Singapore’s Zero Energy Building A Green Building Test Bed

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article courtesy of National Geographic Society. Author credit goes to Gan Pei Ling.

The Zero Energy Building in Singapore is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. The retrofitted building has been running entirely on solar power since it began operating in 2009 and had even recorded a cumulative surplus of 37 megawatt hours of electricity as at June 25 this year.

Converted from a former workshop, the three-story building located at Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Academy holds the key to the island’s quest to reduce its dependency on imported fuel.

BCA roof

image via BCA

“It’s a test bed for the green building technologies in the tropics. We’re located near the equator so some of the green building methods applicable to countries with four seasons may not be suitable here,” said BCA senior communications officer Letchimi Palanisamy during a July 4 site visit for World Cities Summit delegates.

In addition, the building has a East-West orientation, which made the task of retrofitting it more challenging. Buildings in the tropics usually have a North-South orientation to avoid facing the sun directly.

Letchimi said new features were introduced to reduce heat absorption, yet allow maximum natural ventilation and daylight into the building to lower the need for air-conditioning and artificial lighting.

Part of what’s dubbed “Office of the Future“, the innovations that are being tested at the Zero Energy Building include solar chimneys, personalized ventilation, and a new air-conditioning system patented by the National University of Singapore (NUS), which separates cool fresh air and recirculated air to save energy instead of mixing them indiscriminately, as is commonly practiced in conventional air-conditioning systems.

The Zero Energy Building is a tripartite collaborative effort between BCA, NUS and Singapore’s Education Ministry.

Letchimi added that different plants have also been planted on the roofs and along the wall of the building to test their heat absorption capabilities.

If successfully commercialized and adopted by the construction industry, these green designs will help Singapore achieve its target to have 80 percent of its buildings achieve BCA’s Green Mark Certification by 2030.  A new or retrofitted building must achieve a certain standard in the areas of energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and environmental protection before it can secure the certification.

It was estimated in 2010 that 6,500 buildings will need to be retrofitted for Singapore to achieve its 80 percent target.

The Great Energy Challenge is an important three-year National Geographic initiative designed to help all of us better understand the breadth and depth of our current energy situation. National Geographic has assembled some of the world’s foremost researchers and scientists to help tackle the challenge. Led by Thomas Lovejoy, a National Geographic conservation fellow and renowned biologist, the team of advisers will work together to identify and provide support for projects focused on innovative energy solutions.