Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

How Singapore began to decarbonise construction

Out-Law Analysis | 13 Jul 2021 | 12:00 pm | 2 min. read

Singapore is a global leader in green building programmes, and sustainable development has been a hallmark of the Singapore market for decades.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) created Singapore’s first ‘green building masterplan’ in 2006, with ambitious targets. The document brought together financial incentives, legislation, industry training programmes and a public outreach campaign. The masterplan was updated in 2009 and again in 2014, and a total of 42% of the city state’s building stock has now been certified as compliant.

Decarbonising construction is a growing imperative, and there are clear steps the industry can take. One method could be the increasing use of industrialised construction, but significant challenges remain, and Singapore offers lessons in how to go about meeting them.

Singapore’s success was not guaranteed. Strong incentives and government leadership were needed to support innovation and supply side capability, and work was also needed to overcome public scepticism and to create consumer buy-in. Building a supportive ecosystem is key to achieving the highest standards of green building, starting with the public sector.

Laing Ian

Ian Laing

Partner, Head of Infrastructure, Head of Asia

Singapore’s success was not guaranteed. Strong incentives and government leadership were needed to support innovation and supply side capability.

A ‘carrot and stick’ approach proved to be successful. Legislation, in the form of the ‘Green Mark’ certification programme, supplemented by incentives, was introduced. Perhaps the strongest incentive was awarding additional floor space to building owners and developers attaining the highest ratings under the Green Mark scheme. There are stringent checks in place before a building is awarded Green Mark certification, and if standards are not met then building occupation permits are not granted.

At government level, boosting supply side capability within the sector was achieved via an educational programme to train and upskill 21,000 ‘green collar’ workers for the future green construction industry. This included design and construction skills, as well as maintenance.

Consumer buy-in on the need for sustainable development was achieved, with ‘green’ buildings now valued at a premium of between 2-3%.

Of course, opportunities for improvement remain. Energy consumption in Singapore is high, particularly among the industrial, consumer and household sectors, although the city state produces enough energy to meet its own requirements. Innovative approaches to renewable energy generation using the built environment would allow Singapore to produce more energy using renewable sources than is consumed.

Lower rise buildings should be designed to produce more energy than they consume by generating solar power through facades and building envelopes. Similar thinking is already applied to medium and high-rise buildings. Action in this area could put Singapore in a good position to become a net exporter of energy, and one of the few solar capitals in the world.

Industrialising construction has also helped Singapore to decarbonise. It has set a target of 70% of all major projects to incorporate modern methods of construction (MMC) by 2025, with a big push on the design for manufacture and assembly (DfMA) approach. There is a large programme of projects across different sectors including hospitals, schools and residential that will benefit from this industrialised approach, leading to a lower carbon footprint.