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Singapore, a small city is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The 4th Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated that buildings have the greatest potential in decreasing carbon emission. Therefore, to ensure its economic and sustainable development, Singapore started its initiative on climate change.
Singapore started to embark its journey on green buildings in 2005. Ever since then, 1180 buildings have achieved BCA Green Mark standard. Singapore had made voluntary pledge to reduce 12% of its carbon emission, about 12million tones of CO2 by 2020. In longer term, government hopes to achieve 80% of the existing building to achieve a minimum standard of Green Mark certified rating. Singapore now is one of the leading cities in the Green building. However, there is still room for improvements. This essay aims to review Singapore's Green Building programme and highlights gaps and problems that should be addressed in the future medium term.
Green Mark scheme was launched in 2005 by Building and Construction Authority (BCA). The aim of it is to "adoption of green building that improves energy efficiency and reduces the impact of building environments". This scheme assesses new buildings under the criterion of Energy Efficiency, Water Efficiency, Environmental Protection, Indoor Environmental Quality and Other Green and Innovative Features that contribute to better building performance. Green marks score are awarded according to the GM Certified, GM Gold, GM Gold Plus and GM Platinum in correspond to energy efficiency improvement of over 30%, 25-30%, 15-25% and 10-15%.
Schemes for training and certification for green building specialists was also introduced to build the industry capability in both the First and second Green Master Plan. This includes training of 18,000 green specialists at the level of PMET (Professional, Manager, Executive, and Technician) in the green building sectors over the next 10 years through a comprehensive framework by the BCA. In addition, BCA academy also offers a comprehensive training framework to develop and nurture green building specialists and professionals. Executive Programmes, Specialists certificates and Academic Programmes are offered by the BCA academy.
Legislation was passed in 2008 that all new buildings must satisfy the Green Mark (GM) Certified rating. New buildings built in key development areas must meet higher ratings and also a minimum standard of platinum rating is essential for new public-sector buildings with more than 5000m2 air-conditioned floor areas. Furthermore, building owners are required to submit a 3 year energy audit on building cooling systems and an annual submission of building information and energy consumption data to BCA. Under the 2nd Green Building Masterplan ,higher green mark standards is mandatory for selected strategic areas for projects developed on land sold under the Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme.
BCA Incentive Schemes
BCA also have economic instruments to aid the developers or building owners in pursuing the green building. Green Mark Schemes have been introduced to encourage Green buildings. The schemes are not only for new green buildings, it consists for retrofitting existing buildings. In 2006, the 1st Green Building Master plan was introduced. $20 million GM incentive scheme was launched to spur the private sector towards Green building.
The Green Mark Gross Floor Area (GM GFA)
To encourage private sectors to achieve a higher-tier Green Mark rating, BCA together with URA launched The Green Mark Gross Floor Area (GM GFA) incentive scheme. Developments that attain the higher-tier GM ratings will be granted additional gross floor area above or over the stipulated Master Plan Gross Plot ratio control.
GM incentive scheme for existing buildings (GMIS-EB)
GM incentive scheme for existing buildings was implemented to aid private sector to green or upgrade their energy performance of their existing buildings. 50% of the retrofitting cost or S$3 million (the lower cost) will be provided. It also includes the 'health check' scheme. BCA will co-fund half of the cost of determining the air-conditioning plants by the energy audits.
GM incentive scheme for new building
S$20 million was set aside for GM incentive scheme for new building. Cash incentives will be awarded to developments with at least 2000 m2 that attained a minimum of GM gold rating
Building Retrofit Energy Efficiency Financing (BREEF)
BCA together with the 2 partners- United Overseas Bank and Standard Chartered launched this financing scheme. 15 loans will be disbursed to commercial building owners, condominium managements and energy services companies. The interest rate is capped at a minimum 3.5%. BCA will share the default risk with the financial institutions.
Apart from the government, community also plays an important role in the green building sector .The Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC), a non-profit organization, was set up in 2009. It is a concerted private-public sector partnership which aims to achieve a world-class and sustainable built-environment in Singapore. They are responsible for advocating green building design, practices and technologies and drive environmental sustainability in the building and construction industry.
SGBC have taken initiatives to increase the green standard in service and product certification. Green services certification scheme was launched in 2012. "Staff competencies and development, Green corporate practices in the entire business value chain, Support for the Green community and lastly the track record in the delivery of Green projects and promotion of Green Building design" are the criterion for assessment. Certification scheme for green building products was launched in 2010. An integrated and multi-criteria approach was adopted in assessing the green products. Furthermore, many corporate companies have joined SGBC as a member.
A series of insightful seminars, workshops and events are also organised that allow industry players to provide valuable knowledge exchanging and updated information. For instance, the SGBC green building conference.
Research and Developments
In the First Green Master plan, the Ministry of National Development pumped out S$50 million R&D funds in 2006 to encourage research for green building technologies and solutions for energy efficiency. R&D is not only government initiative, in recent years public sectors have also actively participated. Grant call was launched in April 2011 to foster Public-Private Collaboration (PPC) in green building research. The first public-private collaboration initiative for green building research occurred in 2012, a pilot green building grant call for encouraging research and higher rate of adoption of green building technologies.
Singapore Government had often been praised in the Green building area. By implementing laws, providing incentives schemes, having institutions to develop or nurture green expertise, Singapore is now one of the leading green cities in Asia. However, there are still a few problems or inadequacies which Singapore government should address in the medium term.
One of the major problems Singapore faces in green building is the lack of green expertise skills and knowledge. In green building, information and practices are not available to average designers or builders. Specialized green consultants may be necessary for some projects. As green sustainable design is still not an industry standard in Singapore, designers might face obstacles in this aspect of work. According to the Architecture Week's Adam Davi(2010), the malfunctions in the green building or products can be expensive due to the lack of reliable information. Moreover, the lack of information posses' difficulty for the designers and builders in determining the lifespan of the green products and materials are going to affect the building site. Higher standards of sustainability are important in Green buildings (Dr Nirmal Kishnani, 2011). Builders must adopt a holistic approach. For instance, lighting controls are use by only minority of buildings. Moreover, ubiquitous glass facades are used in many new buildings today. This is not suitable in Singapore, a tropical climate. The facades can cause thermal discomfort and glare and is not suitable for office workers.
Another inadequacy is the absence of project management framework for green building. The construction industry is very fragmented. There is little integration between suppliers, designers, architects and builders, leading to the lack of communication of ideas.(Leon R. Glicksman in Physics Today,) Moreover, the integrated green building design approach requires all stakeholders to participate from the start of the projects. This approach differs from the traditional design and planning where each stakeholder has limited responsibilities. The table below shows the differences between traditional planning and design process to integrated green building design approach.
Therefore the participation of the whole team is encouraged. Communication among stakeholders is especially important throughout the project phases. Integrated design approach major challenge is to know that that all building systems are interdependent.
Generally, the lack of funding is the major reason for retrofitting not taking place .As existing building comprise a vast amount of energy building, retrofitting becomes important. Although the government is providing incentives schemes to encourage retrofitting such as GMIS-EB, the scheme is only applicable for existing buildings with a minimum land area of 2000 m2. BCA should come up with incentives that consider those small developers or building owners. Normally, the small building owners or developers are the one with more financial constraint as compared to large building owners. In addition, the GMIS-NB had been fully disbursed. Government may need to come up more GM incentives in the medium term to encourage more Green Building
Singapore's valuation industry does not weigh the benefits of green buildings. Investors often does not put a premium on green building due to the lack of proper set way or guideline for the valuation of the Green building. Just recently, The Singapore Institute of Surveyors and Valuers (SISV) have announced its guideline valuation on green buildings. The valuation method will still remain the same, but income and cost implications of green buildings will be taken into consideration. However, capturing the tangible and intangible benefits and translating them into quantifiable economic benefits for building owners poses challenge for the real estate appraisers. Nonetheless, this new valuation will result in a higher pricing for green building. This may seems advantageous to the building owners but not to the tenants. Observers have stated that the Industry perspectives can differ greatly. For instance, landlords will be concerned with the return on investment; large companies' tenants will fuss about fulfilling their role in Corporate Social Responsibility requirements; whereas Small Medium Enterprise (SME) tenants are more worried about rental costs. With a higher pricing for green building, this might mean that the higher rental cost for the SME tenants. Therefore, government needs to engage opinions on the value of sustainability. "Persuasive sustainability" is essential. This is especially important in the medium term as green building is an emerging trend in Singapore.
Another inadequacy is the lack of awareness in terms of different kind of education for users. Green Building is an all rounded approach which takes all factors of building's operation into account. According to the Deputy chief executive for industry development Lam Siew Wah(2009), existing buildings are not just technical issues, it also involves human and business issues. Rob Moult (2009) also agrees that "One needs to capture a whole-building view, rather than just looking at the components." Hence, all key industry players and suppliers should be included in integrated design. To be truly effective, following a certain set of ways is important. For instance, landlords and tenants should work together in reducing building's energy load; this would include installation of green energy efficient appliances and green procurement. Also, sharing best practices and spreading awareness is important. To ensure the sustainability of the building lifespan, its performance must be tracked. The human factor also needs to be taken into consideration. For instance, operators must be trained and have the knowledge to operate the building and its systems in an energy-efficient manner. Users and tenants needs to be educated or given incentives for maintaining their low consumption level. The "Green Lease" can be a possible solution. Although the concept of green lease is still new in Singapore, it is already in implementation in other countries such as Australia and UK. For instance, the provisions in operating and maintaining the rented areas should be specified in Green Lease Schedule. Singapore should play more emphasis on tenants' involvement in the green movement and coming up with different GM schemes for different types of tenants. Also, building owner and users must also set aside budget for POE audits, constant maintenance and upgrading of the building to ensure its efficiency performance. Therefore the government needs to work on the aspect making the Green Building an all rounded approach.
In conclusion, Singapore government had done a very good job in the building area. Through adequate regulatory framework and GM incentives scheme, it is slowly steering Singapore towards a green building city. Nonetheless, Singapore will continue to faces problems throughout the journey. Government plays an important role. Community