Singapore builds up green building research capabilities with new test-bedding facility at BCA Academy

Thursday, 20 December 2012

- New facility to be modelled after Berkeley Lab's FLEXLAB (Facility for Low Energy Experiments in Buildings)
- Collaboration creates bi-directional learning for BCA and Berkeley Lab; far-reaching significance on green buildings and sustainable development in the tropics expected
- Additional test-bedding facility to enhance Singapore's status as regional leader in green building solutions

Singapore, 20 December 2012 - The Building and Construction Authority inked a partnership with US-based Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) on 16 November 2012 to build a facility for test-bedding green building technologies. The collaboration is pivotal to developing new innovations and solutions for greater energy efficiency of buildings in Singapore, thereby reducing carbon emissions and contributing to the sustainability of the built environment.

The new facility to be built at the BCA Academy will be modelled after Berkeley Lab's FLEXLAB (Facility for Low Energy Experiments in Buildings) located at Berkeley Hills. While there will be differences in terms of size and scope due to space constraint, the new test-bedding facility at BCA Academy will be the first rotating research facility in Asia. The novel design will allow the solar impact on wall surfaces to be assessed, thus simulating the actual building site location with ease. In building the new lab, BCA will work closely with Berkeley Lab to tap their expertise in areas including design & construction, data acquisition and collaborative research projects.

When completed in end 2013, the new facility will allow building systems and components to be tested in "real-world" conditions and let researchers and manufacturers change the configuration to test key building elements that impacts energy consumption and building performance. These include high-performance building envelopes, advanced cooling & air distribution systems, next-generation lighting and whole system integration through smart sensing and controls, as well as ventilation, lighting, walls, windows and shading.

Sharing his rationale on the new facility, Dr John Keung, Chief Executive Officer of the Building and Construction Authority, said: "As a champion of green building research, BCA actively pursues collaborations with world-renowned institutions to lead the region towards sustainable development in the tropics. Berkeley Lab's scientific expertise has been recognised with 13 Nobel prizes, and we are confident that the collaboration will synergise their expertise in groundbreaking research with our experience in energy efficient buildings in the tropics. The new laboratory will host many new exciting green technologies and boost existing ones at the Zero Energy Building.With enhanced facilities, a wider range of energy efficient approaches could be test-bedded. Thiswill further boost Singapore's status as a leader in sustainable building solutions in this region."

Ashok Gadgil, Director of Berkeley Lab's Environmental Energy Technologies Division, agrees: "Berkeley Lab's building research team has been leading the way for decades in developing technologies, systems and tools to improve building performance and achieve huge energy savings. We are excited about the opportunity to exchange concepts and expertise with those pursuing similar goals around the world."

Zero Energy Building celebrates third year of net zero energy consumption

Together with BCA's flagship R&D project - Asia's first Zero Energy Building - the collaboration with Berkeley Lab will expand the scale and scope of BCA's green building research facilities. BCA's Zero Energy Building just celebrated its third year of operation and has achieved net zero energy use since its launch as well as a cumulated surplus of 40.8 MWh (megawatts-hour) of electricity. Based on the national monthly average electricity consumption by HDB 5-room household of 465 kWh, the power surplus translates to savings of $126.80 per month for 87 units of HDB 5-room flats at residential electricity tariffs at 27.27 cents/kWh (kilowatts-hour).

As a hub for the study of energy efficiency and green buildings, the Zero Energy Building has played a key role in test-bedding new green technologies in the region for the past three years, and will continue to do so. Some of the new solutions that it is test-bedding include Natflow's Passive Displacement Ventilation (PDV), Inflector's thermal barrier for windows, advanced lighting control solutions from Redwood System and 3M's daylight re-directing film. These green building solution providers have leveraged on Zero Energy Building's pro-enterprise test-bedding platform to test-bed and fine-tune their solutions for the local market or to showcase the actual product performances to prospective industry clients. For instance, Natflow, whose PDV won the Asean Energy Award 2012, had used the lessons learnt from testing their solution at Zero Energy Building to improve their product, which subsequently gained acceptance for deployment by the Nanyang Technological University.

Of interest is the SinBerBEST's wireless sensing system, which has started trial on remote environment sensing at the Zero Energy Building's test chambers. The trial is meant to connect test labs from various sites in Singapore to a central monitoring server so that building technology researchers could share data and align research activities on facades or indoor environment quality going forward. This trial will be a precursor to the development of the additional test-bedding facility to be built at BCA Academy where remote sensing and connectivity to Berkeley's FLEXlab are desired.



BCA's Zero Energy Building (ZEB)


Launched October 2009, the ZEB recently turned three years old.


ZEB is the first building in Singapore and Southeast Asia to be retrofitted with green building technologies. Converted from a three-storey school building, the ZEB now houses classrooms and offices, and is a testing centre for green building technology.

The 4,500 m2 ZEB generates its own electricity from solar power through 1,540 m2 of panels installed on its roof and other prominent places. Cost savings due to energy efficiency to date is a whopping $165,964 (632,507.8 kWh) by using green building technology, incorporating the building's natural cooling and lighting elements in its design and tapping on solar energy.

ZEB has drawn 18,000 visitors from various local and international academia, corporate, government organisations and the public since its opening. ZEB has won several awards globally. They include:

1. The IES Prestigious Engineering Achievement Award from the Institute of Engineers Singapore (IES)
2. BCI Green Design Award in 2010
3. ASEAN Energy Awards 2011
4. MND Minister's (Team) Award 2011
5. Minister for National Development's R&D Award (Distinguished)


- To serve as a testbed for new green technologies
- To serve as a model to encourage the industry to incorporate green features into building design

Key green areas

- Energy efficiency
- Water efficiency
- Sustainable Construction & Management
- Indoor environment quality
- Other green features

Examples of green technologies at ZEB

Ø 3 different vertical greenery systems
Ø Roof greenery system
Ø Shading devices
Ø Low-e glazing
Ø Insulated façade
Ø Solar film coating
Ø Mirror ducts
Ø Light shelves
Ø 2 different types of light pipes
Ø 3 different types of dynamic glazing
Ø Solar assisted stacks
Ø Underfloor displacement cooling
Ø Single coil twin fan
Ø Personalised ventilation
Ø Chiller systems
Ø Lighting controls
Ø Building management system
Ø 5 different types of solar photovoltaic panels
Ø Heat reflective paint
Ø Passive displacement ventilation
Ø Retrofitted solar screens for windows

New technologies to be test-bedded at ZEB

BCA is now test-bedding a number of new technologies at ZEB. They include:

Passive Displacement Ventilation (PDV)

It is an innovative solution that delivers air conditioning to occupants by buoyancy without the use of fans. We have completed the test-bedding in one of the classroom and we found that this technology requires further improvement to induce more air movement to increase comfort and freshness in the space. Hence, the vendor is proposing adding a small fan to run for about 10mins at the start of the operation to expedite the cooling in the space and a separate small freshair fan to inject outside air. This trial will be done in another siteoutside ZEB.

SinBerBEST's wireless sensing system

SINBERBEST has started trial on remote environment sensing at the ZEB test chambers. The trial is meant to connect test-labs from remote sites like ETH BubbleZero and ZEB test chambers to a central monitoring server at CREATE Campus so that building technology researchers could share data and align research activities on facades or Indoor Environment Quality going forward. This trial will be a precursor to the development of UTBF@BCAA where remote sensing and connectivity to LBNL FLEXLAB are desired.

Redwood System's Lighting Control System

The innovation of this lighting control system Redwood System is that it uses data cable to power and control lightings; hence, saving on wiring cost. Another uniqueness of this system is that each light fitting comes with its own sensor; hence, each light fitting could be dimmed individually according the amount of daylight it receives in the space; thereby reducing energy consumption. We will be studying the energy performance of Redwood lighting system, the payback and visual comfort. The installation will begin next month and it will be installed in the Centre for Sustainable Buildings and Construction.

3M film

The next technology we will be test-bedding is 3M's latest film. It has some engrave edgings in the film which redirect external daylight upwards; hence, reducing the glare to the occupants. We have installed this film in one of the classrooms and we are now analysing the performance.

Portable document format version of the media release is also available (199KB .pdf).



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