Is Singapore Sustaining Itself?

Singapore is often seen as a leader in sustainable development in the region. Malaysia, for instance, developed the Green Building Index (GBI) after much consultation with Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

In June this year, Singapore will host the World Cities Summit, which promotes ‘sustainable and liveable cities’.

This event, will no doubt, position Singapore as a serious leader in promoting green technology in the region.

But is Singapore really a model for sustainable development?

On a micro level, it appears to be the case.

In the local real estate industry, the BCA has done a good job in regulating the property market by taking the lead.

For example, it has required all new public buildings and those undergoing major retrofitting works to meet the minimum standards of environmental sustainability that is equivalent to the Green Mark Certified level under its First Green Building Masterplan.

It has also required all existing public sector buildings to achieve the Green mark Gold Plus Award by 2020.

In addition, the BCA has continued to recognise developers who had gone green via its yearly BCA Awards – often dubbed the “Oscars” of Singapore’s building and construction industry.

This has helped push sustainable development standards higher as evidenced by this year’s awards ceremony.

New milestones achieved in the property market
Major Singaporean developers continue to make new strides in sustainable development as evidenced by the plethora of awards given at this year’s BCA Awards. This year the BCA handed out a whopping 159 awards.

CapitaLand won seven awards in total, four of which were for its residential developments.

The Interlace and its upcoming development at Farrer Road were conferred Green Mark Gold Plus awards for their green features, which range from good building design to the use of solar panels and water-efficient fittings.

In addition, RiverEdge and Varsity Park Condominium each won the Construction Excellence Award, which recognises construction projects which have demonstrated performance excellence.

CDL also achieved yet another industry milestone – its luxury 240-room W Singapore Sentosa Cove attained the first BCA Green Mark Platinum Award for a new hotel development.

For residential developments, Cube 8, Tree House, Volari and the W Singapore Sentosa Cove won four Green Mark Platinum Awards.

CDL also received three Construction Excellence Awards, two Design and Engineering Safety Awards and two Universal Design Awards.

CDL’s City Square Residences which won the Design and Engineering Safety Awards, was cited by the BCA for building a 126-metre wide diaphragm wall
to mitigate the risks in constructing three levels of basement car parks under difficult soil conditions.

Green controversies
On a macro level, however, Singapore has been under the spotlight on environmental issues but for all the wrong reasons.

For instance, Singapore has frequently been cited as having one of the highest per capita carbon emissions globally by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The EIA which provides energy statistics to the United States government, factors in data such as carbon emissions from bunker fuel, aviation and refining processes.

In May, Global Witness, an environmental organisation that exposes the corrupt exploitation of natural resources and international trade system, released a damaging report which alleged that Singapore was importing Cambodian sand illegally and without regard for the environment.

The city-state was also recently named as the worst offender in a study done by two universities.

The study, which was jointly undertaken by the National University of Singapore (NUS) study and the University of Adelaide, ranked Singapore as the worst environmental offender among 179 countries.

According to the study, Singapore has seen it lose 90 percent of its forest, 67 percent of its birds, about 40 percent of its mammals and 5 per cent of its amphibians and reptiles.

The Ministry for National Development and Ministry for the Environment and Water Resources had so far refuted both allegations respectively.

In the case of the Global Witness report, the Singapore government had stated that it has not been given official notice of the Cambodian sand ban.

Global Witness, on the other hand, had argued that the fact that Singapore is the main market for Cambodian sand and that the BCA had publicly commented on it in May 2009 suggests that the Singapore government is aware of the ban.

Global Witness and the two universities said they are standing by their statement.

While the verdict, is still out, perhaps the Singapore government could do more to show that it is really practicing what it preaches.

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