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Competition: Zero-energy buildings, Tropics

An international ideas contest has been launched for innovative net-zero energy buildings for tropical and sub-tropical cities worldwide (Deadline: 7 July)

Open only to students, the competition seeks proposals for zero energy and medium-to-high-rise buildings which could increase urban resilience to the effects of climate change in any tropical or sub-tropical city of the participant’s choice.

The project aims to harness design innovation to meet complex challenges facing urban areas in tropical regions. These include energy resilience, environmental sustainability and rapid urbanisation. Proposals must promote new green practices and help building users adopt more environmentally friendly habits.

Tropical city: Jakarta, Indonesia

Tropical city: Jakarta, Indonesia

Source: Image by Ecal Saputra

Tropical city: Jakarta, Indonesia

According to the brief: ‘Urban resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kind of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.

‘Considerations should be given to the cohesive integration of the building in the community and how occupants or users can be influenced or engaged to play an active role towards the sustainability of the building.’

The built environment uses around 40 per cent of global energy, 25 per cent of global water and 40 per cent of global resources, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Buildings also emit approximately one-third of Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Tropical city: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Tropical city: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Source: Image by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz Mariordo

Tropical city: Sao Paulo, Brazil

The ideas competition sets out to ensure that residents of tropical and sub-tropical cities are better prepared for the local and regional effects of global warming, and can also play a role in helping to combat climate change. Guangzhou, Jakarta, Sao Paolo and Lagos are among the largest tropical cities in the world.

Organised by Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority (BCA), the Singapore Green Building Council (SGBC) and Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) – the contest requires all submissions to be compatible with the BCA Green Mark building rating system.

The jury will select five finalist teams who will each receive cash prizes and be invited to present their works at a final judging event in Singapore ahead of September’s the International Green Building Conference (IGBC) 2017.

The competition language is English and only students may enter. Teams may feature up to five members but only one person will be sponsored by the organisers to attend the conference and the final judging and award events.

Submissions must feature two A1-sized boards including cross sections and plan drawings with a five pages of written description and narrative in support of the proposal.

Finalists and those receiving honourable mentions will be invited to attend IGBC, where they will receive student passes and be encouraged to participate in group tours and meet industry professionals. The top two finalists will present their work directly to a panel of industry professionals.

The overall winner, set to be announced on 12 September, will receive $5,000 SGD while a second place prize of $3,000 SGD and third place prize of $2,000 SGD will also be awarded along with two merit prizes worth $800 SGD each.

How to apply


The deadline for registrations is 23:55pm (GMT+8) on 9 June
The deadline for submissions is 23:59pm (GMT+8) on 7 July

Contact details

Darren Lee
Building and Construction Authority (International Development Group)
52 Jurong Gateway Road #12-01
Singapore 608550

Tel: +65 6804 4668

View the competition website for more information

The Lighthouse case study: Q&A with Alan Shingler

The partner at Sheppard Robson discusses lessons learned designing a zero-carbon home for the UK?

Lighthouse by Sheppard Robson

Lighthouse by Sheppard Robson

Source: Image by Hufton + Crow

Lighthouse by Sheppard Robson

How did your Lighthouse project propose an environmentally friendly zero-carbon home for the UK?

The starting point was to ensure that the zero-carbon credentials did not compromise the quality of the architecture or the experience of using the home. Rather than seeing zero carbon as an aesthetic, we were guided by creating adaptable, flexible spaces that are designed for modern living, intuitively integrating sustainability.

Which architectural, material and other methods did you harness in your design?

We harnessed a passive design strategy that creates a high-performance structure which is also shaped around the occupants’ expectations for light and airy living. This approach led, for example, to a ratio of glazing-to-wall in the Lighthouse of 18 per cent as opposed to 25-30 per cent in traditional houses. While this reduction in glazing increased the insulation values, we also had to think carefully about the optimal internal conditions. This drove our decision to locate the living space on to the first floor enabling us to maximise daylight and volume, with a top-lit double-height living space.

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing a zero-carbon home for tropical climates?

My advice to the contestants would be to concentrate very carefully on the fundamentals of microclimate and location. These environmental conditions will guide the design and help achieve a holistic response to creating a zero-carbon solution. A tropical climate should generate a very different architectural approach to the one we took for a temperate UK climate. Contestants should consider sourcing indigenous materials. For the Lighthouse, we used locally sourced English Sweet Chesnut cladding, which works to define the architectural identity of the building but also reduces transport energy expenditure; with a general approach to materials that minimised embodied energy and maximise recycled content and reuse. This tailoring for a temperate climate drove us to innovate. For example, we designed a rooflight to flood daylight into the space below while also working as a wind catcher to provide passive cooling and ventilation. When open in the summer or mid-season, this catches the cool air and forces it down into the heart of the house, encouraging the displacement of hot air through stack effect. When closed in winter, the space still benefits from improved daylight. This is just one of the strategies we deployed to help passively control the internal environment for different seasons.

Lighthouse by Sheppard Robson

Lighthouse by Sheppard Robson

Source: Image by Hufton + Crow

Lighthouse by Sheppard Robson