Channel NewsAsia

Innovations showcased at BEX Asia could transform construction sector

From new eco-friendly materials to technologies that help save on energy bills, the buildings of the future could well be completely carbon-neutral.  

SINGAPORE: Singapore has set itself an ambitious target of greening 80 per cent of its built-up area by 2030, and has reached the 25 per cent mark - that could be given a further push with some novel technologies showcased at this year's Build Eco Xpo (BEX) Asia, which has more than 400 booths from 40 countries. Organisers estimate that transactions from green building construction in Asia Pacific will reaching S$840 billion next year.

NEW MATERIALS FOR CARBON-NEUTRAL BUILDINGS

The floors and walls of a building are typically made of cement, but a new material called Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) is causing ripples in the local construction industry. Made of layers of sustainably-sourced wood placed and glued in opposite directions, CLT is being used in buildings in Europe and Australia. A consortium was recently launched by Singapore's Economic Development Board to adapt the technology for Singapore's tropical climate and drive building innovation like CLT, ahead of demand.

The use of CLT can create a carbon-neutral building, Lend Lease Asia CEO Rod Leaver said. "There is zero waste. It has very good thermal quality properties. It is 80 per cent lighter, but most importantly it can be built very very quickly, without a need for a high level of foreign workers. We see that as a real benefit," he said. "It can take some 70 per cent of trucks off the road and be built very quietly. We think it ticks every box in terms of how we should be constructing into the future and we're very keen to bring it into Singapore."

ENERGY-SAVING INFRASTRUCTURE

Infrastructure within a building could also face a transformation. A new technology called the Otis Gen2 Switch allows for the steel ropes that are typically connected to lifts to be replaced by lighter and more flexible belts. Otis' parent company United Technologies says this results in a lighter load, which means a much smaller machine is needed to hoist the lift. This technology could allow for energy savings of up to 70 per cent, and could be plugged into your regular power socket, much like a microwave or a hairdryer. 

Said Mr Hemant Jolly, Managing Director of UTC Building & Industrial Systems for Singapore and Guam: "The electrical installation that you'd need to do for an retrofitted building goes down considerably, so it's much faster and simpler to install. I see that as an advantage for low- to mid-rise buildings."

Mr Jolly says the technology is currently undergoing certification by an independent certified engineer in Singapore, and UTC aims to bring it into the market by early next year.

SAVE ON AIR-CON BILLS WITH NATURAL DEHUMIDIFIERS

Within homes, a plastering material made of volcanic magma could act as a natural dehumidifier. For example, if the humidity in the room exceeds 50 per cent, properties in the plaster help absorb the excess humidity.

Developers of the ceramic magma say a 10 per cent decrease in humidity could mean raising the air-conditioning temperature by one or two degrees Celsius, which translates to energy savings.