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Building industry may not be ready for proposed new law for green buildings: experts

By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia
25 March 2007

Buildings in Singapore still have some way to go where environmentally-friendly features are concerned.

Observers say that currently, the industry may not be ready for the proposed new legislation for green buildings.

The government is proposing to set minimum standards for buildings in future developments so that Singapore can have more eco-friendly buildings.

Such buildings and the technology within them are helping to save a fair bit of money every day.

The Republic Polytechnic in Woodlands, which clinched a Green Mark Award last year, is an example of an eco-friendly building in Singapore.

Said Laurence Tan, Republic Polytechnic's Senior Manager for Facilities Management & Security, "We actually have thermal energy storage system, where you can actually save $380,000 per year on utility bills. We have pneumatic waste system where.....we did away with the bin centre. We have irrigation system where it collects rainwater and Newater to irrigate the plants."

More of such green buildings can be expected if the legislation comes through.

But industry watchers say not everyone is fully prepared to be green.

They say the construction sector, for instance, will need to use less labour- intensive materials.

Architects will have to look beyond aesthetics and functionality.

Material suppliers and developers have to be more innovative in the way they work.

Said Tai Lee Siang, President of Singapore Institute of Architects, "We got to start looking at alternative materials, recyclable materials and materials that help us to cut energy usage. And this is the area where I feel that research and development is very necessary. Developers can start by looking at how to re-package their buildings and make green features marketable features."

Adopting green features is estimated to raise construction costs by some 5 to 10 percent.

But the sweetener is the potential long-term energy savings of 10 to 15 percent over 20 years.

Experts say being green will be good for Singapore.

Said Nicholas Mak, Knight Frank's property analyst, "Take Hong Kong, they are actually affected by pollution, while Singapore is going in a more green and environmental way. So, in a way, the introduction of more green features into our buildings may actually increase our competitiveness vis-a-vis our neighbours."

Still, developing green buildings is but a start.

Industry players say it is also important to educate the masses to embrace environmentally-friendly practices.

There is also a need to offer more incentives to encourage existing property owners to add green features to their buildings, for example better insulation and more energy efficient air conditioning system.

Mr Tai said that greening efforts should also extend to residential projects as Singapore has one of the highest heat emissions due to air conditioning.

So efforts must be made in terms of improving ventilation and building facades to reduce the need for air conditioning. - CNA/ir

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