More builders green up for extra space

More developers are going green thanks to a scheme which gives them extra floor area if their buildings are built with environment-friendly features.

So far, builders have received extra space of more than 43,000 sq m - the size of Tampines Mall, allowing them to add extra residential or office units in their buildings.

These figures on the Green Mark Gross Floor Area Incentive Scheme were revealed by the Building Construction Authority (BCA) yesterday.

The scheme, which was put in place in 2009 as part of the Green Masterplan, gives private-sector companies as much as 2 per cent in extra gross floor area - capped at 5,000 sq m - if they achieve certain environmental standards.

These include the efficient use of energy and water, through, for instance, energy-saving air-conditioning systems, LED lighting and tap fittings.

From 20 applications in 2009, the number has since grown to 110 in total so far, including those from developments such as JCube and Up@Robertson Quay.

A City Developments (CDL) spokesman said the “welcome incentive” has been embraced by many in the industry.

“More developers have been encouraged… to promote sustainability in the built environment and raise environmental awareness for the overall good of the industry,” she said.

But going green comes at a price.

To get the highest green rating, and be awarded the maximum extra space under the scheme, a commercial building might add up to 5 per cent to construction costs. It might take up to 61/2 years to recoup this extra expenditure.

Builders would also need to pay a levy, known as the development charge, on the extra floor area they are awarded through the scheme.

SLP International head of research Nicholas Mak added that due to several revisions to the green criteria, it was also getting harder for developers to get top marks.

The changes were part of the Government’s drive to increase construction productivity while promoting sustainability.

“Builders have to balance going for green features like more prefab parts and solar panels, against their chances of getting more gross floor area. This will decide how bullish they are in their land bids, which will, in turn, also affect what costs are passed to the buyers,” said Mr Mak.

EL Development managing director Lim Yew Soon noted that smaller developers need to be extra careful in pricing their products. “Customers might be willing to pay a premium for projects from the big boys but not for the smaller guys. In that case, it may not be justifiable to try for the extra floor area,” he said.

Meanwhile, BCA also gave updates on the other initiatives undertaken in the 2009 masterplan, which is set to be revised later this year.

More than $90 million in cash incentives have been committed to existing building owners who retrofit their premises to meet specific green criteria. This has helped commercial buildings cut back energy expenses by 20 per cent a year on average.

There is also a target to build a workforce of 20,000 green specialists by 2020, to improve the design, construction and maintenance of green buildings.

BCA said that around 6,000 professionals have either been trained so far or are currently undergoing courses.

All these efforts to encourage sustainable buildings make Singapore one of the leading nations when it comes to going green, according to green consultancy ZEB Technology managing director Lim Jit Seng. “Our system relies on attractive incentives coupled with strict auditing procedures. Hopefully, this will be enough to achieve better sustainability.”

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