SJ Group Celebrates 7 Years
Elga NiemannAssociate Director (Lighting)
Architectural lighting is conventionally seen as an add-on for a project. But the lighting designers of Atelier Ten have been showing how good lighting can single-handedly transform spaces and objects.
Elga started her career as a product designer for light fittings, but she soon realised that she wanted to get involved in the bigger picture of architectural lighting design. “I chose architectural lighting because of its more permanent nature, something that can be enjoyed by people for a long period of time. I love walking past old projects, such as the Illuminated River. The project involved lighting nine bridges on the Thames through central London. It was great to work on such a visible project so close to home in Central London.”
Elga also enjoys showing how lighting design can challenge the misconception that LED lighting inevitably equals energy efficient lighting. “The biggest savings can be made by good design, by carefully thinking about how much lighting is needed and where it should go,” she comments.
At the National Theatre, she says, the Atelier Ten team proved that the biggest energy savings in lighting can be made by good design – only putting lighting where you need it, rather than simply relying on efficient fittings. Another high point for her is the lighting design for the magnificent Chapel at King’s College in Cambridge, which combined heritage lighting with cutting-edge wireless control.
The London lighting team has designed lighting for London’s National Theatre, and high-profile national and international projects including the UK Pavilion at the 2020 Dubai Expo, the Great Tapestry of Scotland Galley with Page Park and Bee’ah Environmental Headquarters in Sharjah with Zaha Hadid Architects. At the 2016 Lighting Design Awards, Elga was recognised as one of the top 40 under 40 influential Lighting Designers in the world.
In the future, she believes, personal smart control will allow clients greater control over lighting. “Smart control via apps and other devices over your lighting environment is going to quickly become standard in the built environment, especially in the commercial sector,” says Elga. “Occupants will be able to control their immediate lighting environment in an open plan office.”
“With these opportunities for individual light level and colour temperature control come some challenges,” she observes. One of the challenges for lighting designers will be how to embrace individual user preference whilst creating a consistent architectural aesthetic throughout open plan spaces.”
I chose architectural lighting because of its more permanent nature, something that can be enjoyed by people for a long period of time. I love walking past old projects, such as the Illuminated River.
– Elga Nieman, Associate Director (Lighting), Atelier Ten
Brian MeinrathAssociate Director
The Anderson Collection at Stanford University, where Atelier Ten provided the design team guidance on high-performance conditioning and daylighting for gallery spaces.
UT Dallas Bioscience & Engineering Building has a water re-use scheme resulting in the reduction of water consumption by 52 percent and ambient lighting design strategy generates significant energy savings.
633 Folsom with customized hoods in corners of windows to provide maximum shade from the sun’s glare.
Brian is a leader in environmental design and benchmarking. With close knowledge of the architectural design process, Brian has developed analysis tools to reduce water consumption in new buildings and optimise complex facades.
One of Brian’s latest projects is the Microsoft Campus Modernization in Redmond, Washington, USA, where Atelier Ten is the owner’s sustainability consultant for the campus modernization project. Microsoft intends to harness geothermal energy deep in the earth instead of fossil fuels in the daily operations of the campus as it intends to be zero-carbon.
A veteran environmental designer of over 13 years with Atelier Ten, Brian loves the challenge: “Our work as environmental designers is exciting because we get to lead our brilliant clients and project team collaborators to find solutions to mitigate climate change. We also advocate for the wellness and well-being of our buildings’ future occupants; and by identifying and solving problems like glare, thermal discomfort, and poor acoustics, we ensure that our projects become high-quality spaces that are delightful to be in.”
As the consultant, he helps architects bring their visions to life, to identify challenges and propose solutions early. “We can even shape that very vision, and in turn, define the visual identity of a building,” Brian says.
His deep fascination with reducing water consumption is guided by the fact that there is no single solution for every building, only a Goldilocks solution that is “just right,” one always shaped by local conditions and the owner’s needs.
“The scale and complexity of recent projects has made it an incredible learning experience for me professionally,” Brian observes. He has also been working on another technology company’s headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as a small school in Los Angeles, that are all aiming to be net zero in terms of both operational and embodied carbon.
“My recent projects have tended to focus on onsite solar photovoltaics to generate energy, and I’m looking forward to the development of new renewable energy technologies, as well as new ways of procuring offsite renewable energy, that will give us designers more tools to achieve decarbonisation.”
Holly Jordan Principal
As a second-year architecture student, Holly was fascinated by the technical components of buildings, so she shifted her focus to engineering and graduated with a degree in Architectural Engineering. Soon after her internship in an architectural firm, she discovered that she was deeply intrigued by the emerging thinking around sustainability.
“Sustainability has become the ‘glue’ between my training as both an engineer and an architect,” says Holly. With her master’s thesis ‘Thinking Skins’, Holly explored the concept of “legible sustainability” through the intersection of design, technical performance, and sustainability.
It is this passion that led to one of the highlights of her career, working on Humber College’s retrofitted Nx building. It was the first retrofit in Canada to be awarded the Zero Carbon Building – Design Certification by the Canada Green Building Council and Passive House Certification by the Passive House Institute. Energy-saving retrofits are often complex; but those that have complied with or even exceeded energy performance standards show that low-carbon solutions exist for existing building stock.
She says, “It is critical that our design teams understand approaches to sustainability, that it is not something ‘added on’, and that close partnership with our clients, engineering consultants and contractors leads to successful sustainably minded projects” – like Humber Nx. She herself has had a big role in seeding research and development and a culture of learning in B+H.
“Whether it is accreditation in LEED, WELL, Passive House*, I strongly encourage that our colleagues pursue them and cultivate comfort with the language surrounding sustainability,” she says. She encourages others and personally hosts in-house lessons-learned discussions, conducts envelope detailing workshops, and promotes the firm’s high-performance projects at a myriad of professional conferences.
She also gets her teams to actively create – through sketches, digital models, physical models, computational design – to allow teams to better understand their design solutions, how they communicate them, and to think critically to improve the work.
“For Building Nx, I encouraged the design team to develop a 3D enlarged building detail to clearly demonstrate its robust building envelop. This brought together a deep understanding of technical building detailing, use of modelling tools (laser cutter, 3D printer, and laser printing); and outward promotion of the project to the broader studio and our visitors.”
Holly is an advocate for ongoing experimentation and exploration, including data- driven computational design and various sustainable design software to help teams improve their project outcomes and workflows. “By nature, design improves through reflection, critical thinking, and constantly asking ‘how can this be better?’” she says of her mission. “One fundamental understanding early in one’s design career is to understand that the first sketch is the first step towards finding a solution, but it is not the only solution. This is sometimes a frustrating experience, but it should be embraced as an exploration and testing of ideas.”
*LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building certification used worldwide and developed by the non-profit U.S. Green Building Council.
WELL is a performance-based system developed by the International WELL Building Institute for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.
Passive House is a building standard and construction concept that requires energy efficiency as well as thermal comfort in buildings; established by the Passive House Institute (PHI), an independent research institute originating in Germany.
Jamie MillerDirector of Biomimicry, Senior Associate
As a practitioner of biomimicry, Jamie Miller questions established paradigms within the built environment. “Our designs are formed on the basis of how we interpret nature to work,” he says. “Biomimicry invites us to re-examine our existing knowledge and to determine whether our agriculture, architecture, engineering, and industry are derived from knowledge that is compatible with nature’s own.”
Jamie developed a fascination with the theory of biomimicry early in life, when a math and poetry class at university revealed the beauty of the Fibonacci sequence and the golden ratio, both often expressed in nature.
Biomimicry and engineering
“The magic of biomimicry is in knowing that nature has refined incredible solutions for how to thrive on this planet and in the not knowing of how to necessarily abstract these ideas to the built environment,” Jamie says. It is the not knowing that Jamie is most intrigued by, “We first need to learn nature’s genius and then creatively find ways to emulate those ideas to work more harmoniously with her. There is still so much that we don’t know about the natural world, and I am fascinated every time we learn something new.”
Jamie has a PhD in engineering, focused on systems-level biomimicry and urban resilience, and has been applying biomimicry to the built environment through his consultancy, Biomimicry Frontiers. Last November, he was brought in to B+H to expand that practice with a wider group of experts.
He also founded Biomimicry Commons in 2019, an education and incubation platform to encourage others to bring nature-based philosophy to their own approaches – whether it is design, art, education, politics, technology, or engineering. The Commons is a creative community to help support the growth of more biomimicry applications and encourage more nature-based businesses and solutions. In 2019, Fast Company named it a “World-Changing Idea”.
Levels of biomimicry
For Jamie, biomimicry can be grouped into three levels: Form, process and systems. Form-based biomimicry is about emulating shapes and patterns which commonly appear in nature to improve efficiency, like how wind turbine blades are improved by altering their design to emulate humpback whale fins.
Process-based biomimicry is about understanding and applying natural manufacturing systems. An example is spider silk, which has a strength to weight ratio greater than anything humans have made. He says, “Spiders make this at body temperature and pressure, using water-based chemistry, a subset of the periodic table of elements and only the energy of the sun. And because its manufacturing is benign, it’s fully recyclable – in fact, spiders will often eat their own silk. This deeper level of biomimicry allows us to function more like an ecosystem and move beyond “doing less harm” towards becoming a contribution to our place. So, to deepen the sustainability of a project, I may first look to form but will also explore how we might include things like green chemistry, benign manufacturing, circularity, or additive manufacturing.”
“The deepest and most important level of biomimicry is systems-based. This is where we blur the glaring contrast between the built and natural environments by emulating the deeper principles of how ecosystems function. It’s about reintegrating back into nature and creating conditions that are conducive to more life.”
An example: Prior to B+H, Jamie explored the ways in which nature creates no waste to help build Canada’s First Circular Food Economy in Guelph, Canada. By learning how nature exploits resources and creatively reengineers them, he helped a local brewery turn spent grains into bread and was experimenting with ways of turning spent bread back into beer. He also built a community agriculture patch, based on the ecological principle of patch dynamics. The idea was to focus on integrating backyard gardens so that not everyone was growing the same food and that they could make a more resilient food system by increasing the diversity. Through an app, his neighbourhood now shares, barters and trades amongst themselves accessing a wider variety of food.
For his work, he starts by understanding the local context. “For example, in master planning projects we always start with a ‘Living Story’ site assessment which defines the socio-ecological trajectory of place. Our goal is to find out the hidden ecological assets and the existing site trajectory so that we can leverage nature’s free resources and build in harmony with the site. We recognize that it can be expensive to fight nature and so we are trying to build resilience by building harmonic designs.”
He follows up by leveraging the design strategies premised on the local context. For example, in the house design in India, he looked at local flora and fauna, namely barrel cactus, elephant skin, termite mounds and ant hills, to design and build better passive cooling strategies.
Nature as a teacher
“The bottom line in my biomimicry process is to break down what it is I want the design to do by identifying the basic function and then ask nature how she would solve that. For example, if I want to create adhesives, I might look at spiders, geckos, burrs, blue mussels, or snails. If I want to make those metaphors inform my design, I figure out exactly how they do it and then find people or technologies that might be able to make a solution that is simple and cost effective.”
But above all, he is adaptive to clients and contexts – like water. As Jamie observed in a recent webinar: “Ecological resilience is like a ball sitting in a bowl of water, the ball being nature, rolls with the water, which represents its environment. . Engineering resilience is more like a cube in that bowl of water – designed to resist change from its environment and fend off that once-in-a-hundred-year storm. Why are we spending so much time and energy resisting nature, rather than using nature, to be resilient?”
“In collaborating with clients, I try to listen as much to the things that they are saying as well as the things they are not. I’m trying to really understand what their perspectives, interpretations, motives, needs, wants, or fears are so that I can best tailor my responses to that. There is no ‘one size fits all’ in communicating biomimicry. Like nature, it’s about being locally attuned and responsive.”
And constantly being in the flow with divergent viewpoints helps designers to challenge assumptions, stay flexible in mind and be creative.
This is where his Biomimicry Commons comes in – like a rich and robust mycelium network that helps a forest to adapt to pests and other changes, the Commons is about creating a network of people who want to shift the paradigm of design through application. “It isn’t just about me sharing ideas, it’s about providing the soil for all practitioners to share their genius and create a richer experience of life,” he says.
Xiong BinStructural Engineer
As Sino-Sun’s Chief Structural Engineer since 2010, Xiong Bin has worked on a varied portfolio including industrial facilities, a medical tourism facility, shopping malls, mixed-use developments, including several large-scale residential projects in Inner Mongolia and Hebei province in China.
Xiong Bin believes that engineering is one profession where art and technology get to work beautifully together. “Through the creative work of civil engineers, we can arrive at the best architectural structure solutions, realising the best combination of strength and beauty in an architectural form.”
Xiong Bin enjoys creating new architectural forms. An example of his work is his recent renovation of Beijing CITIC ID Mall, a large-scale shopping mall covering 150,000sqm, which has a complicated interior spatial design. He had to find a sustainable way of retrofitting an old building for a modern shopping mall. To redevelop it as a shopping mall in line with the client’s expectations, it needed to have a lot of open spaces inside with skylights on the external walls and in the roof. The challenge for Xiong Bin and his team was to keep the existing structure as much as possible and create a completely new exterior with a lot of open spaces in the interior.
Xiong Bin’s team worked with UNStudio, a Dutch architectural practice with a presence in China, to retrofit Beijing CITIC ID Mall.
He believes there is a lot of potential to reduce emissions by using sustainable building materials. “Steel is more sustainable, compared with concrete,” he says. “Most of the buildings in China are concrete structures due to the lower cost of concrete. I think it would be good to use more steel as it is recyclable, is lighter, and has less impact on the environment from the view of the whole life cycle of the buildings. This will be an important change which we must actively pursue for future projects.”
The biggest achievement of my career to date, is the development of the Reveal, a Virtual Design and Construction interactive platform by RBG that enables project stakeholders to experience and collaborate on built assets.- Daniel Sambell
Virtual Design and Construction Lead, Robert Bird Group
Yarp Sue AnnPrincipal Engineer (Civil & Structural)
A view of the old Traffic Police Headquarters along Maxwell Road. This neoclassical building was designed by Frank Dorrington Ward, the government architect of the Straits Settlements Public Works Department. It was built to house traffic police officers and their families.
The front view of Maxwell Chambers. KTP Consultants, a member of Surbana Jurong Group, is the civil & structural engineer for the restoration of Maxwell Chamber Suites which preserved the building’s heritage character while repurposing it for its modern commercial use today.
Sue Ann likes to think of civil engineering as a stabilising force for a chaotic world. “Civil engineers have an important role in mitigating, if not preventing the worsening impacts of climate change.”
In the face of climate challenge, engineers now need to make careful choices in construction material, utilise resources effectively, prioritise the use of renewable and recycled resources, critically assess the imposed load and overall ensure an optimal design to fulfil the building’s functionality with minimal impact on the environment.
Sue Ann has worked in KTP for almost 10 years, and was commended by the Singapore Ministry of Law for her work in the redesign of the former Red Dot Traffic Building, a global dispute resolution chamber built by the British, into the Maxwell Chambers Suites. She was the project lead Civil and structural engineer, handling civil and structural design work and site issues, coordinating with the project team to ensure the design intent was delivered within the stipulated time and budget.
“Conserving buildings reduces the raw amount of construction materials use and reduces wastage as less reconstruction is required,” she says. “Conservation buildings can be made more sustainable with infusion of efficient M&E systems and renewables energy sources to reduce energy consumption.”
The challenge is integrating these systems sensitively in the building while respecting its original fabric. She says: “The key is not to over-construct, and we crucially have to understand the original structural system of the building and its load paths, identify the least intrusive way of adding new loads and how to support them to avoid total re-construction works. And this is where engineering is exciting for me, to be able to exercise creative thinking and innovative solutions, not only for the immediate objectives but also to augment them with future proofing considerations.”
Magdalene NgVice President, Integrated Enterprise Services and Sustainability
AETOS, together with Singapore’s DBS Bank, launched Singapore’s first Electric Vehicle (EV) for Cash and Valuables Escort (CVE) services. Such vehicles are used to transport corporate cash from the branches of DBS to a cash processing centre, and each chalks up 170km a day on average. Using an EV instead of an internal combustion engine vehicle reduces carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e) by up to 47 kg per day – or some 17,100 kg of CO2e a year.
Magdalene Ng leads AETOS’s sustainability initiatives, working tirelessly with its clients to achieve carbon-neutral operations.
This is a new but critical mission for Magdalene, who has spent 28 years in the industry, covering roles in procurement, logistics, and facilities management. Much of her work boils down to change management.
“We recognise that it takes organisation-wide effort to achieve certain outcomes and that we are accountable for our business’s environmental impact,” she says. “We have always been a firm believer that combating climate change requires all hands on deck, and that includes businesses like AETOS playing an active role to champion sustainability within the ecosystem.”
Two highlights of AETOS’ sustainability efforts include being the first in the security industry to launch sustainable Physical Training kits for their trainees in 2020 and the launch of their first electric vehicle with their client, DBS Bank, in 2021. The full electrification of AETOS’ Cash and Valuables Escort (CVE) fleet is slated to take place by 2026, and is in line with the goal of achieving 100 percent vehicle carbon footprint reduction by 2030.
The Tencel material for the PT kits is designed to be sweat-proof, stain-proof and waterproof so that it requires fewer washes. Engineered by a startup called Man’s Best Friend, it was inspired by the double coat of a golden retriever, whose fur can repel dirt and water even when it swims.
She enjoyed the energy of the start-up team, who persisted despite challenges such as production capacity issues, high material cost, high logistics cost, dwindling funds, pressure from parents and peers, and lack of networks.
“It was not easy running a business in the middle of a pandemic, but the team of young entrepreneurs from MBF proved that nothing is insurmountable,” she says. “I believe our support and trust in them played a part in making it possible. A company like ours can make a difference by raising young, innovative companies that share our commitment to sustainability.”
Andrew TanSr Executive Engineer, Security & Blast
Security and blast (S&B) engineers like Andrew Tan help sensitive infrastructure and business operations stay resilient during high-risk situations such as malicious attacks.
“We contribute to sustainability by enhancing the continuity and longevity of business operations by minimising the single point of failure during such crisis situations,” says Andrew, who has spent 10 years in the field. He was inspired to work in security and blast after reading about terrorist attacks as he was growing up and has now advised on a wide range of critical infrastructure including data centres, immigration checkpoints and MRT stations in Singapore.
Security and blast engineering goes beyond using giant thick concrete walls, sandbags and trenches, which put pressure on carbon emissions. Andrew’s expertise lies in integrating sustainable façade designs whilst protecting facility users.
He says: “By not adopting massive construction for protection we help in sustainable construction. We also need to be creative in our approaches while using performance-based risk management design approaches to solve problems for our clients.”
Daniel Sambell Group VDC Development Lead
Robert Bird Group
Robert Bird Group
As a child, Daniel loved the visual arts and wanted to work in 3D animation and visual special effects in movies. With his love for architecture and complex structures, he pursued Architectural Visualisation at university and now helps engineers and architects see and experience buildings, bridges, roads, stadiums even before they have been built. In fact, he leads the development of new tools and technologies to produce complex 3D visualisations of Construction Methodologies.
Because it gives a glimpse into the future possibilities of built environment, Daniel’s work has a major influence on design decisions. “Virtual Design and Construction (VDC) is not just a visualisation tool,” says Daniel, who has spent over 11 years at RBG.
“VDC is a process which allows clients and stakeholders from different time zones to talk together and coordinate complex architectural and engineering designs and solutions,” he says. “This helps stakeholders mitigate risk, save costs, time and make better informed decisions which are vital in a successful project delivery. This in turn enables wider consideration as to the sourcing of materials and associated logistics which is particularly relevant in a climate-sensitive world.”
A VDC engineer needs to be qualified at least in one of these disciplines: 3D modelling and animation, game development or programming, engineering or architecture.
Highlights of Daniel’s career include the Abu Dhabi International Airport, where he helped to visually communicate the construction methodology, vital to the successful delivery of such a complex structure. “My biggest achievement of my career to date, is the development of the Reveal, a Virtual Design and Construction interactive platform by RBG that enables project stakeholders to experience and collaborate on built assets that are either completed or under construction in a virtual environment.”
Daniel believes that as a VDC engineer, it’s important to continually question and challenge thinking behind how we do things now and how it may change in the future. “There is always more than one solution to a problem and you need to be open to new ideas no matter how long you have been in the industry.”
Building for a climate-sensitive world makes me more mindful of how to seek solutions for a more sustainable world. As an architect, the permanence of our designs means we still have to be flexible and sensitive to our clients’ changing needs and adjust with them.
– Aidil Shukor, Director, SAA Architects
Building for a climate-sensitive world makes me more mindful of how to seek solutions for a more sustainable world. As an architect, the permanence of our designs means we still have to be flexible and sensitive to our clients’ changing needs and adjust with them.
– Aidil Shukor, Director, SAA Architects
Since joining SAA in 2008, Aidil Shukor has taken more complex architectural projects that have tested his creativity and communication skills with stakeholders, including government, real estate developers and contractors.
His specialises in integrated commercial developments such as Northpoint City in Singapore. It was accorded two prestigious titles at the FIABCI World Prix d’Excellence Awards 2022. North Park Residences has been named the World Gold Winner under the Residential Mid Rise Category, while Northpoint City has been recognised as the World Silver Winner in the Retail Category.
He is the Team Lead for the Bulim Square project in Singapore’s Jurong Innovation District. The square is a S$630 million integrated development comprising the design of mix-use factory space for advanced manufacturing, robotics, clean technology and smart logistics which will provide a testbed for innovations – that will shape manufacturing in the years ahead.
“Building for a climate-sensitive world makes me more mindful of how to seek solutions for a more sustainable world,” he says. “As an architect, the permanence of our designs means we still have to be flexible and sensitive to our clients’ changing needs and adjust with them. Most importantly, as an architect we also help them to find sustainable solutions for their built assets.”
Zuo HaiPrincipal Engineer (Power)
Surbana Jurong Energy and Industrial
Surbana Jurong Energy and Industrial
Power Engineer Zuo Hai has never forgotten a project in rural Bangladesh when he was the lead engineer for the construction of a substation.
“The villagers were so excited and so full of smiles when they saw us as they knew they would get stable 24-hour electricity soon. They told me they had been longing for more factories to open, giving them jobs. At the moment of the final power delivery, as the crowd shouted and hugged each other, I felt extremely proud to have helped bring happiness and hope to the villagers.”
Zuo Hai has followed in the footsteps of his father, an experienced civil engineer who had spent his entire life in power construction sector. “I was fascinated to see huge machines and high cooling towers built up ‘magically’ on site by my father and other engineers during my childhood in China,” he recalls.
The biggest joy in his life is to see lights and motors running in places that used to be dark and quiet because of power shortages. “Electricity is like air. We can only feel it when it is lost.”
The accelerated push for renewables, due to the climate crisis and the war in Ukraine these days, has meant a new sense of purpose for Zuo Hai, who has chosen to live in Singapore since 2003.
Singapore’s energy transition will be built by many stake holders, among which power engineers will have a huge role in designing for resiliency, stability and reliability – in the mitigation of the intermittency of the renewables, use of energy storage systems, multi-energy system, HVDC, virtual power plant and microgrids and so on.
He expects to encounter many technical challenges such as new standards, new software, new devices, or coordination between customer and local agency, as well as working on short deadlines. “Every challenge is a learning opportunity and at the end of the process we need to push for the power for a better life for the people at a smaller cost to the ecosystem,” he says.
Vivian TanExecutive Data Scientist, Smart Cities
After spending over two years in MedTech as a machine learning engineer, Vivian Tan embraced her new job at Surbana Jurong with great fervour. “Unlike my previous role which was more academic,” she says, “Projects at SJ have a more practical bent and I constantly have to understand the business to design the relevant models for our use case. It is more challenging for me.”
Vivian joined SJ over a year ago and has already worked on a variety of projects – a town council project tracking residents’ feedback on amenities in housing estates in Singapore, a contract tracing device for construction workers, as well as a water quality monitoring project for PUB, Singapore’s national water agency.
The team focused on water quality anomalies at a water treatment plant. “The model we developed helped us to discover anomalies in water quality much earlier than the workers at the plant were used to, thus helping them to save a lot of manhours and other resources in rectifying the anomalies before they became apparent,” she says. The client agreed with their results. It has the potential to save millions annually with the improvement in maintaining water quality and resiliency.
“For the Town council project, we extracted meaningful patterns from collected data and translated them (the patterns) into actionable insights by analysing lift data and raising early alerts prior to potential lift faults, which helped to improve safety for residents,” says Vivian.
As AI algorithms are fast evolving for many uses in the built environment industry, Vivian is keeping up with the latest trends and developments by pursuing a master’s programme in statistics at Nanyang Technological University
Vivian believes that as more organisations adopt AI, data scientists will need to be able to tell better stories; from describing an AI model to explaining its impact and potential biases. “This helps to build a sense of trust, a greater richness in story-telling, a greater confidence in explaining outputs and decision-making in shaping lives for the better.”
Tung Xuan BuiEnvironmental and Social Engineer
When collecting water samples from rivers, Tung has seen rivers from their origins (to the river mouth. This allows him to learn much about riverine changes and their development, which inspires him to do more for sustainability.
Tung Xuan Bui’s work as an environmental and social engineer goes beyond helping businesses minimise the emission of waste and harmful material to protect the environment. A huge part of his job also involves land acquisition and resettlement issues, preserving cultural heritage and minorities.
Tung has worked on environmental and social projects related to a huge range of projects in the renewables sector in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, such as three wind farms and a hydropower plant extension in Vietnam, the Sarawak Master Plan Development in Malaysia, and the development of an Environmental and Social Management System (ESMS) for the First REIT in Indonesia.
“Renewable energy may generate less greenhouse gases but some of its environmental and social impacts cannot be eliminated if the location and design are not selected carefully,” says Tung. “For example, wind turbines may have adverse impacts on some bird and bat species while a solar farm usually requires a large land area.”
“Infinite renewables may not always available and efficient,” he adds. “Wind energy can fluctuate while solar energy is only available during the day; and both are highly dependent on the weather. The operation of hydropower is becoming more challenging due to climate change, deforestation and so on.”
Tung strongly advocates careful planning and design of projects from an early stage. With the early implementation of an environmental and social management system, the industry can significantly reduce repairing costs in the future, he says. “It is our responsibility to understand early what has to be done to protect resources that communities rely on for their daily life,” he says.
Nirvana SearleAssociate Environmental Scientist
As a student concerned about environmental impacts on the ozone layer and beaches, Nirvana Searle followed her geography teacher’s suggestion to study environmental science at university. She had imagined a future in land care or erosion management but was inspired to change to freshwater ecology while at the University of Canberra, where she earned her Bachelor’s in Applied Science with a specialisation in Environmental Science. As a child, Nirvana grew up near beaches and bushland in Sydney, and spent a lot of time swimming in the ocean.
Now that she is an environmental scientist in the BE industry helping to keep animals, plants and their habitats healthy, Nirvana believes it’s important to remember that people are part of the environment, with complex relationships at play to keep a balance. “A disruption in one location has flow-on affects, with far reaching implications elsewhere,” she explains. “For example, the removal of a few koala habitat trees in one location may seem insignificant, but when this occurs in multiple locations the combined impact is significant and affects the wellbeing of the koala population.”
Another example is the relationship between vegetation and water. “The clearing of those koala habitat trees could also lead to erosion and transport of sediment in runoff that reaches a nearby creek. Does this change the water quality and what is the impact on the freshwater life in the area— these are just some of the questions we need to explore in delivering solutions and avoiding or minimising impacts on our natural heritage,” she explains.
Her work at SMEC over the past four years allows her to facilitate better environmental outcomes. “Integrated solutions at the beginning of a project often means better outcomes for the client and project as well as the entire environment. This includes our own livability, with the presence of green spaces and natural environments having been shown to minimise urban temperatures and increase happiness and a sense of wellbeing,” she says.
Nirvana is incredibly proud to be working within a multidisciplinary team – which includes fauna ecologists, flora ecologists, social scientists, air quality specialists, approvals specialists, environmental design specialists, and contaminated land scientists – to help clients deliver sustainable outcomes for her clients.
Tan Yok JooDirector
The site of the poultry processing hub, an 8-storey multi-tenanted and ramp-up factory in Buroh. It caters to the entire poultry processing chain from live poultry delivery, slaughtering, processing, packaging and distribution of the processed goods, the building comprises automated poultry slaughtering lines, cold room amenities and modular food processing units on the upper storeys.
Architect Tan Yok Joo has a vast experience and network in the built environment in Singapore since she started 40 years ago with Singapore’s Housing and Development Board.
As a project Lead and Qualified Person, Yok Joo and her team at SJ architecture are responsible for pursuing and delivering a mix of projects – of varied scale and complexity – from master-planning, district planning, building design and interior fitting-out.
Vertical fish farm
Yok Joo is most well-known in the industry for leading the design and delivery of an eight-storey aquaculture farming hub which was completed in 2021. Located in the Lim Chu Kang district in Singapore, it has 96 modular grow-out ponds, each with its independent Recirculatory Aquaculture System (RAS) system – whereby the water is recycled and reused after it has been cleansed through filtration. This allows farmers the flexibility to grow shrimps, grouper, trout and tilapia in a totally secured bio-environment. It was recognised by World Architecture Festival in 2017 as the most forward-looking architectural concept.
This integrated approach to farming was also implemented in a farming hub project in Indonesia’s Batam Island, located some 30 minutes by ferry from Singapore. Her team added the re-wilding concept to enhance biodiversity of the surroundings on the farm, with an integrated multi-trophic aquaculture system that brings in secondary revenue streams for the owner, who can farm shellfish, shrimps and fish.
Yok Joo is frequently consulted on food resiliency and security projects, including intensive vegetable farming, egg production, poultry slaughter and processing; and cold room logistics for fresh food distribution in Singapore and overseas. An avid balcony herb farmer, she firmly believes that Singapore has “lots of residual spaces for farming, such as spaces under viaducts, which allow for temperature-controlled environments for growing crops.”
Mitigating sea level rise
She has also been involved in a wide range of complex projects due to her network stretching back to her HDB days, including Singapore’s first new-build net zero building, the restoration of Temasek Shophouse, the Jurong Innovation District. Recently, she has also worked on iconic coastal protection and polder projects, with SJ’s Coastal Engineering division, to mitigate the impact of sea level rises in Singapore.
“Building for sustainability is an existential issue. A land-scarce city-state that would not have dreamt of farming has to adjust to new realities,” says Yok Joo. “Climate change, the pandemic and war in Ukraine have made food security and intensive urban farming an urgent priority in Singapore and many countries. I am glad that my SJ colleagues have worked on a farming dream and made it possible, and I hope that urban farming will offer more opportunities for SJ.”
Dr Huang Yi ChunGeneral Manager Sustainable Design
Surbana Jurong North Asia
Surbana Jurong North Asia
Dr Huang Yi Chun is leading a newly established a four-person sustainable design (SD) team, set up since December 2021 in Surbana Jurong North Asia’s Shanghai office. As China aims to achieve peak CO2 emissions before 2030 and carbon neutrality before 2060 the SD team plans to advance its sustainability offerings and deepen its expertise.
Yi Chun has spent over 20 years in the green building industry, with extensive experience in the BE sector, including architecture design, Building Informational Modelling (BIM), building performance simulation, green and healthy building design consultancy.
“Having lived in Singapore, China, the US and now in Shanghai for the past six months,” he says, “I believe my experience of the varied market maturities and social economic landscapes helps me to better position how integrated design produces value and enhance economic efficiency in the BE sector in China.”
“In China, the expansion of design with sustainable design is having a huge impact. Over just the last decade, more projects in China now conduct energy analysis instead of just energy calculations. Sustainable design reports – despite the varying quality – are now the norm; while landmark projects pursue exemplary human experiences that are higher than safety-net national standards.”
But there is still a lot of misconception among stakeholders what constitutes sustainability, he observes. “Sustainability is not even just about energy savings. It is about achieving maximum performance with the least amount of resources and requires systems thinking and integrated design. Sustainability should be a part of the entire urban and building lifecycle process from planning through to retrofit.”
“This is why I believe that sustainability advocacy is important for our team,” he says. “We need to talk about sustainable design concepts such that clients understand how we can help them achieve higher returns, and a better environment with lower capital costs.”