings prior to attaining the Green Mark awards and buildings that are similar to samples of the new buildings to compare their performance and payback period.

1.4 Hypotheses

State the research hypotheses as the tentative explanation (answer to the main question) to be explored.

According to a study, the primary impediment hindering developers to attain higher rating of GMS is their lack of willingness to pay for the additional costs or premiums for green building. This is caused by developer’s assumption of the absence of demand for green properties in Singapore. Additionally, factors such as the lack of information and public disclosure about the performance of Green Mark certified building both in the private and public sectors also hindered developers from adopting GMS or achieving higher GMS rating.

However, studies showed that there many returns to investment in green and sustainable building. In particular, they indicated a positive correlation between environmental certification and financial outcomes. The demand for green buildings has also risen in recent years as the general public has become increasingly aware of existence of green technology. This leads to a growth in expectations for green technology especially in new developments. Thus, the reluctance to go green may hurt businesses for developers as they can no longer hide behind uncertainty. On the other hand, policy-makers can improve the current GMS by offering better incentives to lower the premiums set out to adopt GMS award or attain higher GMS rating. Policy-makers can draw lessons from successful green mark certifications such Australia’s Green Star, US’s LEED and UK’s BREEAM to implement relevant measures that are applicable, to improve Green Mark and enhance its current scheme.

Additionally, BCA must actively promote and educate the importance of GMS to general public. This will allow the general public to understand how a green mark building will can improve their lifestyle, hence leading to an increasing demand and popularity for green building.

Finally, construction industry participants can explore the creation of a platform to share information such as the performances of Green Mark buildings. This platform will enable the BCA’s GMS as well as green technologies for buildings to continuously improve it sets the benchmark for improvement. Developers can also use the shared data and information as part of their feasibility report to weigh the feasibility of attaining the different ratings of GMS. It can further encourage developers to take up the GMS or even aim to achieve higher GMS ratings if the green premiums prove to be positively feasible.

1.5 Research methods

Describe the research methods chosen to address the problem

This research paper will be based mainly on secondary research on published works and literatures relating to the green building schemes and construction industry of Singapore, with an emphasis on commercial building. It will also include reviewing the green building certification schemes of different countries at the forefront of sustainable built environment. A case study will be done to compare the financial feasibility between green mark and non-green mark commercial buildings to deduce its returns of investments. The samples for the case study will be based on both existing and new buildings in Singapore. Thereafter, the existing building samples will be compared by their relation to investment and performance, before and after retro-fitting. New buildings samples will be compared by their relation of the new building’s green investment and performance to similar non-green buildings.

1.6 Research Objectives

State what you hope the research outcomes will be.

The main objective of this paper is to enable GMS to increase and improve its influence over Singapore’s built environment. The paper will establish the positive feasibility of investing to the GMS and possibly explore the existence of a “sweet spot” in green investment. Green investments beyond this “sweet spot” may result to investors to not recover the premiums expended to achieve green building certification.

Also, comparing Singapore’s GMS to various overseas’ green building to identify factors that reinforce a better adoption of these schemes. Additionally, the paper will highlight the importance of the role of the government and developers to inculcate the acceptance and increase the demand for green buildings in Singapore.

Finally, to recommend methods and measures that can be implemented in Singapore based on factors used successfully overseas which are applicable to the local context. On the other hand, there is also a need implore the possibility of new initiatives in contrast to the existing carrot and stick approach. This will reduce GMS’s reliance on rewards and financial benefits to prolong the sustainability of GMS. It ensures that the scheme will still be able to function should the government decides to remove or reduce the incentives. The success of the GMS can also be exported to regional countries that are exploring implementing green building certification schemes. This can also creates job opportunities for local companies and residences to export their knowledge and services overseas.

1.7 Research Limitation

Describe any limitations to the research (geographic, sample sizes, etc.) This can be part of 1.3 or separate

The primary limitation to the research is the lack of data regarding the premiums and performances of green buildings. An example such as the Singapore’s National Library Building, which is one of the first few buildings to be given and completed a recertification of a Green Mark Platinum award. Although, statements of its key green features and financial savings are disclosed, information on how much is spent on these features and the actual amount of financial savings are lacking. Thus, the lack of data increases the difficultly to build a case that highlights the benefits of adopting GMS.

7018 buildings in Singapore

2100 green marks certified