Parliament: Tighter energy-efficiency standards for all new buildings seeking planning approval from year-end

Efforts to green Singapore's existing building stock will continue, including enhancing data transparency on building energy performance. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - All new buildings here will have to meet tighter standards for energy efficiency from the end of this year.

The move is among stepped-up efforts to address longer-term structural shifts in the built environment sector that have been accelerated by the pandemic, Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How said on Thursday (March 4).

Mr Tan told Parliament, in response to queries from Kebun Baru MP Henry Kwek and Mr Xie Yao Quan (Jurong GRC) on curbing building emissions, that there is strong support for the green buildings agenda and a collective desire to ramp up efforts to combat climate change.

"Green buildings reap net savings over their life cycle despite higher upfront costs. For example, a large office building of over 15 storeys can save around $300,000 in operating cost annually by achieving the Green Mark Platinum standards," he said.

The Government announced last year that minimum energy performance requirements for new and existing buildings that undergo major retrofitting will be raised.

Under these revised requirements, all new buildings with gross floor area of 2,000 sq m and above must be 50 per cent more energy-efficient than the 2005 baseline. This will apply to new developments submitted for planning approval from the fourth quarter of this year, Mr Tan said.

In addition, the Green Mark scheme, which recognises buildings that pursue sustainability standards beyond the minimum requirements, will be updated to "raise energy performance standards and place greater emphasis on other aspects of sustainability such as health and well-being, and how the buildings are designed for maintainability".

"We intend to trial these new standards from the second quarter this year, and will take into account industry feedback before we implement the revised scheme," Mr Tan said.

Efforts to green Singapore's existing building stock will continue, including enhancing data transparency on building energy performance.

"Currently, we publish the energy performance data of our commercial and institutional buildings. We will identify all buildings in the data that we publish, beginning with commercial buildings, from the second half of this year," Mr Tan noted.

"This will allow building owners to benchmark their buildings against others at no additional cost, and spur them to improve their energy efficiency.

"We are also exploring other ways to encourage building owners to conduct energy audits and retrofit their buildings to improve energy performance."

Mr Tan also stressed a "greater urgency" to strengthen the resilience of the built environment sector, particularly in reducing the reliance on foreign workers. "In the near term, we expect our foreign manpower situation to remain in flux while Covid-19 travel restrictions are still in place."

He said the ministries of Manpower and Health are working to increase the number of incoming workers while minimising the risk of Covid-19 transmission in the dorms and the community.

The Government is working with the Singapore Contractors Association to facilitate a change of employer for construction workers whose contracts have expired or were terminated to ensure that migrant workers who are already in Singapore can continue to work here.

But Mr Tan also noted that the pandemic has "hastened the shift towards a manpower-lean approach to construction not just in Singapore but in many countries."

For instance, even China, one of the world's largest labour markets, is facing a staff crunch in its construction industry as it is increasingly difficult to attract young people to the sector, even with competitive wages, said Mr Tan, who was told of this by a local subsidiary of a large Chinese construction firm.

As a result, the firm is ramping up investments in design for manufacturing and assembly (DfMA), automation and digitalisation in China to reduce its reliance on labour. DfMA allows building components to be fabricated off-site, and subsequently assembled on-site.

Mr Tan said Singapore aims to make DfMA the default building method for large projects as a way of raising productivity.

In response to Ms Poh Li San (Sembawang GRC), who asked about support given to local SMEs, Mr Tan said they can tap the Construction Productivity and Capability Fund (CPCF) to undertake productivity improvements and develop their workforce.

Since its launch in 2010, it has supported over 10,000 firms and disbursed close to two-thirds of about $850 million that it is allocated.

The CPCF will be extended by another year, until March 2022.

The Government is also stepping up efforts to attract local professionals, managers, executives and technicians and more tech-savvy young Singaporeans to join the sector. As at the end of last year, there were about 7,500 jobs and training opportunities in the construction industry, including digital delivery specialists, logistics supply chain planners and environmental specialists.

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