Eco-town in the mak­ing

Singapore boasts of sev­eral im­pres­sive green build­ings.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ENVIRONMENT - By AL­LAN KOAY star2­green@thes­tar.com.my

WHAT could be more per­ti­nent on an is­land state such as Singapore than af­ford­able hous­ing when space is a ma­jor con­straint? Ever since the idea of HDB (Hous­ing And Devel­op­ment Board) flats was mooted, and then ex­e­cuted, Singapore has man­aged to solve its squat­ter prob­lem, and as Lau Joo Ming, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the HDB Build­ing Re­search In­sti­tute, said, “Peo­ple were more prop­erly housed.”

Tak­ing things a step fur­ther in the di­rec­tion of sus­tain­abil­ity, Pung­gol, a north­ern coastal town, has been ear­marked for a “green makeover.” The for­mer fish­ing vil­lage is to serve as a “liv­ing lab­o­ra­tory” to test in­no­va­tive green tech­nolo­gies which would then be in­tro­duced to other towns.

In fact, HDB had al­ready im­ple­mented its first green hous­ing project there, Treelodge@Pung­gol, be­fore plans for an eco-town were an­nounced. Treelodge@Pung­gol utilised so­lar pan­els and rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing.

To make Pung­gol – which has two rivers run­ning through it – Singapore’s very first eco-town, a wa­ter­way that tra­verses the town was built. Com­pletely self-sus­tain­able, Pung­gol will have small in­di­vid­ual es­tates shar­ing com­mon green with an in­te­grated pub­lic trans­port sys­tem, in­clud­ing an MRT line that runs around the town and also to other parts of Singapore. To pro­mote clean com­mut­ing, cy­cling lanes will be built, as well as charg­ing sta­tions for elec­tric cars.

“We de­signed Pung­gol a bit dif­fer­ent from the other towns,” said Lau. “We try to have com­mon green more ac­ces­si­ble to the res­i­dents. All the green is con­nected and also con­nected to the wa­ter­way. And be­cause Pung­gol is a coastal town, we try to keep to a seashell theme.”

So far, 15,000 of these eco-liv­ing units have been com­pleted, and HDB ex­pects to com­plete an­other 20,000 by next year. Lau said LED light­ing will also be used. LED lights, he said, use only 10 watts, which means a big en­ergy sav­ing.

Lau said HDB, be­ing a big de­vel­oper, is able to spon­sor the technology and also lower the cost, while also help­ing to build up the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the sup­pli­ers and the en­gi­neers. The Hous­ing and Devel­op­ment Min­istry and the En­vi­ron­ment Min­istry es­ti­mated that Singapore should re­duce its car­bon emis­sions by 15%.

Some 3.2megawatt of so­lar en­ergy will be gen­er­ated to sup­ply the flats. “We work with re­searchers and our en­ergy author­ity to pump the en­ergy straight into the grid and elim­i­nate the use of bat­ter­ies. When im­ple­ment­ing so­lar en­ergy, your main cost is bat­ter­ies,” said Lau.

Read in com­fort

The first thing you no­tice as you step into the premises of the Singapore Na­tional Li­brary is how much nat­u­ral light there is. There is al­most no need for ar­ti­fi­cial light­ing in the day­time.

The build­ing on Vic­to­ria Street was de­signed and built with an ori­en­ta­tion away from the east-west path of the sun to pre­vent heat build-up and the stack ef­fect of an open plaza takes full ad­van­tage of the wind and nat­u­ral ven­ti­la­tion. This is ev­i­dent in how windy and cool the open plaza area right out­side the front en­trance is, and stu­dents and other vis­i­tors can al­ways be seen sit­ting around en­joy­ing the nat­u­ral com­fort.

The day­time bright­ness in­side the build­ing is helped by well-placed light shelves in­cor­po­rated into the ar­chi­tec­ture of the build­ing. The sur­face of these light shelves re­flect day­light onto the ceil­ing which in turn re­flects light fur­ther into the in­te­ri­ors. The large glass win­dows also have blinds that are linked to light sen­sors. When the light mea­sure­ment is above 8,000 lux, the blinds will be au­to­mat­i­cally low­ered to pre­vent glare. Low-- emis­sive dou­ble-glaz­ing glass is also used for the win­dows.

En­ergy ef­fi­ciency is fur­ther helped by mo­tion sen­sors in the re­strooms where the lights turn on only when they are be­ing used. The es­ca­la­tors are in start/stop mode us­ing pres­sure sen­sors. When not in use, they do not just slow down but stop com­pletely. The floor direc­tory is ar­ranged in such a way as to en­cour­age peo­ple to use the stairs and es­ca­la­tors more than the lifts.

There is also no short­age of green around the build­ing. At mid-day, vis­i­tors can be seen sit­ting around us­ing their por­ta­ble com­put­ers in the airy and shady roof gar­den on the fourth floor. And if it rains, rain sen­sors would stop ir­ri­ga­tion for up to eight hours af­ter a down­pour.

The Na­tional Li­brary was given the Green Mark Plat­inum Award (the high­est rank­ing in Singapore’s green build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion scheme) in 2005, and two years later, it won first prize in the Asean En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency Awards.

The mall goes green

The 313@Som­er­set shop­ping mall’s green ini­tia­tives in­volve not just the build­ing man­age­ment but also the 177 ten­ants op­er­at­ing the var­i­ous stores and food out­lets. Apart from the use of so­lar pan­els on the roof for re­new­able en­ergy, light sen­sors, es­ca­la­tors that slow down when not in use, rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing and other such green mea­sures, the ten­ants’ col­lab­o­ra­tion is equally needed.

As such there are Green Lease con­di­tions with which ev­ery ten­ant has to com­ply. These guide­lines in­volve the use of en­ergy-ef­fi­cient light and power equip­ment, waste man­age­ment and re­cy­cling prac­tices, among other things. Tools such as the Re­tail Ser­vices Cal­cu­la­tor are pro­vided to ten­ants to cal­cu­late light­ing loads and en­ergy con­sump­tion. Their en­ergy use are mon­i­tored and in­cen­tives are given for en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency.

There are des­ig­nated park­ing spa­ces for elec­tric cars on the rooftop carpark, the in­te­grated de­sign of which acts as a nat­u­ral heat shield. And in the fu­ture, free charg­ing sta­tions will also be pro­vided.

The 313@Som­er­set project also won the Green Mark Plat­inum award, plus the So­lar Pi­o­neer Award un­der the Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Board’s So­lar Ca­pa­bil­ity Scheme.

Other Sin­ga­porean con­struc­tions built with green in mind in­clude the so­lar-pow­ered Poh Ern Shih Tem­ple and the Sam­woh Eco Green Build­ing where one floor was con­structed with 100% re­cy­cled con­crete ag­gre­gate.

IN Rome, the fa­mous an­cient build­ing called the Pan­theon is al­most 2,000 years old. Yet the struc­ture stands as it did two mil­len­nia ago. In fact, the dome is still recog­nised as the world’s largest un­re­in­forced con­crete dome. The struc­ture is made from Ro­man con­crete which of­ten used not just lime and gyp­sum as binders, but also the much-pre­ferred poz­zolana, or vol­canic sand.

“If that build­ing were made from nor­mal ce­ment, it would have col­lapsed al­ready,” said Matthias Gel­ber, co-founder of Maleki Green Build­ing Prod­ucts which is based in Malaysia.

“Con­ven­tional ce­ment gets at­tacked by the chlo­ride in the air,” said Gel­ber, who spoke on

Green And Sus­tain­able Con­struc­tion at Singapore Green Build­ing Coun­cil’s Green Build­ing Con­fer­ence last month. “Nor­mal ce­ment can­not take acidic en­vi­ron­ments. It has cal­cium hy­drox­ide (CaOH), which gets at­tacked by chlo­ride or acids. The Pan­theon was made from vol­canic ash. The Ro­mans bonded vol­canic ash with lime.”

Build­ing ma­te­ri­als is a big cul­prit in cli­mate change. The pro­duc­tion of ce­ment in­volves the break­ing down of lime­stone into cal­cium ox­ide, and the process re­quires very high tem­per­a­tures, up to 1,350°C. When lime­stone de­com­poses to cal­cium ox­ide, 60% of its mass is re­leased into the air as car­bon diox­ide.

Gel­ber’s com­pany is pro­duc­ing a type of “green ce­ment” us­ing re­cy­cled by-prod­ucts from in­dus­trial pro­cesses. Some in­dus­trial waste ma­te­ri­als con­tain cal­cium ox­ide and other pri­mary com­po­nents of ce­ment, but it is dif­fi­cult to ac­ti­vate them. Maleki has de­vel­oped an eco-binder sys­tem that can ac­ti­vate these ma­te­ri­als with­out re­leas­ing CO2 in the process, while im­prov­ing on the ce­ment’s acid re­sis­tance and cur­ing time.

Us­ing ma­te­ri­als that would oth­er­wise end up in land­fills elim­i­nates the need to tap into nat­u­ral re­sources. Maleki co-founder Hos­sein Maleki started by re­search­ing how to use fly ash from the Frank­furt mu­nic­i­pal waste in­cin­er­a­tor to re­place ce­ment.

“Nor­mally, for green con­crete, its strength is less,” Gel­ber ex­plained. “That’s why build- ers are wor­ried about green con­crete. But we can in­crease the strength of our green con­crete, and we can make ex­tremely strong con­crete.”

An­other ad­van­tage of green con­crete is that the ma­te­rial’s high strength does not come at the price of heat gen­er­a­tion. Gel­ber cited the ex­am­ple of the Petronas Twin Tow­ers, where dur­ing its con­struc­tion, an in­or­di­nate amount of ice was needed to cool the high-strength con­crete foun­da­tion needed for the heavy tow­ers. The dif­fer­ent bond­ing sys­tem de­vel­oped by Maleki en­sures that such heat gen­er­a­tion does not oc­cur.

“And nor­mally, ce­ment is made from lime­stone which is cal­cium car­bon­ate (CaCO3),” Gel­ber added. “When we burn lime­stone, we need a lot of fuel, such as coal. So we get a lot of CO2 emis­sion from the burn­ing of the coal. The lime­stone has ab­sorbed CO2 over mil­lions of years, and we re­lease it when we burn it. For one tonne of ce­ment, we get one tonne of CO2 go­ing up into the air.”

So a ce­ment plant that pro­duces 1,000 tonnes a day also gen­er­ates 1,000 tonnes of car­bon diox­ide that pol­lutes the en­vi­ron­ment and con­trib­utes to global warm­ing, said Gel­ber.

But he lamented that the build­ing in­dus­try is still slow to em­brace green build­ing prod­ucts, and still look for prod­ucts with low prices.

“Ce­ment com­pa­nies have huge pro­duc­tion kilns and they want to have re­turns on such in­vest­ments. They are not keen on shift­ing rad­i­cally to al­ter­na­tives.”

Build­ing green has clear ad­van­tages, but many of the ben­e­fits – such as en­ergy-sav­ing and in­crease in work­ers’ pro­duc­tiv­ity due to a cleaner, greener work­place – can only be seen in the long-term. Most in the in­dus­try would rather opt for cheaper ma­te­ri­als and lower their costs in the short-term.

He added that in gen­eral, com­pa­nies are pro-ac­tive if the tax in­cen­tives from the green build­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion are at­trac­tive. But the me­chan­ics of that, and how it works in prac­tice, still need to be sorted out. “Some­times we get too side­tracked,” said Gel­ber, who is also a very ac­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist. “We need to see things holis­ti­cally. We need to build green com­mu­ni­ties. We need to change peo­ple’s mind­sets, we need to in­spire and ed­u­cate peo­ple.”

Con­nected green: At Pung­gol Eco-Town, the

el­e­ments of na­ture will be har­nessed in line with the con­cept of ‘green liv­ing by the wa­ters.’

A roof gar­den helps keep the Singapore Na­tional Li­brary cool while sun shades and light shelves pro­vide plenty of nat­u­ral light­ing.

Big im­print: Pro­duc­ing the ce­ment that is used in con­struc­tion emits high amounts of car­bon.

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