Week's top letter #2: Design choices can make homes cooler

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed the cumulative effect that each individual action contributes towards climate change, saying that there is a need for mindsets and lifestyles to change (S'pore to shore up defences as mercury and seas rise; Nov 4).

One significant idea that has been ingrained in Singaporeans is the need for air-conditioning.

Air-conditioning consumes a great deal of electricity, and this excessive use of energy can exacerbate the issue of climate change.

In households, air-conditioning has been the key driver of the increase in electricity consumption and accounts for about 24 per cent of a household's electricity consumption (Singapore's household electricity consumption up 17 per cent over past decade; May 5).

While it is difficult to persuade Singaporeans to use less air-conditioning, it is possible to design cooler homes that reduce the need for it. Such passive cooling measures are more sustainable.

Some architectural choices can make the home cooler. New homes can be designed with surface materials that are cool to the touch, while choosing light colours prevents the absorption of heat and helps expel excess heat.

Even in existing homes, simple changes can be made to reduce the ambient temperature.

Plants can be introduced into the home to absorb heat-trapping carbon dioxide, and this can be done by installing a green wall or simply placing some potted plants around the house.

The floor plan can also be used to determine and improve the air flow in the house, and it is important to ensure that the furniture does not restrict the air flow.

As much as possible, concrete walls can be replaced with other dividers, like fabric partitions.

On a developmental level, it is heartening to know that the National Research Foundation has funded research to develop a road map to reduce temperatures.

In addition to the proposed measures, the BCA Green Mark rating system can also be enhanced.

A new criterion for ambient interior temperature can be included for new residential buildings. This criterion will assess the natural interior temperature of residential buildings.

Although the scheme already accounts for green features in buildings, measuring the natural interior temperature will encourage developers to ensure that these green measures are indeed effective.

Joel Tong Wei Hao