In Singapore's densely built-up urban environment, with limited land and few natural resources, greening buildings is vital to sustainability and one of the most effective ways for a city to reduce its carbon footprint. As recently as the 1990s, countries in tropical and subtropical regions had few existing guidelines. What did exist originated primarily in the U.S. and Europe and didn't necessarily apply to Singapore's very different climate.

By the mid 2000s, the Building and Construction Authority began developing our own green-building rating tool designed specifically for tropical conditions: the Green Mark. The introduction of the Green Mark and the attendant certification was a bold initiative to move Singapore's building and construction industry toward environmentally-friendly buildings by providing a standard benchmark and guideline for the industry to follow when constructing new buildings or retrofitting existing buildings. It assesses buildings for their energy and water efficiency, environmental protection, indoor environment quality and other green features and innovations.

The BCA Green Mark has been described as the tropics' answer to the U.S.-developed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. The Green Mark emphasizes natural ventilation, reducing heat gain and cooling inner spaces with air-conditioning. It differs from other green-building rating systems in that it has much stronger emphasis on energy efficiency and higher standards of measurement and verification instrumentations for air-conditioning chiller plant performance monitoring.

Future versions of the Green Mark will continue to focus on reducing total building energy consumption and optimizing life-cycle use of materials, while placing greater importance on a building's interior environmental quality and the health of its occupants.

Over the years, the Green Mark has also been extended to a wide range of developments, including schools, parks, infrastructure and mass-transit rail. Green Mark's provisions also cover certification for user-centric spaces such as data centers, office interiors, restaurants, supermarkets and retail.

Reassessments Required

Through legislation passed last year, BCA requires Green Mark-rated buildings to undergo re-assessment every three years. This measure is intended to encourage building owners and operators to take a committed and long-term view of sustainability and integrate it into daily operations.

The certification program is gradually becoming a benchmark for the Southeast Asian region and beyond. By mid-2013, close to 200 projects in over 10 countries had adopted the Green Mark and applied for certification.

The certification program also acts as a reference for other countries developing their own green-building rating systems.

Look at what BCA and Green Mark have accomplished in just one place, the Tianjin Eco-city in China. We jointly developed the Green Building Evaluation Standards (GBES) for the Eco-city, conducted customized training programs for Tianjin and government officials and industry professionals and acted as a technical advisor for the Low Carbon Living Lab in Eco-Business Park.