10 years in, industry takes the lead in advancing green buildings in Singapore

Beginning this year, the Singapore Green Building Council takes over a key green building certification scheme for professionals and an enhanced role in assessing buildings on their sustainability impact as the sector becomes a strategic focus for the city-state.

overcast singapore skyline shounen21 on unsplash
The overcast skyline over Singapore belies the city-state's bright hopes for green buildings. Image: Shounen21, Unsplash

Reflecting the growing importance of green buildings for Singapore’s climate strategy and economic development, the national certification scheme for building and construction professionals has been refreshed and handed over to new management.

From this July, professionals who want to be certified in the design and development of green buildings will obtain their qualification from the Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) rather than from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

The newly introduced Green Mark Professional Qualification scheme, which replaces the Green Mark Specialist scheme, is intended to emphasise the need for and to build up competencies of industry professionals, given that Singapore has identified green buildings as one of three key areas to transform the nation’s construction industry .

Ang Kian Seng, BCA’s group director of environmental sustainability, said at the April launch of the scheme: “It is timely to carry out a review and make the qualification more up to date with respect to the systems used internationally and by other professional bodies.”

This new qualification was first announced by SGBC in September 2018, and will be further refined in coming months. The announcement comes in the tenth year of SGBC’s founding, and sees the non-profit organisation take on a more active role in promoting green buildings at home.

Leading the charge for more sustainable buildings

The key consideration in having SGBC take over the administration of the qualification was its international network of partners in the green building space, said speakers at the launch. 

Thanks to SGBC’s close ties to the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) and regional counterparts, professionals who hold the new qualification under SGBC’s management will have more flexibility in  meeting their professional development requirements via international programmes, in recognition of the more globalised work that Singapore’s green building professionals now take on .

The reason for this change is to motivate professionals to “stay relevant” and up-to-date with changes in technology and design methods, said Lee Ang Seng, managing director of Beca Carter Hollings & Ferner Southeast Asia, who serves on the SGBC board.

“Technology changes constantly and we need to gain the insights and knowledge to keep up with new approaches. Renewing the qualification on a yearly basis will help us to elevate our professional standards,” he explained at the industry briefing.

It also ensures that building industry professionals will continue to push the envelope in retrofitting and developing green buildings that are energy efficient and that have the smallest carbon footprint possible, said SGBC’s Soh.

In addition to taking over the professional qualification scheme this year, SGBC will also join BCA in assessing entire building projects for the Green Mark Certification.

This is a step up from its initial mandate of certifying just the products used in green buildings, and puts SGBC on par with other green building councils around the region that issue and administrate green building certifications, such as the Philippines and Australian councils.

“With this new collaboration, we can now address the entirety of the green building value chain: from the professionals to the organisations and certified green products and finally the green buildings themselves,” said Dr Ho Nyok Yong, the president of SGBC, speaking during the signing of the BCA-SGBC agreement at the BuildSG Leadership Forum 2019 in April.

“Our enhanced position in the industry will allow us to develop and implement more impactful programmes towards a greener, sustainable and healthier built environment.

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