29 °C Singapore, SG
February 22, 2024
Latest News
Corio Generation and bp Alternative Energy Investment Ltd invest in South Korea Australia missing climate targets Advocating for US based offshore wind Broken Record, Temperatures hit new highs, yet world fails to cut emissions (again) Toshiba and GE to shore up Japanese offshore wind domestic supply chain How I got here… National University of Singapore green finance academic Sumit Agarwal Multi-billion-dollar renewables project earmarked for Yindjibarndi native title land Smart Energy Finances: Enel divests 50% of Australian renewable operations to Japanese oil and gas giant Critical minerals investments surged by 30% finds IEA Kung Fu nuns fight climate change One of Southeast Asia’s largest energy storage systems comes online Why turning waste into gas will add value to this Indigenous economy Renewable energy records tumble around Australia as rooftop solar power soars Topsoe supports SGP BioEnergy in renewable fuels production in Panama ‘Poor tropical regions’ suffer greatest economic damage from worsening heatwaves UNEP: Meeting global climate goals now requires ‘rapid transformation of societies’ Analysis: Africa’s unreported extreme weather in 2022 and climate change Partly wind-powered coal ship sails into Newcastle New fossil fuels ‘incompatible’ with 1.5C goal, comprehensive analysis finds Australian offshore wind ‘supercharged’ in Victoria as billions pledged to fast-track projects Goldwind turbine ‘breaks world record for largest rotor diameter’, Chinese media reports BW Ideol to work with developer Taiya on Taiwan floating wind pilot US to boost floating wind power Wind Power in South Korea – an overview GS E&C to develop bioethanol using cassava waste Korean business group has asked the US to make exceptions for Korean EV’s in Inflation Reduction Act Equinor’s Australian offshore wind debut Global energy transition stalls – 2022 Global Status Report in pictures India’s ReNew Power secures $1bn loan for gigascale 24/7 wind-solar-battery project POSCO International to merge with POSCO Energy

Standing tall: How green buildings are adapting to the post-Covid era

“Think of green buildings as giant N95 facemasks, protecting you from harmful toxins the moment you step inside,” said Dr Ho Nyok Yong, president of the Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC), in a webinar in May.

“Building-based prevention and control measures have become one of the most important methods of fighting against the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Dr Ho told his audience of 600 building and construction industry stakeholders.

As cities start to reopen their economies and people return to work, installing green building technologies in shopping centres, offices, factories and other shared spaces can help to limit the spread of the coronavirus within them and stand them in good stead against future disease outbreaks, experts have told Eco-Business.

When commercial real estate services firm CBRE surveyed 264 tenants in Asia Pacific from March to April on their industries’ response to the Covid-19 crisis, nearly half said that it will lead to a stronger preference for buildings with wellness and environmental features.

This bodes well for green buildings, which place a strong emphasis on indoor air quality and well ventilated indoor spaces. Even before the Covid-19 outbreak, SGBC, a non-profit that supports sustainability in the built environment, had been working to raise awareness of how buildings affect people, with its Better Places for People programme.

Retrofits such as adding ultraviolet lights to air-handling units and switching to demand-controlled ventilation can reduce the transmission of airborne viruses and bacteria while increasing the buildings’ energy efficiency, said experts such as Mark Yeo, CBRE’s chief operating officer of property management in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

In the longer term, new buildings can further shrink their carbon footprint and aid in disease prevention by maximising natural ventilation or making use of innovative ventilation systems that are already deployed in cities such as Singapore, the experts added.

Making buildings healthier

Even before the emergence of Covid-19, more hospitals were starting to use ultraviolet-C (UV-C) light to disinfect surgical suites and other rooms and surfaces because it kills or inactivates microorganisms.

“Some buildings are now looking into installing UV-C lighting in their air-handling units to remove airborne bacteria, viruses and germs to improve the indoor air quality,” said Yeo.

If one were to design a building from scratch today, it would not be the same as it would have been even just one year ago.

Professor Chandra Sekhar, co-director, Centre for Integrated Building Energy and Sustainability in the Tropics, National University of Singapore

Over time, organic materials usually build up on the surfaces of the units’ cooling coils and other components, degrading their energy efficiency and leading to higher energy use and costs. Having UV-C lights in the units also prevents this and lessens the need for maintenance. SGBC certifies such innovations to ensure the general health and well-being of building occupants.

Refining ventilation systems is another key to minimising disease transmissions while saving electricity. In most commercial buildings, the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system recirculates up to 90 per cent of the indoor air because drawing air from outdoors and conditioning it is energy-intensive. This practice, however, enables bacteria and viruses to persist within the premises.

Demand-controlled ventilation pairs HVAC systems with carbon dioxide or other sensors to vary the intake of outdoor air depending on the buildings’ occupancy. When there are more people, more air is brought in, diluting the concentration of airborne contaminants and making infections less likely. Conversely, when there are fewer people, the smart systems draw in less air, decreasing their energy use.

Different parts of a building may benefit from different ventilation and sensor strategies. “In basement carparks, ductless jet fans’ activation can be linked to carbon monoxide sensors. This will help to both guard against viruses and make the building more sustainable,” Yeo said.

A fresh (air) approach

As new buildings are constructed, they can also take advantage of state-of-the-art ventilation systems that may be too difficult or costly to install for existing properties.

The National University of Singapore’s (NUS) net-zero energy building, for instance, uses a hybrid cooling system that combines air-conditioning with ceiling fans. The system supplies only conditioned outdoor air, but at marginally higher temperatures and humidity than conventional HVAC systems to reduce its energy consumption.

“Even though the temperature is slightly higher at 25 to 27 degrees Celsius, the ceiling fans circulate the cool air which makes it comfortable for people,” explained Professor Chandra Sekhar, co-director of NUS’s Centre for Integrated Building Energy and Sustainability in the Tropics.

Prof Sekhar, along with Professor David Cheong and Associate Professor Tham Kok Wai, two of his colleagues in the NUS School of Design and Environment’s Department of Building, also patented another energy-saving and disease-limiting ventilation system that is part of the Singapore Building and Construction Authority’s (BCA) net-zero energy building.

In traditional HVAC systems, air drawn from outdoors and recirculated indoor air are mixed into a single stream before being conditioned and distributed across the building. In the BCA system, the two air flows are treated independently.

Conditioned outdoor air is sent directly to each employee’s desk through ducts integrated into the furniture and speaker-like devices on each desk that vent the air. “This uses the smaller volume of cleaned outdoor air more effectively by creating and maintaining healthy microenvironments around each workstation,” said Prof Tham.

With sensors, the system also saves energy by delivering the air only to occupied desks.

In other areas such as meeting rooms, the separation of the air streams also facilitates greater control. When a room is occupied, more outdoor air and less recirculated air is supplied, and vice versa, enabling further energy savings.

“Such personalised ventilation would be especially useful for offices and other buildings with high variability in occupancy, including co-working spaces,” said Prof Tham.

Rethinking buildings

The experts noted that building owners may be able to seek government funding for some of the retrofits. For example, Singapore’s Green Buildings Innovation Cluster Building Energy Efficient Demonstrations Scheme finances up to 70 per cent of the cost of installing novel technologies that use at least 20 percent less energy than their best commercial counterparts.

Prof Sekhar added that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to spur urban planners, architects and property managers to reconsider how they design, operate and maintain buildings to safeguard occupant health and wellbeing.

“Apart from sterilising access points and other practices to minimise the spread of infections, we will expect the building themselves to offer some inherent protection to the people who are in them,” he said.

“If one were to design a building from scratch today, it would not be the same as it would have been even just one year ago.”

Thanks for reading to the end of this story!

We would be grateful if you would consider joining as a member of The EB Circle. This helps to keep our stories and resources free for all, and it also supports independent journalism dedicated to sustainable development. For a small donation of S$60 a year, your help would make such a big difference.

Find out more and join The EB Circle

Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *