September 14, 2011 By Indrajit Basu
You can't just walk into any recently built swanky condominium in Singapore. The sliding-glass doors in the lobby don’t open if you are not a resident or an authorized visitor.
But receive authorization from a resident and you enter an almost dark or under-lit lobby. Momentarily of course, since as soon as the motion-detector switches feel your presence, they light up the area automatically. Press the button for the elevator and its doors open to an under-lit car that, like the lobby, only lights up when occupied. And as it starts its ascent, the lobby lights dim again.
Enter the apartments and you will find green measures all around; starting from automatic lighting to automatically controlled air-conditioning, automatic water taps, to increasingly ubiquitous automatic blinds.
As the small island nation embarks on its green building drive with renewed gusto, Singapore’s building stock has suddenly gotten much greener. With greener schools, office buildings, malls, industrial parks, public housing, factories and even greener demolition sites, Singapore has emerged as Asia’s greenest metropolis.
Earlier this year, in a study by consultancy firm Solidance, Singapore was ranked first for green building policies amongst other major cities in the Asia-Pacific region.
According to another study conducted by Siemens and the Economist Intelligence Unit, Singapore stands out in particular for its ambitious targets and its efficient approach to achieving them.
The city’s green building effort launched in 2005 has set a target of greening 80 per cent of its building stock by 2030.
Indeed, while the green movement rages globally thanks to skyrocketing energy prices, much of the efforts are centered on conservation of energy, reduction of greenhouse gases, and -- to some extent -- water conservation.
However, when it comes to greening buildings -- although forecasts indicate that by 2015 almost 80 percent of global greenhouse gas will be accounted for by urbanites -- the movement is still relatively young.
This is despite expert views -- like that of the International Institute of Environment and Development -- which say while cities are blamed for greenhouse gas emissions, that fact is, cities can be a large part of the solution. Undoubtedly, well-planned and well-governed cities can provide high living standards and still become green, and Singapore shows how that could be achieved.
But Singapore is notable for another reason. Different metropolises have drivers pushing them toward a greener building practice. For instance while the green initiative is industry-driven in the U.S. and consumer-driven in Australia and much of Europe, it is primarily a government-driven initiative in Singapore.
“Singapore has the most favorable green building ecosystem in Asia-Pacific,” says Damien Duhamel of Solidiance. “There is a very strong commitment and guidance from the Singapore government to overseeing this initiative.”
According to Duhamel, the government has provided a solid platform for green building efforts with not just policies, but also initiatives that encourage industry players.
For instance, the Singapore government takes an active role in academic research and development of green technologies and actively promotes consumer awareness.
The government has also launched a master plan under which all new and major renovation projects for public buildings must meet new green norms.
Besides, Singapore’s Legislature has set a framework to mandate that green building opportunities are not missed by private developments.
Technology has started playing a key role as well in this effort. Aside from usual high-tech applications like motion-detector lighting in toilets and stairwells, and waterless urinals, many buildings have started installing innovative solutions like photovoltaic panels. Use of eco-friendly materials such as green concrete -- that requires much less water for curing -- and light-reflective paints are becoming a common practice.
These days, newer buildings are even controlled by intelligent building management systems -- like intelligent lobbies and elevators -- that are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
According to Solidiance, the city has showcased its potential to become the regional green building showcase, especially with regard to tropical green building solutions.
Technology may the one of the greatest enablers of good things in life, but even until recently, it was mainly a phenomenon that benefited the more resourceful section of the world. That's changing though. Thanks to its constant evolution in the last few years, technology, particularly digital technologies, have ceased to be the privilege of a select few. From a hungry child in Niger, to the downtrodden lavatory cleaner in India, to the lonely billionaire widower living in a swanky Manhattan apartment, digital technologies are radically changing the lives of all these days.
As an international correspondent for Digital Communities, I have covered the power that ICT wields, particularly over the inhabitants of the developing world. But often a 1200-word feature does not bring forth the magic of ICT fast enough. My endeavor in this space would be to do just that; highlight some notable ICT-related developments as fast as I can.