Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Pivoting Towards Green Buildings to Secure A Liveable Future for All

Bent Jensen
September 14, 2022 | 7:01 pm
This 2020 file photo shows a boy playing with kites on the banks of the West Flood Canal in Jakarta, with the capital's office buildings in the background. (B1 Photo/Juanito de Saojoao)
This 2020 file photo shows a boy playing with kites on the banks of the West Flood Canal in Jakarta, with the capital's office buildings in the background. (B1 Photo/Juanito de Saojoao)

Climate risks continue to spell more significant uncertainty in our future. Europe and North America saw their most brutal heatwaves, while Asia was equally battered by record heat, flash floods, and droughts, which scientists say will only become more frequent and intense due to climate change. Pakistan has emerged as climate change's latest victim, as deadly floods left a third of the country under water.

Closer to home, temperatures in all major cities in Indonesia are projected to increase by 3°C or more by the end of the 21st century, posing a significant risk to Indonesia's environment. Notably, Jayawijaya mountains' glaciers will likely disappear around 2025-2026.

In the face of all this, while preparing our cities against the unpredictable nature of extreme weather events is essential, we also need to recognize that managing our carbon footprint is imperative in ensuring a liveable future for the next generation.

Specifically, buildings have a huge potential to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and, in turn, make a real difference in the environment. Globally, 40 percent of the world's carbon emissions come from existing buildings and account for half of the global electricity consumption. Southeast Asia's urban population is expected to grow by another 100 million people by 2030, so the region will see greater urbanization and buildings within the next decade.


Southeast Asia is also one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, making the building sector's sustainable ambitions high on the region's agenda. Countries in the region are increasingly recognizing the importance of green buildings – more than 100 buildings in Indonesia currently have received voluntary green building certifications, and more than 3,000 buildings have complied with mandatory green building codes, covering an area of more than 20 million square meters.

However, given the soaring demand for new buildings and the pace of climate change, there is a radical need to reduce carbon emissions from the building sector. As we reflect on this year's World Green Building Week, there is no more urgent than now to make the sustainable transformation necessary for our built environment by tapping into innovation and leveraging strategic partnerships.

Beating the heat sustainably

Climate change's most pertinent consequence on cities has recently been in the form of urban heat, a phenomenon where metropolitan areas experience warmer temperatures due to factors like urban surfaces retaining heat and a denser population.

In the region, countries like Indonesia are equipping themselves to cope with the heat through cooling solutions with more comfort. Indonesia's cooling equipment sales – refrigeration and air conditioning (AC) – are expected to increase at 5.1 percent annually to 14.2 million by 2030, a growth only second to India.

However, as our solutions work harder to keep us cool and comfortable, urbanization and a demand for increased comfort will increase the expected energy demand for buildings. As there are no short-term pathways to make energy production non-carbon based, it is vital to increase the efficiency of
energy use in buildings - in both new constructions and existing buildings.

Notably, pumps control the water and cooling system of a building, operating, and using energy year-round. Particularly in commercial buildings, the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems account for up to 40 percent of total energy use. They are also responsible for water management, such as potable water supply, wastewater removal, and fire protection. Therefore, we need pumps in buildings to be energy efficient.

To help reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, building solution providers are increasingly looking at smart technology to achieve systems that can operate in optimized conditions at any time, using water and energy in an efficient manner. For example, intelligent pumps can now instinctively adjust their operations based on changes in demand, ensuring that pump systems run only when needed, halving the amount of electricity consumed by traditional pumps that operate constantly.

With more efficient pump solutions, the world's energy consumption can be heavily reduced. The result of this is not only a positive impact on carbon emissions and climate change but also higher performing buildings, greater indoor comfort, and increased water safety. 

Innovative thinking is key to greening a building

Beyond tackling the critical issue of urban heat management, it is also crucial to examine all aspects of a building's operation with an innovative lens. For example, solar energy has presented great potential, with solar panels and building-integrated photovoltaics proving to be effective ways to harvest renewable energy to power buildings. Notably, these were some of the solutions we tapped into to further green our facilities in Singapore by working closely with the staff and students of
Singapore Polytechnic as part of their industry attachment arrangement with us.

Other trends include moving the building sector's current project-based construction approach to one product-based by pivoting industry players towards modular and prefabricated solutions. By producing standardized components off-site and assembling them on-site, we can achieve greater resource efficiency and drastically reduce project timelines.

Last but not least, urban biodiversity and applying biophilic design principles – integrating natural systems into the fabric of our cities – can play a role in helping our built environment achieve climate change adaption by improving overall air quality.

Creating value through strategic partnerships

Looking beyond these existing sustainable solutions and approaches, at the end of the day, sustainable innovation cannot be achieved in silos; through a partnership, we can better facilitate industries' green transition and capture the best value out of it.

This is why industries are increasingly expanding their expertise and experience through collaboration with regional and local institutions and organizations, for example, a partnership between a company and a university in developing energy and water-efficient smart solutions.

Such partnership has been a win-win; staff and students have received greater industry exposure in sustainability and experienced first-hand innovative new technologies. On the other hand, the company would have benefited from leveraging the university's academic rigor and knowledge to improve its sustainability credentials.


As we emerge from the pandemic into the new normal, the hope for a sustainable world is growing among the next generation, businesses, and governments. Facing increasingly harsher climate changes, how we survive and thrive in the next decade and beyond relies on how we set our sights on sustainability and how we can achieve our goals of restoring the world's ecosystems.

Going green with our buildings is no longer a question of making a business case for it. It is a clear win-win situation for its builders and occupants, not only positively impacting the environment but also reducing overall operations cost without compromising comfort. 

Thus, governments, businesses, and individuals must think long-term and invest in the global transition to a more sustainable future by committing our resources to pivot our built environment to a sustainable one that will ensure a livable future for all.

Bent Jensen is the chief executive officer (CEO) of commercial building services at Danish multinational company Grundfos, the world's largest pump manufacturer. 

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