Singapores Green Building Programme Construction Essay

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Of the countless environmental problems Earth is having now, climate change appears to be the most pressing issue humanity has ever faced. Of all the major sectors in the economy, the building sector accounts for near one-third of the global energy- related carbon dioxide emissions and two-third of halocarbon emissions. This sector consumes more energy than any other sectors, making it the largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet and also the leading single contributor to anthropogenic climate change (Architecture 2030).

Singapore joined the area of green building in fight of climate change. In the following sections of the essay, Singapore's green building programme will be reviewed and hypothetical short-comings will be highlighted in view of possible improvements to be made in the medium-term future.

Singapore's Green Building Programme

In Singapore, buildings accounts for near one-third of country's total electricity consumption. Energy costs make up 20% to 40% of the total operating cost of a building. Conserving energy not only lowers operating cost for businesses, but more importantly promotes a greener environment. Singapore Building and Construction Authority (BCA) launches its BCA Green Mark Scheme in January 2005 initiated to drive Singapore's construction industry towards more environmental-friendly buildings with its objectives to promote environmental sustainability in the built industry and raise awareness of environmental impact of their projects among developers, designers and builders when they start project conceptualization and design, as well as during construction (BCA, 2012). The green mark for buildings scheme also recognizes building owners and developers who adopt practices that are environmentally conscious and socially responsible. To further encourage environmental friendliness in buildings, the scheme identifies best practices in development, design, construction, management and operations of buildings (Chan, 2012). New buildings are assessed under five criteria namely, energy efficiency, water efficiency, environmental protection, indoor environmental quality and other green and innovative features that contributed to better building performance. Each building will then be awarded one of the four Green Mark ratings; Green Mark Certified, Gold, GoldPlus or Platinum, depending on the overall assessment respective to energy efficient improvement of over 30%, 25-30%, 15-25%, or 10-15% (BCA).

In determining whether a building is truly 'green', the assessment and certification scheme comes in as a very important role. This is the area where Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) formulates its green building product certification scheme. In its mission to develop a truly sustainable and environmentally-friendly built environment, SGBC adopted an integrated and multi-criteria approach in assessing these buildings (SGBC, 2012).

The Singapore Green Building Programme (SGBP) certification scheme also complements the above mentioned BCA Green Mark Scheme. To ensure that both the bench marking instrument and life cycle assessment are credible, the assessment criteria were formulated by about 100 building professionals. In addition, it uses an independent and third-party approach which complies with the ISO 14020 Type I International Standards for environmental labeling. As for bench marking, scientific approach is employed to ensure that overall assessment is accurate and technically sound. Furthermore, criteria selected consider the complete product life-cycle assessment to determine its long-term impact on the environment.

More importantly, the certification scheme is widely recognized by government authorities and organization as well as industry players. This would further encourage businesses to pursue eco-friendliness in their products.

SGBC assessment criteria, some of which are similar to that of BCA's, focus on 5 key areas: energy efficiency, water efficiency, resource efficiency, health and pollution control and other equipment such as Environmental Quality Management System (EQMS) and technical performance/innovation (SGBC, 2012).

Till date, SGBC have formulated criteria for 9 product groups, shown in the figure below. It comprises of renewable energy to concrete and structural and even the building's finishes. Despite already having a wide range of assessment as seen below, SGBC still continues to broaden its assessment criteria to cover more products.

Source: Singapore Green Building Council, 2012

The following are some of the policies, plans and incentives scheme with respect to Singapore's green building programme.

BCA Green Building Masterplan

Singapore has indeed done well in the area of green building as evident with a surge in number of BCA Green Mark Certified new buildings in 2007. This has also proven that BCA's 1st Green Building Masterplan, which was launched in 2006, was successful whose emphasis was then on new buildings and those that were undergoing major retrofitting. In view of maximizing the potential for cost-effective energy savings in the built environment, BCA's formulated 2nd Green Building Master Plan has placed emphasis on 'greening' the existing large amount of building stock as they consumed approximately one third of Singapore's end-use electricity. The other two development areas covered are New Buildings and Beyond Buildings. The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development (IMCSD) sets its target of at least 80% of the buildings in Singapore being able to achieve the BCA Green Mark Certified rating by the year 2030 which when fully implemented, could result in an annual savings of $1.6 billion of energy cost reductions (BCA, 2009).

Table 1: BCA 2nd Masterplan six strategic thrusts

Source: BCA

Enhanced $20 Million Green Mark Incentive Scheme for New Buildings (GMIS-NB)

As the title suggests, BCA set asides $20 million for the incentive scheme on December 2006 for duration of 3 years or when the fund is fully committed, whichever is earlier for new buildings. Till date, the fund has been fully committed. The ultimate aim of the enhanced scheme is to further motivate developers, building owners, project architecture and M&E engineers to achieve at least a BCA Green Mark Gold rating or even higher in their design and construction of new buildings by giving cash incentives (BCA, 2009).

Green Mark Incentive Scheme for Existing Building (GMIS-EB)

The green mark incentive scheme for existing building aims to encouraging developers and/or building owners to incorporate more green features into the existing buildings through retrofitting design, technologies and even practices in order to achieve more in energy efficiency. This scheme focuses on four main categories of energy intensive buildings namely Shopping Malls, Hotels, Office Buildings and Hospitals as they are mainly centrally air-conditioned. BCA has enhanced the scheme which effects starting from July 2012 till April 2014 or when the GMIS-EB fund is fully disbursed, whichever earlier. The enhanced version of the scheme now covers a cash incentive for upgrading and retrofitting that co-funds up to 50%, capped at $3 million, of the cost of efforts in improving the overall energy efficiency of existing buildings. In addition, BCA will also co-fund half of the cost used for 'health check' scheme which acts as an energy audit to determine the efficiency of air-conditioning plants (BCA, 2009).

Table 2: Amount of co-funding rate and cap amount

Source: BCA

Green Mark Gross Floor Area (GM GFA) Incentive Scheme

To boost private sectors in developments of more environmental friendly green buildings thereby attaining higher tier of green mark ratings such as Green Mark Platinum or Green Mark GoldPlus, BCA and URA jointly introduced a set of Green Mark Gross Floor Area Incentive Scheme in April 2009 which will grant additional floor area above the Master Plan Gross Plot Ratio control. This scheme is applicable to all new private developments, redevelopments and reconstruction developments. The quantum of bonus gross floor area (GFA) is shown in Table 1 below and Figure 1 shows the formula for determining the GFA.

Table 3: Quantum of GFA Bonus for higher BCA Green Mark ratings

Source: BCA

Figure 1: Method of determining the GM GFA

Source: BCA

BCA Green Mark for Supermarket and BCA Green Mark for Retail

BCA extended its Green Mark scheme to supermarket and retail just this year in hope that other firms in the industry will follow the suit the raise the environmental standards of their business. 4 green supermarkets and 3 green retail outlets pioneered under this new scheme, one of which is the supermarket chain NTUC 'FairPrice Finest' situated at Zhong Shan Park, awarded the highest of category -Green Mark Platinum (Eco-business, 2012). In supermarkets, refrigeration consumes almost half of the total energy used. However, operators can save over 10% of it by installing energy saving equipments (BCA).

Retail sector being one of the highest energy consumers per floor area accounts for half of the total energy consumption of the building. The new BCA Green Mark for Retail hopes to encourage tenants to fit out their shops in a sustainable manner thereby reducing operating cost and wastage while not harming the outlook of shop (Eco-business, 2012).

BCA Green Mark for Data Centres

Other than supermarkets and retail outlets, data centres too are becoming more energy-intensive. It was estimated that a typical large data centre consumes energy that amounts to the same of 10,000 households. Given its heavy energy usage and a projection of data centres space to increase by 50% from 2010 to 2015, it is important to target this sector to embrace more green and energy efficient practices (Eco-business, 2012).

This new scheme, a partnership of BCA with Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), took 2 years to develop and aims at encouraging firms to make data centres more energy efficient. So far, 3 data centres have achieved the green mark rating, they are the Credit Suisse Regional Centre, Equinix SG2 Data Centre and the Singapore Tourism Board Data Centre (Eco-business.com, 2012). As part of the scheme to encourage data centres to go green, the government introduced tax incentive - Invest Allowance Scheme for Energy Efficient Projects (Data Centres) that allows firms to claim 30%-50% of their expenses used on installing energy efficient equipment.

Setting Higher Tier Green Mark Ratings in Government Land Sales

The following four districts seen in the table below are the areas identified by the URA and BCA as new strategic growth areas. By developing these areas in an environmentally sustainable way, Singapore could achieve a significant impact in energy saving thereby profiling as a leading global city for sustainable development.

Table 3: Minimum Green Mark standard for the four districts

Source: BCA

All of the above areas are expected to consume high amount of energy with plans that Marina Bay and Downtown Core will be developed into an area with high density offices and hotels whereby both consume the most energy among various building types. By setting the minimum GM standard at Platinum or GoldPlus will help reduce energy consumption at a significant rate of 30% or more. The remaining three districts will be used for commercial, hospitality and residential purposes which as mentioned, energy consumption is expected to be high. BCA set the GM standard at a minimum of GoldPlus so as to ensure these areas will reduce energy consumption by at least 25% (BCA, 2009).

Public Sector Taking the Lead for Higher Green Mark Ratings

As of 2008, a new law, the Building Control (Environmental Sustainability) Regulations, was passed for all new buildings to meet a basic Green Mark standard (NEA, 2012). BCA mandated that all new and existing buildings are to be retrofitted to meet minimum standards environmental sustainability. In addition, all new public sector buildings with more than 5,000 sqm air-conditioned GFA will be required to attain Green Mark Platinum rating by financial year 2009. As for existing public sector buildings with more than 10,000 sqm air-conditioned GFA are required to meet a GM GoldPlus rating by 2020 (BCA, 2009).

Building Retrofit Energy Efficiency Financing (BREEF) Scheme

This financing scheme is pilot by BCA in collaboration with participating financial institutions. The BREEF scheme helps work towards the goal of every building attaining a minimum Green Mark certified standard through providing loans for commercial buildings owners, MCSTs and Energy Services Companies to carry out retrofitting for existing buildings (BCA, 2011).

Other forms of funding and incentives by the government

Below is a list of funding and incentive scheme related to Green Building which the government put in place to drive Singapore's environmental industry growth and at the same time maintain the country's image as 'City in a Garden'.

Green Mark Incentive Scheme - Design Prototype (GMIS-DP)

MND Research Fund for the Built Environment

A*STAR-MND Joint Grant Call

Skyrise Greenery Incentive Scheme

Sustainable Construction Capability Development Fund

All of the above mentioned schemes are well-thought and provides a holistic green building programme; it is not hard to see that Singapore has indeed done well in the area of green building. Besides the laws, policies, strategies and incentives scheme, the government did not overlooked other important aspect, namely the research and development.

To further improve the technologies in the area of green building, the funding of research and development comes in as an important role. To encourage research and greater adoption of green technologies, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), BCA and the Ministry of National Development (MND) jointly awarded nine research projects. The grant call, launched in 2011, piloted the Public-Private Collaboration in green building research, first time having Government working with the private sectors. The awarded projects will focus on two key areas for development of technologies - energy efficiency and building façade materials. With the success of this pilot green building joint grant call, the following second joint grant call is said to be open in the third quarter this year.

Possible Improvements

Having reviewed Singapore's green building programme, there is little doubt about Singapore's status as one of Asia's green building leaders. Cooperating adoption of green technologies and design by both private and public sectors together with a strong regulatory government's framework, and sound market incentives, it is hard to pinpoint any gaps or inadequacies in the green building programme. Yet, Singapore still continues to thrive and enhance their scheme from every possible aspect. However, looking at the big picture, Singapore's green building programme ultimate goal would be to achieve a sustainable built environment. In the quest of achieving this sustainability, Singapore will have more to do than just implementing policies, laws and incentive schemes. Behaviors and lifestyles habits of users need to go hand in hand with green building programme to truly attain a green city.

In another words, the green building programme is a necessary but insufficient step to create a sustainable city. Environment-oriented policies or ensuring buildings uses energy efficient equipment can only go so far in attaining sustainability; we ought to realize that engineering and design improvements aspect is only half of the sustainable equation. Singapore is a country populated with human capital, how they go about their daily lives and the lifestyle they possess can make a drastic difference. By occupying a green mark building yet they do not comply with good practices of energy saving habits and recycle their waste give rise to a net zero improvement in the environment. It is therefore crucial to raise awareness among homeowners, firms, tenants, and the overall community on the importance of going green. This can be initiated by holding campaigns, educating the population the importance of energy conversation and the role they can contribute in quest of attaining sustainability. By placing greater emphasize on user, instilling in them a sustainability mindset, it will help greatly in Singapore's green building movement.

Neither green building programme nor the environmental friendly lifestyles of urban dwellers should go in isolation. To counter climate change, a sustainable urban environment should be nothing short of people who care for the environment and are willing to change their behavior to orient to the intended green building purpose. Although it is a pure behavior issue, it is important to recognize limits of green building programme and try to address the behavioral side of the sustainable equation.

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