16 Dec 2013: Report

Singapore Takes the Lead
In Green Building in Asia

By encouraging the adoption of innovative architectural design and energy-saving technologies, Singapore has emerged as a model of green building in Asia — an important development in a region that is urbanizing more rapidly than any other in the world.

by mike ives

At street level, 313@somerset looks like any other glittering mall in downtown Singapore. But on closer inspection the eight-story building has skylights, solar panels, energy-saving elevators and escalators, highly efficient air-conditioning units, and software that monitors the building’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Across town, a new hotel, Parkroyal on Pickering, displays its green credentials in the form of an artfully tiered façade dotted with tropical ferns and creeping vines. Along with an efficient cooling system, its green perks include rainwater harvesting, lighting sensors, and
Certified green buildings account for more than a fifth of the floor area in the island city-state.
high-performance window glass and hot water pumps. Entering the wood-paneled lobby, which has a wall of tropical mosses, a visitor is reminded of a rainforest — no matter that the building lies in the heart of the banking capital of Southeast Asia.

These structures underscore Singapore’s commitment to greening its built environment through generous incentive schemes and a building-rating tool that encourages such improvements as sun-shading exteriors, water-efficient fittings, computer modeling of energy flows and carbon emissions,

View Gallery

Patrick Bingham Hall
The hotel Parkroyal on Pickering is one of several recent projects that underscore Singapore's commitment to sustainable building.
and highly efficient air conditioning and ventilation systems. Since the rating tool launched in 2005, Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has certified 1,534 new buildings and 215 pre-existing ones. Together they account for more than a fifth of gross floor area in this island city-state, which has a population of five million and is roughly half the size of New York City.

"As we become more and more urbanized, we want to make sure our built environment is sustainable," says John Keung, the BCA’s chief executive.

There is wide agreement among development specialists that promoting green building in Asia has the potential to produce large energy savings and make polluted cities more habitable while partially mitigating the impacts of global warming. The United Nations reports that 40 percent of people in the Asia-Pacific region already live in cities, and by 2050 the figure could reach two thirds. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted that in the coming decades Asian countries will lead increases across the developing world in building-sector emissions from energy use. In China alone, according to the global consultancy McKinsey & Company, the urban population may expand from 572 million in 2005 to 926 million by 2025, requiring the construction of four to five million new buildings.

Against this backdrop, Singapore has emerged as a model of green building for planners and developers across much of the Asia-Pacific region, where poor design reigns and developers have historically seen little incentive to invest in sustainability, according to Asia-based architects and sustainability experts. Singapore’s BCA is now marketing its rating tool, Green Mark, as a brand in Southeast Asia, China, and parts of tropical Africa — even in countries, such as neighboring Malaysia, where local rating tools offer competing certification systems. Some consultants say the rise of Green Mark is a direct challenge to LEED, or Leadership in Energy
The government aims to achieve a 35 percent reduction in the energy intensity of its economy by 2030.
& Environmental Design, the rating tool of the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED also is expanding in Asia.

In the fight to reduce carbon emissions, the economic boom in Asia underscores the importance — and the limits — of reducing energy use in commercial and residential buildings. Even with Singapore’s aggressive push in the green building sector, non-industrial electricity consumption in Singapore increased by roughly 23 percent between from 2005 to 2011. That growth was due largely to robust economic expansion, with Singapore’s GDP doubling during that time. The government aims to achieve a 35 percent reduction in the energy intensity of its economy by 2030, which — depending on the rate of economic growth — does not necessarily mean the city-state will be using less electricity overall by that date.

The phrase "green building" suggests basic universal characteristics, such as an attention to energy use and attempts to bring a building in tune with its environment. However, it is also a somewhat fluid concept, and certifiers define green buildings differently in Singapore than in the United States or Europe. Notably, Green Mark places a comparatively larger emphasis on installation of technologically intensive cooling units, arguing

View Gallery

Mike Ives
Singapore's 313@somerset mall boasts energy-saving features and software that monitors its CO2 emissions.
that reducing energy consumption is essential in a tropical city where air-conditioning represents a large part of electricity demand.

But some experts wonder if Singapore’s approach will eventually encourage an unsustainable dependence on air conditioning as an essential design component. Country-specific rating tools under development in Malaysia, Indonesia, and other Southeast Asian countries, they say, may be more effective at promoting vernacular designs that emphasize passive technologies — such as optimization of shading and ventilation — and a sensitivity to a building's carbon life cycle.

"Ultimately the goal in these tools is to reduce the (environmental) footprint," says Deo Prasad, a professor of architecture at the University of New South Wales in Australia who has studied sustainable building policies across the Asia-Pacific region. As Green Mark matures, he adds, an open question for Singapore is: "Are you getting hooked into the energy consumption being absolutely necessary for comfort?"

Singapore, which gained independence from Malaysia in 1965, has long styled itself as a "garden city." The city-state was built on swampland that has few energy resources, and its founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, made a point of prioritizing environmental conservation. In 2005, the
The city’s Green Mark standards shaved 11.6 percent off total operating expenses of buildings.
government extended its hands-on urban development policies to its building sector. The centerpiece of that policy shift was Green Mark, a rating tool modeled partly on LEED guidelines. But unlike LEED, which emerged in the private sector and is based on a flexible set of sustainable design principles, Green Mark was launched by a government agency and designed largely to reduce energy and water consumption.

The BCA markets Green Mark as a win-win for businesses and the environment. A recent study by the government and researchers at the National University of Singapore found that a sample of office buildings designed to meet Green Mark standards shaved about 11.6 percent off total operating expenses on average while boosting a building's capital value by 2.3 percent. The BCA also reports that while new Green Mark buildings typically cost up to five percent more, most developers recoup their initial investment within seven years through energy savings. It helps that in 2009 the agency pledged 100 million Singapore dollars, or about $80 million, to landlords over five years to pay for efficiency audits and install energy-efficient cooling units, motion sensors, and shading devices.

Singapore-based CapitaLand, Southeast Asia's largest developer, says investments in green-building technologies have played a central role in reductions since 2008 of 11.7 and 16.1 percent, respectively, in the company’s energy and water consumption, and a 16 percent reduction in its carbon emissions — all for a savings of about $28 million. "Our sustainability objectives are guided by the belief that lowering the environmental footprint of our developments through innovation creates value for our stakeholders," says Tan Seng Chai, CapitaLand's group chief corporate officer.

The BCA says it plans to certify 80 percent of the city’s buildings by 2030, and several consultants say the goal is realistic. However, the BCA has struggled to incentivize efficiency upgrades in existing buildings, and Green Mark's success may slow when its five-year incentive scheme for those buildings ends next year, according to Ng Eng Kiong, president of the
Singapore has emerged as a testing ground for technologies that manufacturers plan to sell in the rest of Asia.
Singapore Green Building Council, a consortium of 450 building professionals and suppliers of green products and services.

"In Singapore everything is driven by the economy," Ng says, and a future economic downturn as serious as the 2008 financial crisis could potentially reverse some of Singapore’s green-building gains. The BCA reports that some of the city-state’s older buildings have a lifespan of just 10 to 15 years — a fact that could further deter long-term investments in sustainability.

Energy consultants say Singapore, which sits on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, has lately emerged as a testing ground for ventilation and air-conditioning technologies that Western and Asian manufacturers plan to sell in China and the rest of Asia. Green Mark's success, the consultants add, is also a boon for some local businesses and an encouraging example for neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, that are just beginning to green their building sectors. More than 400 Green

MORE FROM YALE e360

Can Smarter Growth Guide
China’s Urban Building Boom?

China urban boom
The world has never seen anything like China’s dizzying urbanization boom, which has taken a heavy environmental toll. But efforts are now underway to start using principles of green design and smart growth to guide the nation’s future development.
READ MORE
Mark-certified buildings now exist in Asia and Africa, according to the BCA's John Keung. Officers at four green building associations across Southeast Asia say Green Mark's success has partially influenced how they developed their local rating tools.

However, Green Mark is a system designed exclusively for a prosperous urban metropolis, and it may not be directly applicable in countries with different political systems, environmental conditions, and standards of living, say green-building experts. "So if you have a house made out of bamboo, it may be the greenest house ever, but using that particular rating tool, you can't get certified," explains Ar Sarly Adre Sarkum, vice president of the Malaysia Green Building Confederation. With this in mind, a few rating tools have emerged in recent years that attempt to capture country-specific nuances. For example, a new tool in Indonesia pays more attention to a developer's choice of building materials, many of which are typically sourced from within the country.

Sustainability experts say that for the moment it is too early to tell how these local tools will fare, and their success will depend partly on the degree to which local governments offer related incentives to developers. Muiz Murad, CEO of Green Earth Design Solution, an environmental consultancy in Kuala Lumpur, says that in all likelihood there will be a healthy coexistence, with a few developers choosing to certify through both a local and an outside rating system. Green Mark is currently very popular in Brunei, he adds, but in the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, the international rating tool of choice is LEED. That, he says, is largely because multinational corporations have internal policies that require them to choose LEED.

Correction: December 19, 2013: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of Lee Kuan Yew. It also incorrectly referred to him as the founding president of Singapore. He is the founding prime minister.



POSTED ON 16 Dec 2013 IN Business & Innovation Climate Climate Energy Policy & Politics Sustainability Urbanization Asia 

COMMENTS


Mike,

Have just read your article but realized I subscribe to a number of entities that you've worked for. I welcome hearing from you, and perhaps qualify what the real situation is in Singapore and regionally.
Posted by ecojag on 19 Dec 2013


A poorly researched report. HK-BEAM, used in Hong Kong, has more certified buildings, 41,000,000 square feet of certified space, and is based on the BEAM voluntary system.

World GBC chair encourages owners to specify and use the "local" green building rating system, not other international systems, e.g., LEED, because they have no relevance to the local situation.
Posted by John on 01 Jan 2014


POST A COMMENT

Comments are moderated and will be reviewed before they are posted to ensure they are on topic, relevant, and not abusive. They may be edited for length and clarity. By filling out this form, you give Yale Environment 360 permission to publish this comment.

Name 
Email address 
Comment 
 
Please type the text shown in the graphic.


mike ivesABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Ives is a journalist based in Hanoi, Vietnam, and a correspondent for The Associated Press. He also writes for The International New York Times., The Economist and other publications. Previously for Yale e360, he reported on how rubber plantations are damaging southwest China's forests and the ecological costs of a rice boom in the Mekong Delta.
MORE BY THIS AUTHOR

 
 

RELATED ARTICLES


In New Delhi, A Rough Road
For Bus Rapid Transit Systems

High-speed bus systems in crowded urban areas have taken off from Brazil to China, but introducing this form of mass transit to the teeming Indian capital of New Delhi has proven to be a vexing challenge.
READ MORE

Unsustainable Seafood: A New
Crackdown on Illegal Fishing

A recent study shows that a surprisingly large amount of the seafood sold in U.S. markets is caught illegally. In a series of actions over the last few months, governments and international regulators have started taking aim at stopping this illicit trade in contraband fish.
READ MORE

In the Pastures of Colombia,
Cows, Crops and Timber Coexist

As an ambitious program in Colombia demonstrates, combining grazing and agriculture with tree cultivation can coax more food from each acre, boost farmers’ incomes, restore degraded landscapes, and make farmland more resilient to climate change.
READ MORE

Wendell Berry: A Strong Voice
For Local Farming and the Land

For six decades, writer Wendell Berry has spoken out in defense of local agriculture, rural communities, and the importance of caring for the land. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about his Kentucky farm, his activism, and why he remains hopeful for the future.
READ MORE

In Flood-Prone New Orleans, an
Architect Makes Water His Ally

As these photographs and illustrations show, architect David Waggonner has decided that the best way to protect low-lying New Orleans is to think about water in an entirely different way.
READ MORE

 

MORE IN Reports


Primate Rights vs Research:
Battle in Colombian Rainforest

by chris kraul
A Colombian conservationist has been locked in a contentious legal fight against a leading researcher who uses wild monkeys in his search for a malaria vaccine. A recent court decision that banned the practice is seen as a victory in efforts to restrict the use of monkeys in medical research.
READ MORE

Scientists Look for Causes of
Baffling Die-Off of Sea Stars

by eric wagner
Sea stars on both coasts of North America are dying en masse from a disease that kills them in a matter of days. Researchers are looking at various pathogens that may be behind what is known as sea star wasting syndrome, but they suspect that a key contributing factor is warming ocean waters.
READ MORE

Loss of Snowpack and Glaciers
In Rockies Poses Water Threat

by ed struzik
From the Columbia River basin in the U.S. to the Prairie Provinces of Canada, scientists and policy makers are confronting a future in which the loss of snow and ice in the Rocky Mountains could imperil water supplies for agriculture, cities and towns, and hydropower production.
READ MORE

On Front Lines of Recycling,
Turning Food Waste into Biogas

by rachel cernansky
An increasing number of sewage treatment plants in the U.S. and Europe are processing food waste in anaerobic biodigesters, keeping more garbage out of landfills, reducing methane emissions, and producing energy to defray their operating costs.
READ MORE

Can Waterless Dyeing Processes
Clean Up the Clothing Industry?

by lydia heida
One of the world’s most polluting industries is the textile-dyeing sector, which in China and other Asian nations releases trillions of liters of chemically tainted wastewater. But new waterless dyeing technologies, if adopted on a large scale, could sharply cut pollution from the clothing industry.
READ MORE

How Weeds Could Help Feed
Billions in a Warming World

by lisa palmer
Scientists in the U.S. and elsewhere are conducting intensive experiments to cross hardy weeds with food crops such as rice and wheat. Their goal is to make these staples more resilient as higher temperatures, drought, and elevated CO2 levels pose new threats to the world’s food supply.
READ MORE

New Desalination Technologies
Spur Growth in Recyling Water

by cheryl katz
Desalination has long been associated with one process — turning seawater into drinking water. But a host of new technologies are being developed that not only are improving traditional desalination but opening up new frontiers in reusing everything from agricultural water to industrial effluent.
READ MORE

As Dairy Farms Grow Bigger,
New Concerns About Pollution

by elizabeth grossman
Dairy operations in the U.S. are consolidating, with ever-larger numbers of cows concentrated on single farms. In states like Wisconsin, opposition to some large operations is growing after manure spills and improper handling of waste have contaminated waterways and aquifers.
READ MORE

In New Delhi, A Rough Road
For Bus Rapid Transit Systems

by mike ives
High-speed bus systems in crowded urban areas have taken off from Brazil to China, but introducing this form of mass transit to the teeming Indian capital of New Delhi has proven to be a vexing challenge.
READ MORE

Mimicking Nature, New Designs
Ease Fish Passage Around Dams

by rebecca kessler
Originating in Europe, "nature-like" fishways are now being constructed on some U.S. rivers where removing dams is not an option. Unlike traditional fish ladders, these passages use a natural approach aimed at significantly increasing once-abundant runs of migratory fish.
READ MORE


e360 digest
Yale
Yale Environment 360 is
a publication of the
Yale School of Forestry
& Environmental Studies
.

SEARCH e360



Donate to Yale Environment 360
Yale Environment 360 Newsletter

CONNECT

Twitter: YaleE360
e360 on Facebook
Donate to e360
View mobile site
Bookmark
Share e360
Subscribe to our newsletter
Subscribe to our feed:
rss


ABOUT

About e360
Contact
Submission Guidelines
Reprints

E360 en Español

Universia partnership
Yale Environment 360 articles are now available in Spanish and Portuguese on Universia, the online educational network.
Visit the site.


DEPARTMENTS

Opinion
Reports
Analysis
Interviews
Forums
e360 Digest
Podcasts
Video Reports

TOPICS

Biodiversity
Business & Innovation
Climate
Energy
Forests
Oceans
Policy & Politics
Pollution & Health
Science & Technology
Sustainability
Urbanization
Water

REGIONS

Antarctica and the Arctic
Africa
Asia
Australia
Central & South America
Europe
Middle East
North America

e360 PHOTO GALLERY

“Peter
Photographer Peter Essick documents the swift changes wrought by global warming in Antarctica, Greenland, and other far-flung places.
View the gallery.

e360 MOBILE

Mobile
The latest
from Yale
Environment 360
is now available for mobile devices at e360.yale.edu/mobile.

e360 VIDEO

Warriors of Qiugang
The Warriors of Qiugang, a Yale Environment 360 video that chronicles the story of a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant, was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject). Watch the video.


header image
Top Image: aerial view of Iceland. © Google & TerraMetrics.

e360 VIDEO

Colorado River Video
In a Yale Environment 360 video, photographer Pete McBride documents how increasing water demands have transformed the Colorado River, the lifeblood of the arid Southwest. Watch the video.

OF INTEREST



Yale