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Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance and Chairman of the National Research Foundation at the Opening Ceremony of the School of Design and Environment Building, on 30 Jan 2019, 10.30 am, at NUS School of Design and Environment

30 Jan 2019
Mr Hsieh Fu Hua, Chairman of NUS Board of Trustees,

Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS President,

Professor Lam Khee Poh, Dean of School of Design and Environment,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good morning to everyone. This is the first new-build net-zero energy building in Singapore. I hope that this net-zero building opens up infinite possibilities for us to learn to collaborate with one another, to play and to have fun.

2. Singapore has come a long way in our liveability and sustainability journey. 

a. From the outset, we envisioned Singapore to be one of the cleanest and greenest cities in the world. 

i. In our early years, we faced overcrowded slums, polluted rivers and poor hygiene and sanitation. We cleaned up rivers, provided proper sewerage systems, and planted ample greenery and trees. I am very happy to hear from Eng Chye that you are planning to plant more trees in the campus. And, over time, we created new nature reserves, built new ABC waterways and park connectors. Because of these efforts, Singaporeans and visitors can now enjoy our beautiful “City in a Garden”. 

b. We are also actively managing the consumption of scarce resources such as water and energy. 

i. Mercer ranked Singapore as Asia’s most liveable city in their annual Quality of Living Survey last year.  Arcadis ranked Singapore fourth globally in its Sustainable Cities Index in 2018. 

ii. These would not have been possible without long term planning, disciplined implementation and enforcement. 

iii. Liveability and sustainability is not a matter of choice. Rather, it is critical for us to survive and thrive as a city-state.

Trends affecting liveability and sustainability  

3. Our journey is not done. One reason is Climate Change. It is a threat to the world. 

a. Singapore is feeling the effects of extreme weather. Singapore is also vulnerable to rising sea levels because of our long coastlines and low-lying areas. 

b. We must consider the far reaching impacts of climate change, and take concrete steps to protect ourselves.

c. The building sector plays an important role because it accounts for one-quarter of Singapore’s carbon emissions. 

i. We have made green buildings a priority to tackle climate change. Currently, about 36% of our buildings are green. We plan to raise this to 80% by 2030.

ii. The carbon tax is implemented this year. It is an important signal to companies and households to reduce carbon emissions and adopt energy efficient practices. 
iii. Singapore has also pledged to reduce our emissions intensity by 36% from 2005 levels by 2030, and stabilise our greenhouse gas emissions around 2030. 

4. Singapore will also need to adapt our urban design and built environment to support changing demographics, particularly an ageing population. Our urban renewal efforts need to be inclusive and cater to all segments of society – young and old.  

a. We are designing new buildings and social places that help to promote interaction among the community. 

i. For example, we designed Kampung Admiralty which is an integrated “vertical kampong” with facilities to take care of both our young and old. Kampung Admiralty won the Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival last year.

b. The Government is committed to rejuvenating our towns. 

i. Several towns such as Dawson, East Coast, Hougang, Jurong Lake, Punggol, Yishun have benefited from the Remaking Our Heartlands Initiative. 

ii. PM also announced the expanded Home Improvement Programme (HIP) scope and the HIP II at NDR 2018. 

c. We continue to make our town environment liveable for seniors. 

i. For example, by smoothening pathways, improving pedestrian networks with safer traffic junctions, and making homes safer through HDB’s Enhancement for Active Seniors programme. 

5. Singapore has come a long way. However, as Minister Lawrence Wong said “we are not done building Singapore”. The government, academia and industry must come together to achieve better outcomes for our built environment. Let me suggest three ways:

a. First, harness technologies and drive innovation;

b. Second, continue to build a professional workforce and develop talents; and

c. Third, increase resiliency and sustainability of our urban environment. 

How we must respond

6. First, we need to continue to harness technologies, and drive innovation to improve our living environment.

a. Under the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 plan, a key domain area is Urban Solutions and Sustainability as Eng Chye mentioned earlier. 

i. Singapore has developed a 150 million dollars Cities of Tomorrow R&D programme to fund R&D in urban solutions.  

b. Harnessing technologies is particularly important given Singapore’s resource constraints. 

i. SDE4 uses green technologies, including a solar photovoltaic system that can generate enough energy to offset the entire building’s needs. 

c. Apart from generating energy, we should also look at improving energy efficiency. BCA’s Super Low Energy, or SLE, Programme guides how we can achieve increased energy efficiency.

i. Developing SLE buildings begins at the design stage, by actively integrating design with technologies to reduce consumption.

ii. BCA is working actively with NUS to find ways to cool buildings. This usually accounts for 40% - 50% of the building’s energy consumption. SDE4 adopts a hybrid cooling design that helps to achieve energy savings by augmenting conventional air conditioning systems with elevated air speeds from ceiling fans. 

i. I am glad to know that SDE4 will be among the first to achieve the BCA Green Mark (Zero Energy) certification.

7. To promote the development of more buildings like SDE4 that leverage technology to improve building performance, BCA is awarding a 5 million dollars grant to eight smart building projects under its “Innovation Challenge Call – Advancing Net Zero through Smart Building Technologies”. 
a. These projects leverage latest technologies such as Internet of Things, data analytics and machine learning to develop innovative solutions to sustainable buildings. The solutions will be applied in actual buildings, to drive research and innovation towards commercialisation.

8. The second way to achieve better outcome is to continue to build a professional workforce and develop talents to lead and transform the built environment sector. 

a. This is where SDE contributes to developing our students by providing them with real-world experience and equip them with industry relevant skills. 

i. The conceptualisation, design and building of SDE4 presented an experiential learning experience for SDE students to contribute ideas on the design and construction of SDE4. We should encourage more of such opportunities for our students. And in fact, earlier on, speaking to many of you who were involved in this project, we suggested that perhaps the process of designing this building is also a great learning experience for all of you and that we should document some of this and this can be a new Masters or Diploma that NUS can offer- learning by doing, and how do we innovate through learning by doing.

ii. SDE is a key partner in pushing up productivity in the built environment sector. For example, technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) and Integrated Digital Delivery facilitate collaboration, achieve synergies and better outcomes. I understand that our students can pick up these skills at the NUS Centre of Excellence in BIM Integration at SDE. 

b. In addition, SDE will also serve as an incubator for both research and development of solutions. For example, the Centre for Ageing Research in the Environment within SDE studies the problems faced by our seniors and find solutions that will improve their quality of life. 

i. Such efforts increase the collaborations between academia and industry to develop research that can be translated to sustainable solutions with support from the Government. 

9. The Government is also committed to supporting the training of manpower through various initiatives. 

a. BCA has set up a one-stop office, BuildSG to drive implementation of the Industry Transformation Maps with tripartite stakeholders. One of the three centres, the iBuildSG, manages career promotion and provides talent attraction, retention and development services. 

b. There are also various government support schemes. For example, main contractors can tap on Workforce Singapore’s Capability Transfer Programme to facilitate transfer of capabilities by working together with specialist sub-contractors. 

10. Our workforce will not only contribute locally, but can also compete and thrive overseas. 

a. Infrastructure demands in Asia are large. The Asian Development Bank estimated that from 2016 to 2030, the infrastructure needs for developing Asia will reach 26 trillion US dollars (or 1.7 trillion US dollars per year ). Our workforce can benefit from the growing opportunities for infrastructure and urban solutions in the region.

11. The third way to achieve better outcome is to work towards increasing resiliency and sustainability of our built urban environment. 

a. At the individual building-level, the entire lifecycle of a building needs to be carefully considered. During the design phase, the long-term operational aspect must already be taken into account, so that the building can be optimised over time to realise more savings. 

i. For example, this can be achieved by integrating data analytics with infrastructure. SDE4 has a control centre ‘cockpit’ for online, real-time monitoring, display and control of their systems and performances. This facilitates intervention and corrective action to be taken promptly.

ii. This has in turn helped SDE4 achieve the WELL certification  – a first for Singapore. The WELL Building Standard™ as we heard from Prof Lam earlier administered by the International WELL Building Institution measures and monitors conditions within the building to improve health and wellness of the people who live and work in the building. 

b. Indeed, keeping people in mind is important. Ultimately, our buildings must be more than just bricks and mortars. They must be human-centric as we heard earlier, and help to promote interactions among its occupants and connect them and improve wellness.  

i. SDE4 has adopted an open concept that will bring users not only closer to nature, but also encourage more interactions between the students, faculty and staff to learn and work together. 

c. The sustainability of our built environment goes beyond the design and performance of individual buildings. We must continue to integrate buildings with the larger environment, and develop good urban design to build Singapore into an endearing home. In fact, just looking out of the window, we can see that from here, we can see the port, and I am glad that the port will be relocated to the Tuas end of the city and this should open up great opportunities. I was talking to Eng Chye earlier about how we now have green corridor from the Kent Ridge all the way to Mount Faber. So all these are exciting opportunities and I am sure that there will be interesting work we can do with NParks and our Centre for Liveable Cities. Through urban design, we shape physical buildings and their architecture, as well as how spaces between them can become attractive and safe for the community to interact and bond. 

i. While Singapore faces land and space constraints, with competing needs for residences, industries, and leisure, let us turn these constraints into new opportunities. Good urban design can help to integrate these competing needs to increase our vibrancy and attractiveness of our city as a place to live, work, learn and play.

ii. We must continue to find innovative and sustainable ways to improve urban design to build a better home for our future generations. I am happy to learn that URA is working on strengthening the character and identity of our various districts to ensure that re-development is carried out in an integrated manner, where new developments complement our heritage buildings.

12. Finally, let me take the opportunity to congratulate SDE on your Golden Jubilee.

a. You have trained many of Singapore’s built environment professionals. Several of you here have helped to build infrastructure, housing and landmarks. Singapore’s beautiful skyline and lovely buildings owe much to your efforts. Your legacy is all around us.

b. I am also glad to know that SDE has set up the SDE50 Development Fund and SDE50 Student Development Fund.

i. The Funds will advance and support SDE’s development activities such as staff and student development activities and provide financial aid and scholarships to undergraduates. 
ii. This is in line with our broader efforts to foster the spirit of giving in our people. I encourage everyone to contribute to these funds.


13. Let me conclude. I have shared with you three suggestions on how we can improve Singapore’s liveability and sustainability: (i) harness technologies and drive innovation; (ii) continue to build a professional workforce and train talents; and (iii) increase resiliency and sustainability of our urban environment.

14. Over the past five decades, SDE has played an important role in developing our workforce for the built environment. The opening of SDE4 as a new-build, net-zero energy building takes this one step further. It is also a good example of how we can achieve better and more sustainable outcomes when the government, industry and academia work closely together.

15. Once again, I congratulate NUS SDE on your Golden Jubilee and the opening of the SDE4 building! 

Thank You!