Out with the Old, in with the Green

The last decade has seen the rise of green technology. Real estate developers are now turning their sights onto building green and eco-friendly buildings and this looks set to become the norm, not only in Singapore, but throughout the world. 

The “Green Architecture” movement has been gaining momentum and it doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. The objective of green architecture, or green design, is to reduce the harmful effects of building construction on our health and the natural environment. Some of the ways in which the architect will endeavour to meet green standards is by taking into consideration the materials used, development space and energy consumption and efficiency. This has forever changed the way buildings are now being designed, built and run.

Setting the Benchmark

As we move towards building green and sustainable buildings, certain standards and criteria have to be met before the building is deemed as a green building. In the US, the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has introduced the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) standards, a set of criteria that scores buildings on their design and efficiency. In Singapore, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) introduced the BCA Green Mark Scheme in 2005. The scheme was aimed at Singapore’s construction industry to steer them towards more environmentally-friendly buildings. Achieving the BCA Green Mark indicates that the company or developer has successfully carried out good construction practices in environmental design and performances which has resulted in green buildings.

Ahead of the Field

Going green can pay off in the long run. In recent years, some companies have listed environmentally-friendly features as one of their top criteria when deciding on an office space. In fact, some European countries and the US have made it such that Multinational Corporations (MNCs) are able to claim tax subsidies back home if they are able to become an environmentally-conscious corporation.

Of course, there are other benefits. Green buildings will help business owners save on operational costs in the long run by reducing energy usage and increasing energy efficiency. It has been found that green buildings consume 30 per cent less energy on the average. Therefore, even though construction costs may be higher in the beginning than traditional buildings, these costs can be easily recouped through higher savings in energy consumption. Besides lower energy and water consumption, other advantages include lower long-term maintenance costs, higher rental rates, lower vacancies and better marketability overall.

The Global Real Estate Sustainability Report (GRESR) survey conducted annually is “to enhance and protect shareholder value by evaluating and improving sustainability best practices in the global real estate sector”. The report includes a section on building certification. This will affect the rating of the funds as increased taxation, energy costs, fines and other environmental factors will inevitably affect the financial valuations of their investments.

In Singapore’s case, businesses who have obtained the higher ratings of the BCA Green Mark will be able to take advantage of many additional government incentives. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) grants businesses and developments which are aiming for top ratings for the BCA Green Mark additional floor space on top of what the master plan’s gross plot ratio. This will give property developers added incentive to pursue green certification which will then increase the asset’s competitiveness in the market. Thus, green buildings will soon become the foregone conclusion in the future of our society.

Greener Pastures

As the number of green building continue to rise in both Singapore and overseas, what happens to the non-green buildings? Governments can offer incentives to encourage building owners to undergo renovations and retrofitting works to transform their non-green buildings and allow them to become more environmentally friendly. Some ways in which a non-green building can be renovated include incorporating measures to bring down energy consumption or to install recycling features. Some examples include the replacement of chiller plant replacements, upgrading of the heat-recovery systems, installation of energy efficient lighting and optimisation of the air-conditioning systems.

Buildings in Singapore who have done the necessary renovation and upgrading works may be eligible for the BCA Green Mark Scheme, according to BCA. In 2008, BCA has stated that all existing buildings must attain the minimum Green Mark rating when replacing their chiller systems. Also, to encourage more owners to turn to eco-friendly practices and improve their energy efficiency, BCA has put forward a S$50 million incentive scheme which will award cash incentives to property owners who have started energy improvement works in their premises. Thus, as more buildings are increasingly converting to green technology and adopting green architecture and design, green architecture looks set for a bright future.
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