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Embracing Sustainability — 8 Unassumingly Green Buildings in Singapore & Malaysia

The Energy Market Authority recently reported that commercial and non-commercial buildings in Singapore took up half of the total national energy consumption in 2018. It is undeniable that buildings are a huge source of power consumption, yet little attention is channelled to these concrete giants. When it comes to buildings, we seem to be more fixated with at property prices, facilities, and the F&B options offered within.

With a growing population and increasing economic activities in Singapore, the energy required to run this nation (or the world for that matter) is projected to rise further. Singapore has a 2-prong approach to this game plan; to achieve 80% green buildings by 2030, and to incentivise the adoption of green practices through six government funding schemes.

Our friendly neighbour is also committed to sustainable initiatives—the Malaysian government plans to introduce incentivised programmes for commercial and non-commercial buildings. Some of these measures include waiver of upfront costs for the installation of solar panels and the introduction of subsidised schemes to encourage businesses to adopt green technology.

We take a closer look at eight buildings in Singapore and Malaysia that are being held up as stellar examples of how green buildings can co-exist within the current infrastructure of a modern city life. Hopefully, this piece will encourage and inspire industry leaders and more property owners to take up the mantle to make eco-friendly complexes the norm.

1. Marina One

Located at the heart of Singapore’s Central Business District (CBD), Marina One bags the LEED Platinum-certification—Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. To the uninitiated, LEED is a global rating program to certify buildings as not only energy-efficient but cost-saving as well.

The four towers of Marina One are connected by a multi-storey garden, commonly known as “Green Heart”. Be enchanted by the diversity of plants and the 3-storey high waterfall as you set foot. With close to 400 plant species, it feels like you have been instantaneously teleported into the Amazon rainforest and surrounded by a world of flora. A bird’s eye view of the compound captures the curvey tiers of the architectural design and presents you with another outstanding landscape reminiscent of the familiar rice terraces often found in Southeast Asia.

Buildings at Marina One are built with sunshades to maximise natural sunlight and prevent the bothersome midday glare. In addition, this wisely-designed building orientation is the cherry on the cake. Marina One residences have no west-facing facade, which further reduces heat gain by 20%.

2. Asia Square

I remember being enthralled by the destination-despatch lift system and the vast Food Garden at Asia Square. The futuristic layout, distinctive scent, and a wide variety of food options make it a popular hangout for the CBD crowd. Beneath its fancy architecture, however, Asia Square has many remarkable green features: a bio generator diesel plant, the largest solar panel installation, and a green lift system.

The bio generator diesel plant uses recycled food oil from vendors and converts them into biodiesel to generate electricity, effectively turning waste into an energy form. Also, the kinetic energy produced by the elevator is converted into power and subsequently redistributed within the lift system, further saving on energy consumption and costs.

3. NTU Eco campus: The Hive

If you’ve travelled to Pulau NTU, it is hard to miss The Hive. Towering with stacked rounded rooms, it resembles enormous dim sum baskets (steamer baskets) that are commonly found in Chinese restaurants. However, unlike a dim sum basket that cooks your snacks and keeps them warm, this building aims to do the exact opposite. The inverted structure functions like an umbrella, where the upper floors shade the lower levels to reduce unnecessary heat exposure.

Besides an in-built heat reduction system, The Hive adopts an innovative air conditioning system to cool the building without extra energy consumption. The secret lies in the special metal coils that run around the building. These fixtures are ingeniously filled with flowing streams of cold water so that the wind that enters the classroom, is automatically cooled and naturally displaces the hot air via convection.

The multiple openings between pods also allow for natural ventilation within common areas. Unlike conventional air conditioning systems, this sustainable alternative saves up to 30% of the energy typically required using traditionally electrical systems.

4. Interlace

Private estates, too, have jumped on to the sustainability bandwagon. You have probably seen the unusual geometry of Interlace nestled along the West Coast Highway. Interlace comprises 31 blocks and over 1,000 units stacked in hexagonal arrangements. From afar, the complex establishment resembles a fancy landscape more than a residential apartment. Piled in Jenga-lego fashion, the building design provides multiple angles for the balconies to receive daylight while offering shade to community courtyards.

The multi-storey openings also allow light and air to weave into the architecture. To further complement the presence of these natural elements, water features are strategically located within wind-defined corridors so the paths can be kept cool.

5. Treelodge@Punggol

Do you know that with effect from January 2014, all Housing Development Board projects will include a standard suite of eco-conscious features? Treelodge@Punggol is the pioneer eco-precinct which uses nature’s elements to encourage sustainable living.

The estate has seven residential building blocks, a podium car park, and ample green spaces. Green technologies and notable structural arrangements are prudently planned to promote energy conservation and efficient use of resources.

Combating the unbearable heat is one aspect all Singaporeans yearn. To wit, residences at Treelodge@Punggol are strategically orientated to face the prevailing wind directions to maximise natural ventilation.

Starting from the apex, green roofs are introduced to reduce heat absorption. Green roofs, also technically known as Prefabricated Extensive Green, provides thermal insulation through the use of layered materials and plants. Cool walls are cleverly erected—at units facing east and west direction—to repel further heat.

Treelodge@Punggol takes this green-city idea closer to the ground with the Community Garden. Today, this communal garden is manned by residents who plant a variety of tropical fruits, such as jackfruits and bananas. Alternatively, homeowners can create their own mini garden using the built-in green balconies and planter boxes.

6. Star Vista

Dwelling in the heart of One-North, Star Vista is a huge shopping centre that accommodates two auditoriums; an indoor horseshoe-shaped auditorium, known as Star Performing Arts Centre, and an outdoor amphitheatre.

Despite its massive size, it has low to no reliance on air conditioners. In fact, Star Vista is Singapore’s first naturally-cooled mall. Designed with porous walls that encourage ventilation, the common areas are kept cool and it remains a popular spot for alfresco dining.

More impressively, the five-storey outdoor amphitheatre, which can accommodate 400 people, is breezy without the reliance on artificial cooling system. The spaceship-shaped building invites the prevailing north and south breezes through the open spaces. Moreover, the canopies are planted to provide shelter from direct sunlight, keeping the common areas cool.

In obscure areas where natural ventilation cannot be reached, the hybrid ventilation strategy is adopted through employing high volume, low speed fans in the basement civic plaza. This helps to aerate the space and provide a comfortable environment for occupants and consumers.

7. Masjid Raja Fisabilillah Cyberjaya (“Green Mosque”)

Masjid Raja Fisabilillah Cyberjaya, also known as the Green Mosque, was constructed in 2006 and derived its name after the former Crown Prince of the Johor-Riau, Raja Haji Fisabilillah ibni Daeng Chelak.

Do not be deceived by its rich heritage; the Green Mosque is highly futuristic in both its design and appearance. Moreover, it has received the Platinum award for the Green Building Index with its impressive eco-friendly architectural layout.

It welcomes the gift of water with its rainwater harvesting system, which is used for irrigation and abulation purposes. When the doors of the main prayer hall opens, the gentle sound of streaming water rushes to your ear and a therapeutic sight of water flowing against the brown-tiled wall captures your vision. This cascading water fountain also serves as a cooling agent to the main prayer hall while providing a conducive environment for believers to worship.

Sunlight is savoured at its rooftop and main dome. Its roof is covered with over 800 solar panels, which can generate sufficient electricity to supply the 41 hectares site. Furthermore, the central dome is made with low-emissivity glass panels and a metal shading device, an innovative combination that allows for natural light while reducing heat penetration.

8. LINC Mall

Positioned at the intersection of Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tun Razak, the holy grail of LINC Mall is to marry the promotion of arts with nature conservation and environmental sustainability.

The open concept mall is home to several art installations such as a staircase clad in rainbow hues, a colourful geometric owl mural, and on the second floor, a dramatic and breathtaking display of 41,600 paper doves hanging above an open courtyard.

LINC Mall literally embraces nature at its heart. As a part of its nature conservation effort, the mall is built around a 100-year old bodhi tree, also known as the Green Guardian.

With a strong focus on nature, most of its retail outlets are ecocentric and promote sustainable practices. Check out Pasu Crafted, a plant boutique, that sells stylish greenery to beautify indoor spaces—indeed for the fashionistas who aspires to be a Green Panther. There’s also Frangipani Bulk, a zero-waste shop, that creates and sells organic products with plastic-free packaging.

Aligned with its objective to build a sustainable planet, LINC Mall encourages good eco practices by hosting Malaysia’s 2nd Zero Waste Festival in June 2019. The 2-day event invited zero-waste champions and industry leaders to showcase eco ideas, raise awareness, and educate consumers on sustainability.

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