NUS wins President’s Award for the Environment 2023

The first university in Singapore to receive this important award under the Educational Institution category, NUS is recognised for advancing sustainable development and significantly greening the built environment on campus

In recognition of its longstanding commitment towards advancing sustainable development and climate action, the National University of Singapore (NUS) has been conferred the prestigious President’s Award for the Environment 2023, Singapore’s highest accolade for environmental sustainability. NUS is also the first university in Singapore to receive this esteemed award under the Educational Institution category.

Professor Tan Eng Chye, President of the National University of Singapore (NUS), said: “NUS is honoured to be recognised with the President’s Award for the Environment, which affirms our whole-of-University approach in championing sustainability. 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.”

In contributing to the Singapore Green Plan 2030, NUS charted its long-term strategic goals through the Campus Sustainability Roadmap 2030, which guides the University in its transformation towards a carbon neutral, climate resilient and zero waste campus. The roadmap outlines NUS’ sustainability targets, namely, to reduce its campus Scope 1 and Scope 2 absolute carbon emissions by 30 per cent and purchase quality carbon offsets as a last resort; reduce energy usage intensity by 20 per cent; reduce daily waste disposed per capita by 30 per cent; improve outdoor thermal comfort; and plant 100,000 trees by 2030. All of these targets are aligned with, or exceed, the goals outlined in the GreenGov.SG initiative.

Over the years, the University has made significant strides in greening the built environment on campus. Among its notable achievements include attaining the certification of University Town as Singapore’s first Green Mark (GM) GoldPLUS district by the Building Construction Authority (BCA) in 2009; constructing Singapore’s first purpose-built net-zero energy building, SDE4, which is today a net-positive energy building; and bagging BCA’s GM Platinum Champion Award in 2021.   

First net-zero energy building cluster in Singapore

Beyond upholding high energy performance standards for buildings on campus, the University continues to push the boundaries in the built environment sector by establishing Singapore’s first net-zero energy building cluster comprising SDE4 and two adaptive reuse buildings, SDE1 and SDE3.

SDE4 was among a small handful of buildings nationwide to be accorded BCA’s GM 2021 in Operation Platinum Positive Energy Award. This is in recognition of SDE4’s best-in-class energy performance 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 (EUI) of 47 kWh/m2/year, which is 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. In the same year, the building generated 565,000 kWh of renewable solar energy while consuming only about 398,000 kWh.

Originally built in the 1970s, a landmark initiative saw SDE1 and SDE3 being redesigned and retrofitted with modern, net-zero energy, and green architectural elements. The two buildings have also 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).

First educational institution in Singapore to tackle urban hotspots

Using the campus as a vibrant living laboratory, NUS is the first local educational institution to develop a plan to improve outdoor thermal comfort. The University will draw on its expertise in research and campus operations to progressively set up an extensive high-resolution sensor network comprising over 50 sensors[1] across the campus, by the first half of 2024.

These sensors will measure a multitude of environmental factors such as ambient temperature, solar radiation and wind across different urban morphologies and vertical heights for a comprehensive understanding of the micro-climate conditions on campus. By analysing quality baseline data and conducting simulation modelling, mitigation measures can be identified and trialed to tackle hotspots on campus. These measures can also be evaluated on their effectiveness in improving outdoor thermal comfort.

Building a biophilic and greener campus

To further boost its greening efforts, NUS has pledged to plant 100,000 trees on campus by 2030 – the largest number pledged by a non-government entity on its own premises. These trees will contribute to 10 per cent of the National Parks Board’s (NParks) OneMillionTrees movement. Over 41,000 trees have been planted campus-wide through various tree planting and reforestation activities since 2018.

In addition, the University has been expanding green spaces on campus through creating naturalised gardens and curating campus nature ways. As a testament to its extensive greening efforts, NUS received six awards under the 2020 Landscape Excellence Assessment Framework certification scheme by NParks – the highest number of awards clinched by a non-government entity to-date. 

[1] Over 40 weather stations, 6 infrared cameras, 3 meteorological towers and 1 unmanned aerial vehicle