Building Green, Sustainably in Asia: Challenges and Benefits | Singapore Green Building Council | Mr. Ng Eng Kiong

Green construction sector in Singapore is burgeoning due to supports from various stakeholders. Singapore’s green building market was mainly driven by the public sector through green design concepts and green technologies, meanwhile the private sector was fast catching up and helped the city-state to reach the green development like today.

Despite the rapid market growth in the sustainability sector, according to Mr. Ng Eng Kiong, the President of Singapore Green Building Council, there is still a challenge for Asia in terms of the interpretation of environmentally friendly skyscrapers and buildings. He shares more of his thought on the exclusive interview below.

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What are your company’s strategies and practices in terms of sustainability?

SGBC’s mission is to propel Singapore’s building and construction industry towards environmental sustainability.We certify products and services through our Singapore Green Building Products & Services Certification Scheme. We promote green building design, practices and technologies to support green building development in Singapore.

What do you think is the challenge in building an environmentally friendly skyscraper in general (and in Asia)?

The challenge for Asia is in our interpretation of what a skyscraper should look like. A steel-and-glass cladded building is a popular and easy solution. However, this interpretation does not always work for our hot tropical climate with intense glare from the sun and should be re-looked in our context. It’s not just about the added heat
load to the building’s cooling system, but also occupant’s comfort in terms of glare and thermal comfort.

What elements do you think are generally underestimated in the planning, designing, or executing a green project, while much consideration is required for the achievement of sustainability?

Much of planning, design and project execution focuses on putting a building into place. Little consideration is given to what happens after a building is built e.g. whether users have sufficient understanding and knowledge of the green features/ provisions to ensure its design intent is carried through to the building’s lifespan. Maintenance considerations may also often not be a key priority in the project planning and design stage.

Facility management plays an important role in the green building management. Could you tell us about how to best approach this and what the best practices are?

It is important to bring facility managers into the green building movement, to include them into a building’s planning and design phase. SGBC is a platform where all the stakeholders of the building and construction industry are represented, and it is our intent to encourage greater participation from the facility management sector. We see greater importance in doing so as Singapore will be placing greater focus on existing buildings in the coming years with the introduction of new laws on minimum standards.

How has the green building market developed in Singapore and in Asia in general over these last ten years?

In Singapore, we are fortunate that the green building market was first driven by the public sector, who took the lead in trying out green design concepts and technologies. The private sector has also provided a lot of support and in some instances played a key driving role that has enabled us to reach the level of awareness and capability that we have achieved today.

What do you hope to see in the Singaporean (and Asian in general) green building market in the future? What do you think will be a big change in the industry?

I hope the focus will shift towards creating buildings that benefit people – the users of buildings. With greater awareness, the day will come when users will demand green buildings because they understand the role that buildings play in environmental sustainability. When that day comes, the question will not be “why green building”, but “how green”.

In your opinion, what are the advantages the Asian market has over others?

The Asian market is generally focused more on the construction of new buildings due to rapid urbanisation and densification of land use. It is much easier to plan and design a new green building than it is to retrofit an existing one. Retrofitting an existing building to make it green is much more challenging, as there are limitations due to existing provisions and the need to consider existing operations and occupants.

What are the challenges and opportunities that you have come across as a company / organization so far in the green building market?

In Singapore, cost pressures and labour shortages have become major concerns for many companies. It will be a challenge to sustain the green building movement if attention is diverted to other areas. Nevertheless, it is now clear that there is a business case for green buildings and there are now many solutions and strategies to achieve cost-efficiencies.

What are SGBC’s goals and initiatives this year?

The main and bigger players in the building and construction market are already green converts. We hope to be able to reach out to smaller players, to help them see the value in green buildings. We also hope to reach out to new groups of players, such as the landscape designers and contractors who are involved in creating urban greenery, and facility managers who have a big role to play in ensuring the continued performance of a green building.

How would you summarize your company’s role in the green buildings market in Singapore?

We provide a voice for the green building industry in Singapore and lead efforts in achieving a sustainable built environment.

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