What are green buildings and why should you care about them?
Nowadays, it seems everyone is talking about the environment. From banning plastic bags to repairing broken products, there are many movements initiated by young Singaporeans to promote a more sustainable way of life. This is because today’s youth are environmentally aware: they understand the importance of protecting our planet for future generations.
Though individual contributions are helpful in the battle against climate change, a majority of environmental harm is caused by large organisations. Buildings comprise over 20% of Singapore’s carbon emissions, and they consume large amounts of water and electricity to operate.
Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has set a goal to green 80% of buildings by 2030. A green building is resource-efficient causing minimal negative impacts throughout its life-cycle. By 2030, future leaders like you might be starting families, launching businesses, or leading construction projects. It’s important to be aware of the importance of green buildings in Singapore, and how they will benefit you in the coming years.
Environmental Dangers Impacting Us Today
Though temperatures have always risen and fallen for aeons, humans weren’t always around. We live in a very hospitable period of history, when the planet’s conditions are conducive to life—and we’re responsible for maintaining them.
Rapid human industrialisation has delivered many incredible innovations. We went from cars to trains to planes in less than a century. But over the past decades, we have also collectively contributed to a 1.5°C rise in global temperatures. Expert scientists say that if temperatures rise any higher, billions of people and hundreds of species will suffer.
Widespread climate changes don’t just threaten biodiversity. They might eventually cause a global food security crisis as early as 2040. We must all chip in and do what we can to promote environmental awareness. On an individual level, we can reduce our plastic usage and use public transportation more often. Conversely, corporations can reduce their energy usage and invest in green buildings.
A History of Green Buildings in Singapore
Green buildings have been growing in popularity thanks to continuous effort from the Singaporean government and its member agencies. The BCA’s Green Mark scheme was first launched in 2005 to promote environmental awareness in construction and real estate, alongside million-dollar grants to help businesses fund their green building projects.
The BCA sets standards for what a green building looks like, measuring its environmental friendliness—or unfriendliness—by collecting information about resource usage from buildings all over Singapore. The most green buildings—like the National Library Building—are rewarded with honors, grants, and awards such as the Green Mark Platinum accolade.
The Unique Challenges of Achieving Green Standards in Singapore
Prior to the BCA’s Green Mark scheme, there was little information on environmentally-friendly building standards in Southeast Asia. Singapore’s tropical climate is very different from that of Europe or the United States, which meant that BCA had to develop localised green building rating systems that could be used in the country.
A green building in the tropics may have these features:
• A stronger emphasis on energy efficiency
• More focus on heat gain and cooling of inner spaces
• Alternative air-conditioning systems
• Advanced measuring systems to continually monitor performance
• Heavier emphasis on solar panelling
Thanks to BCA’s tenacity in developing a unique green standard—and its commitment to following up and supporting businesses—we have come a long way in greening the country. Since the launch of the Green Mark scheme in 2005, Singapore has greened over 40% of its buildings. Experts report that we are on track to meet our goal of 80% green buildings by 2030.
Here are the benefits of green buildings for you:
Green Buildings Can Save Money In the Long Run
While certified energy-efficient buildings can be more expensive in the short term, costing up to 5% more than regular buildings, these upfront costs can be offset by the savings from reduced energy and water consumption.
By reducing large-scale electricity and water consumption, we can lower our national carbon footprint and ensure that our finite resources are usable for years to come.
Green Buildings Protect Our Health
Buildings weren’t always constructed with health or safety in mind. There are many steps in the lifecycle of a building, and shortcomings at any stage of the cycle can be detrimental to humans.
• Raw material extraction
• Operation and maintenance
For example, if a building is constructed with toxic materials such as asbestos, people who are exposed by working or living in the building for years could eventually develop illnesses such as cancer and respiratory disease. Poor operation and maintenance, on the other hand, could lead to Legionnaire’s disease or Pontiac fever—caused by contamination of cooling towers and humidifiers.
Green buildings must meet specific benchmarks to avoid these harmful consequences. By challenging ourselves to rise to these standards, we can protect our people for years to come and reduce long-term healthcare costs for individual Singaporeans.
Green Buildings are Beautiful
And that beauty leads to improved mental and emotional well-being. There are many incredible feats of green architecture in Singapore, contributing to a more beautiful nation.
According to Interior Design Magazine, for example, the ParkRoyal on Pickering incorporates rain sensors, solar power, water-conservation and light-saving measures, and reduced concrete in its construction. The building also boasts 161,459 square feet of green plants, gardens, and even waterfalls.
The ParkRoyal on Pickering hotel in Singapore. Image: 贝莉儿 NG on Unsplash
For businesses, the Skyrise Greenery Incentives 2.0 scheme launched in 2009 by the National Parks Board funds up to 50% of the installation costs of building greenery. The promotion of green architecture is especially important in a country like Singapore, where much of the city is concrete and other inorganic material. Plants improve our air quality; they’ve also been shown to boost our mood and productivity.
Do I really need to care about green buildings?
Human activities—especially productive ones, such as manufacturing and construction—tend to be harmful for the planet. And what’s bad for the planet is bad for us.
Seeing as much of our collective carbon footprint is caused by large corporations and businesses, government support for green initiatives and consumer pressure on companies can go a long way in reducing pollution and protecting generations.
Aside from the global benefits of environmental awareness, you might enjoy some personal benefits. Green technology and sustainability is a fast-growing sector, which means your next job might be devoted to sustainable initiatives!
If you're looking for a career in sustainability
If you’re interested in exploring a career in sustainability, and you have some questions about the industry, connect with Young NTUC— we’re a community that strives to give voice to the needs and career aspirations of our young workers. Through its comprehensive LIT (Learning is Triggered) Career Programmes, Young NTUC seeks to engage youths on various issues relating to career empowerment, fair workplace practices and skills development. Check out one of our Career Guide’s interview feature, Kia Jie Hui, as she shared with us some useful insights about the sustainability industry.
For more career-related resources and support, please visit www.lit.sg (Young NTUC’s one-stop career portal) and follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn for latest updates!