When we think of buildings, what qualities would we associate with it? Many of us would suggest that buildings are inanimate structures, and in urbanised settings like Singapore, a few might lament that these are what make up the ‘concrete jungle’ of Singapore, at the expense of natural greenery.
But what if a building was more than that? How can such a simple and unassuming concept as a building be improved upon? One man in Singapore dared to ask: “what happens if buildings were alive?”
“At Beblu, we envision buildings beyond brick and mortar as living organisms that connect other buildings and people all around the world,” says Kenny Chai, founder and CEO of Beblu.
“We hope to create buildings that serve as interconnected social networks, where like-minded individuals can come together to live, work, play and collaborate.”
Making a dream come true
True to his word, Kenny has turned this new and improved concept into reality with LeBond — Singapore’s first AI-enabled green building in Singapore’s city fringe, complete with its own building management system which can be accessed from Beblu’s app.
The building was previously unoccupied, located near the industrial area of Tai Seng. After Beblu refurbished the building, it now functions as a co-working space for tenants, with customisable office spaces with a rooftop garden terrace, and common areas for activities to be held.
In addition, the building is powered by a rooftop solar farm, with smart lighting and temperature controls, along with AI sensors to help collate and track energy consumption in real-time. The building’s windows are also designed to increase the entry of natural light into the building.
According to Kenny, he got the idea for LeBond’s Building Management System (BMS) application while working overseas as a marketer.
During this time, he noticed that there were one-stop apps like WeChat, which provided users with multiple functions. However, he also noted that there were no such apps for property owners to effectively manage their own properties.
With Beblu’s BMS app, tenants now have access to manage their workspace, which they can use to control air conditioning, adjust indoor lighting, and manage the smart blinds that are installed within the building.
Together, these features help to reduce the need for maintenance, increasing LeBond’s lifespan, and reduces energy consumption by up to 50 per cent.
Building a community
However, bringing a vision to reality requires work, and more often than not, overcoming obstacles.
Since the original building was old, there was a lack of existing infrastructure, and Beblu had to work around space constraints to ensure that the project was still successful.
In addition, strict building codes — such as the prohibitions on multi-tiered solar panels — meant that there was a limitation on the number of solar panels that could be installed. The building eventually could only accommodate 25 per cent of the initially planned solar panels.
However, this didn’t mean giving up on the project. Kenny firmly believed in his vision, and while he may have had to compromise on the form, the functionality remained.
When LeBond was completed, local startups began approaching Kenny, interested in renting a space within the building.
“LeBond aligns with their values on sustainability. (It) is a space to cultivate a community of like-minded individuals that share the same vision for sustainability and wellness. Community features have been instrumental in drawing these younger startups, and this is further accompanied by sustainable and lifestyle features such as healthy food options with in-house delivery,” he said.
The first, but not the last
While LeBond is the first of such projects for Beblu, it’s definitely not the last. In fact, the company already has plans to redevelop buildings in the Central Business District and other historical buildings.
One example is Golden Mile complex, which Beblu plans to integrate smart features into while preserving the building’s original appearance and heritage.
Kenny also estimates that such buildings will become increasingly commonplace in Singapore.
With the space constraint in Singapore, there is a large market opportunity for repurposing older buildings into new, sustainable ones. Based on current carbon-neutral trends, the next five years will see an increase in the adoption of AI buildings by about 50 per cent, with more property owners looking to integrate plug-and-play sustainable developments into existing buildings.
What Beblu offers is an easily integrable AI solution that can help property owners transform their assets into smart and healthy digital ecosystems for innovators to live, work, play, and collaborate.
– Kenny Chai, founder and CEO of Beblu
As Singapore develops, urbanisation is not really a choice for many parts of our small city-state. But as Kenny shows, urbanisation does not necessarily have to mean giving up on what many of us are increasingly coming to value — the natural world with all its wonder, and our own unique history.
Indeed, what is increasingly possible with the innovation present in Singapore is a merger and synthesis of man-made structures, sustainable practices, and heritage preservation.
Renewal, after all, does not have to mean giving up on the past to focus on the future. It can also mean respecting and valuing all three, and combining them to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
Featured Image Credit: EdgeProp