Environmental stewardship at UWCSEA: more than green buildings
Inspired by the UWC mission toward a ‘sustainable future,’ and the Guiding Statement of striving for ‘environmental stewardship’, the leadership of UWCSEA saw the development of the Master Plan on Dover Campus as a key opportunity to embed principles of sustainability within the building design to ensure the campus would be as 'green' as possible. As one of the cornerstones of a UWCSEA education is raising consciousness of an individual’s impact on the environment and awareness of how to minimise harmful impacts, so too would the development itself be consistent with these values. These ambitions were pursued throughout the building process and continue to be maintained today.
Simon Thomas, Director of Operations and Facilities, was the Project Director for the building of East Campus and the redevelopment of Dover Campus, each of which have a footprint of approximately one million square feet. The resources required to run these facilities in tropical South East Asia are substantial, and Simon and his team have worked hard to reduce the environmental impact. In the last year, both Dover and East Campus have been awarded the prestigious Green Mark Platinum certification by Building and Construction Authority of Singapore, the highest level of award given to sustainable buildings. In order to gain Green Mark Platinum status, buildings must be able to demonstrate at least 30% savings in electrical and water consumption when measured against normal building code and standards. This is a significant achievement particularly on Dover Campus where 25,000m2 of space has been added since 2009, but energy costs have been reduced.
Dunia sat down with Simon to discuss environmental stewardship at UWCSEA.
Dunia: Can you give us some insight into the UWCSEA facilities and buildings?
Simon: The UWCSEA buildings are unique in the region and last year we had over 9,000 visitors from external companies from all across the world come to visit our campuses to learn more about our energy and water efficient building systems. What we do is so much more than putting solar panels on the roof - it is a system of looking at the entire design of the building in relation to the environment, with the goal of firstly lowering resource need and secondly, resource use. We then think very carefully about what contributes to the best possible building environment for learning. For instance, minimising east and west facing facades not only reduces the cooling load but also allows us to maximise daylighting which has a proven link to occupant wellbeing.
Buildings are responsible for 38% of Singapore’s energy usage. Making a design change that allows us to reduce the need for air conditioning and thus the overall usage offers substantial environmental benefits and also utility savings. All of the savings that we are able to make are reinvested into the school, and thus benefit the entire community.
Dunia: How are the facilities being used by students?
What’s unusual about our buildings is that they function as a living laboratory for modelling environmental stewardship. Not only do we share with many outside organisations how we have made significant savings and maximised environmental benefits through technology and design, but we teach students about the innovations within the College curriculum. Just last week, I gave talks to the East Campus Grade 3 and 5s about water usage, and about how their behaviors on campus can impact energy use. As part of the Grade 5 unit of study, Energy, students also visited the chiller plant facility to see the technology in action. Our electronic dashboard displays and meters make it easy for students to make the connections between lighting, electricity and water consumption and environmental impact and how they can take direct action to reduce their collective and individual impacts and make positive changes.
Students can also use the buildings to learn about other topics such as physics and engineering, and I’m looking forward to developing more units about this in Term 1 next year. Overall, this has done in a very deliberate and forward looking manner, which is probably very UWC!
Dunia: The size of Dover Campus was substantially increased, but the environmental impact was decreased. How did your team manage this?
Simon: A really important part of the Master Plan was retrofitting our older buildings that were from the 1950s and also upgrading and re-locating the ‘heart and lungs’ of Dover, the chiller plant. This was a complicated project but the move and a retrofit, a step clearly in keeping with the overall principle of reduce, reuse, recycle, has brought about an efficiency improvement of 40% (for the engineers out there, improving from 1.05 kW/RT to <0.60 kW/RT). I was really pleased that the government recognised the improvements that we made and awarded the entire campus, not just the new High School block, Green Mark Platinum status. In the future, Green Mark Platinum will be a benchmark for other buildings to meet, rather than a special award and we will need to work hard to continue our position of leadership in this field and have many more interesting projects in the pipeline.
Dunia: Thank you Simon for sitting down with us today. As both East and Dover campuses continue to grow, UWCSEA will continue to strive for a more sustainable campus - and a sustainable future for all.
Thoughts from students:
“When they built East Campus, they didn’t just strive for perfection, they strived for a sustainable school, promoting the green society, inspiring change.” Maya Sagnak, Grade 5
“I learned that I can use water in many ways not just once; such as washing dishes and collecting the water in a tub and then I can reuse that water for watering plants.” Giles Flint, Grade 3
“If you take water from a cooler or tap, you should only take the amount you need, so you don’t waste any.” Milana Hill, Grade 3
East Campus Green Design Features
The East Campus has been recognised for both sustainable and universal design, receiving BCA’s Green Mark Platinum status as well as their Gold award for universal design and accessibility.
The buildings on East Campus were designed to consume around 40% less electricity than conventional buildings of similar size and function without any compromise in functionality.
Opened in 2011, the campus also has solar-powered air conditioning and hot water system, the first of its kind in Singapore and one of the world’s most energy efficient air conditioning systems.
The buildings were also designed with measures to increase water efficiency and to reduce consumption through special fixtures and fittings. In addition, a rainwater capture system passes rainwater from a football field sized section of one roof through a special student garden which serves as a natural filter before the water is recycled for non-potable use.