Retrofitting, instead of rebuilding, seen as more cost effective

As skyscrapers in Singapore get older, industry players have said it can be more cost effective to retrofit, instead of rebuilding them.

They said a key consideration will be the rental yield that will be lost during the period of reconstruction.

Another reason will be the savings from rising construction costs.

The Fuji Xerox towers underwent retrofitting three years ago.

But it is not just the outside of the 24-year-old building that has been spruced up.

The air-conditioning system was also revamped, resulting energy bills being reduced by nearly 50 percent.

This was part of the wider retrofitting works that cost to the tune of S$20 million.

Anthony Goh, deputy general manager for Property and Facilities Management at City Developments, said: “Typically, when we look at retrofitting, we focus on energy saving. From past experience, retrofitting of the air-conditioning plant gave us a very good payback of investment, so we have done that for at least four buildings today, and we enjoy a good saving on the energy bill. The payback is about five years, which is considered attractive.”

Other retrofitting works include improving the lighting systems, or the facade of the building.

City Developments said that tenants are beginning to place more importance on energy efficiency. It added that retrofitting has helped push up rental yields and occupancy.

“Re-skinning” a building costs just up to 20 per cent of new construction costs.

That is a reason why some believe it is a more cost effective option than rebuilding.

B+H Architects expects this trend to take off in Singapore and the rest of the region.

Douglas Birkenshaw, design principal at B+H Architects, said: “It is not necessarily behind, the buildings themselves are not as old as say the buildings in the North American market. There are tall structures in New York for instance which are now 60 years old, and in Toronto, we have 70-storey buildings which are going into 40 years old.

“Singapore is just entering that market, as it started building towers 20 years after the North American market. And that would be true for Shanghai, Hong Kong and many markets where you have high densities and tall buildings, that happened later in the cycle.”

Singapore has been encouraging owners of older buildings to take up retrofitting work.

This is part of its target to make at least 80 per cent of the buildings in Singapore more energy efficient in the next 20 years.

So far – according to the Building and Construction Authority – just around 11 per cent of buildings here qualify.

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 22 Jul 2011

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