The National University of Singapore (NUS) has unveiled new initiatives to further advance the sustainability goals of the University and the nation through its first building cluster targeting net-zero. It comprises two newly completed adaptive reuse projects and SDE4, which was recently accorded the Building Construction Authority (BCA) Green Mark (GM) 2021 in Operation Platinum Positive Energy Award, and a new center that aims to develop innovative solutions for sustainable, resilient, and liveable cities.

The initiatives were launched on February 2, 2023 by Mr. Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies.  

Built in the 1970s, SDE1 and SDE3 are among the oldest buildings at NUS Kent Ridge Campus. These two buildings were designed by the NUS College of Design and Engineering (NUS CDE) in collaboration with CPG Consultants through an academia-industry collaboration launched in 2015, to transform the usable space and to incorporate innovative building features for improved energy efficiency and comfort. The two buildings have a combined gross floor area of around 24,000 square meters, and are equipped with studios, workshops, research centers, offices, learning spaces, as well as public and social spaces.

NUS Cities, which is based in NUS CDE and helmed by Professor Khoo Teng Chye as its Director, aspires to be an interdisciplinary center that draws upon the wealth of expertise across NUS to offer university-wide education and research programmes that will improve the planning, management, and governance of high-density, high-growth, sustainable, resilient, and liveable cities.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye said, “We are very pleased to reaffirm NUS’ deep commitment to shaping the future of sustainability and climate action in an impactful way, through the launch of the first building cluster on campus aiming for net-zero, comprising SDE1 and SDE3 that are our first adaptive reuse projects on campus targeting net-zero energy and our existing net-positive energy building SDE 4, as well as, NUS Cities which is a strategic initiative to harness our diverse expertise and strong partnerships for the University to play a key role in urban systems education and research.”

“The race to net-zero is not a sprint, but a marathon that requires grit, careful planning, preparation and optimism. We will continue to integrate and scale NUS’ work in research, education, operations, and engagement to further promote environmental awareness and action on campus grounds and beyond. We are making good progress and we can definitely do more. I am confident that NUS’ vibrant community of innovative researchers, dedicated staff and enthusiastic students can make significant contributions towards Singapore’s long-term net zero emissions aspiration”

Professor Tan Eng Chye

One key approach of NUS’ sustainability strategy involves using its expansive campus grounds as a living laboratory to test-bed institution-led technologies and create innovative learning experiences for its students. SDE1 and SDE3 are compelling case studies showcasing the application of adaptive reuse interventions to optimize existing structures to meet new performance goals and at the same time preserving the buildings’ embodied carbon. These buildings are also open and accessible for faculty and students to learn from and teach from.

Professor Aaron Thean, Dean of the NUS College of Design and Engineering, said, “Sustainability is a key enabler for the knowledge and game-changing solutions that we create at the NUS College of Design and Engineering. The rejuvenation of SDE1 and SDE3 can increase awareness of technology, design, environment, and sustainability in our students and graduates. This project also represents the next benchmark for renovation and sustainability for the built environment in the future. In addition, we are proud to host NUS Cities, which will adopt a multidisciplinary, inclusive, and collaborative approach to tackling complex urban challenges.”

SDE1 and SDE3: Breathing New Life Into Old Buildings, Reaping Environmental Benefits

The reuse of SDE1 and SDE3 provides significant savings in terms of cost and carbon emissions. As the buildings are in good structural condition, the cost of renovating the buildings is substantially lower than demolishing it and constructing a new building. Furthermore, the embodied carbon footprint of SDE1 and SDE3 is estimated to be lower than a third of a similar new construction. The building’s total energy consumption is projected to be one-third of pre-renovation levels, directly reducing future carbon emissions.

The renovation of SDE1 and SDE3 was directed by the goal of creating spaces of inspiring architectural quality while simultaneously designing a building that operates on a low-energy-demand basis. The building envelope and interior are designed to respond to the tropical climate, combatting the sun, keeping out the rain, harnessing the wind and capturing natural light. 

NUS Cities: Creating A Community And Synergies For Sustainable, Resilient, And Liveable Cities

NUS has established NUS Cities, as a unique interdisciplinary and multifunctional centre to pioneer a systems approach for the discovery of holistic and innovative solutions to improve the governance, planning, and management of cities.

Based in the NUS CDE, the center will bring together innovative researchers and seasoned practitioners from diverse fields such as engineering, physics, public policy, architecture, and medicine. In its first phase, it will finetune its current educational offerings and expand them to provide a more complete spectrum of programmes to both undergraduate and graduate students. It will also pursue research and deliver advisory services in cities and urban solutions.

In conjunction with the launch of NUS Cities, the center hosted an inaugural lecture by Professor Alexander Zehnder, who is a member of the NUS Cities Panel of Advisors and a world-renowned environmental expert.

Photography: Finbarr Fallon

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