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Singapores new-build, first net-zero energy building opens its doors

Opened earlier this year, the newly completed NUS School of Design & Environment 4 (SDE4) is distinguished as Singapore’s first new-build, net-zero energy building school. Developed by the School of Design and Environment at the National University of Singapore and designed by Serie + Multiply Architects with Surbana Jurong, the six-story multidisciplinary building is located on a hillock along Clementi Road near the southern coastline of Singapore where it joins a larger campus redevelopment. Engineered to strict net-zero energy standards, the 8,500-square-meter building is powered with over 1,200 rooftop solar photovoltaic panels and features a climate-responsive design to stay naturally cool in the region’s tropical climate.

Serie + Multiply Architects and Surbana Jurong won the bid for the academic building through an international design competition back in 2013 with their design of a porous structure meant to blur the boundaries between the indoors and outdoors. Instead of creating a hermetically sealed environment heavily reliant on AC—like many of Singapore’s buildings—the architects wanted to integrate Singapore’s lush tropics into the building. Not only do landscape views and natural ventilation penetrate the building, but nature has also been made part of the teaching curriculum, from the planting palette that incorporates many native species to the south gardens that serve as a natural purification system for stormwater runoff.

SDE4 sits atop a hill of greenery surrounded by trees

exterior view of the building with pillars and high ceilings

SDE4 includes over 1,500 square meters of design studio space, a 500-square-meter open plaza, public and social spaces, workshops, research centers, a cafe and library. The rooms are designed for flexibility with layouts that can be rearranged to suit diverse usage. The net-zero energy building also takes inspiration from vernacular Southeast Asian tropical architecture with an abundance of verandas and shaded terraces. Natural ventilation is supplemented with an innovative hybrid cooling system that feeds rooms with 100% pre-cooled air that work in tandem with ceiling fans.

students sit on wood stairs

study are filled with students and round tables

interior of building with students walking through hallways and stairwells

Related: A green-roofed underground extension breaks the mold for school architecture

“Buildings are not isolated entities in their own context,” Lam Khee Poh, Dean of the School of Design and Environment, explains. “They form an environment, a precinct, or a neighborhood supporting community activities, which is crucial for all educational institutions. Our students and faculty get the opportunity to learn both inside and outside the classroom, being engaged in an integrated process of designing, developing, constructing, and operating state-of-the-art buildings that will, in turn, influence them to adapt their own behavior when they occupy it.”

+ Serie + Multiply Architects

+ Surbana Jurong

Images by Rory Gardiner

solar panels

exterior view of the building during sunset with trees surrounding the building

exterior view of the building during sunset with trees surrounding the building

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