Governments should take the lead in creating sustainable environments

Asian senior government officials at the WGBC International Congress today agreed that governments play an important role when promoting the development of green buildings, using push-pull strategies where necessary.

Moderated by Niclas Svenningsen , Head of the Sustainable United Nations (SUN) at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the session provided insights to the policies rolled out by the various governments.

Choo Whatt Bin, Executive Director of Services from Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority said that Singapore recently launched a 2nd Green Building Masterplan, which aims to green 80% of buildings by 2030. It also designed another Sustainable Construction Masterplan, which encourages the use of sustainable construction materials and practices.

Sirinthorn Vongsoasup, Director of Energy Efficiency Promotion for People and Business from Thailand, explained the country’s House Renovation Subsidy Programme, which looked at renovation to improve the energy efficiency in households.

Dr. Wang Qingqin, Deputy Secretary General, China Green Building Council (China GBC) shared that in order to fulfill China’s target of reducing carbon emissions per unit of GDP, the country has embarked on implementing green building standards, green labelling, research into technological solutions.

During the panel discussion, which involved Mr. Tan Tian Chong, Director of Technology Development Division of the Singapore BCA, all speakers echoed the sentiment that the government needs to take the lead, and in doing so they should offer a carrot, but while incentives are necessary, legislation is also sometimes needed.

When asked what the challenges for green buildings are, all said that the take up rate was slow.

Mr. Tan said that even though there is a $100 million incentive scheme in place, it was difficult to get people to come forward.

“The problem is, the payback is 5-7 years. Many building owners are reluctant to come forward. It can be up to 30% for retrofitting,” he said.

Ms. Vongsoasup said it was a similar circumstance in Thailand, with a longer payback time, closer to that of 10 years; while Dr Wang felt that the value of green buildings should be higher than normal buildings.

Rounding up the discussion, all panel members provided recommendations on building a sustainable future. Mr. Choo suggested that for a successful implementation, the right conditions must be there, while Ms. Vongsoasup advocated a greater use of green building materials and increased awareness levels.

Dr. Wang said that standards are very important, and some cities such as Beijing and Shanghai needs to have mandatory policies in place, while Mr. Tan said that it is essential to emphasise the economic benefits of sustainable development, and people need to be trained to do green design and operations.’s coverage of the WGBC International Congress in Singapore is thanks to the support of City Developments Ltd (CDL).

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