Singapore authority seeks to improve energy efficiency of HVAC systems in buildings

BCA's smart building technology R&D call, i part of the authority's Green Buildings Cluster programme, which also allocates S$18m in funds for R&D grant calls and collaboration projects
BCA’s smart building technology R&D call, is part of the authority’s Green Buildings Cluster programme, which also allocates S$18m in funds for R&D grant calls and collaboration projects

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA), a statutory board under the Ministry of National Development in Singapore, has announced that it will be awarding S$6 million (US$4, 402 700) to four research projects aimed at improving the energy efficiency of air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation systems in buildings.

 The BCAs call for proposals from the research community fall under the authority’s Energy Innovation Research Programme for building energy efficiency.

The projects focus on air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation systems, which account for a large portion of a building’s energy consumption and is expected to take two to three years to complete.

According to Channel News Asia, BCA will also be launching the inaugural smart building technology research and development call, which aims to develop solutions for smart, green buildings.

The call for proposals is open to the research community, including researchers in universities and Singapore-based companies.

Minister of State for National Development, Desmond Lee said: “Research and development has helped us overcome many challenges of the past, but more can and needs to be done, as we continue to face new challenges as we develop and grow.

“For a small city-state like ours, this is especially key as no other country will face the pressures of urbanisation and scarcity of resources as keenly as we do.”

Mr Tan Tian Chong, group director for research at Building and Construction Authority added: “Smart building systems, according to some studies, can save as much as 20% of the energy that is consumed in our buildings, and of course smart building systems can also help to make our buildings healthier and occupants more productive.”

Improving energy efficiency in HVAC systems

One of the projects granted the National Development’s Research and Development Award, under BCA’s first call authority’s Energy Innovation Research Programme, was a was a system that could reduce energy needed by airconditioners by up to 35%.

Channel News Asia explained that “ in the prototype, air is passed through membranes, where moisture is removed. The device also passes the air through a water-based cooling system that does not contain chemicals harmful to the environment.”

Assistant professor Ernest Chua, from National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Engineering, said: “If the indoor air is really humid, then the chilling system, the air-con system so to speak, has to take up a lot of energy to remove that moisture.

“But with this system, it basically de-couples the moisture-removal process and the cooling process, so the cooling system now is much more efficient because it does not have to remove the moisture from the air.

Chua added: “This is a very low-cost manufactured membrane, so if you want to manufacture in terms of a couple of thousand pieces, we do not anticipate that the costs are going to be heavy.”

Large-scale testing of the air-conditioning system is currently being carried out and is expected to be available in the market in one to two years’ time.