City&Country: Learning from our neighbours

The push for green buildings has been gaining momentum over the years. In Malaysia, green consciousness is slowly taking root, with more consumers looking to buy green homes or lease energy-efficient offices while property developers are building more green products.

To encourage and expedite the green movement within the property development industry, the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association’s (Rehda) Youth division has decided to organise Green Tours for Rehda members. This is to allow developers and local councils to visit green buildings and learn from these successful developments.

The first Green Tour was held in the Klang Valley and officiated in March 2011 by Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung. Delegates were taken to four green buildings, namely 1First Avenue in Bandar Utama, Challis Damansara in Sunway Damansara, GTower in Kuala Lumpur city centre and Ken Bangsar in Bangsar. These buildings had acquired green certification from either Malaysia’s Green Building Index (GBI) or Singapore’s Building & Construction Authority’s (BCA) Green Mark.

The second Green Tour was held from Oct 23 to 25 in Singapore. Over 60 delegates visited several green developments that had received high ratings from the BCA.

“We wanted to have a first-hand look and experience the top-rated Green Mark developments in Singapore,” says Sam Tan, council member of Rehda Youth and the organiser of the Green Tour. “Rather than a conventional classroom slide-style lecture, being there to see and feel the product was more impactful.”

Tan, who is also the executive director of Ken Holdings Bhd, hopes the outcome of the tour will create new optimism for green building and a momentum for change in the Malaysian building industry.

“If a picture paints a thousand words, the experience will paint a million,” he surmises. “You cannot describe something like natural ventilation and lighting, you have to be there to feel it for yourselves.”

One of the delegates that went on this tour was N K Tong, chairman of Rehda Wilayah Persekutuan and group managing director of Bukit Kiara Properties.

“It was an eye-opener for the group of delegates,” he says. “A few of us are familiar with the green language, but it isn’t the same as seeing the green buildings [in Singapore]. What is interesting is how different building owners, whether residential or commercial, have applied the green theory.”
Moreover, Tong believes the experience will help developers take more positive steps in building products with a green agenda.

“It is great to be exposed to what we learnt during the visit,” he says. “I think the lesson from this trip, both personal and for the corporate group of developers, came from seeing the projects and hearing from the building owners, not just about the perceived savings but also the actual savings achieved.”

The delegates also attended lectures by BCA representatives Dr Gao Chun Ping, assistant director of the Green Mark department (new development) and Asia Pacific department and Leong-Kok Su-Ming, principal of the school of graduate and management development at the BCA Academy.

Gao spoke about the development of Green Mark over the years and highlighted the unique aspects of the certification, including “how it emphasises a great deal on energy efficiency”. About 50% of Green Mark’s scoring goes towards energy efficiency, unlike LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which only allocates about 35%.

Meanwhile, Leong-Kok introduced the BCA Academy’s training, learning and research programmes for the development of the built environment to the delegates. The academy provides a variety of courses to help those in the building industry increase their knowledge and bring the level of construction and management to a higher level.

Apart from its focus on increasing competencies, the BCA Academy has also been given a mandate by the Singaporean government to train up to 18,000 certified Green Mark specialists by 2030. At present, 2,600 professionals have undergone Green Mark courses.

Another advancement made in the building environment in Singapore, highlighted by Leong-Kok, is the industry’s move to adopt the Building Information Model (BIM) technology from computer-aided design (CAD) systems.

BIM is the process of digitally generating and managing building data during its life cycle, including geometry, spatial relationships, light analysis, geographic information, quantities and properties of building components. CAD is used by architects, engineers, drafters, artists and others to create precision drawings or technical illustrations, and can be used to create 2-D drawings or 3-D models.

After the talk, delegates had the opportunity to visit the BCA Zero Energy Building, which adopts several green features, with the main one being how the building’s energy needs are partially met by energy collected from photovoltaic cells. When not enough energy is collected, the building can draw energy from the national grid. Other green features include light shafts with reflective material along their sides to bring natural light into the building, as well as an air-conditioning system that sends cool air up from the floor rather than from the ceiling. The air is released into the office environment through displacement cooling.

Following this Green Tour, Rehda Youth’s Tan says it may look at a possible tie-up with the BCA Academy to offer short training sessions to its members.

“We are working with the BCA Academy to bring in courses to upgrade our industry players,” he says. Overall, the green developments visited on the tour, such as the [email protected], 313 Somerset shopping mall, Asia Square, Tokio Marine Centre, Mapletree Business City and Solaris, provided a valuable eye-opener to the participating developers.

Singapore’s green buildings

[email protected]
Housing Development Board’s (HDB) first green residential project was launched in 2007 and completed in 2010. It achieved a Green Mark Platinum rating. It consists of seven blocks with 712 units and offers many passive and active green features. Passive features include the orientation of the entire development, which faces 22° off the northeast to take advantage of prevailing winds cool the interiors. Data reveals that winds come mostly from the northeast. The close vicinity to public transport like the Punggol MRT and Damai LRT stations reduces the need to use cars, hence reducing carbon emissions.

Featured active devices in the buildings include solar panels on the roof to generate energy to meet the demands of common-area services such as lifts and lighting in the corridors and other communal areas. There is also a rainwater-harvesting system, which collects water to clean common areas and for irrigation. The lifts are regenerative and converts kinetic energy to electricity, which helps to supply energy back to the power network during the lifts’ braking phase. As a result, less electricity is used.

Other features include various green landscapes and gardens on the ground floor and the rooftop to help reduce the urban heat island effect. Bicycle parking is provided on the first storey of every block to encourage cycling.

In the homes, efficient water-saving devices are provided, including integrated wash basin-toilet pedestals for homeowners to recycle water for the next flush. This will help save as much as 20% of water.

[email protected]
The [email protected] shopping mall, situated on Singapore’s Orchard Road, is built above Somerset MRT Station. It received the Green Mark Platinum rating. The mall has a net lettable area of 294,000 sq ft and 177 outlets across eight retail levels, which receive a footfall of about 100,000 a day. The development was fully undertaken by Lend Lease, a fully integrated international property and infrastructure group. [email protected] is Lend Lease’s first major fully integrated retail development and was completed in 2009.

The green features installed in the mall include solar panels to harness the sun’s energy to power lighting in the car park. It has a co-generation plant to heat hot water for the centre’s use. The plant produces heat from biodiesel, such as waste cooking oil, collected from the F&B outlets. It also has an energy recovery wheel, which captures energy from exhaust air in the air-conditioned space that is then used to pre-cool the fresh air going into the air-conditioning system. Rainwater is also collected and used to flush toilets and irrigate the vertical greenery.

The centre’s management provides a recommended list of materials and lighting suppliers to tenants to encourage energy saving. As an incentive, tenants get a 2% discount on their energy bill if they use less than 35 watts psm and a 1% discount if they use less than 50 watts psm. At present, about 60% of the tenants are benefiting from the discount.

Asia Square
Asia Square is a Green Mark Platinum-rated mixed-use development with hotel, office and retail components. Tower 1 is fully completed and operational while Tower 2 is currently under construction. Tower 1 consists of 43 storeys of offices while Tower 2 will have 46 storeys and contain a hotel and offices. The hotel will have a lobby on the 32nd level and 10 levels of rooms above it. Total usable office space is 1.26 million sq ft in Tower 1 and about 780,000 sq ft in Tower 2 when it is completed. Tower 1 has 32,300 to 35,000 sq ft of floor space while Tower 2 will have between 29,700 and 31,300 sq ft. 

Green features include solar panels on the roof to power lights, energy-regenerative lifts that reduce lifts’ energy consumption by about 18% and a heat-resistant low-E glass façade that keeps heat out while letting natural light in, thus reducing cooling costs. The development is connected to the Singapore government’s district cooling system, which provides a constant supply of chilled water to the air-conditioning system to reduce overall energy consumption.  There is also a 100,000 sq ft indoor podium called The Cube, which is naturally lit and ventilated.

Once completed, Asia Square will have Singapore’s first biodiesel generation plant within a commercial building. About four tons of waste oil from the in-house and neighbouring restaurants will be collected and turned into biodiesel. At present, a small plant generates about 500 litres of biodiesel twice a day for the on-site generators and machinery used in constructing Tower 2.

Tokio Marine Centre
The Tokio Marine Centre situated on 20 McCallum Street has 21 storeys with 160,000 sq ft of office area. It was awarded the Gold rating at the BCA Awards 2008. The design consists of various energy-saving devices, which have helped save about 27.2% of the building’s energy bill. It places a big emphasis on saving electricity via an efficient air-conditioning system.

The system is able to operate on a chilled water temperature of 11°C compared with the conventional 6.7°C. The air-handling units (AHU) are designed to handle the 11°C chilled water with low noise and power consumption. To ensure comfortable relative humidity with adequate levels of oxygen and good indoor air quality, the building has two dedicated pre-cooled AHUs for fresh air.

The building also uses a thermal air diffuser and heat pipes are installed at the pre-cooled AHU for better relative humidity control. There is also efficient lighting control where motion sensors in the bathrooms and photo sensors control lighting in the concourse.

Mapletree Business City
The Mapletree Business City is an integrated development with office, retail and recreational components housed in four blocks. It received the Green Mark Platinum rating and has been open for over a year. Mapletree has about 1.72 million sq ft of net lettable area. Its green features aim to reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 6,300 metric tons per year as well as generate energy savings of about S$2.5 million (RM6.08 million) and water savings of about S$200,000 per annum.

It has incorporated many passive and active green features. For one, the car park is naturally ventilated and if carbon dioxide levels are high, fans will automatically switch on. It has an efficient chiller plant to supply cool air to the development. The plant has 45°-angle pipes that require less energy than the standard 90°-angle pipes to pump water through them. The chilled water is 5.5°C, which is pumped into AHUs that send cooled air to buildings via ducts. By the time the air reaches the offices, the temperature would have risen to 18°C and the heat load from the occupants and the machines would further raise the temperature  into the 20s. Additionally, double-glazed glass helps maintain the cool air in the offices.

Solaris, a building designed by Ken Yeang, is located in the research and business park in Singapore’s one-north community called Fusionopolis. The office building was certified Green Mark Platinum and sits on just under two acres of land. It has a total landscaped area of 2.06 acres with vegetation planted on its roof and along a continuous perimeter ramp that runs for 1.5km. The plants are a cooling device as well as a slice of nature for building inhabitants.

From the outside, Solaris looks like a single building, but on closer inspection, it is actually two buildings connected by a naturally lit and ventilated central atrium. Towers A and B have 15 storeys and nine storeys respectively and feature a roof garden each.

A unique element in the design that allows more natural light into the offices is the building of a diagonal light shaft in Tower A. This unique design allows daylight to penetrate the building’s interior. Sensors automatically turn on lights when evening approaches and turn them off when it is daytime.

As the building is connected to the district cooling system, it saves about 36% in energy consumption.


This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 888, Dec 12-18, 2011

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