Beyond energy savings from green buildings

Energy efficiency is no longer enough to satisfy many of Singapore’s green building users, who are demanding broader environmental sustainability from their spaces, say experts.

More businesses are beginning to demonstrate an attitude towards greater environmental responsibility, said Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) president Tai Lee Siang in an e-mail interview.

“These organizations will go as far as insisting that only green building materials be used in their interior as a show of support for the green movement,” he added.

Some firms allow only recycled materials inside their offices for example, and - unlike the early days of the green building movement - the motivation in these cases is really more than energy or cost savings, noted Mr Tai.

Eco-friendly interiors benefit everyone in the community with greener, healthier working and living environments, he explained.

SGBC will emphasize this point at the upcoming International Green Building Conference (IGBC), which will be held from 10 to 12 October at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.

A joint annual event by SGBC, the Singapore Institute of Architects and Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA), IGBC 2012 will have a broader focus than the industry players and physical structures that make up the green building sector.

“As the theme for our event this year ‘Green Communities, Green Action’ suggests, we will be rolling out new initiatives together with BCA and industry leaders to engage and inspire the community to positive action so that everyone wins,” said Mr Tai.

One initiative that may be ready for launch at that time is a new certification scheme for green furniture, which was announced in March.

Mr Tai told Eco-Business that the scheme’s task force - to be chaired by Green Architect award winner Tang Kok Thye - was nearly finalised and that the group would spend the next two months developing criteria for the certification.

The co-located Build Eco Expo (BEX) Asia green building trade show will also highlight the growing trend for eco-friendly interiors with a new section for green features for inside fittings, including furnishings, textiles, lighting, and kitchen and bathroom equipment.

Mark Yong, managing director of Singaporean office and home fittings firm Ewins, said his company would be launching new products at the event to respond to increased demand from buyers.

“Beyond developers and architects - who naturally have strong industry knowledge and understanding of the values of these products - we are also seeing an increased demand from businesses and private home-owners, who make up about 20 per cent of our client base as compared to only 3 per cent five years ago,” he said.

The bulk of BCA’s green building scheme has focused on designing and renovating buildings to increase energy efficiency. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment, Singapore has set a target of certifying 80 per cent of its buildings as green by 2035.

Singapore’s green building schemes also emphasize water and waste minimisation, recycling and the use of sustainable materials.

However, the primary business case that green building advocates use to convince building owners and developers to go green has been the opportunity to save money through reduced energy bills.

“It is not wrong to start the green movement with promoting energy efficiency. It is the low hanging fruit that makes business sense for early starters,” noted Mr Tai.

Growing awareness of environmental concerns is the result of years of energy efficiency initiatives combined with better media communication and education, he added.

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