CITY DEVELOPMENT LTD grows and succeeds as Singapore’s sustainable building pioneer

Relevant implications for the Building and Construction sector identified in GEO-5 for Business:

  • Population growth, rapid urbanization, and economic development resulting in substantial demand for new buildings
  • Increasing concerns about climate change, waste, and resource scarcity driving adoption of on-site renewable energy and energy-, water-, and resource-efficiency
  • Increasing pressure to change construction practices — and expanding markets for sustainable buildings and sustainable design and construction skills — in order to reduce consumption of water and resources and generation of waste
  • Increasing consumer demand for building materials and designs that incorporate renewable resources, recycled materials, and energy- and water-efficient technologies and processes
  • Increasing regulatory measures to drive green building practices and technologies, reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and minimize waste
  • Enhanced reputation from achieving green building certifications

As a small island city-state with limited land area, limited ability to draw on renewable energy sources on a large scale, and a fast-growing population (expected to grow from 5.4 million in 2014 to 6.5 million in 2030), Singapore has been proactive in adopting strict policies to minimize waste and to conserve, recycle, and wisely manage resources and energy.  The Singapore Green Plan 2012, for instance, included a goal of striving “towards zero landfills”. In order to keep pace with its fast-growing construction market, the government of Singapore also launched a green building rating tool in 2005 — the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Green Mark Scheme — to promote sustainable design, construction, and operations of buildings, and it enacted the Building Control (Environmental Sustainability) Regulations in 2008 to require a minimum environmental sustainability standard for new buildings and major retrofits. City Developments Limited (CDL) understood Singapore’s challenges and has been well ahead of government policies in promoting sustainable buildings and construction.

Sustainability as a core corporate principle

City Developments Limited, established in 1963, is a Singapore-listed property and hotel conglomerate that is also involved in real estate development and investment. In the mid-1990s, recognizing the challenges Singapore faced and the public perception of the building industry as having a negative impact on the environment, CDL refocused its business around green building infrastructure and technology. Years before government policies and programs became a driving force in the sector, CDL adopted a company ethos to ‘Conserve as we Construct’ and remodeled its operations around a triple bottom line strategy focused on financial, environmental, and social performance. CDL’s foresight in working to green Singapore’s built environment helped it become an industry leader and innovator — and meant that increasing government environmental regulations had little impact on the company’s operations.

CDL’s ethos and vision have led it to adopt a range of practices in its developments to address climate change and Singapore’s energy, water, and waste constraints.  For example, the company has set a minimum target of BCA Green Mark GoldPlus for all new developments, has incorporated renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies into some of its buildings and investment properties, and has utilized practices and explored innovative technologies that promote water conservation in its developments. CDL has also pursued a range of strategies, including prefabrication and requirements for construction and demolition waste recycling, to reduce the impact of the company’s waste on the environment. CDL continuously assesses environmental impacts at its worksites, offices, and investment buildings, including measuring energy use, water consumption, waste generation, and carbon emissions.

Track record of innovation

As of early 2014, CDL had 67 BCA Green Mark certified properties, the most in the sector.  Between 2008 and 2013, CDL achieved an estimated reduction in annual electricity consumption worth US$ 30.4 million from 48 of its Green Mark buildings, and in 2013, CDL buildings generated a total of 199,732 kWh of renewable energy. CDL’s sustainability leadership, however, goes beyond just the number of green properties and extends to the type, visibility, and innovative nature of the company’s projects.

CDL developed Singapore’s first eco-mall, City Square Mall, which opened in 2009.  The mall, which is certified BCA Green Mark Platinum and LEED Gold, has a high-efficiency air conditioning system, a green roof with solar panels and water harvesting capabilities, a North-South orientation to reduce solar absorption (and thus energy needed for cooling), and many other features. 

CDL set another milestone with the development of 11 Tampines Concourse, which was certified BCA Green Mark GoldPlus in 2009 and is billed as the first “carbon neutral” development in Singapore (so billed because CDL purchases carbon offsets for all emissions generated during construction and operations).  A range of energy- and water-efficient features deliver energy savings of about 620,000 kWh per year and water savings of about 280 m3 per year, on average.  Tampines Concourse is also the first building in Singapore built with extensive use of recycled materials for structural building components.

CDL’s forthcoming D’Nest condominium development has been designed to be a ‘Green Habitat’ that seamlessly integrates with its natural surroundings.  In addition to 1,520 m2 of solar panels on the rooftops (a Singapore record) that will generate about 600 kWh per day, D’Nest also includes a range of water-saving features that will yield estimated annual water savings of up to 41,849 m3, the equivalent of 27 Olympic-sized pools.  

CDL is also the first developer in Singapore to use Hempcrete, which is a bio-composite of the woody core of the hemp plant mixed with a lime-based binder and water.  In 2013, CDL used Hempcrete, which has good thermal properties and is naturally pest- and mold-resistant, for external wall cladding at the new Green Gallery at the Singapore Botanical Gardens.  CDL’s Gallery is Singapore’s first zero-energy gallery, with a solar-panel-covered roof that harvests more energy than the building needs, in addition to a green roof (to reduce the urban heat island effect), LED lighting, and other features.  The gallery’s external structure was also created in a prefabricated, modular way, reducing construction impacts and allowing for installation in less than 24 hours. The CDL Green Gallery has been awarded BCA Green Mark Platinum status.

These are just a few examples of the innovative sustainable buildings and development projects that CDL has pioneered. It has also become a leader in greening existing buildings. To enable CDL to tackle risks more quickly, cheaply, and innovatively than its competition, the company invests in research for new technology, building methods, materials, and lifestyle trends with input from customers, government agencies, academics, and its supply chain.

Building a green reputation

CDL’s innovation and leadership have enhanced its reputation and generated international accolades.  It is the first Singapore corporation to be listed on three global sustainability benchmarks (FTSE4Good Index, Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World, and Dow Jones Sustainability Indices).  

About CDL

As one of Singapore’s biggest landlords, CDL now owns over 7.8 million square feet of office, industrial, retail, residential, and hotel floor space locally and globally. CDL has also developed over 34,000 luxurious and quality homes across diverse market segments.

Quote Kwek Leng Joo, Deputy Chairman

“Companies with sustainability in their DNA are more resilient and make a better business model for success and long-term growth. Over the last 2 decades, our green commitment has driven us to innovate, to seize opportunities, and to sharpen our competitive edge.  For CDL, sustainability is crucial for our long-term viability.” Kwek Leng Joo, Deputy Chairman, City Developments Limited.

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