Asia Excels in Green Buildings Industry | BCA | John Keung

CEO of BCA Dr John Keung eGreen buildings and sustainable construction in Asia is no longer a rare sight, thanks to the burgeoning sustainability trends enforced by the governments. In Singapore, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) developed Green Mark, a rating tool to evaluate green buildings’ environmental impact and performance, designed for the tropics.

As the industry is becoming more and more buoyant, opportunities in this sector mainly lies on the green jobs. Singapore will need estimatedly 20,000 green building professionals to meet the market demands. In this interview, John Keung, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BCA shares his insight on the development of Asia’s green building market and BCA’s role towards the targeted green goals.


How would you summarize your organization’s role in the green building market in Asia? 

John Keung (JK): The BCA champions the development of Singapore’s green-building movement through our green-building master plan, which includes, a comprehensive suite of initiatives, comprising policy levers and incentives, to stimulate the growth of green buildings.

We also developed a green building rating tool, BCA Green Mark scheme for the tropics. The number of green building projects rated by the BCA Green Mark (GM) has grown from 17 in 2005 close to 1,500 in a short span of seven yearsthis translates to about 43.4 million m2of Gross Floor Area in Singapore.

One of BCA’s key R&D projects is the BCA Zero Energy Building (ZEB). The ZEB is South-East Asia’s first Zero Energy Building that was successfully retrofitted from an existing building and is a platform for test-bedding new and innovative green building technologies.  The building is 50% more efficient than a conventional office building of similar space usage and operating hours and has achieved a net zero energy consumption for two and a half years now despite its load increasing year on year.

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

JK: In our tropical climate, it is important for building owners and consultants to orientate their buildings and design the envelopes to minimize heat transfer into the premises. They should also pay more attention to the sizing and selection of cooling equipment to better suit the demand of the building tenants. While the cooling equipment may be selected to cater for energy intensive tenants such as banks and MNCs with data centres which generates considerably more heat, there should also be the flexibility to run the cooling equipment efficiently when the actual tenancy mix is different from design assumptions, and also when the building is not fully occupied. Today, there are energy efficient chillers with a wider operating range of cooling load available in the market, where it can perform efficiently even at part load conditions.

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?

JK: Facilities and asset management are increasingly seen at the forefront of business strategy today in many large and international corporations. Green Mark buildings can be at least 25% more energy efficient compared to normal buildings. In order to realise the maximum benefits, facilities management (FM) professionals should check and maintain the energy efficient equipment such as chillers, lightings etc., periodically and maintain them well so that the building owner will be able to derive savings. A best practice is to do an energy audit of the building, retrofit it based on the audit findings, and then have it rated under the Green Mark scheme for Existing Buildings.

In addition, the demand for FM will be further fueled by an increase in urban population, where seven of the world’s top ten megacities with 10 million or more inhabitants, will be in Asia by 2025. Through our education and training arm, BCA Academy, we work closely with industry partners to develop skills and expertise. These training programmes bring about better awareness and appreciation on ways to procure and evaluate equipment from vendors and assess the suitability of the equipment for the buildings under their care.

How has the green building market developed in Asia these last ten years?

JK: The green building market here has become a buoyant one since we first started in 2005. Today, building owners, developers, engineers and consultants in the industry are seeing the economic and environmental value of green buildings. Coupled with BCA’s  incentive schemes to help building owners reduce retrofitting costs, more than 1,400 building projects have achieved GM rating of either Certified, Gold, Goldplus and/or Platinum level.

Outside Singapore, the scheme has also been well received with more than 190 projects in countries like China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, India, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, The Philippines and Tanzania have applied for the Green Mark certification. The scheme has also been intensively studied and referenced by other countries or cities during the development of their own green building systems.

Moreover, there is a lot of interest, research, collaborations, international events such as the International Green Building Conference (IGBC) to create and develop a community of green building advocates who are simultaneously working together with BCA to champion a sustainable built environment.

Which opportunities have you seen in green building market in Asia that others have not, according to your opinion?

JK: Careers in the green building sector would be the one of key opportunities here as Singapore needs 20,000 green building professionals as part of BCA’s Green Building Masterplan. Professionals such as architects, engineers or facilities managers should have the requisite knowledge and skills that would enable the individual to operate the buildings in a sustainable way and to undertake sustainable improvement measures to reduce the building’s environmental impact over its functional life cycle. Similarly, as more overseas projects apply for GM certification, the demand for green building professionals in this region will increase over time.



About the Building and Construction Authority (BCA):

BCA is an agency under the Ministry of National Development of Singapore, championing the development of an excellent built environment for Singapore. BCA developed a green building rating tool, BCA Green Mark scheme for the tropics in January 2005 as an initiative to drive Singapore’s construction industry towards more environment-friendly buildings. It is a benchmarking scheme which aims to achieve a sustainable built environment by incorporating best practices in environmental design and construction, and the adoption of green building technologies.


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