An article by Huston Eubank
The Straits Times

I RECENTLY taught part of Singapore’s Certified Energy Manager programme, and applaud many of Singapore’s innovative efficiency programmes.

However, I take exception to the common misperception that energy-efficient buildings are expensive.

Efficiency is common sense, applied carefully; it is not about expensive technologies.

The National Environment Agency’s (NEA) audits of more than 100 Singapore facilities found that most cooling plants have multiple times the capacity they need, and the typical system is less than half as efficient as it can be.

If you need to install only a fraction of this equipment in your building, you will save substantial capital and operating costs.

The NEA’s audits tell us that we should be doing this.

Conversely, several world-class plants in Singapore have more than 45 per cent return on investment (ROI) annually. Enlightened owners see efficiency not as a cost, but as a low-risk, high-return investment.

If high efficiency is the mandate at the time of construction, it basically has no cost. It can even reduce first costs.

Some owners have retrofitted their plants even though no repairs were required.

One example is United World College’s (UWC) campus in Tampines. Its plant is so efficient that the entire campus requires only two electrical transformers. A similar facility down the road has 21 transformers.

The secret of efficiency is not rocket science, and it is not about more money. It is simply meticulous attention to detail, basic design principles and simplification.

Singapore is already doing many of the right things; unfortunately, the Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) new, enhanced Green Mark Incentive Scheme is not one of them (“Up to $3m in BCA funds for buildings to go green”; July 27). If BCA does distribute this money, it should work closely with project owners to ensure that they create and publicise more of the world-class examples that already exist in Singapore, and insist on ROIs of at least 30 per cent annually on their investments.

Other important tools in achieving high efficiency are highly accurate measurement, effective analysis and display of the data gathered, and open sharing of that information. Sharing allows verification of results, enables learning and spurs competition. Detailed information about UWC’s performance is freely available on its website.

The Government should require all BCA-funded projects to do the same, so that everyone can learn and competition can drive even higher performance.

Huston Eubank
Former Secretary and Executive Director of the World Green Building Council
Associate, The GreenAsia Group