The commitments Brunei Darussalam has made to safeguard its environment are well documented. These include high-profile efforts like participation in the “Heart of Borneo” campaign to preserve a 22m-ha swath of jungle, as well as a recent pledge to allow no more than 1% of the country’s landmass to be converted to agricultural use. Thanks to the wealth afforded by the commercialisation of its oil and gas resources, Brunei Darussalam is able to enact more environmentally friendly practices in other areas of the economy as well. “Brunei Darussalam is moving toward the acceptance and adoption of green building standards, as seen recently in major construction projects,” Shawn Tang, the country managing director for TSL Construction, told OBG.

Going Green

This focus is being channelled towards the construction industry with the introduction of green building practices aimed at improving energy and water efficiency in new buildings to reduce their carbon footprint. By taking into account the potential impact a new building can have on the environment, such as electricity and water consumption, soil erosion and emissions, green building is incorporated from the ground up in planning, design, construction and operational practices, helping construct more environmentally friendly edifices.

Although the development of multibillion-dollar mega-projects often dictates a rapid pace of construction designed to maximise labour and material cost efficiency, some developers are taking a more careful look at the impact of their building practices. The Sultanate’s first official green building, for instance, was commissioned by the government and completed in January 2010. The BN$4.8m ($3.77m), seven-storey Knowledge Hub, which was developed by the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB), incorporates technologies like motion sensors for lighting and energy-saving elevators, while also supplementing its electricity use through roof-mounted photovoltaic solar panels. At Anggerek Desa Technology Park, the Knowledge Hub is set to be joined by a sister building also utilising green building practices in the third and final phase of the BEDB project. Set for completion in October 2014, the new eight-storey office building and car park will employ features like natural day lighting, a rainwater harvesting system for landscape irrigation, and other green materials and techniques that will help it achieve the equivalent of a Green Mark certification from Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (SBCA). Ground was broken on the BN$19m ($14.9m) project in June 2013 and is being carried out by local firm Haji Adinin and Sons.

Raised Costs

Despite the demonstrable benefits of these new technologies, the private sector has been slow to show interest, primarily due to their perceived upfront expense. Initial expenditure on materials like solar panels, energy- and water-efficient appliances, more robust insulation and thermal pane windows, along with the learning curve for builders, all combine to increase the overall cost of such projects. As a result, the cost savings recouped each month in the form of lower utility bills may not pay off for years or even decades – a challenge only compounded by the subsidised price of energy.

Setting Standards

While the decision to employ green practices lies with the owner of the building, Brunei Darussalam hopes to promote their use further via the Brunei Green Building Council (BGBC). Launched in 2013, the BGBC, which was awarded emerging member status in the World Green Building Council in 2013, is made up of industry stakeholders that have come together to educate construction firms and the public about the benefits of these techniques, as well as to establish a set of certification standards similar to those used abroad. At present, one of the more widely used green building standards internationally is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system developed by the US Green Building Council, while the SBCA’s Green Mark system is also common throughout the region.