New $61m research lab to optimise land usage, create green solutions

The lab was launched by Nanyang Technological University, consultancy Surbana Jurong and the National Research Foundation on July 31, 2018.
The lab was launched by Nanyang Technological University, consultancy Surbana Jurong and the National Research Foundation on July 31, 2018.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK/NANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY, SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - A new $61 million research lab will look into ways to optimise land usage, come up with eco-friendly solutions for buildings and improve productivity in the built environment sector.

Launched on Tuesday (July 31) by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), consultancy Surbana Jurong and the National Research Foundation (NRF), the NTU-based lab will start with 11 projects focused on three themes: digitalisation, sustainability and future-proofing the built environment industry.

Successful solutions that the lab comes up with will eventually be shared with companies and governments, especially those in the tropics.

Among them could be chilled ceiling panels suited for the tropics. These can reduce the amount of energy needed to cool a room while removing impurities.

Another project will see better ways to store liquefied natural gas - the main energy source here - in industrial and urban areas so that the space above ground can be freed up for other uses.

The lab is also looking at how to harness the waste products of such energy so they can be used to power other processes too.

The SJ-NTU Corporate Lab, which will be ready early next year, will house 100 professors, research staff, PhD students and engineers, and aims to change the way buildings are designed, built, maintained and decommissioned.

Surbana Jurong group chief executive Wong Heang Fine said the lab is timely, noting the rapid pace of urbanisation and climate change.

Speaking at the lab's launch, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong noted that the lab is the 12th supported by the NRF, but the first for the built environment.

This, he said, is significant, given that global warming, rising sea levels and land constraints exert pressure on Singapore to seek sustainable, resilient and innovative solutions.

To that end, the Building and Construction Authority is developing an accelerator programme for start-ups in the built environment sector.

"The start-up scene is thriving... but there's a lot more interest in areas like fintech, IT and not so much focus on the built environment," Mr Wong said.

The new programme aims to bring new solutions from both local and overseas companies to the market, through activities such as access to investment and the provision of mentorship.

Mr Wong said the Housing Board will also expand its Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living initiative - launched in 2011 to involve the public in enhancing the HDB living environment - to include submissions from companies.

"HDB will provide opportunities for test-bedding and pilot implementation of good and workable solutions," he said.

"This will not only bring good solutions to benefit our HDB residents, but also allow our enterprises to showcase their innovations in our HDB estates, and eventually export these solutions overseas."