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Green Mark building scheme gets UN attention

You might not have noticed, but Singapore’s buildings have been getting greener.

Across the island, 840 have been awarded the Green Mark – which certifies them as environmentally friendly.

The programme has come a long way since it was launched in 2005. That year, only 17 buildings were given this stamp of approval.

But since then, more offices and homes – both existing and new – have been brought up to standard, adopting measures such as energy efficient air-conditioning and meeting targets on recycling.

The United Nations was so impressed by the Green Mark scheme, it wants to work with the Building and Construction Authority, which runs it. This tie-up could involve research and training programmes to promote environmentally friendly buildings, and an agreement is due to be signed on Wednesday.

Dr Arab Hoballah, chief of sustainable consumption and production at the UN’s Environment Programme, told The Straits Times that the Republic is now an ‘Asian regional bridge’ for promoting green building methods. ‘Singapore can serve as an example to other countries and cities,’ he added.

Buildings seeking a Green Mark pay a small fee to have themselves certified by the authority. The scheme has been so successful that firms around the world have been hopping on the bandwagon. More than 120 projects have applied for certification in 10 countries including China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and even Tanzania.

Dr Hoballah said the challenge for Singapore is now to expand the scheme further by retrofitting more public and private buildings, adding: ‘This requires aggressive and targeted communication.’ He stressed that it was important for this kind of building to take off in Asia given the huge amount of new construction projects in the region.

Dr Hoballah was speaking ahead of the Singapore Green Building Week, which starts tomorrow and will involve a conference and a sustainable building trade show, both held at Suntec City.

Mr Tai Lee Siang, president of the Singapore Green Building Council, an industry association, said the green construction movement in Singapore would not have become so successful without ‘buy in’ from developers who have begun to see its value. ‘There are more discerning buyers such as responsible companies who are looking for green properties,’ he added.

Mr Tai said that although the authorities and the industry have been playing a leading role, more can be done to educate the man in the street.

‘Most times, they are not bothered about whether a building is green,’ he said. ‘But this is changing slowly, and they are becoming more aware that this translates not just to energy savings, but dollar savings.’

This article was originally published in The Straits Times.

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