Built Environment Innovation Hub unveiled in Singapore to showcase and accelerate built environment technologies

Guest-of-honour Minister Indranee Rajah (middle) with BCA representatives (Image: BCA)

The Built Environment Innovation Hub (BEIH) was launched at Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Braddell Campus on 26 Oct 2023.

Held at the new seven-storey Zero Energy Mid-rise Building (ZEB) and 16-storey Super Low Energy High-rise Building (SLEB), which were completed earlier this year, the launch was graced by guest-of-honour Indranee Rajah, Singapore’s Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for National Development.

The BEIH aims to be a collaborative space to connect like-minded individuals and showcase innovative technologies of the built environment sector, and facilitate the transfer of ideas and knowledge to accelerate the transformation of the sector, be it in Singapore or globally.

In particular, the BEIH is in line with Singapore’s Built Environment Industry Transformation Map (BE ITM), an initiative launched in 2022 to transform the entire building lifecycle with BCA’s industry partners by harnessing emerging technologies and innovations to drive collaboration across various project parties.

These technologies and innovations will serve to cultivate a built environment that is “smart, productive and sustainable, poised to seize global opportunities”.

Minister Rajah shared during the opening ceremony of the launch: “With the completion of [the ZEB and SLEB], which are designed to support the built environment transformation, we are now re-positioning the campus as the BEIH.

“This is yet another step forward towards making our vision of an integrated and collaborative built environment ecosystem, with forward looking firms and innovative solution providers working together, a reality.”

Advanced manufacturing and assembling methods

Mass timber was used to construct the ZEB and SLEB of BCA Academy Braddell campus

One of the key transformation areas of the BE ITM is to further the use of advanced construction methods, such as prefabrication and Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA).

The two new buildings of BEIH, the ZEB and SLEB, are successful case studies of advanced construction methods in Singapore. Both buildings are made using mass engineered timber.

According to BCA, constructing with mass timber has helped to shorten onsite construction time, minimise disruption to surroundings, and contributed to improved workmanship.

As mass timber is harvested from sustainably managed forests, mass timber buildings have lower carbon footprint and net carbon emissions compared to steel or concrete buildings.

Combined with other advanced construction methods, such as advanced precast concrete system (APCS) and prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC), the construction of ZEB and SLEB achieved up to “15% productivity gain” in spite of COVID-19 disruptions, as well as “up to 80% reduction in onsite manpower”.

Sustainability

From right: Presentation by Dr Adrian Chong, National University of Singapore, assistant professor on the mixed mode ventilation system to Minister Rajah, and Heng Teck Thai, deputy CEO, BuildSG Office, BCA (Image: BCA)

Buildings account for over 20% of Singapore’s carbon emissions, and the cooling of buildings alone account for 40-50% of energy consumption in building operations, according to BCA.

A challenge faced by office buildings is its heavy reliance on air-conditioning due to Singapore’s tropical climate, characterised by high temperatures and humidity all year round.

Growing demands for air-conditioning are also expected with increasing global temperature brought about by climate change.

To reduce a building’s cooling energy consumption, BCA has collaborated with the National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), Kajima Corporation, and Surbana Jurong Consultants to develop a mixed mode ventilation system which cools office spaces without relying on energy-intensive air-conditioning.

This was one of the novel technologies showcased at the BEIH launch.

The proof-of-concept for the mixed mode ventilation system was conducted in BEIH over a two-week period. A full-scale demonstration is set to commence in January 2024 in SLEB.

Furthermore, the use of mass timber offers high thermal resistance and thermal mass, which contributes to indoor temperature stabilisation.

Other sustainability technologies and strategies used in ZEB and SLEB include the strategic placement of non-air-conditioned ventilated common spaces on lower floors to achieve thermal comfort; the use of passive displacement ventilation, resulting in approximately 86% savings in fan energy consumption as compared to conventional systems; high-efficiency solar photovoltaic panels on ZEB’s roof; and more.

As a result, both ZEB and SLEB are expected to achieve energy savings beyond 46%, exceeding the minimum 40% Green Mark 2015 baseline set by BCA.

Singapore’s Green Mark aims to provide a consistent method to assess and verify buildings for their overall environmental performance, assisting project teams to deliver a more sustainable built environment and encouraging best practices and market transformation.

Knowledge skill and transfer

The BEIH and BCA Academy also strive to support knowledge transfer in innovation and technology, through talent cultivation and competency development in its role as the Continuing Education and Training (CET) Centre for the built environment sector.

BCA will be prioritising in-demand and emerging skills in transformative areas to equip industry at all levels with knowledge and cutting-edge skills as the nation transits towards the refreshed ITM.

Additionally, as part of BCA Academy’s effort to increase the pool of mid-career entrants for forerunner firms, the academy will be launching a suite of five SkillsFuture Career Transition Programmes (SCTPs) for the built environment.

The SCTP is a initiative by Singapore to support mid-career individuals in acquiring industry-relevant skills to improve employability and pivot to new sectors or job roles.

One of the programmes includes sustainable design modules, such as ‘Sustainable Building Design Strategies’, ‘Advanced Digital Design for Sustainable Building’s, or ‘Green Building Design Criteria and Green Mark’.