Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at the Official Opening of 79 Robinson Road

Jan 14, 2022

A very good morning to all of you here today, as well as virtually from the other floor. I am very happy to join you today at the official opening of 79 Robinson Road.

It’s literally a short hop away from my office next door. And every time I drive past it, I am reminded about how things continue to move on, in spite of the pandemic. Indeed, this COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted businesses and our daily lives, and severely affected our built environment sector, our construction firms. But I understand that 79 Robinson Road achieved your TOP in April 2020, during the Circuit Breaker period. And this was possible because project stakeholders – builders, contractors, consultants, suppliers – worked closely together with CapitaLand, Mitsui and Tokyo Tatemono. So we are not only here to celebrate this splendid building’s opening today, but the resilience and determination of everyone involved. So congratulations once again.

Even as we work together to overcome the challenges brought by COVID-19, we must continue to accelerate the long-term transformation of our built environment sector and pursue more sustainable development.

On the part of collaboration I just described earlier, how the stakeholders for this project worked together, powered ahead, because they could collaborate on the basis of a firm foundation and relationship. During the COVID crisis, in the early days, when construction was totally disrupted, there was tremendous stress, a lot of worry. If you cast your mind back to 2020, and through all of that darkness, there was a silver lining where relationships were forged, trust was built, and partners – from government, from the private sector, the people who were from the unions, we worked together. In fact, in the early days, we literally met every day, virtually, to tackle big problems, small problems – no problem was too small that didn’t deserve our fullest attention, and of course, there were tensions in resolving issues, but a relationship was forged. One in which would stand us in good stead.

And in fact, Mr Lee Chee Koon will remember his strong involvement as part of the Emerging Stronger Taskforce, at a time where the pandemic was unravelling around the world. Mr Lee, together with many other leaders of the industry, stepped forward at a time of crisis, to come together with government, with our NGOs, with our unions, to work together to chart a way forward for Singapore. A plan, a vision that can be executed on the ground, even as the pandemic is raging all around us. The pandemic has been a terrible time for everyone, it continues to be so, but it builds not just resilience, but it forges relationships out of that crucible that tested all of us.

At the start of the crisis, we came together, had to deal with a lot of issues, and when the Delta wave came last year, we were better prepared. We were able to work together to minimise disruption, to tackle manpower challenges, supply chain challenges. And in fact, with Omicron fast spreading around the world and in Singapore, we fully anticipate that the wave will come. We are actively working with our partners, with developers, with consultants, and contractors, with our dorm partners and NGOs to make sure that the built environment sector, can meet this next wave of the pandemic, with a lot more confidence, determination, and grit. There will be disruptions, but we will work together, to tackle them together.

Building Sustainably

On the part of sustainability, this is what 79 Robinson Road really stands for, and you are a shining landmark of that. Because sustainability is a key pillar of our built environment sector’s transformation.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November last year underscored the urgency to develop sustainably and to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions. And a group of our Government MPs came together on Wednesday to move a Motion in Parliament to advance Singapore’s inclusive transition to a low-carbon society. Now as a small city-state, the challenges and trade-offs we grapple with in our efforts to decarbonise our society and economy are much more stark and immediate than larger countries. But we remain firmly committed to sustainably developing our city.

Last year, we launched our Singapore Green Plan 2030, which is a whole-of-nation effort to chart a common vision and roadmap towards a more sustainable future. We also rolled out the latest edition of the Singapore Green Building Masterplan (SGBMP) as part of the Energy Reset pillar of the Green Plan, to accelerate our transition to a low-carbon built environment.

Now, under the Green Building Masterplan, we have set ourselves a target with three numbers “80-80-80 in 2030” – to green 80% of our buildings by Gross Floor Area by 2030, and recently we have also upped the minimum baselines for energy efficiency for both new buildings as well as retrofitted buildings; that is the first 80. The second 80, 80% of new buildings to be Super Low Energy buildings from 2030, and last the last 80, a stretch target, for our best-in-class buildings to reach 80% energy efficiency improvement as compared to 2005 levels, when we first started this journey and by the end of this decade 2030.

 “80-80-80 in 2030”, really simplifies a lot of the detail, but I think it crystallises in the minds of all partners in this tripartite relationship of the importance of a city that is urban, a City in Nature, to be sustainable, not just for us, but for the next generation. And as I said earlier, we raised the minimum environmental sustainability standards for both new buildings and retrofitted buildings, and continue to push the bar upwards and onwards.  

We have also refreshed the Green Mark scheme, to recognise those among us who go well beyond meeting minimum requirements. The refreshed scheme raises standards in energy performance, and places greater emphasis on other sustainability outcomes, such as enhancing a building’s resilience to climate change and reducing carbon emissions across a building’s life cycle.

So I am therefore delighted that 79 Robinson Road has attained the Green Mark Platinum certification for your energy-efficient and environmentally friendly features. These include lush greenery, resource-efficient building systems and energy-saving features, such as smart monitoring systems and a high-performance façade that reduces heat gain from solar radiation.

The Green Mark scheme is one of the world’s leading green building certifications and is tailored to tropical urban environments, like ours. And to achieve the sustainability outcomes under the scheme, all stakeholders across the built environment sector and value chain, from developers and consultants to contractors and facilities managers, must cooperate and collaborate closely.  I would like to take this opportunity to recognise and to applaud, and to celebrate efforts of the development team in pursuing your ambitious sustainability standards, and to congratulate the team on your achievement.

Towards a new working normal

Beyond pushing for greater sustainability in our built environment, we must also relook at the way we design our spaces and in our city, to meet our society’s growing, changing, and evolving aspirations.

And in this ever-changing environment, we will continually need bold, fresh and innovative solutions. And developers and designers have an important part to play.  

For example, with hybrid work arrangements fast becoming part of the new normal, and things are still evolving along the way, we need to rethink how we build and design our workspaces. Let’s not rush into hasty decisions, the pandemic is still developing, mindsets are still evolving, people are adjusting to different parameters and requirements – both here and around the world. Businesses, industry leaders are examining what model fits best, we are also looking closely at the employee of the future, and what the expectations and requirements are. Then we will take a pause as the pandemic winds its way, to decide what changes need to be made to the urban environment, in order to meet the needs of businesses, society, of our workers and our people.

And workplaces may need to be reconfigured, to provide more modular configurations and collaborative spaces. I am glad to know that 79 Robinson Road is well-equipped with Bridge+, which is CapitaLand’s flagship coworking and business community space. Bridge+ integrates conventional office spaces and flexible spaces, such as coworking and meeting facilities. This facilitates flexible and collaborative work.

Closely related to this, we are studying the Future of Work, as part of our Long-Term Plan Review (LTPR). And if you’d like to pay a visit, just hop two blocks away to URA centre, and there will be opportunities to discuss how to take this forward. As part of this process, we will examine trends like Work-from-Home or Work-Away-From-Office, and how they may shape the way we use our land and our spaces. We have also been engaging developers on the impact of hybrid work arrangements on development plans, and look forward to continued conversations on this.

Now as part of our Long-Term Plan Review outreach, close to 6,800 respondents have provided us with thoughtful ideas through a series of polls, workshops, and focus group discussions. And we are now entering the next phase of this process, which focuses on proposing long-term strategies and outlining considerations that shape our future land use plans.

Now for those who are not acquainted with the Long-Term Plan Review, we used to call it the Concept Plan Review, held once every decade, to just get all of us to go into future mode. Look at Singapore, not just tomorrow, or next month, or next year, or five years or ten years’ time, but stretch fifty years’ time. What do we need in fifty years’ time, what would Singapore be like, what would our environment be like, what would the world be like, and give us enough of a runway to dream, plan and turn that into a reality. Now we will also be organising a public exhibition in the middle of this year, to sum up the findings and the ideas, and to set out our proposed plans for the future of Singapore. So do keep a look out for it, and participate actively.


In closing, I would like to congratulate once again, all our partners and stakeholders on the official opening of 79 Robinson Road.

Even as we grapple with COVID-19, we need to continue to transform our built environment sector and raise our sustainability standards. So let us all work together to develop a city and a built environment that is sustainable and liveable not just for us, but for future generations to come.

Thank you, congratulations, and have a good day ahead.