According to The Singapore Green Building Council, buildings are responsible for 40% of global carbon emissions over the course of their construction and operational lifespan. As such, green buildings – or sustainable buildings – have a vital role in combatting climate change.

The benefits of green buildings, which incorporate eco-friendly elements into their design and maintenance to minimise the impact on the environment in the construction and operation stages, are now being more well-recognised. Some of these sustainable development practices include using less water, energy and other natural resources, employing renewable energy sources and eco-friendly materials, as well as implementing energy efficiency technologies like LED lighting and more efficient cooling systems.

It is still a common perception however, that designing and constructing a green building comes with a premium. Let’s understand the truth behind this green premium and other common myths surrounding green buildings.

Misconception #1: Going green is always expensive

Keppel Infrastructure @ Changi

Keppel Infrastructure @ Changi, Singapore’s first Green Mark Platinum Positive Energy building

A common misconception is that going green is an expensive endeavour. However, when considering the overall life-cycle costs, constructing or retrofitting a green building does not necessarily cost more than conventional buildings and may even lower total building operation costs in the long run. 

There are typically additional costs to adopting new, green processes and materials during the construction phase. This green premium is essentially the additional cost of choosing a green/clean technology, resulting in lower emissions, less energy and water use, and better indoor environmental quality, over one that is designed to meet basic code requirements.

However, adopting green construction practices should be considered an investment; one that eventually pays for itself in the long run. With higher-quality building materials and smarter technology, green buildings can help homeowners and businesses reduce overhead expenses, such as electricity bills, thanks to their energy-efficient lighting and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) systems. Other benefits include enhanced durability of building materials and healthier indoor air quality.

Such construction materials are also more durable, and they tend to be more resistant to moisture, mould, pests, and other environmental factors that can cause damage or degradation over time. As a result, green buildings tend to retain or increase in value over time. In addition, green buildings utilise non-toxic construction materials that do not release harmful chemicals or pollutants into the air, water, or soil during their manufacturing, installation, use, maintenance, or disposal. These materials are often made from renewable or recycled resources and can be reused or recycled at the end of their useful life.

In an effort to encourage more building owners to go green, government agencies are providing grants and subsidies to offset the cost of constructing green buildings. For example, Keppel was awarded a grant of up to S$1.28 million by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) under the Green Buildings Innovation Cluster (GBIC) programme to testbed new and emerging energy-efficient technologies at Keppel Bay Tower.

The BCA has also launched a new S$63 million incentive scheme to help building owners lower the upfront costs of green retrofitting. Projects aiming to achieve higher standards of energy performance, such as Super Low Energy or Zero Energy, can even enjoy higher rates of funding support.

Misconception #2: You can’t make an existing building green

SG Keppel Bay Tower (KBT)

Keppel Bay Tower, Singapore’s first Green Mark Platinum (Zero Energy) commercial building

Green building practices can be applied to both new construction and existing buildings through retrofitting and renovation. While it may be easier to incorporate sustainable features during the initial design and construction phase, existing buildings can also be retrofitted to improve energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and overall sustainability.

As the former president of the American Institute of Architects, Carl Elefante, once said, “The most sustainable building is the one that is already built”. Retrofitting is inherently more sustainable as it reduces resource and material consumption, generates less waste, and consumes less energy than constructing new buildings. Examples of retrofitting an existing building include upgrading its insulation, installing efficient HVAC systems, utilising renewable energy sources, and implementing water-saving fixtures, among other strategies.

Keppel Bay Tower, Singapore’s first Green Mark Platinum (Zero Energy) commercial building, marks a significant milestone in Singapore’s green building journey. It is a prime example of Keppel’s Sustainable Urban Renewal initiative to retrofit, future-proof and extend the lifespan of older commercial buildings. Find out more about Keppel Bay Tower’s unique journey to becoming a net zero building here.

Misconception #3: Green buildings only benefit the environment 

While green buildings have a significant role in minimising negative environmental impacts and reducing energy costs, they can also benefit the health and well-being of occupants. By prioritising indoor air quality, natural lighting, non-toxic materials, noise reduction and connection to nature, green buildings contribute to creating healthier and more supportive environments. These factors not only enhance the occupants’ well-being and productivity but also contribute to a sustainable and more enjoyable living or working experience.

Misconception #4: Green buildings are not aesthetically pleasing

Keppel South Central (KSC) View from Yankit Road

The upcoming Keppel South Central, a next-generation smart and super low energy building slated for completion in 4Q 2024

There is a common belief that green buildings prioritise functionality and sustainability at the expense of visual appeal or architectural design. In reality, the field of green architecture has evolved significantly, and architects and designers are now adept at integrating sustainable features seamlessly into the design while creating visually striking buildings.

For instance, optimising building orientation to maximise natural light and ventilation can result in healthier and more well-lit spaces. Additionally, green roofs and living walls can provide both environmental benefits and visually pleasing green spaces within the building.

It is important to note that aesthetics and sustainability performance are not mutually exclusive in building design. Green buildings can be both visually appealing and environmentally friendly, creating spaces that are a testament to the harmony between aesthetics and sustainability. Take Keppel South Central as an example. It is envisioned as a next generation smart, super low-energy building designed for the future workforce. Through various shared amenities, it is primed to bring together communities in Tanjong Pagar. Learn more about how Keppel South Central is at the cutting edge of sustainability design here.

Keppel’s Real Estate Division provides innovative urban space solutions that leverage technology to deliver sustainable and customer-centric solutions. We are committed to developing green properties, optimising resource efficiency, as well as tapping on renewables to create a more sustainable future. Our efforts to promote sustainability include raising awareness about green initiatives and encouraging everyone to do their part for the environment. If you are interested in doing your part for the environment by working in green office spaces, do not hesitate to contact us today!


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