Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong at the Singapore Green Building Week Opening Ceremony 2018

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

I am very happy to be back at the Singapore Green Building Week (SGBW) amongst many familiar faces. Let me start by extending a very warm welcome to our overseas guests.

SGBW has developed into an important platform for the international green building community to come together, and achieve the shared vision of a greener built environment. This year’s conference is especially timely because it coincides with Singapore’s Year of Climate Action. 

As a global challenge, climate change requires global action. Singapore is committed to doing our part, despite our small size. That is why we have targeted to reduce our emissions intensity by 36% from 2005 levels by 2030.  

The buildings sector plays an important role because it accounts for one-quarter of Singapore’s carbon emissions. We’ve made green buildings a priority in our attempt to contribute to climate change.

Today, 36% of our buildings are green. We plan to raise this to 80% by 2030. That is a big challenge because we are talking about more than double the percentage of green buildings within a span of twelve years. How are we going to achieve this? 

Let me share some of our plans.

Build Green, Build Smart

As a tropical country, cooling is the biggest source of energy consumption in our buildings. Solving the cooling problem is the key to meeting our sustainability targets.

There are three broad areas that we are working on to address this cooling challenge. The first is passive design. How can we minimise heat entry into buildings and reduce the need for cooling in the first place? 

Common passive design strategies include orienting building openings away from direct sunlight, coating building exteriors with cool paints or heat reflective materials, and designing for natural ventilation.

With computer modelling these days, you can model wind flows and know how best to design a building. These strategies alone can potentially reduce building cooling energy by up to 12%. That is an important area we should work on for new buildings as well as for Additions and Alterations (A&A) works or changes to existing buildings. 

The second strategy is to improve the efficiency of air-con systems. There is no doubt that the air-con is a big game-changer for a tropical country like Singapore. As our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew once said, the air-con is perhaps the greatest invention of the last century. But while it may be the greatest invention of the last century, existing air-con systems still rely on technology that was developed a century ago and they consume quite a bit of energy. There is a lot more we can do to improve the design of air-con systems. 

For example, conventional air-cons come with a compressor to expel the heat that has been absorbed by the chemical refrigerants. This high pressure process is the reason for the high energy consumption. 

Earlier this year, our researchers at the National University of Singapore developed the world’s first prototype for a non-compressor air-con system, which harnesses water to cool the surrounding air. Compared to conventional air-cons, this system is 20% cheaper to manufacture, consumes 40% less energy, and does not use harmful refrigerants that contribute to global warming. The team is now refining the design of the system to further improve its user-friendliness. I hope they will be able to deploy it commercially soon. This, and other innovations that are taking place around the world, are potential breakthroughs that will set the new global standard for cooling systems that are far more efficient than what we have today.

Besides using active design and improving the efficiency of cooling systems, it is also important to meet our energy needs through clean and sustainable means. This brings me to my third point on renewable energy generation.

In Singapore, we receive about 50% more solar radiation than temperate countries.  So solar energy generation remains our most promising source of renewable power.  We may have a lot of sunlight, but the constraint for us, given our size, is land scarcity. That limits the available space for solar panel installation. 

We are already utilising our rooftop space for solar panels. By 2020, over 2,400 public residential buildings will be fitted with solar panels. There will be more beyond that. We are trying to see what more we can do. 

In fact, we are now experimenting with floating solar panels – modular systems – that can be put on our reservoirs, potentially including floating solar panels in the open seas so that we can harness more solar power.  

But where buildings are concerned, another area that we can tap on is vertical solar panels. While we are already maximising the rooftop space, we have yet to harness fully the vertical space for all our buildings. The challenge is that vertical solar panels are more expensive to install and maintain, and they are not so efficient in converting solar power into electricity today. But there are new and promising technologies that may change this. For example, there is the Perovskite solar panels which are made using Perovskite-structured materials or compounds. 

These are still at the research stage; but essentially, it is a material that is flexible, can be painted or sprayed onto any surface and is more efficient in converting solar power to electricity compared to today’s solar panels. This potentially can be a game-changing solution that will enable us to harness more solar power in our buildings.  

We have these three broad areas – passive design, more efficient cooling systems and new solar technologies – which are important strategies for us to make a greater push in cooling and greening our buildings. These are our focus areas for the next stage of our green building journey.

In this regard, I am also happy to announce that BCA is launching a Super Low Energy (SLE) Programme to encourage cost-effective, energy-efficient building designs. Let me share three initiatives under this new Programme, which I hope will challenge and encourage the industry to break new ground. 

First, we will introduce a new Green Mark scheme for SLE buildings. I hope this new scheme will encourage developers and owners, as well as recognise those who are achieving the high green building standards under the scheme. I hope that this will also encourage more building owners to come on board.

Second, BCA has worked with the industry and academia to develop a comprehensive Technology Roadmap. The Roadmap serves as a guide for the industry to realise the potential of SLE buildings. It outlines more than 60 innovative technologies in the three areas which I highlighted earlier, as well as in smart energy systems, which optimise building energy through real-time sensors. There are several projects already underway and I look forward to the positive outcomes from these Research and Development (R&D) projects.

Third, BCA will be launching the SLE Challenge, where progressive developers make a pledge to achieve the new Green Mark for SLE buildings. More than 10 developers in the public and private sectors have agreed to strive for this new Green Mark SLE. There are many more developers in Singapore, so we hope many others will join and come on board. 

The public sector will take the lead. In fact, DSTA has pledged to achieve the new Green Mark for building facilities in Kranji Camp and Seletar Camp. With the SLE mark, we hope these two army camps will not just consume energy, but generate approximately 540 megawatt-hours of energy in a year, which is enough to power more than 110 4-room residential units! It will be an energy contributor, not just a consumer. 

Build Green-Minded Communities

To sustain the green building movement, we also need green-minded communities.  We need strong partnerships between the government, industry, building owners and members of the public. 

I am very glad that building owners, in particular, have been doing more to reduce energy consumption in their buildings. They know that it makes sense to do so because if you reduce, you save on maintenance costs as well.   

Based on this year’s Building Energy Benchmarking Report, while energy consumption of the building sector has not come down, it has been stabilising even as the floor area has gone up – which is a positive sign. 

Commercial buildings also showed a commendable improvement in energy performance. I will cite one example of Furama Hotels International, a Singapore-based hotel management company. The group has improved its commercial portfolio’s energy consumption by 34% since 2008. This is on top of having maintained the highest tier of the BCA Green Mark Platinum Award for Existing Buildings since 2009. They have been pushing the boundaries to bring down their energy consumption, and there are many other companies, building owners and developers which have also been doing so. I encourage all of you in the industry to keep up the good work.

We also want to bring our youth on board in a meaningful way, and embed the “green DNA” in future generations. That is a critical part of developing this green community – starting with our young, and imbuing in them that mindset of having a green environment and upholding green buildings and a green Singapore. 

That is why this year, BCA has been working with the Ministry of Education to explore the potential of Positive Energy Schools (PES) – not just low energy, but positive energy. These are energy-efficient schools that can produce more energy than they consume, while at the same time, maintain a comfortable environment for students. 

As a pilot initiative, we are installing 10 innovative energy-saving solutions at the first school, which is Tampines Secondary School (TPSS). They include vertical greenery, enhanced sunshades, smart fans, and solar panels. With these enhancements, we expect to achieve 26% energy savings, and convert TPSS to the first PES by next year.

Another school that is on this journey is Bukit View Secondary School (BVSS). And I am happy that for BVSS, it is not just what the school is doing but the whole industry is involved in helping the school achieve its energy targets. In particular, BCA and CDL have partnered with tertiary students to conceptualise and develop innovative solutions for BVSS. They have received 30 submissions from our tertiary institutions and IHLs, and selected 8 outstanding entries which will be showcased at the BuildSG pavilion. You can take a look during the break and see what the school is doing. These are some examples of the initiatives that we are undertaking to try and raise public awareness about green buildings and instil this mindset amongst Singaporeans. 


Before I end, I would like to give you a sneak preview of our plans for the Conference next year. This is the tenth anniversary of the SGBW. As with all things, we do not just want to continue on status quo, but we are looking to see how the entire week can be revamped and improved.

While green buildings are an important part of our built environment, there are many other things we can do which are also critical including Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA), integrated digital delivery (IDD), and smart facilities management (FM). All these are critical parts to achieve a greener and smarter built environment. 

So come next year, we are planning an international built environment week to cover all of these key areas. Essentially, we want to make this bigger and better; all under one roof where there can be a comprehensive showcase of new and innovative technologies at tradeshows and conferences, as well as international networking opportunities.

So there’s much to look forward to in the coming year. We hope to work with all of you to achieve this better event next year. In the meantime, I hope all of you will have a fruitful conference this year, and end the SGBW on a high note. Let us continue to work together to build a greener, more sustainable, and higher quality environment for all of us to enjoy. Thank you very much and have a good conference ahead.  

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