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Retrofitting Gains Traction

As the green building movement gathers momentum, it has spurred demand for retrofitting. As cooling and heating systems can account for some 50% of a building’s energy use, and lighting some 15% to 20%, replacing energy guzzlers with more energy-efficient alternatives can make a significant dent on energy usage, saving building owners a tidy sum.

In Singapore, compliance with the Green Mark is forcing the pace. Launched in 2005, the Green Mark scheme evaluates a building’s environmental impact, energy and water efficiency, waste reduction and indoor environmental quality. Since 15 April 2008, new buildings and existing ones that undergo major retrofitting are required to comply with the requirements.

The BCA further mandates, with effect from 2 January 2014, existing hotel, retail and office buildings with a minimum gross floor area of 15,000 square metres must achieve minimum environmental sustainability standards when they carry out any major energy-use change, including installing or replacing a chiller system. Chiller systems, which typically have a lifespan of 15-20 years, contribute to about 30-50% of a building’s total energy usage.

As of 1 May 2014, there are more than 2,000 Green Mark building projects in Singapore, over a hundredfold from the 17 it registered in the first year.

By 2030, it is the BCA’s aim that 80% of total gross floor area will be Green Mark certified.

Huge Savings Achieved
A study conducted jointly by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the BCA on 40 commercial buildings has provided the business case for going green. The buildings, including hotels, offices, retail buildings and mixed developments that have undergone retrofitting to achieve Green Mark status, saved in total 90 gigawatt hours of energy or S$24 million a year on electricity.

Speaking on the BCA’s Breakfast Talk for CEOs themed “The Value of Green to Corporations”, Dr Keung, said, “There is without doubt a strong business case for retrofitting existing buildings. In doing so, both building owners and tenants can improve energy efficiency, cut down operating expenses, and increase the capital value of their properties. This is supported by findings from our joint study with NUS, which showed that green office buildings can achieve an average reduction of 11.6% in total operating expenses and an increase of 2.3% in capital value; with an average payback period of about 6.3 years after the retrofit. It is clear that benefits of green buildings greatly outweigh their initial costs.”

Led by Professor Yu Shi Ming from the NUS Department of Real Estate, the study also showed that there was a reduction in the building energy consumption ranging between 6% and 40%, with an average of 20% energy savings achieved among the 40 buildings. Landlords and owners of the retrofitted buildings reported reductions of 14% to 53% in energy bills, with average savings of 26%.

The study was conducted in collaboration with real estate firms such as CBRE, Colliers International, DTZ, Jones Lang LaSalle, Knight Frank, RICS and Suntec Real Estate Consultants.

Greening Singapore
The BCA’s Green Mark scheme is being expanded. From buildings in 2005, it now extends to over a dozen schemes. Among the latest schemes introduced is the BCA Green Mark for Healthcare Facilities scheme, the first such scheme in the tropics. Yishun Community Hospital, the largest community hospital in Singapore, and Seng Kang Hospitals (General Hospital, Community Hospital and Specialist Outpatient Centre) have agreed to pilot the scheme.

In collaboration with MOH Holdings, the scheme aims to address the sustainability needs of the full suite of healthcare facilities, including general hospitals, community hospitals, specialist outpatient centres, polyclinics as well as nursing homes for aged care.

“This addition to our suite of Green Mark schemes aims to deliver more sustainable healthcare through improved energy and resource efficiency to address the high cooling demand and heavy service water heat load that healthcare facilities require in order to maintain a stringent hygienic standard. At the same time, the scheme aims to bring the health benefits of green buildings to healthcare staff and patients,” said Dr Keung.

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