BCA Green Mark Scheme: What It Is All About? (Abridged Version)

The BCA Green Mark Scheme was launched by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) in January 2005. Supported also by the National Environment Agency, it aims to make Singapore’s built-up environment eco-friendly by awarding four different levels of rating: Green Mark certified, Gold, GoldPLUS, Platinum (previously Silver, Gold, Platinum and Platinum Star) to buildings that meet five key criteria:

  • Energy Efficiency
  • Water Efficiency
  • Site/Project Development & Management (Building Management & Operation for existing buildings)
  • Good Indoor Environmental Quality & Environmental Protection
  • Innovation

The rating given depends on the points garnered under the assessment. Awarded buildings are re-assessed every three years to retain their status. Into its seventh year now, this scheme has evolved to include parks, office interiors and other infrastructure. Currently, it is divided into four categories of infrastructure.

The government’s commitment to promote sustainable development was demonstrated in the master-plan BCA came up with in the second year of the inception of the Green Mark scheme. Named the “1st Green Building Masterplan”, the project introduced several new initiatives to further boost Singapore’s pursuit of a greener living environment. Among which include courses and certification for green building specialists and the imposition of minimum environmental standards – equivalent to the Green Mark Certified level – for all new public sector buildings and buildings undergoing major retrofitting works. Others include a S$20 million Green Mark Incentive Scheme for new buildings and a S$50 million R&D Research Fund to develop green technology. This research move brought forth the first retrofitted Zero-Energy Building in Singapore and Southeast Asia – a flagship BCA’s project. Retrofitting the building – located in the grounds of the BCA academy – is a joint effort by BCA and NUS, in which a three-storey school building was fully equipped with green technology. The building was opened in October 2009.

This master-plan was followed by the “2nd Green Building Masterplan” in 2009. The key objective of the second road-map is to have at least 80% of the buildings in Singapore achieve the Green Mark Certified level by 2030. The plan comprises six strategic thrusts, key initiatives include making it mandatory for all new public sector buildings to attain the Green Mark Platinum status and launching a Green Mark Gross Floor Area (GM GFA) Incentive Scheme, which awards to private developers that earn the Platinum or GoldPLUS accolade, an additional GFA of up to 1% or 2%, respectively, above the Master Plan Gross Plot Ratio (GPR). For developers, a higher GFA means they can build more houses or buildings on the site.

Gross Floor Area (GFA) = Gross Plot Ratio (GPR) x Site Area

Before the GM GFA, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has been introducing various bonus Gross Floor Area incentive schemes to encourage high rise greenery, public artwork promotion, among others. Fearful of excess bulk on a site, in 2009, URA imposed a 10% cap on the additional GFA allowable beyond GPR. Now all development sites cannot have more than 10% additional GFA above the GPR, regardless of the number of bonus GFA incentive schemes they are eligible for.

Perhaps the promotion of the Green Mark scheme abroad has taken off because according to BCA, as of November 2011,”133 overseas projects have been certified, or are seeking Green Mark certification” (“Green Buildings Make Value Propositions”).

Apart from the above incentive schemes to provide financial aid and other incentives to building owners, another two schemes in place are the S$5 million Green Mark Incentive Scheme – Design Prototype (GMIS-DP) and Pilot Building Retrofit Energy Efficiency Financing (BREEF) Scheme. The former provides funding support for developers at the design stage; while the latter provides credit facilities for retrofitting.

To further spur developers to adopt sustainable and energy-efficient development, BCA came up with the Green Mark Champion Awards in 2008 to recognise developers who have demonstrated corporate social responsibility. Under this award, developers that have a number of buildings with Green Mark Gold and above rating are eligible for the Green Mark Champion or Green Mark Platinum.

Thus far, the Green Mark Scheme has proven largely successful judging by the jump in number of buildings certified with a rating. In 2005 and 2006, only 17 buildings were qualified for the award. But this figure skyrocketed to more than 1180 as of May 2012.

So why the motivation by developers to obtain the ratings? Besides the incentives of additional GFA under the Green Mark Gross Floor Area (GM GFA) Incentive Scheme, having a Green Mark reputation can enhance the firm’s competitive edge in overseas ventures. The saving in energy costs will also translate to higher property and rental values.

“A Green Mark Platinum building, for instance, can achieve more than 30% energy-savings compared to a code-compliant building” (“2nd Green Building Masterplan”).

In addition, a joint study on 23 commercial properties, in 2011, by BCA and NUS with six top real estate consultancy firms, revealed that retrofitting commercial buildings with green technologies can cut operating expenses by 10 per cent, on average. While commercial buildings can enjoy capital appreciation of about 2 per cent.

Specifically, the average total saving in energy consumption for a building after retrofitting to attain the standard BCA Green Mark certification can be as high as 17 per cent of its total energy consumption.

Further, retrofitting may not be costly.

“There is now greater awareness in the industry that the upfront cost of retrofitting energy inefficient buildings can be recovered in about 4 to 7 years,” said Mr Quek See Tiat, Chairman, BCA (“BCA-NUS Study shows that Greening Existing Buildings can Increase Property Value”).

It is also estimated that the retrofit cost, expressed as a percentage of the current market value of property, is only 0.5% for retail and 1% for offices.

BCA’s well thought-out green initiatives have been a huge success in creating a win-win situation for different groups in this tiny red dot. For building owners, they gain from the lower maintenance costs. For developers, including green features are done at low costs and with no impact to GPR (due to the bonus GFA incentive schemes), but these features not only enhance the aesthetic beauty of the buildings, they also translate to reputation boost and higher property values. For the community at large, they get to enjoy healthier living spaces. Singapore is living proof that sustainable, green living is possible within an urban jungle.

References

1. Building and Construction Authority Newsroom, “BCA-NUS Study shows that Greening Existing Buildings can Increase Property Value”, 16 Sep 2011, Web

http://www.bca.gov.sg/Newsroom/pr16092011_BN.html

Green Deal Scheme – Overview of the Initiative

What is the process?

Under the Deal there must be an Accredited Assessment which is likely to take the form of an Energy Performance Certificate. This assessment will show what improvements could be made to the property. If the improvements qualify for Green Deal Finance under the Golden Rule then an approved Deal Installer will undertake the improvement works. There is no upfront cost to the client and the repayments for the installation will be made through charges on the property utility bills.

What is the Golden Rule?

The Golden Rule is in two parts. First, the actual cost of installing the measure must be equal to or less than the potential savings that could be made from installing the measure. Second, the term of the repayments must be shorter than the expected product life. If the improvement doesn’t meet the Golden Rule then it will not qualify for the Green D Finance.

What is Green Deal Finance?

The Green Finance provides access to energy efficiency improvements at no upfront cost. If the improvement qualifies under the Golden Rule then the cost of the measure is paid back through savings made on the Utility Bill. These repayments will be form part of a charge levied over the property Utility Bills which will continue regardless of future owner or tenant, until the cost is repaid. The payments will be deducted by the Utility Provider and will be covered by the Consumer Credit Act. Before the Green Deal Finance can be agreed and the improvement installed express consent must be given by all interested parties, in particular the Utility Bill Payer.

What happens if the property is sold or let to a new tenant?

The charge on the Utility Bills through Deal Finance belongs to the property and the Utility Bill payer. Whoever is paying the bills will have to continue to pay the Green Deal Finance cost.

What improvements are likely to be available?

The improvements are likely to include insulation improvements, such as loft and cavity wall insulation; heating system changes, such as boiler upgrades; and renewable technologies, such as solar panels. Any improvements would have to be installed by a certified and approved Green Deal Provider who will be qualified installers for the product.

Green Energy Credits Can Help Your Business Profit from Being Green!

Here’s a thought: can we control pollution by building a nation-wide program that can give financial incentives to industries that can better their environmental and operational baselines? A program for carbon emissions trading, trading green energy credits, does just that. The credits, and the trading system that has evolved from them, are a unique way to control air pollution that could benefit your company on the bottom line as well.

The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments defined a new era in means of control of air pollution: provide for an overall limit on emissions, for specific pollutants for specific industries, and let the industries work together to make certain it works, by giving them a way to benefit from doing better than the permit requires. This program was the result of the recognition that we need electricity, that energy generation emits pollutants, and that simply demanding massive reductions in emissions is a certain way to make the cost of electricity very high.

Under the EPA program, a “Cap”, or a maximum permitted amount of emissions, is defined for a group of sources. Permit holders are given allowances to emit a specific quantity of pollutants (e.g., a “ton”). The total number of allowances across a target group defines the level of the cap.

Industries can meet their emissions compliance targets by technology, that is, with air pollution control equipment, or by acquiring allowances from other permit holders, at a price. So, those who do better than their permit requirements have allowances available that can be sold to other operators, which provides all the parties in the group with a market-based means of achieving compliance, since the total amount of allowances represents the maximum allowable total emissions from that industry group.

Those who have money for technology install it and reduce their emissions. They can sell their excess allowances to those who do not have the newer technology, and they will certainly sell them for as much as they can–at more than the cost of the technology-thereby eventually forcing the others to spend the capital budget to be competitive.

Further, EPA regularly removes a number of allowances from the pool to ratchet down the total amount of air pollution. This program has been overwhelmingly successful in controlling Acid Rain.

So interest has been building in finding a similar means to reduce greenhouse gases. EPA doesn’t regulate these yet in this fashion. But a financial market has developed that is willing to assign values to credits, and in Europe an already existing program provided a model.

In the US, the Chicago Climate Exchange allows its members to trade carbon financial instruments, based on caps and offsets agreed to by members and the exchange. Members trade contracts based on 100 metric tons of carbon emissions per contract. The mechanism for defining the cap is a baseline of operations for each business or member. If your operation does not directly emit carbon dioxide, other emissions can be converted to carbon dioxide equivalents, using a Greenhouse Gas Protocol from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The membership requires a legally binding commitment to a phased reduction in carbon generation.

Entities who provide and trade these credits include car makers and coal companies, forestry companies, cities, waste companies, universities, and states. The emissions sources and offset projects are found across the hemisphere and include fleet fuels, forest plantings and agricultural methane control schemes–things that benefit our air via reduction of CO2.

So, how do you control air pollution, without limiting the benefits of of the energy we use as a modern civilization? Create a way to make limiting air pollution less costly, and even profitable! If anyone tells you you can’t make money by controlling pollution, tell them there is power in green! it’s green, like money, and trades, like commodities, and traders and industries both benefit!