SINGAPORE: A new chilled ceiling technology that can cool entire buildings uniformly while purifying the air may in future be a viable alternative to the energy-guzzling air-conditioning system.
The technology is one of 11 projects that researchers will work on in a new S$61 million corporate lab officially launched on Tuesday (Jul 31). The lab was jointly set up by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Surbana Jurong and the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF).
Made of special materials such as nanotechnology fibres, the chilled ceiling panels filter the air while potentially saving up to 30 per cent in energy consumption compared to a conventional air-conditioning duct system.
The research project could become a reality over the next five years under a partnership between NTU and Surbana Jurong.
The lab, which was jointly funded by NTU, Surbana Jurong and government agencies, aims to develop sustainable solutions to tackle urban challenges such as energy and infrastructural needs, as well as climate change.
As the sixth corporate lab in NTU, 70 researchers and engineers from both the university and Surbana Jurong will work together to explore underground storage systems, sustainable indoor solutions for buildings and digital technologies to ramp up productivity in the built environment.
“Based on our experience with other corporate labs, we’ll have new technologies and spin-off companies that will come out,” said NTU president, Professor Subra Suresh. “The ideas that are developed jointly as part of this corporate lab will be embedded in construction by an entity like Surbana Jurong, as they do consultancy work for megaprojects all over the world. That’s the real benefit of a project like this."
One up-and-coming city in the Philippines where Surbana Jurong is looking at rolling out its solutions is New Clark City, said its group CEO Wong Heang Fine.
“Currently we are doing a project in New Clark City. It’s a greenfield project where new buildings are going to come up,” Mr Wong said, referring to unused lands. “Some of the new technologies you see here could well be implemented in the buildings and townships that we build in New Clark City.”
For a start, researchers will explore how underground spaces can be used to store liquified natural gas to free up space aboveground for other uses.
At the same time, a "cold lab" will also be set up to harness cold energy produced during regasification, or the process by which liquified natural gas is converted back to natural gas at normal temperatures, from below 162 degrees Celsius.
The cold energy can then be used to power industrial uses, such as cooling systems in buildings like warehouses.
ACCELERATOR PROGRAMME FOR BUILT ENVIRONMENT IN THE WORKS
While the lab is the 12th to be supported by the NRF, it is the first to focus on creating and developing solutions for the built environment sector, said Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who officially launched the lab.
“It is a timely move because there is tremendous potential to transform our built environment through new technologies,” said Mr Wong, who is also Second Minister for Finance.
He also announced the setting up of a new accelerator programme for built environment startups and companies, to bring in solutions from both local and overseas companies to the market.
This will be done through matching companies to industry hosts, facilitating access to investor funding and business networks, and providing mentorship opportunities to companies.
Taking the lead will be the Housing and Development Board (HDB), which will expand its initiative involving the public to co-create solutions to improve the public housing environments.
First launched in 2011, the “Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living” initiative will be expanded to include submissions from companies as well, providing opportunities for piloting new solutions. So far, the initiative has received more than 800 ideas from individuals.
“These efforts will not only bring good solutions to benefit our HDB residents, but also allow our enterprises to showcase their innovations in our HDB estates, and eventually export these solutions overseas,” Mr Wong said.