Physical spaces from houses to office buildings and public facilities have a big impact on the quality of our lives. Increasingly, both home and building owners are realising the importance of making such spaces eco-friendly and energy efficient, as it helps to save resources while improving the quality of the surrounding environment.
Singapore-based Green & Global Consulting, founded by Pierre Megret and Jean-Baptiste Noël in 2012, is one company that helps to make this happen. The firm advises developers and building owners on how to make buildings more sustainable, and in the process, more economically sound.
Both from France, the enterprising duo, in their late 20s, worked in Singapore for a few years before teaming up to launch their environmental start-up.
Noël has in-depth experience in green building certification from his previous role at urban development leader Jurong International, while Megret’s expertise lies in automation and control. Together, they adopt a holistic approach in ensuring buildings meet green standards, leading to realistic energy savings.
Their team, based in Chinatown, is currently working on four green building certification projects covering a total of 280,000 square metres.
According to the pair, at the design stage, the consultancy works closely with engineers and architects in an integrated design process to optimise both the outside and the inside of the building. The firm uses simulations and energy modelling to enhance the façade and interior systems.
The G&G team also tests building components using all kinds of data, from geology modelling to all-year-roud weather monitoring and solar analysis. This is to assess how different conditions affect the building.
Megret says: “First of all, we help to ensure that buildings comply with Singapore‘s Green Mark certification standards. It is an easy start… We don’t have to convince our clients they need that because it’s mandatory.”
Singapore is one of the first few countries in the world to legislate minimum green standards for new buildings and major retrofits. It has set an ambitious target to have at least 80 per cent of the city-state’s buildings certified with the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) Green Mark rating programme by 2030.
The BCA Green Mark scheme, launched in January 2005, evaluates a building’s environmental performance.
Buildings are like ecosystems: façade quality, air conditioning system, people inside - it is all part of this ecosystem. You can‘t change one parameter and expect it to work. You need to think of a fully integrated approach.
Alongside the scheme, the BCA also has a green building masterplan that promotes sustainability in the built environment and raises environmental awareness among developers, designers and builders. As part of the masterplan, the BCA also offers large incentives for developers and building owners to encourage them to green their physical assets.
Speaking with knowledge accrued over years of working with different green building certification programmes, such as the US LEED system, Noël notes: “Buildings are like ecosystems: façade quality, air conditioning system, people inside - it is all part of this ecosystem. You can‘t change one parameter and expect it to work. You need to think of a fully integrated approach.”
Savings through technology
Noël cites the importance of technology in helping to simulate scenarios so as to determine a building’s performance.
“Thanks to the growing sophistication of industry software, we now have reliable information on various aspects of building performance. We can see how much energy we can save and predict the return on investment (ROI) through these simulations,” he explains.
Based on these predictions, the developer can implement a variety of improvements and solutions to equip a building for different weather conditions at different times of the day, without compromising on energy efficiency.
According to G&G, air conditioning is one key building feature in Singapore that has the biggest potential for energy savings.
One common mistake building owners make is to overestimate the size of the air conditioning systems needed. Even though they may seem to work well, effectively cooling down the building, they consume too much energy, says the duo.
“This is why it is important to look at the overall design first,” stresses Megret. “The technology to achieve all kinds of energy savings already exists. Developers only need to make a good use of it.”
For example, by installing a simple motion sensor in offices, electricity consumption for lights can be reduced. Similarly, installing a sleep mode for escalators or lifts would help to save energy when no one is around.
“These are not new solutions, but still, not everyone is using it,” says Megret. It was this desire to focus on making a building energy-efficient and smarter, that drove him to look into setting up his own business.
Trained in system architecture and industrial automation, Megret can implement Building Management Systems (BMS), a computer-based control system installed in buildings that manages and monitors the building’s mechanical and electrical equipment such as ventilation, lighting, power, fire and security systems. This technology enables buildings to become ‘smart’ to achieve substantial energy savings, he explained.
One of the firm’s current projects is a new school at Bukit Merah. Megret says G&G recommended ways to maximise the school’s energy savings through better building performance.
“We evaluate the return of investment and propose solutions that will be most beneficial for the children studying there,” he says.
For example, G&G is considering the possibility of installing sun pipes, which collect and redistribute daylight within the building. This means artificial lights do not have to be turned on all day, and this improves comfort levels for building users, he adds.
The school is also interested in reducing its water consumption, so one of the solutions they implemented is rainwater harvesting. The building collects water on the rooftop and sends it down to an underground storage tank, where the water is filtered and reused for irrigation or flushing toilets.
Monitoring to power the future
The partners emphasise that their aim is to make sustainability an essential component of every building they work on and to promote the integrated design process in boosting building performance.
As a consultancy based in Singapore, the local market is their first priority, but they plan to expand slowly to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries starting next year. “It is easier to find opportunities in Southeast Asia if you are doing well in Singapore,” says Megret. He adds: The best way to appeal to Southeast Asian investors “is to make clients understand that this is about making money too.”
Currently, Megret is eyeing the market for building monitoring. He notes that when all buildings become certified, “building managers will still have to ensure that these structures perform as expected and reach targeted energy savings.”
He says, “We are going to see a huge gap between what buildings are aimed to do and what they really do.”
This opens up opportunities for experts who can monitor a building’s performance and make constant improvements to it.
He adds that perhaps one day, years from now, all buildings can become energy producers like in Jeremy Rifkin’s The Third Industrial Revolution, in which, internet technology and renewable energy merge to create a new industrial revolution.
He imagines people producing their own green energy in their homes, offices, and factories, and sharing it with each other in an “energy internet,” just like people now create and share information online.
“It is a very grand idea, but possible to achieve, if we all start to make changes now“, says Megret.
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