NUS bags President’s Award for the Environment

In recognition of its unwavering commitment towards advancing sustainable development and climate action, NUS has been accorded the prestigious President's Award for the Environment 2023, Singapore's highest accolade for environmental sustainability. NUS is also the first university to receive this esteemed Award under the Educational Institution category.

“NUS is honoured to be recognised with the President’s Award for the Environment, which affirms our whole-of-University approach in championing sustainability,” NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said, “As Singapore’s flagship university, we are committed to advancing sustainable development in the areas of education, research, innovation, and campus operations. The University is a vibrant living laboratory where we drive sustainable solutions, and translate research and knowledge into tangible outcomes, shaping the future of sustainability in Singapore.”

For over two decades, NUS has been steadfast in its pursuit of environmental sustainability, dedicated to driving progress in sustainable development, and in playing an active role in the fight against climate change. Drawn up in parallel with the Singapore Green Plan 2030, the Campus Sustainability Roadmap 2030 outlines NUS’ long-term strategic goals towards becoming a carbon neutral, climate resilient and zero waste campus. The University’s sustainability targets in the roadmap are aligned with, or exceed, the goals laid out in the GreenGov.SG initiative. Some of the notable targets include:

  • Reducing NUS’ campus Scope 1 and Scope 2 absolute carbon emissions by 30 per cent, and purchase quality carbon offsets as a last resort;
  • Reducing energy usage intensity by 20 per cent;
  • Improving outdoor thermal comfort; and
  • Planting 100,000 trees by 2030.

First building cluster targeting net-zero energy in Singapore

Pushing boundaries in the built environment sector, NUS is home to Singapore's first building cluster targeting net-zero energy which comprises SDE4 and two adaptive reuse buildings, SDE1 and SDE3. Active and passive design features such as innovative hybrid cooling systems, and architectural structures that provide shade, help to drive down energy consumption. To achieve net-zero energy, a building needs to consume only as much energy as it produces − such as by harnessing solar energy.

Originally constructed as a purpose-built net-zero energy building, SDE4 has since achieved net-positive energy, scoring the Building Construction Authority’s (BCA) Green Mark (GM) 2021 in Operation Platinum Positive Energy Award. This honour recognises SDE4 as a best-in-class energy performance building with at least 115 per cent of its energy consumption supplied from a renewable solar energy source. In 2022, SDE4 achieved a stellar Energy Usage Intensity of 47 kWh/m2/year in 2022, about 50 per cent lower than BCA’s reference EUI of 90 for the category of Super Low Energy buildings for Institutes of Higher Learning.

The University also undertook a groundbreaking initiative to redesign and retrofit SDE1 and SDE3 maintaining architectural quality, while retaining the existing structures and operating on low-energy-demand basis. These two buildings achieved an outstanding ultra-low embodied carbon performance of below 200 kgCO2e/m2, which is 80 per cent lower than BCA's reference value (1,000 kgCO2e/m2) for non-residential buildings.

Greening the built environment on campus

Over the years, NUS has also made significant strides in greening its campus environment. For instance, in 2009, University Town was the first recipient for the GM GoldPLUS District Award by BCA in recognition of its environmentally friendly and sustainable practices in master planning, design, and implementation of district developments.

“We aim to imbue a love for the environment and a sense of belonging amid our students and staff. NUS is the only local campus with an extensive campus greening, reforesting and rewilding programme. In support of the National Parks Board’s (NParks) OneMillionTrees movement, we have pledged to plant 100,000 trees on campus by 2030, the largest pledge by a non-government entity on its own premises. Thanks to the enthusiastic support of the NUS community, over 41,000 trees have been planted campus-wide through various tree-planting and reforestation activities since 2018,” said Mr Koh Yan Leng, NUS Vice President (Campus Infrastructure).

Additionally, more green spaces have been added with the creation of naturalised gardens and campus nature ways. In recognition of its extensive greening efforts, NUS received six awards under the 2020 Landscape Excellence Assessment Framework certification scheme by NParks – the highest number of awards received by a non-government entity to date.

First educational institution in Singapore to tackle urban hotspots

Finally, NUS is using its sprawling campus of over 150 hectares as a vibrant living laboratory that allows for the NUS community to testbed innovations and incubate technologies to tackle climate change.

One example is how NUS will be using the campus grounds to testbed solutions to improve outdoor thermal comfort, which refers to one’s state of mind in terms of whether one feels too hot or too cold when outdoors. To this end, an extensive high-resolution sensor network with over 50 sensors will be set up across the campus by the first half of 2024. These sensors will measure various environmental factors, including ambient temperature, solar radiation, and wind, thereby providing comprehensive data on the micro-climate conditions on campus. As the first educational institution in Singapore to tackle urban hotspots, NUS will adopt an evidence-based approach, where the sensors’ data will be used to set the baseline, trial and evaluate mitigation measures to improve outdoor thermal comfort, fostering a climate resilient, cool campus.

Read the full press release here