Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An icon for clean technology

Singapore's first business park catering to green companies will serve as a large-scale 'living laboratory' for testing and demonstrating clean technology

JTC is changing the approach to urban development and master planning with its CleanTech Park - Singapore's first business park catering to green companies.

The 50-ha eco-business park at Nanyang Avenue is pitched as the location of choice for forward-looking companies that have embraced environmental sustainability. Joint developers JTC and the Economic Development Board hope the project will push the boundaries of sustainability by serving as a large-scale 'living laboratory' for testing and demonstrating clean technology.

When completed in 2030, the park will create 20,000 'green-collar' jobs. It will be built in three phases at an infrastructure cost of $52 million, excluding buildings.

CleanTech Park will be an icon for the development and application of clean technologies, and JTC will push the envelope in a 'practical and cost-effective way', says the industrial landlord's chief executive Manohar Khiatani.

'As an infrastructural solutions provider, JTC has always placed priority on developing innovative and sustainable real estate solutions to meet the needs of our customers operating in resource-challenged Singapore,' he says.

Work on the first phase of the project begins next month, starting with the development of infrastructure within CleanTech Park. When completed, phase one will provide about 17 ha of business park land.

The blueprint for the first cutting-edge building in the park was recently unveiled by JTC. The $90 million building - CleanTech One - will offer about 404,000 sq ft of office space that can house up to 50 green businesses when it is completed by December next year.

The building will incorporate state-of-the-art green features such as solar energy systems, rainwater harvesting, sky gardens and sustainable construction.

Urban modelling

JTC's master plan for CleanTech Park uses information that has been collected about the site and takes into account such factors as solar exposure, rainfall, prevailing wind, topography and vegetation density.

The agency used a modelling tool from a consultancy - Camp, Dresser and McKee or CDM - to help design the urban fabric, so the project can make the most of the natural elements.

CleanTech Park will go up on a large contiguous greenfield site with natural undulating terrain and mature greenery with natural streams running through it.

In drawing up the masterplan using urban modelling, strong emphasis was placed on finding a long-term sustainable balance between the development's commercial needs and the site's natural bio-diversity. For example, in the interest of landscape conservation, a minimal 'land-cut' principle was adopted for both infrastructure planning and at individual land parcel and building level.

One of the innovative ideas that will be tested in CleanTech Park is JTC's sky trellis concept. Trellises will be constructed between adjacent buildings and covered with plants to provide shade and enhance 'walkability' in the area.

Eco-concrete - instead of natural aggregates and sand - will be used for non-structural elements such as roads, pavements and drains.

CleanTech Park will also be the first large scale project to light roads with LED street lamps. By replacing the usual street lighting, light pollution can be minimised and energy consumption can be reduced as much as 40 per cent, JTC says.

Provisions to link buildings with an integrated 'smart dashboard' system will also be in place, so energy and water use can be compared at district-level. This will provide feedback to individual building owners and their tenants so they can improve if needed.

Another innovative solution by JTC is decentralised district cooling. This means excess air-conditioning capacity from a group of buildings may be able to power the air-conditioning for another building. In line with this, piping that can link chilled water from one building to another will be constructed as part of the infrastructure to support such a system.

CleanTech One, the the first building in CleanTech Park, will also have its own green features.

Innovative technological applications at CleanTech One will include an integrated hydrogen fuel cell plant using bio-fuels to produce hydrogen on-site to drive fuel cells, which in turn produce renewable energy.

A bio-digester will also be installed. With the help of micro-organisms, food waste will quickly decomposed in the bio-digester - removing odour and leaving water and carbon dioxide as end-products.

Energy from the sun will be harnessed directly to power the air-conditioner chillers. This method is more efficient than converting solar energy to electricity before use, JTC says. Solar panels will also be used.

Demand for green space

Real estate space with a 'green' proposition is starting to attract more interest among prospective tenants - which is good news for CleanTech Park and its buildings.

'Companies are increasingly interested in commercial and research space that is eco-friendly,' says EDB managing director Beh Swan Gin. 'CleanTech Park will offer these progressive investors an attractive option and foster the clustering of like-minded companies in one location.'

JTC's Mr Khiatani says similarly that environmental sustainability will be a 'natural direction' for businesses to take in the future. He adds: 'CleanTech Park will be emblematic of how businesses can achieve both economic vibrancy and environmental sustainability, functioning in harmony with nature.'

Independent data supports these claims. A global survey on corporate real estate and sustainability by CoreNet Global and Jones Lang LaSalle, conducted late last year, showed corporate real estate executives are willing to invest in the sustainability of the space they own, despite economic pressures.

The survey found 89 per cent of these executives worldwide consider sustainability criteria in their location decisions. Green building certification is always considered by 41 per cent and energy labels by 46 per cent in administering their portfolios.

More stakeholders are also beginning to take a more holistic approach to doing business, which means they factor in the social and environmental effects of their business decisions.

In fact, CleanTech Park has already attracted some interest from tenants. Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has signed on to become the first anchor tenant. The university will help seed research and development activity at the park.

NTU has said that having CleanTech Park next to the university is significant, as it will help academics work seamlessly with key industry partners in the park and allow NTU students to gain invaluable opportunities for attachment and hands-on experience in state-of-the-art green technologies.

EDB likewise thinks CleanTech Park's tenants will benefit from the proximity to NTU, which could promote cross-fertilisation of knowledge and ideas to facilitate the development and demonstration of systems-level cleantech solutions.

The Singapore government is committed to growing the cleantech industry as a key cluster. The sector is expected to contribute some $3.4 billion to Singapore's GDP and employ 18,000 people by 2015.

CleanTech Park, in particular, is poised to boost Singapore's leadership position as an innovative CleanTech hub, EDB and JTC have said.

Source: Business Times, 15 Jun 2010

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