Researchers from the University of California Berkeley are helping Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA) transform its Zero Energy Building (ZEB) into a positive energy building that can be used as a living laboratory for testing smart building technologies.
The work is being done through the Singapore-Berkeley Building Efficiency & Sustainability in the Tropics (SinBerBest), a research programme hosted by University of California Berkeley with the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University.
The ZEB has already been recognised as one of the most energy efficient buildings in Singapore with energy efficiency some 50% better than a code-compliant building. The aim is to improve the energy efficiency by a further 20%. And by upgrading the existing solar photovoltaic system, the building should be able to achieve an overall energy surplus of at least 40%.
Arising from years of research at UC Berkeley and local universities, more than 20 building technologies, covering air-conditioning, lighting, façade and smart controls will be engineered and tested in the refurbished building.
In particular, this project places emphasis on smart building technologies. Enabling technologies at user level, such as occupancy positioning, personalised environment setting, plug load monitoring and control, will be streamlined into the infrastructure of the office space. The space will be equipped with more than 1000 sensors and monitoring devices, which is triple the number in the current ZEB, providing real-time feedback of its occupants’ activities to a dedicated smart building management system (BMS).
This BMS will interact with the deployed technologies, collect data and carry out analytics, and then adjust the building systems to deliver an indoor environment that optimises the energy usage of the space as well as the experience of its occupants.
The refurbished ZEB will also aim to provide an adaptable, smart, biophilic and healthy office environment for its occupants. Biophilic and ergonomic design will be systematically implemented through a collaborative and integrated design-thinking process with deep end-user engagement. With the integration of software, hardware and people elements during this process, the office could become an exemplary model for the design of smart and healthy buildings for occupants.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.
“One of our key philosophies at SinBerBest is that the modern built environment can benefit from an integrated approach that blends design, building science and information technology in order to improve the efficiency and the quality of the built environment,” said SinBerBest programme leader Costas Spanos. “The SinBerBest team is very excited about this unique opportunity to partner with BCA and demonstrate some of our key inventions in a true living laboratory, embedded into one of the most advanced buildings in the world.”
BCA’s flagship ZEB was opened in 2009 and has delivered a net zero energy performance for seven continuous years, producing more energy than it consumes with a net surplus of between seven and nine per cent achieved yearly.
“With the technological advancements in the past seven years, it is opportune for ZEB to undergo a technology refresh, so it continues to serve as an effective living testbed for energy efficiency in buildings,” said BCA’s chief executive officer Hugh Lim. “This project signifies BCA’s commitment to continued innovation, creating a model of positive energy low-rise building that provides a healthy and conducive working environment for occupants. This is in line with BCA’s long-term aspiration of achieving positive energy low-rise, zero energy mid-rise and super low energy high-rise buildings in the tropics.”
SinBerBest is one of the two core research programmes within Berkeley Education Alliance for Research in Singapore (Bears). Established in 2011 by UCB as a non-profit company that functions as a centre for research, graduate education and innovation, its mission is to advance technologies for designing, modelling and operating buildings for better efficiency and sustainability in tropical climates. Its research is focused on building energy technologies for the tropics, with a niche expertise in smart building technologies, lighting and data analytics.