As sustainability and wellness certifications gain momentum around the world, the question often becomes “To certify or not to certify?”. Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority has set a target for 80 per cent of buildings to go green by 2030. It is tempting to turn this into an exercise of chasing points when it should be focused on the true intent of these certification systems.
Certification is more than just the plaque. It’s about the process. Organisations should really be focusing on building on strategies outlined in these certification standards to create healthier and more environmentally-friendly workplaces.
With the relentless pursuit of energy efficiency in Singapore, it is equally important to remember that energy efficiency is a process, not a product. Organisations need to “think people first” as buildings are for people.
Frameworks such as Green Mark, LEED and WELL do the heavy lifting in terms of creating a holistic definition of green or healthy buildings by integrating research-based studies, referencing key sustainability research, incorporating cross-functional industry input and establishing continual feedback channels to ensure that the definition of a green building evolves along with the latest research, innovation and technologies.
These have worked well in providing a good base from which organisations can experiment new ways to save energy, reduce waste and create a greener future for the community. By leveraging extensive research that goes into developing each credit or feature, organisations have a good opportunity to pursue proven, data-driven strategies that reduce impact on the environment while promoting the health and well-being for occupants. The BCA has set a long-term goal for positive, zero and super-low energy usage for low, mid and high-rise buildings respectively in Singapore, and also gone one step further to partner with Singapore’s Health Promotion Board to set specific guidelines to promote the health and well-being of employees.
These frameworks encourage organisations to think outside the checklist while developing unique solutions to environmental and health related challenges, keeping in mind that what works for one organisation might not work for the other. For example, in devising an energy efficiency plan for organisations, management needs to take into consideration the unique culture and operating environment of the organisation, leaning on data and experience over time to understand energy usage patterns as well as the organisation’s carbon footprint and gathering feedback from Human Resource, Real Estate and Facilities Management.
A comprehensive approach to Green Building certification will ensure organisations don’t just focus on earning the points; it sets the tone for active engagement and participation from building users and is a stark reminder to engineers in embracing new technologies, and prioritize the needs of people using the space.