A complete lack of natural resources is prompting the urban island city-state of Singapore to generate its own green infrastructure. Its rapidly growing population, which is one-and-a-half times that of the city of Los Angeles but spread across an area half the size, is another driver. And while the green push is most visible in the walls and bays of vegetation that garnish its stock of high-rise apartments and offices, its impact is far deeper. That’s thanks in part to a government-led sustainable-building certification program that aims to green 80 percent of the city-state’s existing building stock by 2030.
The chief promoter of sustainable development in Singapore is the government’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA), whose Green Mark certification program is tailored to projects in tropical and sub-tropical climates. The BCA requires any new construction in the city-state to meet the program’s baseline sustainability standards, which emphasize efficient HVAC systems and glazing, the use of natural light, and strategic site orientation. As of July 2014, the program included 155 certified projects totaling 62 million square meters (203.4 million square feet), or 25 percent of the city-state’s new and existing building inventory. That’s up from 1.1 million square meters (3.6 million square feet) across 17 projects in 2005, the program’s first year. For comparison, the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification program, a much smaller player in Singapore’s green-building market, has under its purview 2.16 million square meters (7.1 million) of built space across 91 projects there. Green Mark also has certified more than 250 projects outside of Singapore, in countries such as China, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
As part of a BCA press tour, ARCHITECT had the opportunity to visit Singapore for the BCA’s sixth-annual Singapore Green Building Week, which runs from Sept. 1 to 7 and includes the International Green Building Conference. There, the BCA rolled out the third iteration of its Green Building Masterplan, which now includes requirements on post-occupancy monitoring and benchmarking and, like its earlier versions, relies on government incentives to push the green ethos into the private sector. Among the latter are a $50 million Singapore dollars ($49 million USD) investment by the BCA in the Green Mark building rating program to spur participation among small- and mid-size developers and building owners; the requirement that public-sector projects with more than 5,000 square meters (16,404.2 square feet) of gross floor area attain Green Mark certification; and that building cooling systems installed since January 2, 2014, must undergo an energy audit every three years to confirm life-cycle performance.
It’s clear, however, that the BCA wants to position Singapore as a center of green-building for tropical and sub-tropical regions, not only in the application of gleaming, ultra-green projects, but also by way of increased investment in research. Following its Zero-Energy Building test facility, the first of its kind in southeast Asia, the BCA is partnering with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to build a version of the rotatable version of the FLEXLAB at its Berkeley, Calif., facility on the roof of a BCA facility and is anticipated for completion in 2015. The project’s goal is to give multinational and regional product developers a place to test systems in conditions that simulate the hot, humid, and sunny tropical and sub-tropical climates with the opportunity to exchange testing data with the more temperate California facility. Additionally, the BCA is spending $52 million Singapore dollars ($41 million USD) to support building energy-efficiency research and development through the forthcoming Green Buildings Innovation Cluster in order to help Singapore better market its sustainable-design research.
Time will tell if the push toward research will help Singapore’s green-building platform reduce its reliance on government incentives and offer a new value proposition to private developers.
Editor's note: This article has been updated from its original publication to clarify the name of the Building and Construction Authority and the dates of this year's Singapore Green Building Week, which runs from Sept. 1 to 7. The update also clarifies the objectives of the planned Green Buildings Innovation Cluster.