Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In harmony with nature

How JTC is employing green strategies for its upcoming CleanTech Park, and its project on air temperature prediction

IS IT possible for an agency to promote industrialisation and environment protection at the same time? As contradictory as these two aims sound, they have been central to JTC Corporation’s work in recent years.

In a way, JTC is moving with the times. As the dangers of global warming come to the fore, governments are doing more to cut carbon emissions. Businesses also want consumers to see them as environmentally considerate players. These are trends that JTC cannot ignore as it develops space for industries.

But JTC is also trying to move ahead of the times, by coming up with unique ways to protect and enhance the environment of its industrial parks. Its green strategies for the upcoming CleanTech Park and its project on air temperature prediction are some examples of its efforts.

Green CleanTech Park

Environment protection can be good business, and JTC is hoping to demonstrate that at the 50-hectare CleanTech Park, which would house companies developing, testing and commercialising clean technology.

As the agency’s chief executive Manohar Khiatani described, the park ‘will be emblematic of how businesses can achieve both economic vibrancy and environmental sustainability; functioning in harmony with nature’.

Achieving this harmony is likely to mean more work for JTC in building the park. First, it has committed to practise ‘minimal land cut’ in developing the greenfield site at Nanyang Avenue, which has a natural undulating terrain. It will have to lay out roads and individual land parcels according to the contours of the land.

Second, JTC plans to preserve biodiversity on the site as much as possible. It will identify trees and plants for conservation, and building works will take place around these conservation zones. Greenery lost from development will be replaced on vertical or rooftop gardens.

Furthermore, JTC is looking at collecting rainwater for irrigation and other uses. To do so, it will make use of the site’s topography and channel stormwater to low lying areas for treatment and storage. It has hired a hydrology consultant for advice.

Buildings at CleanTech Park also have to be environmentally friendly. JTC could encourage the use of recycled materials for construction. It will also come up with design guidelines for developments such that exposure to the sun is minimised, for instance.

Buildings at the park could also have other energy efficient features such as solar panels and rainwater harvesters. Monitoring systems would help ensure that these features remain effective even as the buildings age.

More interestingly, CleanTech Park will become a zone for the controlled testing of new green initiatives, such as recycling and car pooling programmes.

Plants in the sky

There are already plans to test out ’sky trellises’ at the park, aimed at providing shade and reducing heat at open spaces.

According to a study by the National University of Singapore (NUS), temperatures at the heavily built-up central business district tend to be higher than at green suburban areas, and the temperature difference can go up to 4°C. This strengthens the case for introducing greenery as a way to cool a site.

At CleanTech Park, JTC will build canopies between the roofs of buildings using steel wire mesh. Thereafter, the canopies will be covered with climbing plants. These sky trellises will not only reduce the amount of heat buildings absorb, but also make open spaces cooler for walking. If sky trellises take off at the park, JTC could replicate the idea on a larger scale.

While the green features are commendable, the general perception is that they cost more to build. JTC is aware of such concerns. ‘CleanTech Park will serve as an icon for the development and application of clean technologies and we shall strive to push the envelope but in a practical and cost effective way,’ Mr Khiatani said. Space at the park would be ‘priced competitively’.

Predicting the heat

Beyond hardware, JTC is also looking at software which would help it draw up environmentally sustainable master plans for industrial estates.

It is tapping on a customised web-based application developed by NUS, called Screening Tool for Estate Environment Evaluation or STEVE, to map the temperature distribution of sites.

According to JTC, STEVE is the ‘first of its kind’ in Singapore. Other climate assessment tools tend to be too complex for urban planners, and scientific researchers often have to be called in to interpret the charts and data produced. In contrast, STEVE is more user-friendly and flexible.

STEVE predicts temperature changes when variables such as the number of trees, building height or the position of ponds change. The application makes it easier for users to design sites which can be cooler.

The amount of energy which can be saved is significant – NUS previously found that a 1°C drop in outdoor air temperature can lead to a 5 per cent decrease in building energy consumption.

JTC and NUS have used STEVE to generate a climate map at one-north. The study, which JTC funded for $150,000, showed that the temperature difference between the warmest and coolest parts of the estate could be as high as 2°C.

JTC and NUS will be testing the application at other industrial estates such as Seletar Aerospace Park and Paya Lebar Industrial Park.

‘We are very excited about this development, because now planners won’t have to wait years to see if the outcome is what was expected,’ JTC engineering planning division director Koh Chwee told BT last month.

Source: Business Times, 23 Mar 2010

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