When Dover Campus embarked on an extensive building and renovation plan from 2010–2015 it did so with a clear objective to ‘walk the talk’ by putting environmental stewardship at the forefront of the plans. This meant in part developing (and redeveloping) buildings to have the lowest possible environmental footprint. As a result, the Administration and High School Block evolved into a living laboratory that provides real-time data to a research team at the Future Cities Laboratory of the Singapore-ETH Centre. This research centre was established by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) and Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF), as part of their CREATE (Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise) programme.
In a typical building project, air conditioning and mechanical ventilation systems are selected by the developers (not the occupants) who have little incentive to care about how much the machines cost to run or their effect on the environment. In the case of the Dover Administration and High School Block, the College already had a relationship with the Singapore-ETH Centre (having worked together on a tree research project in early 2011), and they were able to partner on the 3for2 project from the very beginning.
For the Singapore-ETH Centre, the block has proven to be an ideal test site for the innovative 3for2 air conditioning system and an invaluable source of ongoing, real time data as they refine the performance of the suite of 3for2 technologies. With over 1,000 sensors in the building, researchers are able to monitor how the system works on a minute by minute basis, checking temperature, carbon dioxide, humidity and pollutants. Whenever one of the sensors (or occupants) logs an unusual reading or says it is too hot, or too cool, researchers arrive within 10–15 minutes to see what is going wrong and correct the issue.
The collaboration with the Singapore-ETH Centre has given the College the opportunity to drastically reduce its carbon footprint and make a real contribution to environmental stewardship. In the tropical climate of Singapore, air conditioning accounts for approximately 60% of energy consumption in a typical building so finding a viable solution to reduce this consumption has a significant impact. As of 2016, the new block was consuming only 30% of the energy used by an average office. It is expected that it will become the most energy efficient building in Singapore by 2018.
UWCSEA has made a commitment not only to reducing its own emissions (both campuses are now Green Mark Platinum certified by the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore), but also to supporting the research and development of a sustainable air conditioning solution that has the potential to reduce energy usage across Southeast Asia.
What is 3for2?
The 3for2 concept attempts to address not only energy efficiency but also economic incentives by proposing a holistic design concept for the tropics. It’s premised on the implementation of three key innovations to:
Split cooling (sensible cooling) and dehumidifying (latent cooling): Instead of using cold and dry air for both, 3for2 distinguishes between removing heat from the building interior and removing moisture from the air coming from outside. Separating these functions lowers the amount of electricity required.
Use water instead of air for heat transport: Water has a greater heat capacity than air, which allows for smaller pipes and more effective cooling components that can be integrated into the construction. Large ductwork and extensive false ceilings become unnecessary.
Use small, decentralised ventilation units instead of one central unit: Only the required minimum air is drawn into the building and dehumidified efficiently, using a two-stage energy recovery process. The decentralised ventilation units are integrated into the façade and the minimised air distribution network into the floor slab. The integration of mechanical and electrical components into the construction frees up to one-third of the typical floor volume.
Image provided by 3for2 Beyond Efficiency, Future Cities Laboratory