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  • Huawei

    Smart City Technology Turns Green Buildings into a Green City

Welcome to the Keynote series for New Horizons, the podcast channel for Huawei’s ICT Insights Magazine. Please join us as we listen to tech industry experts and thought leaders. Today we’re at the 2018 Smart City Expo in Barcelona, Spain, listening to Dr. Gao Chun Ping, the Managing Director of the Built Environment Research and Innovation Institute for the Singapore Building & Construction Authority. Dr. Ping is explaining the connection between green initiatives and Smart City development.

Imagine city-wide sensor networks and unified management systems coming together to connect smart buildings, smart lighting, smart water monitoring, and a wide range of other green services on an unprecedented scale. Intrigued? Let’s listen to the whole story.

Thank you, everyone. Thank you for Huawei for the invitation. Good afternoon, everyone. I would like to share with you some of the development works we have been doing in Singapore in terms of the Green City and the Green Building Development. Particularly, I would like to emphasize how the Green Development works hand-in-hand with the Smart City developments. As we all know, Singapore is a small island city-state located in Southeast Asia — about 720 square km, with a population of 5.6 million. We do not have natural resources. The only resources we have is the people that we have. We are very much particularly interested in environment sustainability, even before sustainability has become a fashion word.

Since Singapore has gained independence in 1965, we have put natural resources as top in our sustainability development agenda. We want to reduce all the unnecessary use and improve the efficiency. But at the same time, we want to do more with less. We need to ensure a quality life in the high-rise, high-density environment so that we can attract investment, so that we can continuously support economic growth. Singapore has come a long way in developing this Green City. We have been trying all our strategies on Green City developments. We look at the energy and the problem reduction. Look at the building and the land use. We look at the transport planning, waste management, water, and all the air improvements, et cetera. We have been constantly cited as one of the case studies in the Green City environment and being ranked top of the charts in many of the international studies.

Starting from 1960’s, our leaders have been creating this vision of a Garden City. Moving forward, we incorporated more greenery into the transport planning, developing functional greenery, (and) integrate it with leisure facilities. Ever since 2000, our Green City development has come to the new stage in response to the climate change and the global warming. We’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on the sustainable development and the Green Buildings. This has been showcased in terms of the Green Building Development. We have developed our own Green Building rating system called BCA Green Mark in 2005. Moving forward, we have been pushing the Green Building initiatives, including the government incentives and legislation of the environment sustainability for new buildings followed by existing buildings in 2012.

Currently, we are working on driving the Green Building Development towards the third generation, which is to reach out to the building tenants to drive the Green Building Development in the next wave.

Today, we are at the stage of having 37 percent of our building sectors being Green Certified. This accounts for more than 100 million square (meters) of the Green GFA, and more than 3,000 Green Building projects. We are probably one of the very few countries that have set the target of greening the whole building stock by 80 percent by 2030. Because of that, we have also been recognized globally for the efforts of the Green Building and the Green City Development.

Moving forward, what we are going to see in the Green Building is that the Green Building needs to be transforming itself by embracing technology innovations. One of the key areas we are looking at is how green and smart buildings can work hand-in-hand and synergize the benefits, to bring out the most quality of life and energy efficiency for the cities and users. For example, the recent study done by the US shows that by embracing controls and the smart technologies, Green Building will be able to achieve another 17 percent of energy savings, just by almost zero capital expenditures. What we can do to drive the Green Building and the Green Development to the next generation is we consider as part of the vision that we can incorporate green developments together with the Smart Nation programs. The Smart Nation program has been launched in 2014 by our Prime Minister with the aim to transform Singapore’s engineering, countries, and technology innovation.

The Smart Nation will improve the quality of life for all by leveraging technologies, to improve the quality of life for citizens, create new business, as well as building a stronger community. By incorporating Green Building into the Smart Nation, it will give us a new drive and push the green into a new era.

Why Smart Nation now, compared to maybe 20 years ago when we’re talking about the intelligent building? It is again the sheer need, the sheer necessity. First, our urban density has increased in the past few decades, and they will continue to increase. The aging population, as I already mentioned, we have only one resource, which is the people, but we are facing a serious aging population issue. In the next 12 to 15 years, our population (that) has an age of more than 65 years old will account for more than ¼ of our total population. And the energy demand continues rising.

One the one hand, the technical possibility of the multiple technologies, such as the sensors, better networks, big data, better factories, and better messaging, and integration give us new opportunities to look at the Green Building and the Smart Nation developments. Ever since we announced the Green Building and the Smart Nation programs, there are a lot of projects at the national level that have been picking up, for example. In terms of the town planning, we have started using the smart technologies to assist our town planning exercise, looking at the data of the occupants, the users, looking at the traffic flow, using IoT sensors to collect the information. Currently, we have more than 110,000 landscape lampposts that have been equipped with smart sensors to capture the user behaviour and the traffic flow. Using the information in a town planning will richly help us to improve the town planning exercise.

On the other hand, similar to many other cities who have been working on the smart transport systems and the smart water management systems. You know, water is a big issue in Singapore, because we rely on importing water from neighboring countries. Every drop of water, if we can manage it well using the smart technologies, then it will be having great benefits to the whole country.

If you notice, there’s also a 3D-mapping exercise currently, we have been currently doing because the city also is considering how to develop our ‘digital twin’ system in the nation, so that the technologies will be able to use to help us to manage the city better. This gives us an example of the digital twin. The project is called Virtual Singapore. We announced this project about three years ago. Basically, it uses LiDAR technology, laser scanning to develop a 3D model of the whole Singapore. In Singapore, we have more than 150,000 buildings. And later, we established this different level of detail of the beam model for the whole country.

Overlaying this 3D model is a set of parameters and information collected from sensors from multiple agencies’ inputs. By overlaying this information, we’ll be able to tell what are the traffic flows, what are the electricity flows of the different precincts of the city. Different agencies and different public members are using this project for their own purpose. For example, the Police Department will be able to capture this kind of 3D model for disaster control and the management to mitigate the potential risk and also other uses.

Currently, this project has been coming to the second stage. You can probably find the YouTube video from the YouTube website. In addition to the 3D model, we are also looking at the IoT technologies, using sensors to collect information at the urban and the precinct level. This picture shows a project our agencies have been connecting 39 buildings at the Phase 1. By collecting this information together to multiple sensors, we are able to tell how the building system is working, which is very important for Facility Managers to diagnose the problem, to improve the efficiency and reduce the manpower or improve the productivity.

Through this pilot stage of connecting 39 buildings, we are seeing 15 percent of the productivity gains and 70 percent of the electricity billing gains. Currently, this project has been scaled up to a total township level we call the Bongo District Town. In this district town, we’ll be collecting information, applying the smart sensors, and the AI (Artificial Intelligence), to do further analysis. This analysis will be able to enable our urban managers to do better improvements or better control of the building environment. This is important because, in Singapore, this is a tropical city located in the tropical belt. There’s a lot of facilities and air conditioning used. If we do not operate this facility well, there is a tremendous opportunity of energy loss.

Moving forward, how the Green Building and the Smart City can be further developed and can be synergized, and it will generate the greater benefits. This future shows some of our scanning. From the current data as well, we are seeing is that basically buildings are still working in isolation. They are using their own different systems, and they do not talk to each other. Most of the buildings are not really following the same standards in terms of energy performance, et cetera, although the agencies may come in and it will share the efforts. But most of the buildings are still working or using their own silos. This created a lot of barriers for the public agencies and the general public to enjoy benefits.

One typical example is in our 3D mapping of the Virtual Singapore. We are able to map the traffic flow information into the 3D model. We are also able to map maybe the lifts and the escalator information into the 3D model. But how does vertical transport and the horizontal transport information be combined into a grid so that you can improve the whole performance? For example, if we are knowing in this region, the lifts and all the escalator information are there, and then we can send a taxi over there to pick up the guest. These are not done yet. So, we are seeing the integration of the building with the grid with these urban cities is very important in the next step of the Smart City development. This will require probably a Smart City Digital Platform and technology to drive the change.

Also, in addition to that, we are seeing the Smart Building and the Smart City need to be really integrated and generate benefits for the users. That is why the smart devices and the smart applications come in. These smart applications will be able to bring the users and the occupants into the picture to make the Smart Cities and the Smart Buildings to really work for the smart citizens, making a kind of citizen-centric solutions. On the other hand, the smart grid needs to come in because of the renewable energy rise and the sustainable development works. We need to be really looking to how to build the whole city using the grid and the building to be automatically corresponding to each other for the demand and supply correspondence.

As I already mentioned, most of the buildings are currently still working in silos. We have a fragmented industry. We have IT companies, consultants, and the design engineers, who actually developed the design. After that, pass over to the facility managers. Most of the time, a lot of information, a lot of the technologies are no more really effective after facility management has been taken over the information. There’s information loss. Also, the IT companies and IT system people come into the picture after the contract is completed. How we put these pieces together is an issue. Who is driving the convergence of all these fragmented issues?

On the other hand, we also see the technology gaps. There are a lot of talks on big data. A lot of discussion on IoT, et cetera, connectivity, and interoperability. But frankly, currently, if you look at that industry, for the building sector, especially, you look at smart lighting. Smart lighting have their own cloud somewhere. You look at the smart air (conditioning), they have their own cloud. All these clouds do not really talk to each other. In the end, how you synergize it?

One typical issue of the energy efficiency is that the lack of the coordination, and the lack of the integration. Automatic demand response and smart grid is something I’ve already mentioned. Again, the cyber security is one of the top concerns of the Smart City development. I just wanted to share with you some of the things we are having.

In conclusion, the Smart Building and the Green Building, or Green City and the Smart City need to come together, need to work hand-in-hand, so that it can bring out the maximum benefits for citizens and people. With that, I thank you for your attention. Thank you very much.

Thanks for listening to this episode of New Horizons. Please be sure to click on the link below to read a full transcript of this keynote speech. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe and be sure to share with your friends on social media. For more information on Huawei’s products and solutions, please visit Be sure to tune in again soon for more great guest interviews and stories. And as always, thanks for listening.


Dr. Gao Chun Ping, 
Managing Director, Built Environment Research and Innovation Institute (BERII), 
Singapore Building & Construction Authority. Trained as an engineer and researcher, Dr. Gao has more than 20 years’ experience in research and practice of building technologies.