Tuesday, March 23, 2010

$15m boost for green building practices

THE building industry got a leg up in its recycling efforts yesterday with the launch of a $15 million fund to help companies adopt more sustainable processes.

Demolition contractors, recyclers and ready-mixed concrete suppliers can now tap the Sustainable Construction Capability Development Fund to introduce and upgrade their recycled building products, said Senior Minister of State for National Development Grace Fu.

If need be, the Government may look into topping up the fund in the future, she said, speaking at the opening of a recycling technology project by local company Samwoh Corporation.

The Building and Construction Authority plans to increase demand for recycled materials by requiring building owners aiming for the top grades of its environmentally friendly building programme to adopt sustainable construction methods.

Currently, those aiming for the ‘Goldplus’ and ‘Platinum’ standards under its Green Mark scheme can opt out of these measures by beefing up other areas such as greenery and accessibility to public transport. But the changes make mandatory a prescribed minimum level of effort in this regard.

To give users more confidence in the reliability of recycled concrete, the Government will also, from October, require all ready-mixed concrete makers for the Singapore market to be certified according to new standards.

Ms Fu said the industry has ‘a long way to go’ in adopting more sustainable processes. ‘We need both the regulators as well as industry players, both the suppliers as well as developers and constructers, to come together,’ she added.

Singapore imports almost all of its construction materials like granite aggregate and sand, which are major components of concrete. Recent supply disruptions, rising material costs and shrinking landfill space have made the task of recycling demolition and construction waste urgent.

The National Environment Agency said 98 per cent of construction and demolition waste was recycled last year. The problem is that materials like recycled aggregate tend to line the bottom of roads or be cast into road kerbs rather than used back in buildings.

The president of the Ready Mixed Concrete Association and chief executive of Holcim Singapore, Dr Sujit Ghosh, said the $15 million fund could come in handy to pay for the extra monitoring of building projects that use the ‘green’ concrete his company produces.

This will help reassure building owners and consultants that they are not taking unnecessary risks with such new building materials. Most, he said, still stick to fresh materials as they will not have to calculate various specifications from scratch.

‘People are looking at the short-term monetary benefits. Recycled concrete is not necessarily significantly cheaper,’ he added.

Samwoh’s Eco-Green Park, which was officially opened yesterday, comprises an asphalt recycling plant, a ready-mixed concrete plant with recycling facilities, as well as the first building in South-east Asia to use fully recycled aggregates – made of granite – for one entire level.

The Ministry of Education is considering using recycled concrete in the structures of its upcoming schools.

Separately, the Land Transport Authority yesterday gave the green light for the use of recycled asphalt in roads.

The move could save up to 140,000 tonnes of raw material for road building each year.

Source: Straits Times, 23 Mar 2010

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