NTU champions sustainability with its new sports hall

Center: Mr Lawrence Wong, minister for National Development & second minister for Finance. Second from right: NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson 

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) yesterday unveiled its new sports hall named The Wave, the first large-scale building in Southeast Asia built using an innovative timber construction technology known as mass engineered timber (MET).

It provides five times better heat insulation than concrete and is able to support a continuous 72-metre wave-like roof without the need for internal columns.

Inside, it opens up a cavernous three-storey space with no internal pillars and which can host three full-sized basketball courts or 13 badminton courts.

The Wave is a showpiece of innovative technologies which includes 980 mechanised retractable seats, and a special cooling system that chills the air as it enters the hall so that no conventional air-conditioning systems are needed.

NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson said, “Sustainability is a core value of this university, and we walk the green talk, from education and research, to the building technologies on the NTU campus. As an owner of a pine tree forest in Sweden, I’m a firm believer in sustainable forestry. I’m proud that NTU has pioneered the innovative use of wood in buildings here resulting in another iconic NTU structure, The Wave. “

The Wave was officially opened by Mr Lawrence Wong, minister for National Development & second minister for Finance. He said, “The Wave marks a new milestone in Singapore’s push to be more productive in construction. We are very glad that NTU is supporting this effort. Their focus on environmental sustainability and openness to new building materials and methods show what we can achieve together. This gives us confidence that we can continue to build a better and more sustainable Singapore in the years to come.”

Dr John Keung, Chief Executive Officer, Building and Construction Authority (BCA), said: “NTU’s efforts in pioneering Mass Engineered Timber construction for its Sports Hall is commendable. It also reflects the ongoing transformation of the built environment sector towards advanced and less labour-intensive construction technologies with a greater focus on sustainable practices. By changing the way we build, firms can increase their competitiveness and create better jobs for locals in the built environment sector.”

Breaking new grounds in sustainability

Buildings with large roofs typically need columns or scaffoldings to support the weight and their size is limited if built without internal columns.

Beams may also have to be orientated along the shorter side of the structure, adding to the weight and complexity of the roof, and restricting the overall size.

With Mass Engineered Timber, NTU’s sports hall is designed with external columns to support the seven long-span timber arches which weigh over 440 tonnes. This is possible because MET is much stronger than concrete or steel when comparing its weight-to-strength ratio.

As the building process involves assembling prefabricated parts, construction is sped up, resulting in 25 percent savings in manpower.

The Wave comes with eco-friendly features such as energy-saving LED lighting and solar powered systems, and is designed to take advantage of its natural surroundings.

Using computer modelling of the sun and wind patterns on-site, the building designers aimed to harness the natural winds. Students will enjoy good ventilation with average wind speeds of about 0.4 metres per second.

Each external wall has two layers with a pocket of air between them that insulates the heat on hot days. The walls have special metal coils installed with chilled water flowing through them. This cools the wind that enters the hall allowing warmer air to escape through convection.

These eco features are estimated to save over 40 percent energy. Students can play badminton in this draft-free environment as there will be no wind disruption from fans. Neither is there a need for conventional air-conditioning to stay cool.

NTU holds the national record of 53 BCA Green Mark Platinum awards. The university is also the first recipient of the BCA Green Mark PlatinumSTAR Champion award – the highest accolade in Singapore for outstanding commitment to sustainable design.

The university is also set to become the greenest eco-campus in the world, with its aim to have a 35 percent reduction in energy, water and waste by 2020.

A lush green campus, NTU has been named one of the world’s Top 15 Most Beautiful Campuses by Business Insider, Travel and Leisure magazine and Buzzfeed.