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Green spaces uplift spirits

  Friday, 20 l 05 l 2011  Source: The Straits Times   
By: Douglas Chew

Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic, as an eco-friendly building, benefits both patients and the environment

choa-chu-kang-polyclinicGOING green is important in preserving the environment for the future, and the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) recognises the strategic importance of building sustainable and environmentally friendly buildings. Context Architects was involved in the Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic project which won the BCA Green Mark (Gold Plus) Award yesterday.

“There has been a growing awareness of green building design and the evidential benefit it will yield for the environment, through passive design and the reduction of energy usage to run buildings,” says Mr Alvin Ng, principal architect of Context Architects. “Our client, the National Healthcare Group Polycl inics (NHGP) , has taken a positive and initiative role to show its commitment in recognising the best practices in environmental sustainability, environmental design and efficient performance in the redevelopment of the Choa Chu Kang Polyclinic,” he adds.  NHGP requires that the project attain the Green Mark Gold Plus standard, as it strives to provide the best for both its patients and the environment.

choa-chu-kang-polyclinic2Mr Ng says: “By going green, the indoor air quality and environmental comfort of their buildings can be improved — key features that contribute to a healthy and healing environment.” Some of these features adopted by Context Architects were passive design strategies. Layering the existing building with vertical and horizontal sun-shades helped reduce the exposure to direct solar radiation and reduced the air conditioning load required to cool the building’s interior. This resulted in 32 per cent energy savings and added a “breathing facade”, transforming the appearance of the building.

Existing key spaces were re-invented, encouraging greater airflow and utilising natural lighting. The courtyard makeover into a lush tropical garden enhanced the sensory experience of health and well being for the patients at the polyclinic, where they could enjoy a drink at the alfresco café within the garden.

Energy and water conservation were also factored into the building’s design. Motion sensors strategically placed in areas with less human traffic and energy regenerative lifts helped reduce operational costs, while water saving sanitary fittings were used in the toilets. Eco-friendly materials were extensively utilised throughout the building, including bamboo railings, vinyl flooring, as well as recycled timber decking and carpets. Even the weight of the building’s structure was considered in this push towards creating a green building, where sustainable structural steel was used in the upgrading works, reducing the weight of the structure and improving the speed of construction.

Context Architects’ holistic approach to the construction project is evident even from its consideration of how people can visit the polyclinic. Bicycle lots are provided to encourage the use of a non-polluting transport means, contributing to a lower carbon footprint. The trees already at the site were conserved, with additional vertical greenery further enhancing the south-west green deck and acting as a sunshade to mitigate heat gain into the building. Mr Ng says: “A sustainable and environmentally friendly building is important because it helps in the reduction of energy consumption. In health-care buildings, this is especially important as it improves the indoor environmental quality, which creates a healthier environment for patients and staff. At the same time, green principles also help to offset the environmental impact of the building and construction industry.”

With its belief in maximising the use of passive design methods to achieve natural, healthy and pleasant spaces, Context Architects continues to embrace strategies to create pleasant environments for its users but yet also fulfilling the practical and functional requirements. “It is our hope that our company can play a small part in creating spaces that articulate this balance — spaces that can be perceived positively both subjectively as well as through objective means, spaces that uplift the spirit, that are comfortable and endearing,” he adds.

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