, Singapore

Offices in financial district 'highly vulnerable' to rising sea levels: study

Office spaces in 51 buildings are in high flood risk areas as of Q1.

Singapore's prime office buildings in the financial district are in grave danger of sinking underwater should climate change cause sea levels to rise, CBRE's "ºC for Change” report revealed. The report calls for landlords and occupiers alike to take urgent action to protect asset values.

As the real estate industry plays a pivotal role in Singapore’s fight against climate change, an effort that calls for a review of energy consumption patterns, commitment to cut carbon emissions and investments in technology to monitor performance.

Singapore is also vulnerable to prolonged heat waves, increased flash floods and rising sea levels as a result of climate change. Whilst the government has adopted several pre-emptive policies to mitigate the impact, the measures do not completely eradicate the risks. Approximately 30% of land is less than 5 metres above sea level, leaving properties highly exposed to inland flooding.

Assuming an average global temperature increase of 1.5°C, about 20.82 million sqft of office space in 51 buildings are in high flood risk areas in Singapore as of Q1. The core CBD is the most vulnerable, led by the Marina Bay area, which accounts for 45.2% of office net lettable area (NLA) exposed to rising sea levels. This is followed by Raffles Place with 31.7%, Shenton Way with 11.7% and Tanjong Pagar with 11.4%.

The report added if global temperatures rise by 4°C, an additional 4.03 million sqft of office stock across 13 buildings in the CBD may be under threat, including those in the Marina Centre, Beach Road/City Hall and Orchard areas.

To moderate the pace of increase in sea levels, CBRE said that the long-term goal is to reduce carbon emissions. Asset owners and occupiers play a collective role alongside authorities.

Building owners are tapping on incentives to redevelop existing properties or build new developments, whilst occupiers are incorporating green fit-outs to enhance energy efficiency and monitor usage. These translate to energy savings of at least 25% based on the energy modelling framework by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

Further, the commercial sector is expected to continue seeing more mixed-use developments which are typically more intensive in energy usage. This will prompt building owners to explore different sources of energy to decarbonise and to reduce consumption and operating costs, such as through the use of solar power.

With more real estate companies seeking funds for sustainable real estate development or to refurbish buildings with energy-efficient features, Singapore's green financing market is seeing an increase in green loans, green bonds and sustainability-linked loans.

As energy audits for commercial office buildings gain greater prominence, the level of transparency in data and performance reporting will rise, driving further improvements in energy efficiency toward achieving the BCA’s Super Low Energy (SLE) and Zero Energy Building (ZEB) status CBRE noted. The BCA has a goal to improve energy efficiency in buildings by 60% to 80% by 2030 from 2005 levels, and Singapore is targeting net zero carbon emissions beyond 2050. 

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