The 8,500m² tropical school is the country’s first zero-energy building of its kind
Designed by Serie with locally based practices Multiply Architects and Surbana Jurong, the National University of Singapore’s new School of Design and Environment 4 (SDE4) is Singapore’s first new-build net-zero energy building, meaning that it generates the same or more energy than it consumes operationally. It contains 8,500m² of multidisciplinary space and its design is based on a ‘revalidated grammar of tropical architecture’.
SDE4 is sited on a hill near the southern coast of Singapore and is part of a larger campus redevelopment. The building itself includes approximately 1,500m² of design studio space, a 500m² open plaza, variety of public and social spaces, workshops and research centres, a café and a library. The rooms have been designed in a variety of sizes, allowing for flexible rearrangement of layout for exhibitions, installations and future changes of use and reflecting the school’s ambitions of promoting research and new forms of teaching space.
The building, procured through an international design competition launched in 2013, was envisaged as a series of platforms and boxes, showing the school’s programme within. Using principles of vernacular tropical architecture in south-east Asia, more than 50 per cent of the total internal area is naturally ventilated and most of the rooms can be opened to the breeze. Cooled volumes intersperse key spaces, allowing for cross-ventilation and emulating tropical ‘verandas’.
There are no divisions between places to study, work and socialise – the form of the building is made up of terraces, landscaped balconies and informal spaces. Some elements of the façade can be dismantled and replaced with new systems, depending on research taking place within the school. Corridors and stairs punctuate the platforms, creating a collaborative, free-moving space.
The south gardens have been designed as a natural purification system, helping improve water quality while encouraging students to use and engage with the landscape. A hybrid cooling system supplies rooms with totally fresh air and the school’s roof contains more than 1,200 photovoltaic cells.
One of our ambitions when we started the project was to challenge the notion that a highly energy-efficient building has to be very opaque. Therefore, you see that the completed building is incredibly open. This is where I think it was successful; it is able to reduce its energy demand, but at the same time it doesn’t end up being a very solid building. SDE4’s large platforms are configured in a way that promotes interaction and visual connectivity. We envisioned a very transparent volume in which the outside and the inside spaces are ambiguous; where nature and landscape play an important part, as a backdrop to the building.
Christopher C M Lee, founding principal, Serie Architects
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Buildings are not isolated entities in their own context. They form an environment, a precinct or a neighbourhood 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 behaviour when they occupy it.
Lam Khee Poh, dean of the School of Design and Environment, National University of Singapore
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Start on site Undisclosed
Completion date December 2018
Gross internal floor area 4,836m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 8,588m²
Procurement route International competition
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect Serie Architects and Multiply Architects
Executive architect Surbana Jurong (consultants)
Client National University of Singapore
Structural engineer Surbana Jurong
M&E consultant Surbana Jurong
Quantity surveyor Surbana Jurong
Energy consultant Transsolar Energietechnik
Façade consultant Arup Singapore
Landscape consultant Surbana Jurong
Acoustic consultant Acviron Acoustics
Main contractor Kajima Overseas Asia Singapore
CAD software used Revit