SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • obstacles;
  • green building;
  • sustainable development;
  • project management;
  • construction industry;
  • Singapore

ABSTRACT

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Background
  5. Research Methodology
  6. Survey Results
  7. Interview Results
  8. Recommended Solutions for Obstacles
  9. Conclusions and Recommendations
  10. References

Green building construction is earning a place in Singapore's construction industry, and, with augmenting cognizance of environmental issues and growing concern over climate change, sustainable construction is gradually being put forth globally. However, construction of green buildings in Singapore still encounters impediments, as there is a lack of proper project management framework for such projects. Based on survey and interview results from 31 industry experts, this study aims to identify common obstacles encountered during management of green construction projects, ultimately proposing some solutions to overcome the barriers. The findings from this study reveal that, although project cost is the paramount barrier among others in green building construction management, there is no paucity in sustainable knowledge in Singapore's construction industry. To deal with the cost related problem, the coverage of government incentives should be widened to include the usage of green products and technologies. Furthermore, a project management framework for green building construction should be developed to overcome the barriers, possibly promoting adoption of sustainable construction in future projects. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Background
  5. Research Methodology
  6. Survey Results
  7. Interview Results
  8. Recommended Solutions for Obstacles
  9. Conclusions and Recommendations
  10. References

Buildings in many developed countries are consuming significant portions of their nations' energy resources. According to Perez-Lombard et al. (2008), both commercial and residential buildings together are responsible for between 20 and 40% of the world's energy consumption and these values are rising steadily every year. Not only are buildings expending large amounts of energy, they are also the culprits behind substantial carbon dioxide emissions, which can be detrimental to the environment and play a huge role in the world's climate change (Yudelson, 2008). In addition, building construction generates many other environmental issues such as atmospheric and water pollution (Pasquire, 1999), which arise from the use of toxic materials and many other harmful processes involved. Evidently, the building construction industry may be a consequential environmental burden.

According to Jaillon and Poon (2008), prefabrication can alleviate some of the environmental burdens associated with conventional construction and thus is being increasingly used in the building industry. In addition, with mounting awareness of the negative impacts, the building construction industries from various regions have also taken ‘green measures’ in their steps to mitigate the harm inflicted on the environment. Some examples are use of green technologies such as day-lighting as well as solar energy in place of electricity, and adoption of practices such as waste minimization, water conservation and use of recycled materials during construction of building projects. Governments in many developed countries have also passed laws to make green building measures mandatory. The Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD) was legislation that requires the buildings in every European Union (EU) country to meet a minimum energy performance standard and to have energy certification by the year 2006 (EPBD, 2009). In addition, the US has enacted Green Building legislation, in which it is mandatory to satisfy Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards in building construction (Renewable Energy World, 2005). Likewise, in Singapore, the Building Control (Environment Sustainability) Regulations were implemented on 15 April 2008 (BCA, 2009e). This regulation requires all new buildings and retrofitting to meet a minimum environment sustainability standard. As more developers, both public and private, opt for green and sustainable development under the pressures of government's regulations and public scrutiny, conventional project management of building construction may be obsolete when it comes to managing a green construction project. On account of the proliferation of green building, green construction project management emerged.

Green buildings are constructed based on the principles of sustainable construction, which addresses the ecological, social and economical issues of a building in the context of its community. These buildings are designed and built to use less energy and resources than traditional buildings and aim to minimize their impacts on the environment (Yudelson, 2008). According to the 2nd Green Building Masterplan by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA, 2009a), the number of Green Mark certified buildings in Singapore has increased from 130 in 2007 to 250 in 2008. These figures suggest that with increasing awareness of the importance of green building construction, many developers have embarked on the green journey and committing themselves to be BCA Green Mark certified. Along with the augmenting prominence of green construction, growing emphasis has been placed on the project management approaches of green building construction.

Therefore, the specific objectives of this study are (1) to investigate the common problems that project managers encounter during the planning and construction of green buildings and (2) to propose plausible solutions for improving the current green construction project management approaches and thus lending to the more intensive implementation of green building in Singapore. To achieve the listed objectives, literature reviews are carried out, and 31 project managers and consultants in Singapore are also approached for survey and interview.

Background

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Background
  5. Research Methodology
  6. Survey Results
  7. Interview Results
  8. Recommended Solutions for Obstacles
  9. Conclusions and Recommendations
  10. References

Green Building and Sustainable Construction

There are various definitions of the term ‘green building’ and many varied perspectives of what constitutes a green building. According to Glavinich (2008), the term green building is defined in the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard E2114-06a as a building that provides the specified building performance requirements while minimizing disturbance to and improving the functioning of local, regional and global ecosystems both during and after its construction and specified service life. In Singapore, a building is considered green if it has met the requirements under the Green Mark Scheme, which requires the building to be both energy and water efficient, be environmentally sustainable, have a minimum indoor environment quality and possess green features (BCA, 2009b). Despite having multiple definitions, a green building essentially means a building that is energy and resource efficient and has minimal disruptions to the environment. Green building is often mentioned together with sustainable construction, and sometimes these two terms are used interchangeably. According to Kibert (2008), sustainable construction focuses on the ecological, social and economic issues of a building in the context of its community. Therefore, green building can be a subset of sustainable construction and is a stepping stone to sustainable development, which has been defined as being able to meet present needs without the expense of the needs of future generations (CIRIA C571, 2001).

Green Building in Singapore

According to Statistics Singapore (2009), the value of construction contracts to be awarded in 2010 will be between $21 billion and $27 billion, and those for 2011 and 2012 between $18 billion and $25 billion. The construction sector has enjoyed strong double-digit growth for the third consecutive year in 2009, achieving a record level of on-site construction activity or output of about $30 billion. Such statistics implies heavy reliance on the construction industry as one of the main pillars of growth to spearhead Singapore's further progress (Statistics Singapore, 2009).

Singaporeans are increasingly aware of the benefits of green buildings, as international experts on green building and environmental sustainability complimented and encouraged future green development plans by BCA. According to the 2nd Green Masterplan (BCA, 2009a), tremendous efforts are made in the hope of certifying 80% of buildings in Singapore as green buildings by 2030. The number of Green Mark certified buildings has also significantly increased from 130 in 2007 to 250 in 2008. Therefore, the importance of green building management is expected to grow over time.

Rationales Behind Green Building

Legislations and Regulations

With rising awareness of sustainable development, legislations governing environmental issues generated from the building construction industry have been implemented in many developed countries. One example of such legislations is the Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD), which requires the buildings in every European Union (EU) country to meet a minimum energy performance standard and to have energy performance certification by the year of 2006 (EPBD, 2009). In addition, Green Building legislation is enacted in the US to promote the adoption of green building construction, in which it is mandatory to satisfy Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design's (LEED) standards in building construction (Renewable Energy World, 2005). Similarly, in Singapore, the Building Control (Environment Sustainability) Regulations were implemented on 15 April 2008. This set of regulations requires all new buildings and retrofitting to meet a minimum environment sustainability standard (BCA, 2009e). Under such legislation, there will be an increasing number of developers compelled to take up green building.

Economic Benefits

Green buildings have many economic advantages that traditional buildings do not possess. According to Gluch et al. (2009), organizations can improve their business performance by focusing on three predictors of green business advantage: acquisition (routines to identify demands, initial reviews), assimilation (measurable goals, plans of action, LCA) and transformation (audits, environmental declarations). More specific examples are energy and water savings, reduced waste, enhanced productivity of occupants and decrease in maintenance and operation costs (USGBC, 2003). In addition, with prices of oil and natural gas skyrocketing in recent years, having energy savings in green building every year increases the building value, as occupants are able to recoup their investment in the building within a shorter period of time. Constructing green buildings also entitles developers to different types of incentive. For instance, in the United States, states such as Oregon and New York offer green buildings with tax credit, depending on the building size and LEED certification level (Yudelson, 2008). In Singapore, under the Green Mark Incentive Scheme (GMIS), both new and existing green buildings are entitled to incentives up to $3 000 000, depending on the level of Green Mark Award the building has achieved and its gross floor area (GFA) (BCA, 2009c).

Better Risk Management

According to USGBC (2003), adoption of proper green construction practices has many risk management advantages. For instance, adoption of sustainable construction practices, such as reusing building elements, can help reduce the risks of environmental liability with relation to construction waste disposal, shielding the developer from future lawsuits concerned with non-compliance of sustainability related legislations. Another example of these advantages is the mitigation of occupational risks for construction workers due to the reduction in new construction works required when building elements are reused. Furthermore, green properties are now generating faster sales and leasing as compared with conventional building units as, in light of environmental issues such as global warming, the public at large are being educated of their numerous benefits (Yudelson, 2008). Faster unit sales and leasing serves as a means of risk mitigation financially, as developers are able to reap returns to pay off loans and other financial obligations. As a result, there is a reduction in the interest accumulated and thus greater profits are possible.

Delivery Systems: Conventional Versus Green Building Construction

A majority of today's construction projects are still carried out in accordance with traditional methods and norms, where short-term solutions are favored over long-term ones, with material, technical solutions and managerial approaches that can seldom be classed as innovative green technology and practice (Demaid and Quintas, 2006; Gluch et al., 2009). In particular, in terms of delivery systems, design–bid–build, construction management-at-risk and design–build are commonly adopted for conventional construction projects and each method has pros and cons. For green construction projects the design–build delivery system is the most appropriate as effective communication is necessary between project team members (Kibert, 2008). In addition, with both the architect and the contractor working together, the contractor can provide valuable advice on the feasibility of green building design features. Expertise inputs by the contractor can help avoid changes in design and reworks in later stages of the project, which can cause major delay in project schedule and incur extra cost. Moreover, this delivery system ensures that the end product is consistent with the design, which is especially important for green building construction where various specifications have to be met before it can be certified as green building. A green building project also requires team building at the start of the project, which should include all important personnel involved in the project. Specialists with expertise in green building, such as building energy performance and green building certification, should also be engaged. This is because these people have deeper comprehension of the concept of green building and are familiar with the standards and requirements of green certification.

Contracting for Green Building Construction

During green building construction procurement, special attention has to be placed on green requirements, which are typically found in the specifications of contract document (Glavinich, 2008). Such requirements usually specify the types of material and equipment to be used and ensure that they satisfy the minimum standard in the context of environment sustainability. Other than this, sustainable construction's practices and measures are another type of green specification addressed in project specifications. These sustainable construction practices and measures can be found in the LEED Green Building Rating System for new construction, which includes measures such as construction activity pollution prevention and conservation of existing natural areas (USGBC, 2009b). Such detailed specifications may not be needed in a conventional construction contract. Before contracting with contractors and other professionals such as project managers and consultants, the developer selects those who are experienced in the field of green building and sustainable construction (CIRIA, 2001). In Singapore, developers can engage personnel who are Certified Green Mark Managers (GMMs) or Green Mark Professional (GMPs) (BCA, 2009d). Similarly, in the US, developers can engage LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED-APs) who have passed the USGBC training and testing program on green building principles (Kibert, 2008; USGBC, 2009a). In addition, a Green Request for Proposal can be declared to recruit the architect and construction manager. The Green Request for Proposal assures the developer that the professionals possess comprehensive understanding of green building concepts so as to appreciate the aims and objectives of a green building construction project to execute the project efficiently. In conventional building contract, the contractors are often selected based on lowest cost tendered, but may not have the ideal qualities required for that particular project.

Green Building Design

Green building design can be more complicated that what is typically required for conventional buildings, considering that evaluation of alternative materials and systems by the design team is commonly necessary (Glavinich, 2008). In conventional building projects, schematic designs that consist of simplified and general concepts of what the buildings will be like are used at the beginning of the project process (iiSBE, 2005). However, in green building projects, a holistic and integrated design process is being used right at the start of the project as green buildings have many unique design features not typically found in conventional building and require deep integration (Kibert, 2008). The cardinal green building design features are divided into three broad categories – namely indoor lighting, building materials and layout (Yudelson, 2008). In a green building, the lighting design integrates low-energy lighting fixtures with natural lighting through strategic window installation and usage of energy-efficient fluorescent lighting. Environmentally friendly building materials, such as recyclable bamboo flooring, as well as toxic-free materials, such as formaldehyde-free cabinets and non-toxic paint, are used in green buildings to ensure that they are sustainable. Building layout plays a significant role in ameliorating energy efficiency of the building. Green buildings also take advantage of natural ventilation through the building's orientation.

Construction of Green Projects

Other than conventional construction procedures, green building projects have to implement sustainable construction practices, which are usually listed in green building rating systems such as LEED. One example of such practices is a waste management plan (CIRIA, 2001) to minimize waste generation on the construction site (Kibert, 2008). A green building construction also has to adopt sustainable practices such as using recycled aggregates for concrete work and using timber which is from renewable sources (CIRIA, 2001). In addition, the main contractor and project manager have to ensure that pollution from the construction is kept to a minimum by controlling soil erosion, waterway sedimentation and airborne dust generation (USGBC, 2009b). Furthermore, the natural habitat should be conserved through prudent siting of the building to minimize the disturbance to the existing natural environment. These considerations are often neglected in traditional construction.

Green Building Commissioning and Closing Out

The commission and closing out of a green building project is usually more complicated than that of a conventional project. This is especially so when the developer wishes to attain third party green certification (Glavinich, 2008) such as LEED, BREEAM or Green Mark. There is also a responsibility to impart the knowledge of green building systems to new facility management teams and end users to maintain sustainability (CIRIA, 2001). In addition, ease of maintenance has to be ensured.

Obstacles in Green Building Project Management

High Cost Premium

It costs more to construct green buildings as compared with conventional buildings (Yudelson, 2008), as green materials cost significantly more than ordinary materials (Kibert, 2008). For example, compressed wheat board, which is a green substitute for plywood, costs about 10 times more than ordinary plywood. Other factors leading to the high cost premium of green buildings are the cost incurred in the search for green alternatives and in the certification of buildings (Yudelson, 2008). Teo (unpublished undergraduate dissertation) discovered that using green techniques on site results in additional cost, which deterred adoption of such methods. Therefore, when managing green building projects, it is difficult to keep within the project budget.

Unequal Distribution of Benefits

It is difficult to convince the developer to build green when there is unequal distribution of advantages amongst the builder and tenants (Yudelson, 2008). Developers have to fork out the high cost premium for green buildings while the tenants accrue most of the benefits generated from the green building, such as better indoor environment quality and cost savings in energy and water. In addition, the extra cost incurred by the green building cannot be passed to the tenants readily (Architecture Week, 2001).

Lack of Green Product Information

There is still inadequate information regarding green products and sustainable building systems that can be implemented in a green building (Architecture Week, 2001). Hence, developers are being forced to engage consultants who are specialized in green products and building systems at a fee. Without adequate information, the developer can also risk losing green certification or incur additional cost to correct products or systems that do not meet specified green standards.

Complex Legislation

Green building codes and regulations are becoming more complicated, causing difficulties for developers when evaluating the cost involved in the compliance of such codes (Architecture Week, 2001). Often, developers fail to see convincing benefits behind green building and thus do not feel inclined to ‘go green’.

Lack of Awareness

Traditional perception of how a building should be constructed still prevails and many developers resist building green due to the perceived risks (Kibert, 2008). Foo (unpublished undergraduate dissertation) found that there is a lack of awareness and readiness in the adoption of environmental auditing, which is a useful sustainable construction practice, in Singapore's construction industry. Another study proves the lack of awareness for green building in Singapore by showing that local contractors manage and use materials without giving much thought about sustainability and the surrounding environment (Chew, unpublished undergraduate dissertation). There is a lack of awareness in the public regarding the benefits of green buildings due to insufficient research, especially on issues such as the effects of indoor environmental quality of green buildings on productivity and health (Kibert, 2008).

Research Methodology

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Background
  5. Research Methodology
  6. Survey Results
  7. Interview Results
  8. Recommended Solutions for Obstacles
  9. Conclusions and Recommendations
  10. References

For this study, literature reviews on green and sustainable building construction, including the management approach of such projects in Singapore and overseas, were carried out first. The aim of the reviews is to explore differences between conventional and green construction projects and to identify obstacles encountered in green building construction project management overseas. In addition, the objective behind the reviews is to discover innovative management skills applied in these projects that can be implemented in Singapore's context. The examination and analysis of past work related to green construction also provide a better understanding of green and sustainable building construction and the project management processes involved.

Then, a survey questionnaire was developed to capture other possible obstacles encountered, which are not reflected in the literature review, in management of local green building construction projects. It also provides a comprehensive and accurate outlook of management culture adopted by local green construction industry. The obstacles of green building project management and their respective solutions provided in the survey questionnaire were based on the findings derived from the literature reviews. The structure of this survey questionnaire consists of a section that asks about the details of respondents. The next section carries questions regarding the profile of green building construction projects undertaken by the respondents. The third section asks the respondents about the obstacles encountered during management of green construction and the last section requires respondents to pick out solutions to overcome these obstacles. The questionnaires were being sent, via email, to a population size of 101 managers and professionals listed under the BCA's Certified Green GMM and GMP Scheme. They were chosen as the target population as they have a strong foundation and deep knowledge of green building and have the professional capability to advise on designing of environmental friendly buildings (BCA, 2009d). It is believed that with their experience in planning, tender and procurement, construction and commissioning of green buildings they are able to provide comprehensive accounts of the obstacles faced during the management of such construction projects.

In addition to the survey, interviews with 10 GMPs and GMMs who have managed projects that have received either Green Mark Platinum or Gold Plus award, and who have more than 3 years of experience in the field of green building, were conducted. The purposes of the interviews are (1) to gain deeper insights and understanding of the obstacles listed in the survey questionnaire and (2) to get experts' opinions on the survey results. Through supplementary knowledge and valuable opinions from managers and professionals, quality findings and discussions could be produced.

Survey Results

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Background
  5. Research Methodology
  6. Survey Results
  7. Interview Results
  8. Recommended Solutions for Obstacles
  9. Conclusions and Recommendations
  10. References

Out of the questionnaires disseminated, 31 completed copies were received. The survey results were analyzed using simple tabulation of percentages and are represented in table forms in the following sections for most of the questions. The respondents were from 19 consultancy (61%) and 12 project management companies (39%). All of the respondents have more than 2 years of experience on green building construction projects and the majority of them (19 out of 31 respondents; 61%) have 3–4 years of experience. Also, there are five respondents (16%) who have more than 4 years of experience in the area. This section elaborates results of the survey provided by the 31 industry experts.

Delivery Systems Adopted for Green Building Construction

In order to check whether the green building construction takes a totally different project delivery method from that of the conventional building construction, the types of delivery system used for the above-mentioned projects were asked about. The result tells us that 68% of the surveyed green building construction projects (21 out of 31 projects) adopted the conventional design–bid–build delivery system while no projects hired construction managers at-risk and project managers at-risk as their delivery systems. Instead, project managers for fee and design–build delivery systems were adopted by 10% (three projects) and 22% (seven projects), respectively. This result is contrary to what Kibert (2008) had mentioned in his book, more use of design–build than design–bid–build. Apparently, most of the green building construction projects performed in Singapore adopted conventional the design–bid–build delivery system instead of design–build. One possible reason behind this observation is that Singapore's construction industry lacks a comprehensive project delivery system that is well suited for green building construction projects. Hence, project managers and contractors manage green projects using the conventional method, which is something familiar and stable to them.

In addition, all the respondents indicated that, for the projects that they undertook, other parties such as ecologically sustainable development (ESD), Green Mark, total building performance (TBP), acoustic, security and lighting consultants were engaged to assist in the construction of the green building. This finding coincides with the article Barriers to Building Green from Architecture Week (2001), which states that the lack of green product information compelled developers to engage external consultants specialized in green products and building systems. Some respondents revealed that hiring ESD and green consultants leads to cost-related problems. Their clients often perceive the cost of engaging these consultants to be within conventional consultation fees. However, in most projects, the cost involved for such consultancy is an additional amount on top of conventional consultation services, inflating the cost premium required to design and construct a green building.

It is also of interest that all respondents stated that the decision to incorporate green features into the project was made at the very beginning, which is the planning and feasibility study stage of their projects. This suggests the respondents' clients or developers already have the vision of building green. Such a decision also makes good economic sense since incorporation of green features at later project stages will be expensive as a result of multiple changes.

Obstacles Encountered in Green Building Project Management

The survey results also revealed that all the respondents encountered some obstacles during the management of green building construction. Table 1 presents the types of obstacle listed in the survey and the frequency of respondents who have encountered them during the project management of green building construction.

Table 1. Obstacles encountered during green building project management
NoObstaclesFrequencyPercentage (%)
 1High cost premium of green building project31100.0
 2Lack of communication and interest amongst project team members2683.9
 3Lack of required expertise in green building00.0
 4Lack of knowledge regarding green building principles00.0
 5Lack of management and time to implement green construction practices825.8
 6Lack of expressed interest from client and market demand1651.6
 7Lack of expressed interest from other project team members1238.7
 8Resistance to change from conventional to green practices by company's employees1135.5
 9Lack of government's support (e.g. incentives) for sustainable construction00.0
10Green building practices are costly to implement2477.4
11Lack of information regarding green products and building systems90.0
12Lack of credible research on the benefits of green buildings2167.7
13Complex codes and regulations on green building and sustainable construction722.6

According to the survey results and as seen underlined in Table 1, the top five obstacles encountered by professionals and managers when managing a green building project are (1) the high premium cost associated with green building construction, (2) the lack of communication and interest between project members, (3) the lack of expressed interest from clients or market demand, (4) the lack of credible research on the benefits of green buildings and (5) green building practices are costly to implement. Surprisingly, none of the respondents feel that there is a lack of expertise and knowledge in green building and its principles. This could indicate that, although there is a lack of green product information for the developer, there is ample consultancy and services provided in Singapore to assist in green building construction. Furthermore, none of them feel that there is a lack in the government's support for sustainable construction, which could be due to the tremendous effort that government-based BCA has put in to actively promote green building and sustainable development. Moreover, through the Green Mark Incentive Scheme (GMIS), the adoption of green building design, construction practices and environmentally friendly technologies has been hastened.

Impacts of the Obstacles on Project Objectives

The respondents were also requested to state the extent of effects that these obstacles have on three main objectives in green building projects, which are project schedule, budget and quality of the end product. They were asked to rate the extent of effects on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 represents no effect on the objectives at all and 5 represents extremely extensive effect. As summarized in Table 2, the impacts the obstacles have on keeping up with project schedule and quality of the end product have mean scores of 3.32 and 3.16, respectively.

Table 2. Summary of impacts of obstacles on green project objectives
ObjectivesNMeanStandard DeviationPairs for T-TestP-valueMean Difference Significant? (p < 0.10)
Schedule313.3200.871Schedule vs. Budget0.000Yes
Budget314.1000.539Schedule vs. Quality0.057Yes
Quality313.1600.820Budget vs. Quality0.000Yes

Since the scores are very similar, it suggests that the obstacles have an extensive effect on both the schedule and quality of green building projects. The effects of the obstacles on project budget have a higher mean score of 4.10, suggesting that the obstacles have a very extensive effect on project cost. Moreover, the standard deviation of the mean score is lower than for the other two objectives, which indicates that opinions were not as diverse. This suggests that most GMPs and GMMs share a common impression that obstacles encountered during management of green building projects can affect project cost extensively. To further test the accuracy of the results, the objectives – schedule, budget and quality – were paired with each other in order to carry out a paired samples t-test, as shown in Table 2. In Pair 1, the effect of obstacles on project schedule is compared with that of project budget. In Pair 2 the effect of obstacles on project schedule is compared with that of building quality, and in Pair 3 the effect of obstacles on project budget is compared with that of building quality. This test is carried out to see if there are any statistically significant differences between two samples at the confidence level of 0.10. The results reported that there are significant differences between the means of all of the pairs and this can be interpreted as indicating that the obstacles mentioned in the previous section indeed have most impact on project cost.

Solutions to Obstacles

Through the survey, the respondents were also asked to choose solutions that can help to overcome the obstacles listed in Table 1. The percentage of respondents who chose particular solutions for each of the obstacles is tabulated in Table 3. Obstacles 3, 4 and 9 are excluded from this section since none of the respondents consider them as obstacles encountered in green building project management. Only the top five obstacles (1, 2, 6, 10 and 12) mentioned in the previous section are analyzed in detail here.

Table 3. Summary of suggested solutions for obstacles
ObstaclesSolutionsFrequency%
1 & 10Interest free lending schemes provided by government to overcome market and financial barriers.825.8
Educating owners on the future benefits of green buildings2064.5
Insistence from client722.6
Green Mark Certification to be made mandatory for all new and existing buildings by authority39.7
Government to provide incentives to offset high premiums of green building projects2167.7
Advocated by professionals such as architects and engineers00.0
Public and market demand for green buildings1548.4
 2Conduct tool-box meeting for regularly2374.2
Engaging personnel with green building background1445.2
 5A green building practices framework which is simple enough for project managers and other professionals to follow and929.0
Decrease the amount of premium provided for the project if green construction practices are not adopted516.1
Insistence from client825.8
Heavier taxes and penalties on unsustainable construction practices516.1
 6Research studies or evidence to show that green building help increase productivity and health of occupants412.9
Organize construction tour to introduce and educate the public about the benefits of green building2580.6
 7Bonuses provided for staff if the building is green mark certified or qualified for green mark awards2787.1
 8Bonuses provided for staff if the building is green mark certified or qualified for green mark awards722.6
Project team to create a culture for the adoption of green building practices619.4
Create a simple green building practices framework which employees can follow easily to facilitate the transition from conventional to green practices1341.9
 9Subsidy or incentives from government for green building projects2064.5
Guaranteed enhancement to company's reputation through publication and certifications516.1
11Engaging personnel with green building background2890.3
Training provided on green building before the start of project722.6
Upgrading courses to supplement knowledge regarding sustainable construction722.6
12Subsidy from government for R&D in green building systems and management3096.8
13Summarize these codes and regulations into a simple checklist, which can be comprehended and followed easily2271.0
Introductory courses on green building legislations conducted for all staff members before the start of project412.9

Both obstacles involving high cost premium of green building project and costly green construction practices are cost related and are considered to be the biggest obstacles a project management team has to overcome. This factor has a very extensive effect on the projects' budgets because in Singapore's profit driven construction industry most projects are awarded based on the lowest tender price. Hence, a green building project will pale in comparison to conventional building projects in terms of cost. Moreover, BCA's GMIS is capped at an exhaustive amount of $20 million. According to one of the survey respondents, the fund has only $7 million left at this point in time. Therefore, with a tighter budget, future projects may only aim to attain minimum green requirements so as to comply with local regulation. To overcome the problem of high cost involved in green building construction, all respondents feel that incentivization of green building projects by the government can help offset the high cost involved. 67.7% of the respondents feel that educating the client on the future benefits of green building could be the solution to this problem as well. With clients internalizing the potential benefits reaped from green building, the high cost premium may have less deterrence from the client's point of view.

Since green building construction is a fairly new concept in Singapore's construction industry, it is important to communicate the green goals and objectives to all stakeholders and project team members in order to achieve successful project execution. For the lack of communication between project members as an obstacle in green building project management, 74.2% of the respondents feel that regular tool box meetings should be conducted to ensure that important information about the project is communicated. 45.2% of them feel that engaging personnel with green building experience could overcome this obstacle as well.

The lack of client interest in green building and market demand from the public is another significant obstacle with respect to green building project management. The client plays a major role in creating and leading an efficient and focused project team, and without expressed interest from an enlightened client it is difficult for the project team to execute green building practices and implementation of green design features. From the survey, 80.6% of the respondents felt that a construction tour could be organized for the client and the public to educate them on the benefits of green building so as to increase their interest and create a higher market demand for green buildings in Singapore.

The poor demand for green buildings could also be due to the lack of credible research on their benefits. Knowing the advantages that green buildings could bring about heightened interest, 96.8% of the respondents felt that subsidy from government for research and development of green building systems and management could essentially provide concrete evidence of how beneficial they are to humans and society as well as the economy.

Interview Results

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Background
  5. Research Methodology
  6. Survey Results
  7. Interview Results
  8. Recommended Solutions for Obstacles
  9. Conclusions and Recommendations
  10. References

The interviews were conducted supplementary to the survey questionnaires in order to gather more information on (1) the measures taken to overcome the top five obstacles identified in the survey questionnaire, (2) the impact of obstacles on their respective projects and (3) the key differences between conventional project management and green building management. In addition, through the interviews, experts' recommendations on critical factors that should be included and considered if a green construction project management framework is to be developed to ensure its effectiveness were captured. The subsequent sections summarize the interview results.

Measures Taken to Overcome Obstacles

The interviewees had taken several steps to cope with the top five obstacles shown in the survey questionnaire. To keep a green building construction project within budget despite the high cost involved, the project team builds the building to meet the most basic Green Mark requirement and fulfill Building Control (Environment Sustainability) Regulations only, unless the client wishes to go for higher level certification such as Green Mark Gold or Platinum. Also, cheaper material alternatives were sourced to keep the material cost low. Prices from different subcontractors were compared; the one whose price is the lowest will be chosen, provided that the products or systems meet certain quality standards. These standards are determined by how energy efficient the green building has to be, as the materials, products and systems used in the building determine how much energy will be consumed. Having in-house consultants also helps to eliminate the cost of engaging third party consultancy services, especially for bigger projects. In fact, many personnel involved in green building construction play multiple roles. For instance, some engineers are trained under the Energy Sustainability Unit's (ESU's) Locally-Based Enterprise Advancement Program (LEAP) as energy managers, who are capable of carrying out an energy audit for a building. Thus, cost is reduced as the need to engage external energy auditing services is avoided. In addition, professionals and managers with experience in green building and familiar with the local sustainable legislations are preferred and selected to be in the project team. By having multi-disciplinary personnel who are familiar with green building and its legislation involved in the project team, communication between individuals can be enhanced at the same time.

However, the local construction industry applies a compliance attitude towards green building. Many building owners only wish to comply with basic regulations and have no intention of attaining a Green Mark Gold or Platinum award, in order to save cost. Therefore, while the consultants often encourage the client to go for a Gold or Platinum award for Green Mark incentives, the project teams do not usually make efforts to induce interest in green building in clients.

Effects of Obstacles

According to the interviewees, the biggest effect of the obstacles will be on the project budget. Expensive technologies, products and materials as well as consultancy services that come with green buildings take a toll on the construction budget. The local project managers ensure that the cost stays within budget by developing cost estimates that are as close to the actual sum as possible, during the project planning stage. The need to stay within budget even compelled some contractors to cut corners and use substandard products and materials, which are not essentially sustainable or environmental friendly. Therefore, quality is compromised in the process.

Searching for alternatives requires a tremendous amount of time, which is often a luxury in construction schedules. A balance has to be achieved to ensure that cheaper alternatives are sourced whilst keeping up with the schedule. Like any other construction projects, any delays in construction schedule can result in copious losses.

Differences between Conventional and Green Building Project Management

The interviewees feel that managing the budget of conventional building projects is less complicated as compared with that of green building. Almost all conventional building construction projects adopt least-cost delivery systems, where contractors with the lowest tender price are awarded with the project based on competitive bidding. However, such delivery systems cannot work ideally for green building construction projects as green materials, products and technologies are often unique in terms of specifications and are more expensive. Hence, a least-cost delivery system cannot work for such projects. In addition, great communication between design and construction teams is required in order for the project to be successful. Sadly, least-cost delivery systems such as design–bid–build are unable to achieve this level of communication since the design and construction are managed by two separate teams.

Green Building Project Management Framework

All the interviewees revealed that they do not have a specific project management framework for green building construction projects. Therefore, a conventional project management framework was being used as a guideline for sustainable construction in Singapore. However, special attention is being paid to legislation and regulations involving green building requirements. Requirements stated in BCA's Green Mark Awards were also analyzed before the commencement of construction to determine whether attainment of a particular level of award was feasible and within the project team's capabilities in terms of experience, availability of resources and, most importantly, cost.

Recommended Solutions for Obstacles

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Background
  5. Research Methodology
  6. Survey Results
  7. Interview Results
  8. Recommended Solutions for Obstacles
  9. Conclusions and Recommendations
  10. References

As previously identified by analysis, the top five obstacles in the survey questionnaires were (1) the high cost premium of a green building project, (2) lack of communication and interest amongst project team members, (3) lack of expressed interest from client and market demand, (4) green building practices are costly to implement and (5) lack of credible research on the benefits of green buildings. In this section, possible solutions are proposed to overcome each obstacle stated above. These solutions are developed based on literature review of the drivers behind the growing trend in green building, results from the survey questionnaire used in this study and interviews.

High Cost Premium and Market Demand

To overcome the cost issue associated with green buildings, it is recommended that the government continues to incentivize the adoption of sustainable construction until an adequate market demand for green buildings is achieved. The scope of incentives should be expanded from developers, building owners, architects and mechanical and electrical (M&E) consultants to cover the usage of green products and technology such as solar panels, which are still very expensive now. Doing so helps to keep the cost of building green within reasonable and acceptable budget, which could effectively remove deterrence and facilitate the adoption of green designs and practices.

Demand for green buildings can be generated by educating the public about the importance of sustainable development due to depleting world resources and deteriorating global climate. This can be by organizing green building construction tours for building owners and potential users by government agencies to educate the public about the benefits of green building and construction practices. Similar to the one given by a builder in Michigan, the construction walkthrough should be opened to the public before Air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation (ACMV) systems are installed (Builder, 2009), so that the visitors can appreciate how green building designs and technologies can help make buildings energy efficient and sustainable. The tour should update the public and developers about the breakthroughs in building approaches, M&E systems such as energy efficient ventilation and low-energy lighting systems, energy conservation procedures and the overall process of green building including sustainable construction methods and site planning (Builder, 2009).

Project Team's Communication and Interest

For a green building construction project to be successful, a higher level of communication is required amongst the project team's members as compared with conventional building projects. This is because it is crucial for every member of the personnel to have an in-depth comprehension of green building principles and their obligations to contribute ingenuity and vigor to produce an outstanding building. Thus, other than conventional solutions such as regular tool-box meetings, the clients should advocate green management goals from top down to motivate the whole project team towards the goal. In addition, the project team's communication can be enhanced by engaging personnel with green building expertise as part of the team. BCA's certified GMM and GMP scheme is a useful way of acknowledging managers and professional who are experienced in green building.

The project managers of green building construction projects may also implement a high-performance green building delivery system instead of traditional delivery systems, which may not be suitable for green projects. According to Kibert (2008), this delivery system is derived from the construction-management at risk delivery and immense communication between project members is essential. Correspondingly, inaugural team building should intermesh a wide variety of stakeholders to ensure that everyone understands the project's targets and green specifications (Kibert, 2008). The delivery system also requires all personnel to be proficient in green building (Kibert, 2008). Since green buildings in Singapore have to attain Green Mark certification, project members have to be very familiar with Building Control (Environmental Sustainability) Legislation 2008 and Green Mark requirements. This system is planned to minimize adversarial relationships and simplify negotiation among the parties (Kibert, 2008).

To ensure that the green building project team comprises people who have good knowledge about green buildings, the client or project manager could request qualifications during the selection of team members. As mentioned by Kibert (2008), the selection can be based on experience, qualifications, previous work and demonstrated understanding of the owner's program and requirement, the building site and the firm members' ability to work with other project team members.

Research on Benefits of Green Building

As expressed by the survey respondents, one of the reasons behind poor market demand for green building in Singapore is the lack of credible research on the benefits of green buildings. Therefore, it will be useful if government agencies provide subsidies for the research and development (R&D) of green building systems in Singapore. Moreover, some green technologies, such as photovoltaics, are still not commercially viable and it will be helpful if the government provides funds to bridge the R&D gap to fruition.

Conclusions and Recommendations

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Background
  5. Research Methodology
  6. Survey Results
  7. Interview Results
  8. Recommended Solutions for Obstacles
  9. Conclusions and Recommendations
  10. References

This study aimed to investigate the common obstacles encountered during the management of such projects and, ultimately, propose plausible solutions to overcome these obstacles. The literature reviews revealed that the main dissimilarities between conventional and green construction projects are the level of details and communication required. This is especially reflected in the delivery systems adopted. Conventional projects typically adopt least-cost delivery, such as design–bid–build, where communication between the design and construction teams is not prioritized. In addition, succinct schematic design is usually adequate at the planning stage of conventional projects. On the other hand, green projects require superlative communication, which can only be achieved through delivery systems such as design–build, where building design and construction is carried out as a single entity. Furthermore, a detailed integrated design process is employed at the start of the project as, unlike conventional building design, green design features are unique and require deep integration with every building aspect.

Results from the survey and interviews revealed profound obstacles in the project management of green building construction. These obstacles were found to be interrelated but they ultimately boil down to the high cost premium of green building. The lack of R&D on the benefits of green buildings and green technologies are drivers behind the lack of demand for building to go beyond legislative requirements. As such, these green technologies and systems are non-prevalent, leading to the hefty price tags attached to their installation and implementation. A vicious cycle starts, making green building construction practices costly to implement. This deters clients or building owners from building green and adopting sustainable construction practices beyond legislative obligation. In addition, green building construction requires collaborative effort and communication between project team members to materialize successfully. However, many local projects adopt a conventional design–bid–build form for management, where the design and construction are managed as separate entities, causing lack of communication between personnel. These factors precipitate into an onerous project that is more difficult to manage compared with conventional ones, thus discouraging owners from taking up green building projects.

To overcome these obstacles and bring such projects to success, there are several imperative elements to be considered. They are one, widening the coverage of fiscal measures whereby the government provides incentives for professionals as well as R&D and usage of green products and technologies; two, public education on green building advantages to drive demand; and three, adoption of communication-conducive delivery systems, such as high performance green building delivery systems, that allow design and construction to be integrated. Through the proposed solutions, the construction industry may be more keen to adopt green building construction instead of conventional construction in the future, considering that the procedural framework proposed may facilitate the management of green building construction projects. In addition, the demand for green buildings is expected to increase along with public awareness of environmental issues and advantages of sustainable construction as a result of improved R&D in green products and technologies, which yields credible research on the benefits of green building.

There are limitations to this study, one of which is the respondents' reluctance to provide detailed information regarding project management of green building construction. As a result, this study only managed to obtain 31 survey responses. Higher response rate may be more useful for extensive coverage of obstacles encountered. Another limitation is that this study explores obstacles from the perspectives of project managers and consultants. Therefore, it is recommended to identify obstacles encountered by contractors. Contractors may have a different set of obstacles to overcome in contrast with project managers and/or consultants. Identification of these obstacles may be valuable in the further enhancement of viability of green buildings in Singapore. In addition, as compared with conventional building project management framework, the framework for managing green building projects should be more detailed and allow greater communication between all personnel involved. Considering that such a framework is still unavailable in Singapore and is perceived to be helpful in green building project management as reflected in the survey questionnaire, having a project management framework catering to green building construction can help facilitate its adoption for future projects.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Introduction
  4. Background
  5. Research Methodology
  6. Survey Results
  7. Interview Results
  8. Recommended Solutions for Obstacles
  9. Conclusions and Recommendations
  10. References