Making the greenest out of Singapore’s Property sector | Keppel Land | Lim Tow Fok

Singapore has been widely acknowledged as the leader in green building industry in Asia due to strong support from the government and collective endeavors done by the industry players. And yet put in a global scale, the city-state’s green / sustainability development is still outsmarted by US and European metropolitans. With the property market being one of the largest contributors to the country / city’s green agenda, green building growth in Singapore is one of the key points being taken into consideration when it comes to envisioning the future goal to be the world’s most sustainable ecosystem.

With a particular highlight on the property sector and its ‘green’ potential, set up an exclusive interview with Mr. Lim Tow Fok , the General Manager of Property and Knowledge Management at Keppel Land, to get a better understanding on what action / strategy is needed in the property sector to improve the green building industry.


How is the current slowdown in Singapore’s property market affecting the green building industry in the country? How do you see it to being coped with?

Singapore’s property market is multifaceted, comprising residential, commercial, retail, mixed-used developments, etc. Not all sectors are experiencing a slowdown at this point.

In 2008, in support of a greener built environment, minimum environmental sustainability standards equivalent to the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore’s (BCA) Green Mark Certified level were put in place for all new buildings with gross floor area exceeding 2000m2. Since then, more developers have incorporated green features and infrastructure into the design of their buildings.

Building owners who embark on retrofitting their existing chiller system also have minimum energy standards to meet. These policies are already in place and have worked well.

With greater demand and competition, we believe the green building industry will innovate to come up with more eco-friendly and energy efficient products at competitive pricings.


How would engaging building occupiers to collaborate with building owner helps the optimization of green building’s performance?

Research has shown that building occupiers significantly influence overall energy consumption patterns. In a typical office building in Singapore, up to 50% of a building’s total electrical consumption is attributable to tenants.

Recognizing this, in 2013, Keppel Land set up a Tenants Go-Green Committee comprising representatives from Keppel Land and tenants of its various properties. The Committee seeks to raise environmental awareness among tenants, share good practices on environmental issues and encourage tenants to support green initiatives. In addition, Keppel Land extended complimentary environmental gap analysis services to tenants at selected office buildings, thereby helping tenants identify energy savings opportunities and lowering operating costs.

On the other hand, in collaboration with Philips Electronics, we have recently rolled out a scheme to reduce lighting energy consumption in our office premises by up to 60% through the replacement of existing conventional office lamps with energy efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lightings. Under this zero capex lighting retrofit scheme, Philips will offer a lighting replacement solution to tenants of Keppel Land’s buildings with no upfront capital investment required. Cost of the installation of the energy efficient LED lamps will be paid via the electricity savings achieved over an agreed period of time. Innovative schemes like this eventually helps tenants reduce their electricity bills and improve the building’s overall energy performance.


Do you see any significant behavioral change of the building occupants / tenants along with the emerging trends of sustainability and green building practices?

Based on information collected, we see an increased number of occupiers joining in our recycling projects, participating in activities such as switching off lights during Earth Hour. This is definitely a positive behavioural change.

The set up of our Tenants Go-Green Committee in 2013 has provided a platform for our tenants and ourselves to share best practices in environmental sustainability, at the same time, encourage them to support us on our green initiatives. Since then, many of our office tenants have adopted green practices within their own offices.


Would it be possible to assume that financial issue (high building/occupancy cost of green building) faced by most stakeholders would be tackled once the knowledge gap is finally filled resolved?

There has been an increase in companies joining in the green journey, and this can be attributed to heightened awareness of the benefits of greening developments, which include factors such as lower operational cost, increased capital value as well as enhanced reputation when it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility.

Among consumers, cost is one of the considerations when it comes to purchase of green products. The most effective way to promote green culture is to drive it through market forces thereby creating demand for green products. If the cost of a green product is comparable to a non-green one, we believe people in general will make the right decision. This is where government funding and incentives can help bridge the gap and tackle the challenge.


Admittedly the world’s green property market is still being led by Europe and the US — how would you see Asia catching up?

The green movement in the built environment is certainly gaining traction in Asia. In a recent publication by BCA, it was reported that the Green Mark scheme has expanded beyond Singapore to 71 cities in 15 countries with more than 250 projects. The cities are mainly from Asia. These are positive signs.

In Singapore, the BCA has been leading this. Some examples of these green initiatives are the legislations put in place, as well as the incentives and training programmes offered to building owners, occupants and tenants.

Industry players, too, are doing their part. We see that there is great demand for green innovation here in Singapore when it comes to the built environment.


Mr. Lim Tow Fok is one of the speakers at the International Green Building Conference 2014 in Singapore.


More about Keppel Land Limited :

Keppel Land Limited is the property arm of the Keppel Group, one of Singapore’s largest multi-national groups with key businesses in offshore and marine, infrastructure, as well as property. Its property business is committed to create live-work-play environments of enduring value for the community with its hallmark excellence. The company also concurs its commitment to operate businesses beyond supporting and championing green causes; believing that an environmentally responsible manner they embrace makes good business sense.

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