July 12, 2009

property special

Green homes are catching on

More home buyers now recognise the benefits of an eco-friendly home and are willing to pay a premium

By Jessica Cheam

Green projects like City Developments' Savannah CondoPark have features such as solar panels on the rooftop of the clubhouse (left), which provide part of the power needed. -- PHOTO: CDL

When the Government launched Singapore's first green building rating system - the Green Mark - five years ago, sustainability and climate change were unfamiliar terms to the public.

Today, on the back of growing awareness of environmental issues, property developers are recognising the rising demand for eco-friendly spaces and are constructing 'greener' buildings.

The Green Mark scheme took some time to get off the ground, with only 17 buildings securing the stamp of approval in the first year it was established.

But now, the number of green offices, factories and homes has hit 300 and counting - and the authorities are aiming higher.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Sustainable Development has set ambitious targets such as the greening of 80 per cent of all buildings in Singapore by 2030.

Although green home is a term that trips easily off the tongue, what gives a home its green credentials?

The Building and Construction Authority's (BCA's) website offers this definition:

The term green home refers to a home that is built-in with technologies and sustainable practices that improve the energy efficiency, water efficiency and indoor environment quality.

BCA says that the building process is another important consideration: A green construction practice would consider resource management, durability and general environmental appropriateness of a structure.

A green home is typically designed with better ventilation systems, built with low-toxic materials and recycled components and designed to have a long and efficient life-cycle.

International surveys have found that home buyers are willing to pay a premium for green homes - firstly, because they save money on lower energy bills, and secondly, because of the intangible benefits such as a healthier, cleaner environment and higher indoor air quality.

So how does one go about getting a green home?

An easy way to go about it would be to buy into homes that have been certified Green Mark.

Property developers such as City Developments and CapitaLand have built some residential projects that have achieved such a rating.

These projects typically use some form of renewable energy such as solar power, have energy-efficient fittings and utilise innovative solutions such as recycling rainwater.

New HDB flats are also now mandated to achieve the basic Green Mark rating, and some projects such as [email protected] Punggol have higher environmental standards and performance.

But even if your current home is not Green Mark certified, there are many things you can do to raise your green quotient.

Tips on the BCA's website include:

# Home orientation. Having a well-positioned home improves comfort and also reduces energy bills. Avoid homes with a full height glazing facing west. Heat gained from solar radiation by east/west facades is much higher than that gained from north/south facades.

# Natural ventilation. Having good natural ventilation is the least expensive way to cool a home. The layout of one's home should be designed to take advantage of Singapore's prevailing north-south wind conditions, achieving adequate cross-ventilation within the home.

# Sun-shading. Having proper sun-shading improves comfort. Sun-shading should be provided for facades facing east and west to shield the home from direct sunlight, minimising solar heat gain. Balconies, planters and bay windows may act as sun-shades.

# Energy. Having electrical appliances, such as air-conditioners and refrigerators, bearing the 'Energy Label' can help to save electricity. For example, you can expect $960 in annual savings if your air-conditioner has four ticks instead of a conventional one.

Choose energy-saving lamps that convert energy into usable light and emit less heat.

# Water-efficient fittings. Having water fittings, such as flushing cisterns, showers and taps, bearing the 'Water Efficiency Label' can help to cut costs and save water.

# Maximise daylight. Having ceilings and walls with highly reflective white surfaces helps to diffuse daylight into the space within the home.

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