Singapore Sustainability Academy (SSA), a major training and networking hub dedicated to achieving a cleaner, greener and more sustainable future, opened in June.
Focusing on the key areas of advocacy, building capacity and collaboration, education and training, information and resource sharing, and community engagement, the SSA is a unique partnership between a private developer, City Developments Limited (CDL) and an NGO, the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS).
Drawing on CDL’s strength in green building and user engagement, the expertise of SEAS in sustainable energy, and supporting agencies and industry partners, the Academy will harness their knowledge and network to build collaborations among various stakeholders in the areas of sustainable development.
And the Academy is not just talking the talk: the zero-energy SSA building itself features a photovoltaic system that is expected to generate an annual energy yield of over 60,000 kWh, which is more than the SSA’s estimated annual energy consumption of about 50,000 kWh/year.
Moreover, the SSA is the first building in Singapore to have its construction materials – Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and Glued Laminated Timber (Glulam) – verified by the Nature’s BarcodeTM system as coming from responsible sources. This entails scientific tests including DNA analysis to minimise the risk that the wood comes from illegal logging.
“The timber is a treat for the senses. Apart from being visually appealing, it creates a clean, rustic and natural atmosphere, and the woody scent invokes a sense of calm within,” says Esther An, CDL’s Chief Sustainability Officer and a key player in realising the vision of the Academy.
The SSA, she explains, was conceived in mid-2015 under the leadership of CDL’s late Deputy Chairman and prominent sustainability advocate Mr. Kwek Leng Joo, who passed away in late 2015. “With his visionary leadership, CDL started our CSR journey founded on the ethos of ‘Conserve as we Construct’ in 1995. I am hugely honoured to have worked with him from the beginning, and to now continue his legacy by stepping up our efforts in ESG integration, making it a strong business case.”
Indeed, CDL, Singapore’s pioneer real estate developer with a global presence in 97 locations across 26 countries and specialising in residences, offices, hotels and malls totaling over 18 million square feet of floor area, has an impressive list of international sustainability awards to its name. The company has built a track record in developing quality green spaces and industry-changing innovations, which inspire eco-friendly lifestyles and sustainable workplace practices.
“Buildings are so much a part of life – we all live, work and play in and around built spaces, especially in highly built-up Singapore,” says An.
“Globally, buildings consume 40% of energy, 25% of water, and 40% of resources, and are responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. At CDL, we apply a three-pronged sustainability strategy that focuses on developing and adopting game-changing green building innovations and methods; managing our buildings in an energy and resource efficient manner; and user engagement and advocacy.”
The SSA is CDL’s third major 3P (People, Public and Private) ground-up initiative, following its purpose-built zero-energy CDL Green Gallery @Singapore Botanic Gardens and My Tree House, the world’s first green library for kids to encourage them to learn and care about the environment.
Located on a roof terrace in Singapore’s first eco-mall, City Square Mall, and surrounded by greenery, the 4,300 square feet Academy comprises classrooms, a veranda, an office, and an exhibition gallery.
“The walkway leading from a modern mall setting to the Academy contains infographics aimed at creating a sense of urgency and environmental consciousness among visitors,” says An. “The walkway walls feature thought-provoking issues on whether our planet will survive rapid population growth, rising demand for natural resources and climate change. It also features the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and best practices of some of the most sustainable global cities that lead the way to saving our planet.”
“Simply put, the Academy is a small space with a big vision and I am truly excited about SSA’s mission in community education and engagement, building a strong coalition and force to combat climate change and contribute to a sustainable future.”
SSA has set its sights on training and engaging sustainability professionals and communities beyond Singapore. SEAS has an established partnership with Asian Development Bank to provide training programmes for energy practitioners in the region.
Similarly, the SSA Programme Committee, chaired by An, is in talks with various partners, including NPOs, think tanks and industry associations, to bring experts from international organisations such as the UN Global Compact, Business Council for Sustainable Development, and World Green Building Council, to share best practices and expertise with audiences from Singapore and the region.
SEAS, the operator, will focus on training and capacity building while CDL, as the owner of the Academy, will spearhead the planning of programmes, thought leadership, advocacy, networking and partnerships amongst public, private and people sectors, explains An.
The programmes will be funded mainly by CDL and its partners, who will hold sustainability-related activities at the Academy. SEAS will continue to run their training classes using the organisation’s current sustainable business model as a non-profit.
“Examples of some programmes we have planned are capability building workshops, sustainability forums and youth workshops on topics such as the circular economy, sustainability reporting, green financing, etc.,” says An. Focusing on youth is particularly important, she says. “Young people are our future. They are the next generation of consumers, workforce and leaders who will be shaping our future economy and society. For two decades now, CDL has been active in youth development, one of our four key community investment areas.
“For the SSA, we have brought together our track record in youth development and our network of partners to develop innovative programmes with a strong focus on social-environmental advocacy. For example, we will be launching a new format for the 8th edition of CDL’s E-Generation Challenge through the platform of SSA. In partnership with the Global Green Economic Forum, the Challenge aims to raise eco-awareness amongst young people between the ages of 18 to 35 and to discover outstanding young champions for the environment. The winner of the challenge will embark on a 12-day study trip to the International Antarctic Expedition, led by renowned explorer and conservationist Robert Swan. The young champion will return to assume an advocacy role on environmental conservation to inspire more youths to follow.”
In addition to youth development, CDL is setting up the first network for women in Singapore’s green sectors, Women4Green. “This aims to engage women executives who work in the green building, clean energy, technology, green financing and consultancy fields to inspire each other to do more for their respective causes,” says An. “As there is an increasing number of women in the forefront of climate action, this network will engage women leaders to inspire, mentor and empower other females to charge forward and accelerate our transition to a low-carbon future. It also aims to support SDG 5 on Gender Equality.”