Jun 06 2011
Singapore was our first stop on ASCE’s annual “presidential delegation” international journey this year. While there we visited with engineers and others at the Building Construction Authority (BCA). These are the folks that permit building construction, establish construction quality measures, and issue occupancy permits. In addition, they offer training, certification, government assistance and technology development.
We would consider them a “semi-legislative” authority as they have the authority to mandate building construction. For example, they require all new construction to be “green,” meaning new buildings must be a significant percentage more energy efficient than required by standard code. They also award significant incentives to existing building owners who retrofit for energy savings.
The research and development undertaken by the BCA Academy includes the operation of the” first Zero Energy Building (ZEB) in southeast Asia retrofitted from an existing building.” BCA invites vendors of “green” technology and products to participate in this living laboratory for the purpose of testing various systems and promoting energy efficiency and sustainability.
While a friend maintains that his office is a ZEB every Monday, BCA defines a ZEB as a building that produces energy equal to or greater than needed to run the building. Solar power generation is a big part of the program and they have extensively tested the 3 major material systems used in panel manufacture. Different types of vertical exterior “living” building panels are being tested and maintained. The insulating performance of different groups of plants is being measured in a small green roof top (a vast majority of the roof is solar). Really cool mirror ducts deliver natural light throughout the building (the aluminum lining is the best) and the light delivered by strategically placed light domes can even come with dimmer switches. Building shades and a passive cooling system includes solar chimneys, personalized ventilation delivered desk top, and displacement cooling. The currently occupied portion of the building has supplemental cooling via air conditioning while a totally passive system is monitored in the yet unoccupied section.
The list of green materials and technologies goes on and after about 18 months of operation, the BCA Academy ZEB is meeting its goal and is actually producing net energy greater than needed – ultimately contributing power to the grid.
While we washed our hands in the open air bathroom, a colleague on the trip asked “how far would you be willing to go to be green?” Go without air conditioning in the Florida summer? Perhaps give up the corner office for low profile cubicles that let light and air dissipate across larger spaces? Climb the stairs in elevator-free buildings (fortunately we only had to climb two stories in 95 degree Singapore heat)? How about you? How far are you willing to go to save energy and go green?
3 responses so far