Speech by Minister Desmond Lee at the Official Opening of DBS Newton Green

Jul 18, 2022

1. Good morning. I am happy to join you today at the official opening of DBS Newton Green. I pass this building from time to time, and seeing the works that have been going on, it piqued my curiosity and I was delighted to find out what was really in the works.

2. Many of us will be familiar with this building as the former POSB Newton Branch, which has stood here for over 30 years. This landmark will now also be recognised as Singapore’s first net zero building by a bank.

3. I would like to congratulate DBS and all your partners on this achievement. Such teamwork between the private, public and people sectors is absolutely vital, as we strive to grow a more sustainable City in Nature, and as we seek our ambition as a city that tackles climate challenges in a sustainable and whole-of-society way.

Role of the public and private sector in sustainable development

4. Our buildings contribute over 20% of Singapore’s carbon emissions. So, greening our buildings is crucial to further decarbonise our built environment.

5. The private sector plays an important part in this endeavour. You can spur more investments in low-carbon solutions and encourage your suppliers and clients in your value chain to source sustainably.

6. I am very glad to see many more companies taking decisive action on climate change. DBS, for example, has committed to achieve net zero operational emissions by this year. It is an ambitious target, but you are making it happen building by building, operation by operation in a disciplined and focused way. And you are supporting social enterprises through the DBS Foundation, such as Magorium, which has developed a sustainable paving material from unrecyclable plastic and reprocessed asphalt waste. This has been used to pave the driveways of DBS Newton Green, reducing the development’s carbon footprint.

7. The Government will continue to work closely with you and industry partners to achieve a more sustainable Built Environment. Together with the industry, we launched the latest edition of the Singapore Green Building Masterplan last year, and we have collectively set ourselves three ambitious targets, or “80-80-80 in 2030”.

8. Our first target is to green 80% of buildings by Gross Floor Area by 2030. We have greened more than 49% of our buildings, and we need to sustain our momentum and push ahead further. A lot of the low-hanging fruits that we have reaped are the newer buildings – we can design from scratch and put in technologies, but the challenge is really to retrofit many more of our older buildings, which form the majority of the stock in the built environment, to improve their sustainability standards. This is what we need to push on.

9. This is more challenging than designing a new green building from scratch. The original development may not have been designed with sustainability in mind – technologies may not have been available then and the psyche of green buildings back then is very different from what we are in today. Retrofitting is more complex and potentially costly. Therefore, we have launched the Green Mark Incentive Scheme for Existing Buildings 2.0 from June this year, which provides funding support for building owners to retrofit their buildings for better energy performance. Under this scheme, an existing building that achieves Green Mark Zero Energy standards can qualify for up to $1.2 million in grants to help you offset the cost of retrofitting works, and we encourage building owners to make full use of this. Take the lead, and take the next step!

10. Our second target is for 80% of new developments to be Super Low Energy buildings, or SLE buildings from 2030. SLE buildings can achieve energy savings of over 60% compared to 2005 levels, when we started our journey to green our buildings. We will continue to promote SLE buildings through regulatory requirements and incentives, including enhanced requirements for new developments on Government Land Sales sites, or GLS sites in short, as well as bonus GFA incentives for private developments on non-GLS sites. But SLE standards are not just for new developments. As several companies including DBS have shown, existing buildings can also be retrofitted to achieve SLE or even Zero Energy standards.

11. Our third target is to achieve 80% improvement in energy efficiency, compared to when we first started in 2005, for our best-in-class buildings by 2030. Currently, our best-in-class buildings have achieved 65% to 70% improvement, so we have some way to go. This is why we have introduced programmes, such as the Green Buildings Innovation Cluster, or GBIC in short, to support the research, prototyping, and demonstration of green building technologies, which will help to make new energy efficient technologies more readily accessible to you and other building owners. GBIC provides the engine for these works, and we hope this will spread to the whole industry.

DBS Newton Green

12. DBS Newton Green has shown how businesses can work together with the Government and the public, to bring us closer to our “80-80-80 in 2030” targets.

13. Despite the challenges of retrofitting an older building, the project team was able to achieve the Green Mark Platinum (Zero Energy) certification by working with BCA and industry experts to identify innovative technologies to be deployed in the building. These include dual-sided solar panels that harvest sunlight from both the front and the back of the panel to supply the building’s energy needs, and a lighting management system which uses artificial intelligence to adjust the lighting in the building based on user occupancy.

14. DBS Newton Green is projected to save at least 580 megawatt hours (MWh) of energy per year, or 70% of your building’s energy consumption before retrofitting, and this is very remarkable. With funding from GBIC, the building is expected to recover the retrofitting costs within 4 years.

15. I am glad to note that the project team has also collaborated with the Nature Society of Singapore to integrate nature into the building, bearing in mind your location and the nature areas you are near to. Together, they have selected and grown plants on the building to help cool the interior spaces. The plants are also refugia for threatened native butterfly and bird species, such as the Common Birdwing and the Oriental Magpie Robin. This is a great example of how we can design our urban spaces to take care of our people and also provide a future for wildlife in our City in Nature.

16. But it is not just hardware and plants that make a building green. As building users, it is just as important for us to do our part by reducing the energy we consume. This is why my colleagues at BCA have worked with the Singapore Green Building Council to develop the Sustainability in Singapore programme. This programme trains individuals who step forward as Green Ambassadors, who will then advocate for ways to reduce their organisations’ carbon footprint, while enhancing the well-being of their fellow building users.

17. DBS has actively participated in this programme and empowered your staff to be Green Ambassadors. Your colleagues held quizzes and games related to environmental sustainability, and even organised an Eco-Cup Competition, which challenged colleagues to see who can improve their energy saving and recycling rates the most. These sustainability campaigns have reached out to over 30,000 DBS employees.

18. If you would like to find out more, you can check out the Sustainability in Singapore website, or contact BCA’s Green Building Policy department.

19. I would like to thank DBS for your efforts in working towards a more sustainable future – to give the younger generation hope for a better future and a better planet. I look forward to seeing more organisations join us on our journey towards net zero.

20. Let me conclude.

21. We all know that climate change is a challenge that requires collective effort from all of us. As businesses, organisations and individuals, we all share the responsibility, as good stewards of our environment, to reduce carbon emissions and pursue greener growth. And the Government is committed to supporting you in this important green transition. 

22. By working together, with each of us contributing our unique strengths and expertise – we can shape, build, and grow a better and greener future for Singapore. Thank you very much for being a real good example!