Seven Tampines buildings to tap savings from a centralised cooling system

Tampines Mall (above) is one of the buildings under the project by Temasek and SP Group.
Tampines Mall (above) is one of the buildings under the project by Temasek and SP Group.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Owners of seven buildings in Tampines Central are giving high energy bills the cold shoulder by coming together to tap a centralised cooling system.

The project by Temasek and SP Group is one of the efforts to transform Tampines into an eco-town by 2025, in line with the Singapore Green Plan 2030.

The buildings are Tampines Mall, Telepark, Century Square, Tampines 1, OCBC Tampines Centre Two, Our Tampines Hub and UOB Tampines Centre.

Chilled water pipes, among other infrastructure, will be retrofitted and installed in these buildings so they can share the cooling load to provide air-conditioning, said Temasek and SP Group on Thursday (Aug 19).

This leads to greater system efficiency through economies of scale, compared with standalone cooling systems, they added.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said the project will complement existing green initiatives, such as solar panels on Housing Board rooftops, noting that the eco-town push can only be complete if businesses and commercial partners share the same vision.

"Apart from being a residential estate, Tampines is also an active and mature business hub - home to an industrial park, several office complexes and a cluster of shopping malls and Our Tampines Hub," said Mr Masagos, who is also an MP for Tampines GRC.

He was speaking at an event at Our Tampines Hub on Thursday, where representatives from building owners CapitaLand, Frasers Property, OCBC Bank, People's Association and UOB signed a letter of intent with SP to affirm their interest to subscribe to the cooling system.

"As we looked to target high-impact areas for sustainability that we could potentially intervene in, one problem emerged quite evidently - the issue of cooling in buildings," he added. He noted that commercial buildings tend to consume a significant amount of energy through the use of air-conditioning.

The seven buildings were involved in a white paper that studied the feasibility of such a cooling system. 

The study of 14 existing buildings in Tampines Central found that the cooling system would reduce energy consumption by 17 per cent, enough to power 1,665 three-room HDB flats for a year. It could also curb carbon emissions by 18 per cent each year that is the equivalent of removing 2,250 cars from roads annually.

Building owners would save $4.3 million annually from energy savings, the reduction in equipment replacement and maintenance costs, and potential earnings from freed-up chiller plant space which can be converted to retail or office uses.

The study by Temasek and SP started in the first quarter of last year, supported by the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment and Tampines GRC.

Discussions with the owners of the other seven buildings are ongoing.

Tampines was picked over Choa Chua Kang and Nee Soon, the two other shortlisted towns, for the pilot.

The 14 buildings selected were deemed to have a good mix and concentration of retail malls, offices and community hubs in close proximity, which is ideal for the implementation of a district cooling system.

Building owners will bear the cost of setting up the system in their buildings, although SP and Temasek declined to reveal the rates.

Mr Masagos noted that introducing the system in a brownfield development comes with its own set of challenges, although it could pave the way for future towns to follow suit.

He said: "It's very difficult to introduce solutions into a mature and established development like Tampines Central, even if there are new technologies.

"But this issue is not unique to Tampines (as) brownfield developments represent 80 to 90 per cent of our urban landscape in Singapore. If we succeed in Tampines, it becomes a blueprint at the national level."