Which is more environmentally friendly for buildings retrofitting or demolishing?

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In 2010, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) released a manual titled Retrofitting an Existing Building. It emphasized the importance of retrofitting as an method to assist Singapore in achieving its ambition of greening at minimum eighty% the buildings it constructs in 2030. In the city-states, the pattern is to destroy and build. “This model is not long-term sustainable as it consumes huge amounts of energy that is increasingly scarce, which means that we are creating a huge waste of energy that is embodied,” BCA commented in the book.

Joelle Chen, the head for sustainability Asia Joelle Chen, head of sustainability Asia at Lendlease Joelle Chen, head of sustainability Asia at Lendlease, agrees. “Singapore has made progress. However, to make progress between the present to 2030, we must to get started retrofitting more homes,” she says.

The fourth version of the Singapore Green Building Masterplan (SGBMP) that was announced at the end of 2021 established targets of “80-80-80 by 2030” The goal is to green up the greening of 80% of the Singapore’s structures in terms of gross floor area, establishing an average of 80% of new developments classified as Super Low Energy buildings, and achieving an 80% increase in efficiency of buildings for the most efficient buildings in 2030.

To speed up the process in retrofitting BCA announced $63 million of funding to support the second version of its Green Mark Incentive Scheme for Existing Buildings (GMIS-EB) scheme in June. The goal is to inspire builders to seek the highest possible sustainability rating that is the Green Mark Platinum, Super Low Energy, or zero energy rating. The BCA created the $100 million GMIS-EB incentive program in 2009 to assist with the cost of retrofits that improve an existing buildings energy performance.

Enhancing sustainability
As per Minister of National Development Desmond Lee, 49% of Singapore buildings are green. But, a lot older buildings will need to be renovated to increase their sustainability levels as he stated in a speech in July 2022.

Retrofitting refers to the renovation of an existing structure to improve its efficiency. “At at a minimum the building should be retrofitted at least every 15 to 20 years to replace items such as chiller units and air conditioning systems when they get to at the conclusion of their life,” says Lendlease’s Chen.

Additionally, the owners of buildings are enticed to replace these systems since they can yield substantial energy savings. Chen says that a structure could achieve between 10% to 20% energy savings after retrofitting chiller plant systems as well as switching over to LED lights. “There’s an obvious return on investment when retrofitting existing systems.”

Retrofitting encompasses all sorts of improvements, regardless of whether they’re aimed at reducing carbon footprint, creating more value, increasing the quality of tenant experience and keeping up with building regulations and so on She adds. The types of upgrades vary from basic ones like the addition of a solar film to windows in a building to cut down on the heat and glare that can enter the building, to major retrofits that may involve changes to the facade and structural structure.

From a green point of view but retrofitting isn’t always the best option for sustainability according to Chen. The reason for this is that carbon emissions have to be taken into account throughout the construction’s lifespan. The majority of the time, 25% of the cost of carbon emissions for a building comes from the construction process (also called”embodied carbon”). The majority fifty percent% of the cost comes in the form of operational carbon. This is carbon that is released during the regular running of the building. In addition, the remaining% is derived from regular changes such as the replacement of the furniture or fittings.

“Doing the math’

If you are considering the possibility of retrofitting or building, Chen notes there are many factors to consider. “There is the commercial perspective however there are aspects of sustainability, such as energy efficiency and reduction in carbon emissions embodied in addition to making sure that the building is appropriate to its intended function.”

If the building’s age and design make it difficult to make improvements in its operation demolition of a building and rebuilding it could make sense in the end Chen says Chen. This is particularly the case when reconstruction is more sustainable by employing a significant percentage from recycled material, utilizing green construction techniques, or making use of biodiesel as a fuel for construction equipment.

For instance, SingTel announced last year that it had partnered with Lendlease to revamp their Comcentre office within the Somerset area of Orchard Road. The new building is expected to be a $3 billion “world-class sustainable workplace” that will feature the latest innovative technology for building. New York-based Kohn Fox is the architect of the design.

According Chen Chen Chen, the new Comcentre is scheduled to be Singapore’s first complete carbon-neutral project in terms of construction, design and operations. In the course of its life the net-zero development will be expected to bring an energy cost reduction of 9.9 million Kilowatt-hours.

Building owners must understand what they want from their structure and then figure out the way that numbers are stacked she says. “It’s about calculating the numbers and determining the logic behind it.”

This same method is behind the transformation of the old Certis Cisco Centre to Paya Lebar Green, which is being executed as a joint venture between Certis along with Lendlease. In this case, two of the structures will be renovated while the other one has been taken down. The area’s use will increase as the old seven-storey building being converted into a an additional 12-storey Grade A office building.

Redevelopment or retrofitting or redeveloping, both have the same goal, which is to ensure that a building fulfills its intended purpose. “Buildings are intended to be used by the people who live there,” Chen says. “They must offer a positive experience for people who spend time there.”