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Thursday, 01 October 2020

Creating global standards: Way to go, Singapore!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013 | Posted by: Tony Mash, TMA Consulting Inc.

The Singapore Green Building Council has developed and implemented coating standards within the country’s Green Mark building assessment scheme in coordination with the local Paint Manufacturers’ Association. It’s a model that has been shared with Green Building Councils around the world and offers a way forward to create consistent global standards for internal and external decorative coatings.

During the Summer, I had the opportunity to visit Singapore; a country with one of the five busiest ports in the world and the fourth-leading financial centre. The economy depends heavily on exports and refining imported goods, especially in manufacturing. In terms of purchasing power parity, Singapore has the third-highest per capita income in the world. The 5.3 million people on Singapore are said to be characterised by a strong united driving force for continuous improvement in all walks of life. It shows in their attitude to Sustainability.

The importance of Sustainability and Life Cycle Thinking were reinforced in my mind as I landed at Changi Airport to be greeted by thick choking smog that had been created by fires lit during jungle clearance in a neighbouring country to create new fields for agricultural cultivation. I was starkly reminded that what may seem to be a sensible sustainable improvement in one element of the supply chain may lead to the opposite result upstream or downstream unless the broad impact of the change is carefully worked through from cradle to grave at the outset of the development. To be truly sustainable, one must look at all the elements of the life cycle before initiating change.

While in Singapore, I visited the Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC). I was impressed by the way the SGBC had developed and implemented a green product certification scheme for building products in which the materials are assessed against standards for energy efficiency, water efficiency, resource efficiency, carbon emission and pollution avoidance. ASTM and ISO standards are used as references wherever possible.

The SGBC had developed standards in 4 tiers for a range of building materials. This range included internal and external decorative paints for which detailed standards were developed and shared with the Singapore Paint Manufacturers’ Association (SPMA) which agreed that they were relevant and robust. The initial first cut of the paint standards was not seen as particularly demanding; a feature that was incorporated to encourage participation and discourage attempts to circumvent the certification process. 

I was even more impressed when I learned that SGBC’s certification scheme was recognised by the Singapore Building and Construction Authority (BCA). The latter’s Green Mark building assessment scheme determines the environmental friendliness of buildings by awarding Gold, GoldPLUSand Platinum status. I noted that meeting the specific standards for decorative paints contributed no more than 2 points on a 120 point scale for the overall total score for a new or retrofit building aiming for Green Mark certification. However, for those architects looking for one or two more points to achieve an overall rating for Green Mark certification, choosing the right paint specification could well provide the final element that puts the product over the mark for overall acceptability and thereby achieve both certification and government approval.

The SGBC in coordination with the local Paint Industry has found a way to focus the minds of everyone on Sustainable Development and drive towards a level playing field; goals eagerly sought after in other countries around the world. 

The cooperation that has evidently taken place between the SGBC and the SPMA epitomises the kind of collaboration between industries that buy and sell to each other that is needed to ensure that Life Cycle Thinking is adopted across manufacturing supply chains from cradle to grave. As a result, the environment is safeguarded against havoc being created upstream or downstream as was exemplified in the Singapore smog crisis.

The SGBC has now developed Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with Green Building Councils in other countries in Asia. SGBC also sits on the board of the World Green Building Council. It is now able to share its model with others around the world. That sharing of their work illustrates the opportunity the global Coatings Industry has to develop a consistent set of Sustainability definitions, standards and metrics around the world, tempered by considerations of local raw material availability, climate and (in the case of the building industry) local downstream manufacturing codes.

Way to go, Singapore!

Tony Mash   

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