Singapore: In 2007 there were 34 Green Mark buildings, in 2011 there are 750

14 September 2011 – From The Business Times: This week marks the opening of Singapore’s third Green Building Week since it was established in 2009. Yet, in many ways, this amazing nation-state has already leapt ahead of its time to reflect what future green cities in Asia can look like as the region strives to adopt the kind of sustainable practices that are vital for maintaining long-term development and growth.

Going green is not some lofty ideal. A sustainable built environment is all about using our available resources more efficiently which, in turn, lowers costs in the long term.

The basic unit of a sustainable built environment is a green building. Buildings have become our standard dwellings and we spend a significant amount of time in them, making a critical impact on the environment.

The International Energy Agency has estimated that existing buildings are responsible for nearly half of the world’s total primary energy consumption and about a quarter of its carbon dioxide emissions. Other findings indicate that buildings use about a third of the world’s resources, about a tenth of the world’s water, and are responsible for 40 per cent of solid waste generation. Air quality in buildings is also reported to contain up to five times more pollutants than outdoor air.

Non-green city-planning can only contribute to a rise in these figures. Much of this rise can come from Asia if sustainable practices fail to be adopted. According to a UN study, the share of Asia’s population living in urban areas has risen from 32 per cent in 1990 to 42 per cent in 2010.

By 2026, half of all Asians will be living in cities. Already, seven of the world’s 10 most populous urban areas are in Asia. McKinsey and Co projects that by 2025, China alone will have 221 cities over Europe’s current 25. Clearly, there is a need for Asia to act now on its resource challenges.

There is much optimism in the air. Already, green buildings have either become an aspiration or reality in Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Singapore, and this is evidenced by the presence of green building councils in most of these countries.

Industry bodies such as this, as well as individual companies, play a significant role in ensuring the topic of green buildings is on the agenda of governments, owners, clients and tenants. It is also important for companies to take leadership positions through working with government and industry to develop innovative green building solutions that continually lift the benchmark for sustainability.

Singapore has gone ahead of the curve for some time and its green-building achievements are the most exemplary. The Singapore Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA’s) Green Mark Scheme launched in January 2005 has driven Singapore’s construction industry towards more environment-friendly buildings.

In 2007, the total number of buildings awarded the Green Mark was a mere 34. As at April 2011, there are more than 750 Green Mark building projects in Singapore – the highest number of certified green buildings in the region.

This success is due to the BCA’s ability to drive home the benefits of green buildings in terms of cost savings from the efficient use of energy and water, which then lead to lower operation and maintenance costs, as well as higher productivity and better health among a building’s occupants.

It is no surprise then that a recent high-profile report by Solidiance, a consultancy firm, on the top 10 green cities in the Asia-Pacific region, has already ranked Singapore first in green building policy.

At this rate, Singapore is definitely on track to achieve its target of having 80 per cent of its existing and future buildings Green Mark-certified by 2030 as charted out in the BCA’s 2nd Green Building Masterplan (a blueprint to achieve a truly sustainable built environment in Singapore by that year with projected annual savings of S$1.6 billion in energy cost reductions).

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