Constructing A Sustainable Built Environment

At TechInnovation 2021, experts spoke about how energy-saving design and smart architecture can pave the way for a more sustainable urban environment for Singapore.

AsianScientist (Feb. 17, 2022) – Characterized by towering buildings surrounded by lush greenery, Singapore is famously known as a clean and green bustling city. However, such commercial and residential buildings account for 20 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions. Despite being better than the global average of 40 percent of carbon emissions coming from the built environment, there remains room for improvement.

As usage of energy-hungry devices increase around the world and cities continue to develop, global energy demand from buildings is set to soar—and Singapore is no exception.

To achieve the goals set out under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, including creating carbon neutral schools and quadrupling solar energy deployment, the nation’s built environment must be reassessed and redesigned with sustainability in mind.

As such, innovations in design and technology are crucial to fuel Singapore’s sustainability efforts. In a TechInnovation sharing session on September 28, 2021, three experts explored the challenges and potential technological solutions available to improve energy efficiency as well as new business innovations for green buildings.

Modern technology and climate change

While modern technology contributes significantly to the fight against climate change, it can also add to carbon emissions. For this reason, innovators are working on reducing the energy consumption of existing technologies as well as harnessing new technology to improve efficiency and provide sustainable solutions.

Mr. Paul Churchill, Vice President Sales & GM of Southeast Asia at Vertiv, explained that implementing effective cooling systems that do not rely heavily on large volumes of water could greatly improve the sustainability of data centers.

“Many new technologies can cool high-density servers more efficiently and sustainably than traditional precision cooling units,” Churchill said. “As the industry expands and we look at the development of new data centers with a more sustainable approach, these are some of the technologies that we must take into consideration.”

On top of addressing existing challenges, technology can also lead to new sustainable innovations for our built environment. Embarking on a digitalization journey, the green building industry presents a huge opportunity to reduce construction waste and improve efficiency by integrating technologies like data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) in smart buildings.

However, a major problem plaguing the industry is its slow adoption of technology—the result of disjointed actions within the industry. Mr. Nilesh Jadhav, CEO of digital solution provider Qi Square, tackles this issue through systematic and open cloud-based collaboration to facilitate unified decision-making.

“As a company, we decided to stop consulting,” said Jadhav. “Instead, we chose to give consultants a tool that is focused on digitalization. We provide ease of access to data to the drawings and digital twins we create on the platform, as well as to a wide range of solutions that can assist the workflows required to go green.”

Best design know-hows

Just as the nation’s servers require efficient cooling, so do its people. Located near the equator, Singapore is warm and humid throughout the year, making air-conditioning a necessity in most commercial buildings. Of the 20 percent of carbon emissions produced from buildings, a sizable proportion is a result of cooling systems. As we move toward a greener built environment, it is imperative for these to be as energy efficient as possible.

In an era where the “as-a-service” business model is proliferating, air-conditioning firm Kaer pioneers cooling-as-a-service in Singapore.

“Under this model, you don’t need to own, operate and maintain the air-conditioning system in your building to enjoy cooling,” said Mr. Benjamin Lai, Director of Strategy and Transformation. “Kaer ensures the system is always running at a high-performance level and the building owner just pays per use.”

Each cooling system is purpose-built by integrating the best design know-how, efficient equipment and controls algorithms. Tailored to a specific building or facility, Kaer’s systems also reduce operational carbon emissions and water consumption.

While the firm has provided air-conditioning to commercial and industrial buildings in Southeast Asia for more than 60 years, the new model has only been in place since 2013. Despite the relatively recent shift, the model has already prevented the emission of 50,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from green buildings.

A greener built environment

As a leading technology matching event, TechInnovation 2021 also saw innovators sharing a plethora of technologies dedicated to achieving a greener built environment—from reducing waste to assessing efficiency.

One solution is Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Digital Concrete which applies 3D printing methods to build structures using a program-controlled robotic arm.

Since printing material is only deposited where necessary, the method provides freeform architecture, reduces material waste, lowers construction costs and increases worker safety. This technology in turn provides low-cost and rapid-deployment sustainable housing solutions.

Similarly, energy can be conserved through better resource management. With NTU’s Spray Cooling System, data centers could reduce energy consumption by spraying servers with a finely dispersed coolant that draws excess heat efficiently, thereby eliminating the need for chiller-based coolers that are comparatively less energy efficient.

Alternatively, air quality experts Sensgreen developed an Indoor Climate Management system that utilizes machine learning algorithms to control indoor environment quality. By efficiently monitoring and responding to environment quality, Sensgreen’s technology manages resources effectively and minimizes energy consumption in buildings.

To enable highly efficient building operations, companies can also harness the latest technology to assess green performance and optimize processes. This can be done using Qi Square’s BtrLyf digital assessment platform that aggregates building data to create useful “digital twins” that assess building performance.

Additionally, lighting performance and energy efficiency can also be evaluated and optimized with Singapore Institute of Technology’s Simulation-based Lighting Assessment. The system offers visual comfort while optimizing energy consumption—suitable for office buildings, schools, retail or even underground spaces.

By leveraging innovative design and technologies, building managers can implement sustainable practices in the extensive built environment that has come to set Singapore apart as a clean and green city-state. Such decisive action across one of Singapore’s most significant industries is a solid step forward to reaching the nation’s sustainability goals.

Are you looking to harness sustainable building practices? Click here to find out more about the innovative technologies presented at TechInnovation 2021!

Asian Scientist Magazine is a content partner of IPI.


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