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ST article : New Public Buildings to Go Green

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Dec 15, 2006

New public buildings to go green from 2007

Private sector urged to follow suit; Government offers incentives

IT IS goodbye to chilly offices with sweater-clad workers and hello to high-tech air-conditioning, waterless urinals and solar power - as Singapore's buildings gear up to 'go green'.

From next year, all new public buildings and those undergoing major retrofitting have to earn the environment-friendly 'Green Mark' - proof that they are energy- and water-efficient, with good indoor environments.

All new Housing Board flats will have the Green Mark. But not all upgrading HDB blocks have to earn the certification, as the buildings' physical constraints may prevent compliance.

The public sector is taking the lead in embracing green building technology, Minister of State (National Development) Grace Fu said yesterday as she announced the Building and Construction Authority's (BCA) Green Building Masterplan.

Ms Fu urged the private sector to follow suit. She backed the call by pledging $70 million in incentives to encourage developers to embrace sustainable development and the industry to step up research and development efforts.

The BCA's Green Mark scheme, launched last January, rates buildings for their environmental impact and performance. It takes into account energy and water efficiency, indoor environment quality, building management and environmental innovation.

Green buildings are also good for the bottom line. 'Studies in the US have shown that water savings of up to 30 per cent, and energy savings of 20 to 30 per cent are possible,' said Ms Fu.

BCA chief executive John Keung said this initiative was a critical milestone for Singapore and hoped the incentives would encourage more green buildings, as increased demand will create more competition and prices for materials and services will fall.

'We want Singapore to know we are very serious about this,' he said. 'Our buildings are a major consumer of energy and the greatest generator of waste. As a small built-up country, sustainability is even more important.'

Developers can draw cash incentives of up to $3 million per project from the $20 million Green Building Incentive Scheme. The amounts depend on the level of a building's Green Mark rating. A Gold rating is given to buildings that score between 70 and 79 points in the BCA assessment, Gold Plus for 80 to 84 and the highest Platinum for 85 to 100 points.

In addition, Singapore-based companies and individuals can obtain grants from the $50 million MND fund for R&D of green technologies for the building industry.

Currently, 34 buildings have Green Mark certification. Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) is one of four public buildings that obtained the Platinum rating.

TTSH's green innovations - like sensors that turn down air-cons when it rains - have saved it $3 million a year in power bills.

Private properties like City Developments' The [email protected] Bay and St Regis Hotel & Residences, which have features like solar heating for swimming pools, have obtained the Gold and Gold Plus awards respectively.

CDL's general manager for projects, Mr Eddie Wong, felt the government offer to defray some of the additional costs 'will help tip over some developers sitting on the fence'.

Smaller developers also welcomed the move. Hong How Corporation chief executive Daniel Teo said he had been looking into green buildings but had been deterred by the initial development costs, which are usually 3-6 per cent more than regular buildings.

Singapore Environment Council executive director Howard Shaw said it was commendable that the public sector had committed itself to a deadline. But he said Singaporeans also needed to be informed about the benefits of going green.

'The more educated Singaporeans are, the more they will respect the environment,' he said.

Dr Keung agreed that public education was crucial: 'Only when there's a consumer-driven demand will the industry respond.'

BCA will also embark on campaigns and public education early next year to drive home the message.

It hopes Singapore has 200 more green buildings in the next three years.


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