Welcome to sustainable Asia

A status on sustainable building in South East Asia
Balancing cost and value

In the tiger economies of South East Asia, sustainability is moving up the agenda in the building and construction sector – but progress is limited mainly to energy efficiencies, according to Marlon Kobacker of Arup Singapore.

In all construction projects, cost must be balanced against value by minimising the first and maximising the second. Marlon Kobacker, Senior Consultant, Sustainability at Arup, explains how mature green building markets in Western Europe, North America and elsewhere generally have a better understanding of how to do this. Developers in the younger markets of South East Asia typically aim to design buildings that attain the minimum green rating standard which focuses mainly on energy efficiency.

 

How can cost and value be balanced in the South East Asian market?

Marlon Kobacker: From the viewpoint of the sustainability consultant, this balance is a factor that should be considered very carefully at the very start of the project. This means that the sustainability consultant should be brought on board as early as possible, ideally even before the site has been chosen. Then the consultant can help find a well located site for transportation and amenities, as green rating schemes provide significant numbers of points for this that may otherwise be missed, resulting in the need to ‘buy’ them later in the process in the form of design features.

The very first thing that should be done is to set a clear sustainability vision with specific outcomes and objectives … and make these clear for any of the consultants tendering for the project from day one. This integrated approach is the way to produce a high performing building that achieves its performance objectives at lowest possible capital cost and delivers the desired value.

 

What advantages does early involvement have?

The very first thing that should be done is to set a clear sustainability vision with specific outcomes and objectives … and make these clear for any of the consultants tendering for the project from day one.

Marlon Kobacker, Senior Consultant, Sustainability, Arup Singapore

Marlon Kobacker: It allows everyone involved to reach a number of important goals. Such ‘whole of project’ involvement is the best way to minimise the cost of achieving the green rating and ensure that the building achieves its targets, by:

• Impacting the passive design of the building
• Incorporating sustainability requirements in the contract documentation
• Briefing the contractor
• Reviewing commissioning
• Tuning and monitoring the performance of the building.

However, while developers do understand the value of appointing sustainability consultants earlier, sometimes it really is an add-on for getting the building certified.

What should be done to advance the sustainability in the region?

Marlon Kobacker: Sustainability is moving up the agenda in the region. Although without stronger regulation and transparent valuation of green buildings (i.e. market drivers) it will continue to move slowly. There are a number of ‘green precinct’ projects in the region looking at fairly strong sustainability targets, however very few are aiming for carbon neutrality, which will become the regulated targets in the UK within 3-5 years. In Singapore, the Green Mark minimum requirement needs to be a lot more ambitious in terms of absolute greenhouse gas emissions, which will help transform the market towards where it needs to be. A big new trend in advanced markets is rating precincts so I expect to see this take off in the region in the next few years.

We should also bear in mind that every building we design today will be impacted by taxes, legislation and other mechanisms that are put in place to achieve global CO2 reduction targets. This means that energy-hungry buildings are more likely to be out performed by efficient, sustainable property assets.

Marlon Kobacker, Senior Consultant, Sustainability, Arup Singapore.

Marlon Kobacker: Sustainability is moving up the agenda in the region. Although without stronger regulation and transparent valuation of green buildings (i.e. market drivers) it will continue to move slowly. There are a number of ‘green precinct’ projects in the region looking at fairly strong sustainability targets, however very few are aiming for carbon neutrality, which will become the regulated targets in the UK within 3-5 years. In Singapore, the Green Mark minimum requirement needs to be a lot more ambitious in terms of absolute greenhouse gas emissions, which will help transform the market towards where it needs to be. A big new trend in advanced markets is rating precincts so I expect to see this take off in the region in the next few years.

PHOTO: Marlon Kobacker, Senior Consultant, Sustainability, Arup Singapore.

We should also bear in mind that every building we design today will be impacted by taxes, legislation and other mechanisms that are put in place to achieve global CO2 reduction targets. This means that energy-hungry buildings are more likely to be out performed by efficient, sustainable property assets.

High performance buildings

High performance buildings are energy efficient, have limited environmental impact and operate with the lowest possible life-cycle costs. Typically they incorporate factors such as the use of life cycle cost analysis, integrated design processes, building information modelling (BIM) and integrated energy solutions. In general the sustainable building market is seeing a move away from talking about green buildings towards high performance buildings. On an international level, research is quantifying the value of high performing buildings in areas including rental return, occupancy rates and asset value. In younger green building markets like South East Asia, the benefits of high performance buildings are mostly not being realised.

Why are there not more high performance buildings in the region?

A big new trend in advanced markets is rating precincts so I expect to see this take off in the region in the next few years.

Marlon Kobacker, Senior Consultant, Sustainability, Arup Singapore

Marlon Kobacker: Firstly, as I said, green building markets in SE Asia are behind the developed markets. However within the region there are large differences across the countries. Essentially the countries with more developed green building industries were the first to set up a "Green Building Council" and develop a green rating system for benchmarking the environmental performance of buildings:

2005: Singapore releases Green Mark
2009: Malaysia releases the Green Building Index
2010: Indonesia releases Greenship
2010: Philippines releases BERDE
2010: Vietnam releases LOTUS
2010: Thailand releases TREES

Basically, because Singapore was first to launch standards, it is much further progressed than Malaysia, which is further than Indonesia and so on. Another key difference is the mandating of the use of green rating tools. In Singapore new buildings and refurbishments over 2000 m2 must meet the Green Mark Certified standard. Therefore the uptake of Green Mark has been very high, in fact it is quite possibly the highest rate in the world.

There are also differences between sectors. Typically commercial buildings are the most rated, followed by public buildings (driven by government), commercial fitouts (driven mainly by multinational corporations), and then residential and retail. But overall, sustainability is penetrating deeper into developing countries in general.

 

What role do HVAC systems have in all this?

Marlon Kobacker: In connection with the great challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with existing buildings, optimising the control and efficiency of HVAC systems in these buildings will have one of the biggest impacts. For new buildings it is really important to design with absolute energy consumption as the target, as this is leads to good passive design that reduces HVAC requirements and saves on the cost of the HVAC system.

Marlon Kobacker
Marlon Kobacker is Senior Consultant, Sustainability, Arup Singapore. He has ten years of ESD (Ecologically Sustainable Development), LEED and sustainability consulting experience in Australia, Asia and the Middle East with focus on the built environment, including precincts, commercial towers and airports.

He has been nominated for awards in both Australia and the U.K. and has a Masters degree in the Built Environment, Sustainable Design from the University of New South Wales. He regularly speaks at international conferences and universities and is on track to become one of the future leaders of the green building industry.

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