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Green building technology on show in Singapore

Technological innovations are making it easier for property developers to green their buildings, and the latest solutions were on display at an exhibition for green building products held this week in Singapore.

Roughly 8,000 green building professionals and buyers turned up at Build Eco Xpo (BEX Asia) 2011 to peruse the green building solutions on offer, including many products aimed at saving customers time and money.

Green Koncepts, one of the Singaporean firms exhibiting at BEX Asia, launched a new product at the trade show that helps companies manage their energy usage for multiple locations remotely over the internet with ease and efficiency.

The cloud-based energy management system, called Koncepts Energy Management, requires no software, servers or large up-front costs. All that is needed are small devices that connect wirelessly to Green Koncepts’ cloud server, which need to be hooked up to existing electricity meters. After that, customers can access real-time data for sites in multiple countries with just a login and password.

Kenneth Lee, founder of Green Koncepts, told Eco-Business in an interview that the feedback from companies who have tested the product has been extremely positive, particularly with regards to the simplicity of use.

“We’re getting really good feedback. Because of the simplicity of the interface, it helps get employees involved,” he said. He added that the test companies noticed almost immediate electricity savings – about 20 per cent in the first month - because the visibility of the information, which is displayed on an ‘energy dashboard’, affected behaviour from the very beginning.

The ‘energy dashboard’ is a web page that shows energy data as it received. It shows not only the electricity being consumed, but also the dollar cost of that electricity and the associated carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

For companies in Singapore, the energy dashboard may help them maintain their green building certification status.

Mr Lee said that a significant number of buildings here, particularly retail malls, lose their green building certification once their tenants energy consumption becomes a factor. With recertification audits done every two years, it is often too late to fix the problems once they surface.

 

To help building operators avoid that scenario, Green Koncept’s system provides a visual comparison of the facility’s actual energy consumption with the green building target. Customers can even programme the system to alert them by e-mail or SMS if energy performance slips, he explained.

Another helpful feature of Green Koncept’s product is an energy performance contract, which is a financing scheme that allows companies to avoid upfront costs by paying for the project with the energy savings the product delivers.

Mr Lee said, “Customers want to save money and increase energy efficiency, but not many are keen to pay up front.”

This type of contract is becoming increasingly common in the green building industry, according to other exhibitors.

Terence Tan, director of integrated building services at global energy management firm Johnson Controls, said that he is seeing an increasing uptake of performance contracting in his business.

Johnson Controls was at BEX Asia to launch its new YMC² chiller, which cools liquids within air-conditioning systems 10 per cent more efficiently and with less noise and pollution than conventional technology.

The energy management company was one of about 250 companies from 28 countries that set up shop for the three day event at Suntec Convention Centre.

Elmich, a landscape engineering company headquartered in Singapore, was here to display a variety of easy ways to install green roofs and walls with modular units. The company, whose products are manufactured in Malaysia and designed in Australia, has completed a number of signature projects in Singapore, including the green roof at Marina Barrage, green vertical gardens at Orchard Central Mall and a green roof at Universal Studios.

An Elmich spokesman told Eco-Business the company has developed several solutions to save on labour and costs, such as automatic irrigation and fertiliser tubes on green walls and pre-planted green roof sections. However, the customer still has to know how to maintain the plants, and that is not always a given, he said.

This is not the only area in which property developers and building managers need more knowledge, according to experts.

Delegates at the International Green Building Conference (IGBC), a three day summit held concurrently with BEX Asia as part of Singapore Green Building Week, had noted that the technology and solutions required to green the world’s buildings are available, but more awareness and incentives are needed to get the job done.

Speaking at a session on green buildings in the real estate sector on Thursday, for example, Associate Professor Yu Shi-Ming from the National University of Singapore said the real estate sector’s lack of ability to account for the value of future cost savings from green buildings led to misperceptions about their affordability.

Johnson Controls’ Mr Tan agreed that misperceptions and lack of awareness are among the biggest barriers to the uptake of innovative solutions such as those found at BEX Asia.

Property developers and building owners use a conventional decision-making process that focuses on up-front costs, he added.

“They do not see beyond the ‘now’,” he said.

For more news from Singapore Green Building Week, including the International Green Building Conference 2011 and Bex Asia 2011, click here.

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