PUBLIC utility company Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) is not only the energy provider in the state – it has also heeded the government’s call to put up an environment-friendly and ‘green’ building.
SEB is the first private company in East Malaysia to have green building certification and it has taken further steps to save energy costs in its own premises.
The company’s new building – Menara Sarawak Energy (MSE) – apart from being certified a green building – has also been awarded a Final GBI Silver Rating on June 21, 2013, by the Green Building Index Accreditation Panel (GBIAP) on a score of 67 out 100.
MSE is an impressive landmark with an architectural design all its own.
Step inside the atrium or lobby of the RM200-million building and you will be greeted with a cool and refreshing atmosphere. The building is designed in accordance with the requirements of the Green Building Index (GBI) of Malaysia to conserve energy and promote environmental friendliness.
It stands on 4.4 acres of land in the vicinity of The Isthmus (on the road to the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching) and has a groundfloor area (GFA) of 59,388 metres square with a Net Lettable Area (NLA) of 25,092 metres square.
Escaping the sun
SEB building executive Linggir Agas said the materials used for the building had a special energy-saving quality.
“Unlike normal buildings, the cooling effect inside MSE, especially at the atrium, is due to passive architecture that cools the building.”
According to him, the double-door airlock on the groundfloor keeps the air at the atrium cool. The pre-cooled air (from air-conditioners) emanating from the various offices also contribues to this coolness.
“On the top part of the building, the warm air will be removed through natural ventilation. The heat will escape through the louvres and window panels at the top.
“Moreover, condensation from the air-handling units (air-conditioners) will be channelled to the atrium’s water features, adding more cooling effects to the ground area and the entire building,” he explained.
Every detail has some form of energy-saving mechanism either through the equipment, materials or the design itself.
“The building design allows even our carpark at the basement to make use of the sunlight as a light source – we don’t need energy to brighten the place,” he said.
Linggir revealed that the building’s main axis of orientation is parallel to the east-west axis and most of the windows were facing the north and south to avoid direct solar heat.
“This is how we reduce excessive heat.”
He pointed out that MSE’s east and west facades had the highest exposure to solar heat gain but were protected by cladded walls.
“The extended sun-shading louvers and double glazing glass of the windows reduce solar heat gain but permit the transmittance of natural lighting into the building.”
Generous glazed facades are lined along the north and south elevation. These are exposed to minimal direct sunlight and featured with glazed curtain walls.
To further save energy, the whole 11th floor has a sensor to detect body heat and movement.
“Once someone leaves the room or remains still, the light will switch off automatically to save energy. It will also generate less heat from the light – and the sunlight from outside is enough to produce bright light for the employees,” Linggir said.
As the building can accommodate 1,500 people, this sensor mechanism is useful and cost-efficient.
To harness solar energy, the roof of the building is equipped with solar panels.
Linggir said energy from the sun helps to cover five per cent of the energy consumed by the building.
“This energy saving and tapping from the natural environment helps us save electricity costs and so far, we have saved one third of what the company had paid before.”
Green building definition
Not every building can be called green unless it has been certified by GBIAP.
And to be certified green, a building has to conform to the definition set by GBI of Malaysia.
Langgir said GBI certification meant a green building should focus on increasing efficiency of resource usage – energy, water and materials – while reducing building impact on human health and the environment during the building’s life cycle through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance and removal.
He added that green buildings should be designed and operated on the basis of reducing the overall impact of the built-up environment on the surroundings.
“It must be designed to save energy and resources, recycle materials and minimise emission of toxic substances throughout its life cycle.”
He stressed that green buildings should harmonise with the local climate, traditions, cultures and the surrounding environment.
“It must be able to sustain and improve the quality of human life while maintaining the capacity of the ecosystem at local and global levels.
“It must make efficient use of resources, have significant operational savings and increase workplace productivity.
It also means building green is sending the right message about a company or organisation – that it’s well run, responsible and committed to the future.”
SEB is encouraging others to follow suit by investing in green buildings.
“They can heed the government’s call and offer of incentives by putting up such buildings to conserve the environment,”
SEB corporate services chief Aisah Eden said Menara Sarawak Energy is pointing the way forward in terms saving energy, and the company will continue to improve through more efficient usage of energy and compliance with GBI requirements.
“As the compliance lasts three years, SEB intends to continue with it and improve on the rating,” she said.
“We are quite proud of our achievements because we did not aim for Silver Rating but just the building certification.”
Aisah who is optimistic about their future vision, said her team from the building side were still finding ways to furthert improve its rating and compliances.
She revealed they were also working on water efficiency, especially to make use of rainwater technology in a more efficient manner.
“The way forward, I think, is to improve on it. We hope others will follow suit, especially those from this region, and pay more attention to energy efficiency.”
Aisah said more attention would be on the new buildings and the building requirements, adding that conditions and efficiency of the old buildings would also be improved.
“The difficult part of GBI is maintenance. For the existing certification, maintaining the points is actually required in order to gain more points.
“Even though we don’t have many equipment, we still have to maintain the points to sustain what we have all this while,” she explained.
SEB will continue to invest in new technology.
“We like to share energy-saving knowhow and the uniqueness of our building with the public. Our corporate communication department will inform the public, especially about green buildings,” she said.
Aisah encourages industry players to look into the benefits of energy efficiency and green certification for their buildings.
“There are lots of benefits to gain. It’s a way forward to a new trend and lifestyle and the improvement of the ecosystem.