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Sustainable Innovations in the Built Environment: Insights from The GEAR Student Conference


Kajima The GEAR Student Conference Panel Discussion

From left: Joshua Banzon, Anjalika Singh, Esther An and Brice Degeyter On August 4, 2023, Kajima and the Singapore Management University’s Sustainable Investment club co-organised The GEAR Student Conference, a student-led event where participants from various institutes of higher learning had the opportunity to go on a guided tour of The GEAR: Kajima Lab for Global Engineering, Architecture & Real Estate, to learn more about its cutting-edge technologies and building infrastructure. This allowed the participants to gain a deeper understanding and interest in Kajima’s technical projects and innovation activities, as well as learn more about Green Architecture, Energy Management, Circular Economy, and PropTech. The event also invited changemakers in the built environment industry, including Esther An, Chief Sustainability Officer at City Developments Limited, Brice Degeyter, Founder & General Manager at Bizsu, and Anjalika Singh, Investment Manager at Taronga Ventures, to discuss topics trending with the youth. Moderated by Joshua Banzon, Research Director at the Singapore Management University’s Sustainable Investment club, the panellists shared profound insights into the built environment sector and its pivotal role in creating a sustainable future.

Kajima The GEAR Student Conference Anjalika Singh Taronga Ventures

Government-Led Impetus is Key Singapore’s small size hasn’t hindered its vision; instead, it has facilitated long-term planning and a clear trajectory, making it easy for businesses to foresee where things are heading and plan accordingly. Government regulations and evolving incentives also propel businesses toward sustainability. An example given by Anjalika for the construction sector were the use of technologies such as digital modeling and sensors that plays a pivotal role in enabling real-time tracking and immediate rectification of construction mistakes. Such solutions, bolstered by the government’s support, encourages innovation and forward-thinking among businesses here, in anticipation of the changes that they might have to make from an economic and sustainable standpoint.

Kajima The GEAR Student Conference Esther An City Developments Limited CDL

COVID-19 Increased the Adaptability of Technology The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the integration of digital systems in buildings. Esther mentioned that concerns regarding hygiene and air quality prompted the rapid adoption of touchless technologies and sensors. Thankfully, Singapore is structured and organised, with several digital systems already put in place. Thus, it was easy to implement additional ones without much effort. This transformation not only increased efficiency and uptake of technology, but also reduced energy consumption. Businesses also started to embrace changes by utilising technology such as robots to enhance the occupant experience, fostering a new era of smart, responsive properties. It is thus important to have the mind to innovate and the perseverance to continue with such efforts.

Kajima The GEAR Student Conference Brice Degeyter Bizsu

Advancing Green Building Practices is the Way Forward Singapore’s emphasis on green buildings is evident, said Brice. Early recognition of the importance of sustainability led to significant investments in this sector. Despite this progress, there is a lot more we need to do and innovation that needs to happen to realise a net-zero future. Challenges such as high energy consumption, especially in air conditioning, persist. The panellists shared about how innovations like district cooling and creative solutions such as ‘cool paint’ and vertical green walls are being explored. These innovations not only conserve energy but also create comfortable indoor environments, reducing reliance on artificial cooling systems. The discussion also emphasised on the multifaceted nature of sustainability. Beyond carbon reduction, social and economic elements are crucial. Spaces need to be designed not just for energy efficiency but also for human well-being. Concepts like communal spaces and co-working environments reflect the social aspect, ensuring that sustainability caters to the holistic needs of the community.


Kajima The GEAR Student Conference Attendees

On Retrofitting vs Building New The debate between retrofitting existing structures and constructing new green buildings is nuanced. The decision depends on factors such as building age, regulations, and incentives. Singapore's approach involves a case-by-case evaluation. For instance, the redevelopment of older buildings into mixed-use spaces aligns with global trends toward '10-minute cities', reducing carbon footprints associated with travel. The integration of technology in existing structures significantly impacts sustainability, highlighting the importance of both retrofitting and new construction.


Kajima The GEAR Student Conference

What’s next? Research shows that globally, 55% of solutions to help the world transform to net zero rely on energy solutions. The other 45% rely on circular economy solutions. Turning waste into valuable resources and building materials has been on the drawing board for many years. The fundamental challenge with innovation is the adoption of the changes in how we do it today and keeping an open mind to the solutions that come. The built environment is in the middle of a seismic shift where we now must reconsider how we build and maintain the buildings for the carbon impact on the surroundings. Watch the event highlight video:

This article was written by Joey Jiahui Ong, Innovation Manager at Kajima Development.

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