NUS opens first net-zero energy building

31 January 2019 | General News
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Mr Heng interacting with lion dancers at the launch of SDE4, with (from left) Prof Tan, Prof Lam and NUS Chairman Mr Hsieh Fu Hua looking on

NUS is now home to Singapore’s first new-build net-zero energy building, located in NUS Design and Environment (SDE). Officially launched on 30 January, the building, named SDE4, is designed to be climate responsive, energy efficient and environmentally friendly, and only consume as much energy as it creates. It features a host of sustainable building designs such as solar roof installations, a hybrid cooling system, innovative ventilation systems, as well as architectural structures that provide much-needed shade in Singapore’s tropical climate.

SDE4 is testament to the University’s continuous efforts to incorporate sustainability in various aspects of campus life — from operations, planning, construction, research and education, said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.

“The conceptualisation and construction of SDE4, which is also our very first net-zero energy building on campus, involved a collaborative partnership between our resident experts at the NUS School of Design and Environment as well as external consultants, builders and developers. The result is a dynamic living laboratory, showcasing the latest ideas and solutions in sustainable development,” he added.

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From left: Prof Lam, Mr Hsieh, Mr Heng and Prof Tan officially launching the building

In his speech at the event, Guest-of-Honour Minister for Finance and Chairman of the National Research Foundation Mr Heng Swee Keat called SDE4 “a good example of how we can achieve better and more sustainable outcomes when government, industry and academia work closely together”. He highlighted the importance of harnessing technologies, commending the latest green technologies incorporated in SDE4 such as the solar photovoltaic system with more than 1,200 solar panels that can generate up to 500MWh of energy and potentially save up to $180,000 in electricity costs.

Mr Heng also noted the way SDE provided students with real-world experience during the development of SDE4. “The conceptualisation, design and building of SDE4 presented an experiential learning experience for SDE students to contribute ideas on the design and construction of SDE4. We should encourage more of such opportunities for our students,” he said.

“The new SDE4 building is truly a labour of love. We really emphasised the human-centric design within a sustainable natural and built environment. The contemporary architecture design demonstrates a deep understanding of the tropical climate of Singapore, deploying appropriate effective and efficient passive, active as well as hybrid environmental design responses,” said Dean of SDE Professor Lam Khee Poh at the launch, adding he was particularly gratified that the design architect and several members of the team that developed SDE4 are alumni of the School.

The conceptualisation and construction of SDE4, which is also our very first net-zero energy building on campus, involved a collaborative partnership between our resident experts at the NUS School of Design and Environment as well as external consultants, builders and developers. The result is a dynamic living laboratory, showcasing the latest ideas and solutions in sustainable development.

Keeping in mind that education is the heart of the University’s vision, and the paramount importance of staff and student welfare, SDE4 was designed around four conceptual themes of Wellness, Educational Model, Flexibility of Spaces and Community, said Prof Tan. “Our students studying in the building will reap the benefits of the human-centric building design. The physical experience of the building space will be enhanced by conditions that mimic natural environments, with variability in air temperature, humidity, and airflow to provide comfort and wellness,” he elaborated.

Today we spend 90 per cent of our time in buildings, so it's really important for us to understand how these environments can contribute to our health and wellbeing, added Prof Lam. In line with this, the SDE4 building is on its way to becoming the first Singapore building to be awarded a WELL certification by the International WELL Building Institute which measures, certifies and monitors features of buildings that impact the health and wellness of the people who live, work and learn in them.

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During the event, Mr Heng had the opportunity to tour the building, including the solar panels located on the rooftop

SDE4 will not be an isolated entity. The School has a vision to create a ‘well and green’ zone, called the Engineering and Design & Environment precinct. This precinct will be a living prototype of human-centric approaches for the future transformation of NUS and the region. “Buildings in the upcoming Engineering and Design & Environment precinct will promote and enhance environmental quality by ensuring equitable access to views, daylight, air, greenery and community spaces,” said Prof Tan.

Three other buildings are in line to be transformed, including SDE2 which aims to adopt a low-carbon construction approach while achieving net-positive energy, net-zero water and WELL certification.

SDE4 will also promote research collaborations with public agencies and industry partners. One research facility currently housed in SDE4 is the NUS-City Developments Limited Smart Green Home, designed as a two-bedroom apartment that facilitates the test-bedding of indoor smart home innovations in a real-life environment. “By collaborating across disciplines and with external partners, SDE will be the front runner pushing for cross-disciplinary research to build a green and resilient urban habitat for Singapore,” said Prof Tan.

See press release.