Green Mark sets the pace with “world’s first” green building ratings for laboratories — will it catch on?

by Brianna Crandall — June 9, 2017 — Singapore is continuing its pace-setting sustainability initiatives as the city-state’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) plans to launch what is said to be the “world’s first” green certification program dedicated to the design and operation of laboratories during the annual BCA Awards ceremony on June 13. The program will be run through the BCA Green Mark green building rating system. Singapore is considered one of the cleanest and greenest cities in the world. The program demonstrates best practices for laboratories around the world, and one can hope that the program will serve as a template for other green building programs to expand their focus on labs.

Laboratories are characterized by having high receptacle load due to their specialized needs, the need for fresh air dilution to meet safety requirements, and long operating hours. These result in labs being highly energy-intensive, typically consuming about three to five times more energy than a typical office space, says BCA. The group also pointed out that different laboratories have different specifications and safety requirements, making it a challenge to come up with a holistic system to rate them all.

The new program, called the BCA Green Mark for Laboratories, recognizes the sustainable efforts and commitment of laboratory owners and operators to reduce the environmental impact of lab operations. It also complements the BCA Green Mark for Buildings program by encouraging laboratory operators to adopt best practices and optimize the operations of laboratory equipment and systems, while addressing the safety requirements for laboratories.

Inaugural award winners of the new program demonstrate best practices

The two inaugural Platinum winners of the new program are the National University of Singapore (NUS) Chemistry Lab in Tahir Foundation Building and the Cambridge Centre for Advanced Research and Education in Singapore (CARES) laboratory. The third winner that clinched the Gold award is A*STAR’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology – IBN Chemistry Lab.

The chemistry laboratory in the Tahir Foundation Building at the National University of Singapore (NUS) was developed to incorporate green designs, features and practices that make them environmentally sustainable. For example, localized exhaust was installed for critical heat sources to reduce ventilation energy. On-site energy recovery was also implemented to reduce energy required for specific humidity control. Situated in a BCA Green Mark Platinum-awarded building, these sustainable laboratories require much lower demand for utilities as compared to similar laboratories, while at the same time ensuring high standards for health and safety.

The 846-square-meter Cambridge Centre for Advanced Research and Education in Singapore (CARES) laboratory, housed within the National Research Foundation (NRF) Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE), contains collaboration labs for chemical and biological research in greener chemical engineering processes. The CARES lab was designed to take advantage of the CREATE building’s energy-efficient features. CREATE is also a BCA Green Mark Platinum building. Beyond that, the team also integrated a number of engineering and risk control strategies to deliver a functional, safe and energy-efficient facility as a common collaborative space for its extended family of researchers. These include the use of local extract ventilation (LEV) such as canopy hoods and fume extraction to reduce ventilation energy, and the use of energy-efficient LED luminaires for lighting.

Occupant-centric Green Mark programs: record number of awarded projects

Since the launch of occupant-centric Green Mark programs by BCA in 2009, there has been a steady rise in the take-up rate. This year, BCA saw a record high in the total number of occupant-centric program winners, at around 120 winners, more than double the number in 2015. As part of this group, the new BCA Green Mark for Laboratories encourages building users to adopt energy-efficient measures. Other programs include the BCA Green Mark for Office Interior, BCA Green Mark for Restaurants, and BCA Green Mark for Supermarkets, among others.