General: new technology is feeding Asia’s next big race for green buildings

The race is on in Asia to make buildings more environmentally friendly, as the idea of achieving ‘green firsts’ takes root in the concrete jungle — boosted by the massive leaps in technology over the last few years.

At the foundation of this shift is Building Information Modelling (BIM), a 3D design process developed to understand a structure’s energy performance using computers. The modelling system can complete a building’s energy analysis in just eight to 12 hours — no time at all compared to previously, when an expert with a detailed model needed half a year to do the same.

With technology such as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), which allows energy to be drawn from a building’s façade, buildings that put little or no extra demand on the power grid can be constructed.

In the bustling southern city of Guangzhou in China, the 71-storey Pearl River Tower expects to be able to completely offset its energy demand by generating its own power. Once all 2.3 million square feet are completed, the tower will become the world’s biggest net zero-energy building.

Across the Taiwan Strait, Taipei 101 (so named for the 101 storeys it projects above ground) is looking to claim the title of the tallest ‘green’ building in the world.

In South Korea, the government’s Smart Grid project, which includes a huge test facility on Jeju Island, aims to slash 200 million tonnes of greenhouse gases — the equivalent of the emissions of 540 Empire State Buildings — over the next 20 years.

Neither China, Taiwan nor South Korea is a world leader in terms of environmentally friendly buildings — Singapore and Japan are the leaders, according to an Asia Business Council study — but their eagerness to enter the arena bodes well for the region and the world.

In Japan, the Comprehensive Assessment System for Building Environmental Efficiency has become a fundamental part of the construction industry, compelling developers to consider environmental issues at the concept phase.

Just last week, Singapore announced that its Green Labelling Scheme, a rating system for green building design and technologies, would be introduced into Malaysia and Indonesia, and subsequently to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

More than half of the world’s new buildings are constructed in Asia every year and by 2020, Asian cities will be home to more than 2.2 billion people. The transformation of Asian skylines represents an opportunity for massive energy savings, with buildings estimated to account for around 40% of overall energy use.

In China and India, two of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, advanced technologies could reduce energy use growth by 10%, while cost-effective retrofits widely available today could trim 25% off the current energy consumption, said the United Nations Environment  Programme in a recent study.

Experts say that going green is necessary to meet increased energy demand, which is set to double by 2030 — and that zero-carbon buildings are an easy and simple first step.

Some developers remain unconvinced about the costs savings down the road, choosing instead to focus on the initial outlay. It costs 5-10% more, for example, to construct a building that meets the gold certification of the Washington DC-based Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard.

This is challenging for developers who are not green-minded and need “instant gratification” through immediate cost savings, Alex Lau, chief executive of energy management technology firm Anacle Systems, told Asia360 News.

But developers are coming around to the idea of long-term savings, Lau said. In addition, green buildings now fetch higher values in the property market and attract big international tenants and clients, analysts say.

Building owners need to mandate sustainability, said Poul E Kristensen, managing director of IEN Consultants, which builds sustainable buildings in Asia, at the 2011 Clean Energy Expo Asia conference.

“We cannot do small steps. If we want to [make a difference], we need to reduce up to 50-60% of energy consumption,” he said.
Grey buildings will lose out in the future, Kristensen said. “If you don’t build green, you build obsolete.”

 

Source : Asia360

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