Businesses are key to meeting Singapore’s green building challenge

As a tropical nation facing rising temperatures and a growing economy, making Singapore’s buildings much greener is a major challenge. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt - Singapore is stepping up efforts to make the building and construction sector as green as possible to cut emissions and reduce energy use as part of global climate change commitments.

At the COP27 climate talks in Egypt, global property companies and asset managers have gathered at a purpose-built pavilion to discuss how to make buildings more efficient and use materials that are less carbon-intensive to make. This is needed since the sector is responsible for nearly 40 per cent of mankind’s greenhouse gas pollution.

As a tropical nation facing rising temperatures and a growing economy, making Singapore’s buildings much greener is a major challenge. But without doing so, the nation will not achieve its pledge of net-zero emissions by 2050 – the sector produces more than 20 per cent of the Republic’s greenhouse gas emissions as construction is a major part of the economy.

It cannot be just the Government achieving Singapore’s plan for net zero, Ms Esther An, chief sustainability officer for City Developments Limited (CDL), told The Straits Times at COP27. “Businesses are a large part of it.”

The Government has mandated that 80 per cent of Singapore’s buildings (by gross floor area) be green by 2030. And by the end of this decade, 80 per cent of new developments by gross floor area should be super-low energy buildings – meaning they have to achieve at least 60 per cent improvement in energy efficiency over 2005 levels.

Energy efficiency is the main way to cut emissions, given Singapore’s limited renewable energy options, said Ms An.

In 2021, CDL committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2030 for its new and existing wholly owned assets and developments under its direct operational and management control.

The developer, which has signed the World Green Building Council’s Net-Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, is also advocating that all its buildings be net-zero carbon in operation by 2050, with its efforts measured and verified regularly.

Achieving this includes investing in energy-efficient air-conditioning and lifts as well as using on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources, plus carbon offsets.

The Buildings Pavilion at COP27 showcases the building and construction sector’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. ST PHOTO: SAMUEL RUBY

Frasers Property has also announced plans to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and aims for 80 per cent of all its owned and managed assets to be green-certified by 2024.

CapitaLand Investment’s (CLI) 2030 sustainability masterplan aims to reduce carbon emission intensity by 78 per cent from 2008 levels. According to its 2021 sustainability report, it has cut water consumption intensity by 52 per cent and energy consumption intensity per sq m by 43 per cent, exceeding the masterplan targets by 7 percentage points and 8 percentage points, respectively.

CLI has also attained green building certifications for 48 per cent of its global portfolio by sq m.

Ms An said going green made good business sense and the higher the standards and targets, the better the investment ratings for the company. In addition, green building sector technology has come of age, making it possible to achieve deep carbon cuts.

The company’s new project at 80 Anson Road is a mixed-use development that will use solar energy to meet 30 per cent of the building’s main energy needs, such as for lifts and lighting.

Exterior sun shading will cut heat and power consumption. The green features mean cost savings of about $450,000 a year. The building is the first to be certified under the Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark Platinum Super Low Energy programme – meaning 60 per cent energy savings from 2005 levels.

Ms An said Singapore’s carbon tax, tougher government regulation, pressure from investors and expansion of district cooling systems will all help to cut emissions in the sector. So too will new materials such as green concrete, low-carbon steel and bricks that use recycled plastic to replace sand.

“We have to do this. There is no choice,” she said.

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