Designing SMU-X Building
Design - it is going to be very interesting design for three reasons. That first of all, together with BCA, and I should say that the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore has been a very good partner in a sense that they challenged us and then also helped us. But with the help of BCA, we decided that we wanted to look at a different type of construction. We use a lot of wood, mass engineered timber, and that had enormous impact on the design of the building because contrary to normal construction here in Singapore, everything for a mass engineered timber building needs to be produced in the factory in Europe. So you have to have your design—up to the smallest detail—ready because when it arrives, it’s like a Meccano or a Lego-type of a building, you just assemble it, and you can’t change it anymore. So it is a very different way of thinking about a design of the building with that mass engineered timber. The big advantage for us and one of the many reasons why I am full heartedly behind it is that it will go much faster in terms of building, and there will be far less people on the site and will be far less noise. And given the fact that building is to be built just in between our School of Accountancy and our School of Law, I’m very happy that I can reduce the time of building and noise. In other words, nuisance for both neighbouring schools.
But there are many other reasons why I’m happy to do that. It is also a way of construction that has far less impact on the environment, and I believe strongly in sustainability, so that’s another reason why I like this building. Leads me to the second point why this building is very different. We again rose to the challenge of BCA to make this a zero net energy building. In other words, we need energy, it’s not that there is no energy needed for air-conditioning or for lights or whatever. But we will produce all of our energy with photovoltaic cells on top of the building and the covering of the passage that we have next to it. So, but that of course, also not only required photovoltaic cells, but also a very different design of the building because you need to actually first of all make sure that your building requires less energy. So it requires a different type of façade. It requires a lot more natural ventilation in the public spaces, as we already did in our School of Law. It requires a different design to ensure that we consume far less energy. I’m happy that our architect raised to the challenge also and was willing to collaborate with us because for them it’s also very new because they had never designed the building this mass engineered timber. They have never designed really a building that had zero net energy. So it’s a good partnership between them and us. That’s the second element of the design that is actually very interesting. And I hope that once we are there, we will be the first building that is net zero energy in the central business district.
The third element of the design is that it’s actually a very flexible building. In fact, we built only open floors, and then we create the interior design through furniture. Of course, you need to have the bathrooms and the showers and whatever, and that needs to be fixed. But all the rest is flexible. So we will not build walls, but what we’re going to build is panels that can be moved. We will work with furniture to create special areas in the building. So it’s going to be a very interesting and very flexible building. If, after five years, we discover that the way students interact with each other, learn is changing, we will be able to have the flexibility to adjust the building to the changing needs of our students.