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Can Singapore buildings go “green” by 2030?

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) said the goal of “greening” 80 per cent of Singapore’s buildings by 2030 is an “ambitious target”.

Most buildings were constructed before new energy efficiency guidelines kicked in.

So far, about 12 per cent of existing floor areas had been “greened” and most of this took place in new buildings.

But BCA said the situation is improving, and it is working with existing building owners to recognise the benefits of being energy efficient.

In the National Development Ministry’s addendum to the President’s address, Mr Khaw Boon Wan pledged to step up efforts in “greening” buildings to make them more energy efficient and eco-friendly.

Six Battery Road was the first operating office building in Singapore’s business district to attain the Green Mark Platinum Award in 2010.

It introduced a slew of eco-friendly features during a major refurbishment, including an indoor vertical garden in its lobby.

Aside from absorbing air pollutants, the plants reduce heat gain, which means the air-conditioner does not have to work as hard to keep the temperature down.

CapitaCommercial Trust CEO Lynette Leong said: “It is in accordance with our corporate philosophy to be environmentally sustainable.

“A lot of tenants these days are also requiring offices to be environmentally sustainable. So we saw this as an opportunity to upgrade the building as well as incorporate green features.

“And the result of that is the ability to improve the operating efficiency of the building, reducing operating costs and achieving the return-on-investment that we’re expecting.”

Green features, such as LED lights and motion-sensor taps are also expected to improve energy efficiency by 20 per cent and lead to energy savings of up to 25 per cent.

The property will spend S$92 million on its asset enhancement plan, and CapitaCommercial Trust said it expects to achieve a return on investment of eight per cent.

Of the 840 green buildings in Singapore, only about 100 are existing buildings.

While some buildings are waiting for their next major retrofitting exercise, others cite high costs as a major concern.

Building and Construction Authority CEO John Keung said: “As far as cost is concerned, the payback period is most of the time around four to six years, depending on what you do.

“And of course, the private-sector building owner, they may have a different payback period in mind. They want it shorter - the shorter the better.”

BCA has launched several incentive schemes - chief among them a 100-million-dollar fund for existing buildings.

About S$6.2 million dollars has been committed under the scheme.

It is also hoping to raise awareness among building owners that going green makes financial sense.

A recent study conducted by the National University of Singapore found that going green enhances the value of the building by some two per cent.

“The building owners tend to gain on two fronts - one is the energy savings you have year after year. The other is the enhancement in the value of your property,” Dr Keung said.

The authorities are looking to introduce legislation for existing buildings next year.

This may include having regular energy audits, and also requiring buildings which are undergoing major retrofitting work to install energy efficient chiller systems.

Other changes may include getting buildings to declare their energy consumption and adhering to a benchmark.

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