We take you behind the scenes of CapitaLand’s inaugural CapitaLand Sustainability X Challenge. Plus! A one-to-one chat with the innovators!
If you think the names, ‘Climatec’ and ‘Inovues’ sound like the superheroes in the latest Hollywood movie franchise, you are not entirely wrong. In some ways, they are heroes, but they won’t be starring on the silver screen. They will be making their debut at a CapitaLand property soon, and their superpower would be helping to save the environment. 🌳
INOVUES, INC, and Climatec Corp Pte Ltd, from the USA and Singapore respectively, are the top two winners of the Grand Finale of the inaugural CapitaLand Sustainability X Challenge (CSXC). CapitaLand’s CSXC aims to accelerate sustainability innovation and collaboration within the built environment and is the first sustainability challenge by a Singapore real estate company on a global scale. 🌎
🏆 The ‘High Impact Award’ went to INOVUES, INC, while the ‘Most Innovative Award’ went to Climatec Corp Pte Ltd. INOVUES’ innovation focuses on an insulating glass retrofit technology that reduces heat gain inside a building, reducing the energy consumption used to heat or cool the building by up to 40%. Climatec’s innovation is a water treatment process utilising photon vibration frequency technology to treat cooling tower water without the use of chemicals or power, achieving 60% to over 90% water savings and 1% to over 5% energy savings1.
Both companies emerged winners amongst six finalists that were shortlisted from over 270 entries received from more than 25 countries. We’ve watched them live and celebrated with them online, but are you familiar with their CSXC journey? For that, we need to rewind 9 months ago. ⏪
What makes a challenge? The challenge statements!
They wouldn’t be able to win the CSXC if there wasn’t a challenge in the first place! And what makes a challenge? Challenge statements!
The first CSXC featured seven challenge statements. The statements did not simply appear from thin air. They were the result of days of hard work by CapitaLand's sustainability team - the team behind the CSXC! - and multiple online workshops in September 2020 involving over 40 participants globally from CapitaLand, industry experts and supported by NUS Enterprise.
Ms Lynette Leong, Chief Sustainability Officer, CapitaLand Group shared, “The seven challenge statements in the CSXC reflect the key themes and goals in CapitaLand’s 2030 Sustainability Master Plan. In addition to tackling the challenges of lowering carbon emissions and water conservation as well as promoting circularity in our waste management practices, threats such as COVID-19 and the haze have sharpened our focus on further improving the health and safety of our building occupants and customers, beginning with elevating the indoor air quality at our properties.”
Scouring the world for the best Greentech innovations around.
With the challenge statements settled, the hunt is on. To cast our net as wide as possible we took the search global. With the COVID-19 situation, the search was conducted online, and we enlisted the help of over 50 international institutional partners to spread the word. The partners range from government agencies to the business community, industry experts, venture capitalists, financial institutions as well as institutes of higher learning.
CSXC offers winners an opportunity to pilot and implement their solutions with CapitaLand, while securing up to S$50,000 in project funding. The CSXC also offered winners and finalists access to its partners’ global innovation programmes, where they get to connect with potential investors and business partners, receive expert advice and be exposed to potential business opportunities to accelerate the growth of their businesses.
CapitaLand’s sustainability team also participated in webinars and information sharing sessions to engage innovators out there.
The outcome? Some 270 entries received from more than 25 countries! The CSXC was a rallying call for all these amazing companies to answer, and their passion for the climate and environment shone through.
Are you in or out? Our top 6 out of 270+!
To narrow our entries to just 6 finalists was no easy feat. CSXC partners such as Rocky Mountain Institute and the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore offered their technical expertise in the assessment and shortlisting of submissions received.
Round one saw over 20 selection panellists that included experts from ASEAN Federation of Engineering Organisations, Mott MacDonald, National University of Singapore, Rocky Mountain Institute, Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority, Singapore’s National Environment Agency, Taronga Ventures, The Institution of Engineers, Singapore, Tsinghua x-lab and CapitaLand spending over hundreds of hours pouring over the entries to select the top 20.
After the top 20 were shortlisted, it was further whittled down to the top 6 in rounds of calibration meetings.
The 6 finalists were the crème de la crème of the innovators. Their innovations include:
A portable, self-powered energy generator cum chiller which can generate clean energy and cool air affordably for buildings using ambient heat or waste heat - by g-EN Pte Ltd from Singapore;
A water treatment process utilising photon vibration frequency technology to treat cooling tower water without the use of chemicals or power, achieving 60% to over 90% water savings and 1% to over 5% energy savings – by Climatec Corp Pte Ltd from Singapore;
An insulating glass retrofit technology that reduces heat gain inside a building, reducing the energy consumption used to heat or cool the building by up to 40% - by INOVUES Inc from the USA;
The use of innovative construction materials for curtain wall with around 10 times less embodied carbon, and enhanced heat and wind resistance – by Taichu Global Materials Co Ltd from China;
A smart waste bin which uses artificial intelligence, robotics and multiple sensors to sort waste with around 90% accuracy to facilitate better recycling efforts – by CleanRobotics Inc from the USA; and
An indoor air disinfection solution that reduces virus survivability by over 99% within seconds – by ARID Builders Pte Ltd from Singapore
To win, each finalist had to deliver their pitch, showcasing their value proposition and potential scalability of their innovations.
But we weren’t about to send them to the Grand Finale without putting them through our coaching and mentorship programme. To prepare the 6 finalists, senior leaders from CSXC’s strategic partners - Access Cities, Bain & Company, Luminaries Lab, Planet Rise, Rocky Mountain Institute, Taronga Ventures, The Thin Line Capital and Wavemaker Partners - joined CapitaLand business leaders in providing mentorship and coaching for the finalists. The mentors and coaches spent copious amount of precious time understanding the innovations and helping finalists in refining their value propositions, as well as fine-tuning their pitches for the Grand Finale.
Some lucky coaches and mentors were able to see the innovations in person, but for the participants that weren’t based in Singapore, it meant video calls at odd hours at night!
 Data provided by CSXC finalists
The big day on 11 June 2021!
If you ever wondered what goes behind a hybrid event - part virtual, part live - we’re pulling back the curtains.
The inaugural Grand Finale kicked off with a welcome speech by CapitaLand’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Mr Lee Chee Koon. Sharing CapitaLand’s sustainability efforts and the need for innovation and collaboration to deal with climate change, Mr Lee announced that CapitaLand has set up a S$50 million CapitaLand Innovation Fund to support the test-bedding of sustainability and other high-tech innovations in the built environment space as CapitaLand steps up its sustainability drive.
The Guest-of-Honour, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment of Singapore, Ms Grace Fu, shared the importance of how established large organisations can work with start-ups and small companies to grow their business, giving innovators an opportunity to testbed and refine their ideas in the real world.
At the Grand Finale, the 6 finalists delivered their pitches and fielded tough questions from the CSXC international panel of judges comprising Mr Lee Chee Koon, Group Chief Executive Officer, CapitaLand Group; Ms Goh Swee Chen, Independent Director and Chairman of Sustainability Council, CapitaLand Group; Mr Rohit Sipahimalani, Chief Investment Strategist and Head, South-East Asia, Temasek; Dr Cheong Koon Hean, Chair of the Centre for Liveable Cities (MND) and the incoming Chair of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities (Singapore University of Technology and Design); Mr Rushad Nanavatty, Managing Director, Urban Transformation, RMI; and Dr Chris Luebkeman,Head of Strategic Foresight, ETH Zurich.
From the application of their innovation to the scalability of their inventions, the judges sure didn’t hold back on their questions.
While the judges deliberated on the results, Mr Ben Powell, BlackRock Investment Institute’s Chief Investment Strategist for Asia-Pacific, and Mr Steve Melhuish,Founder, PropertyGuru and CEO, Planet Rise, weighed in on ‘Is sustainability the “new gold” in real estate investments?’ in a special 30-minute plenary session during the Grand Finale and moderated by Ms Lynette Leong, Chief Sustainability Officer, CapitaLand Group.
Winner takes home $50,000 and more!
After an intense deliberation amongst the judges, we finally have our winners.
Ms Goh Swee Chen, Independent Director and Chairman of Sustainability Council, CapitaLand Group shared the judges’ views that the six shortlisted entries presented “very viable solutions and made the competition very intense”.
Ms Goh also shared that in the Most Innovative category, the judges looked for “interesting ideas that have not been applied in CapitaLand before” and for both award categories, “ideas that will help CapitaLand achieve its sustainability goals”.
The winners also received a uniquely crafted trophy made of translucent low-carbon concrete designed and engineered by Pan-United.
At the annual Ecosperity Week, organised by Temasek, the lead partner of the CSXC, the winners will be invited to showcase their innovations to senior global business leaders, investors and policymakers.
The remaining four finalists received a pleasant surprise after the event - CapitaLand will also pilot their solutions given their promising sustainability results!
Additionally, CapitaLand selected the following four non-finalists with interesting sustainability solutions to be potentially piloted at its properties:
BrighTap (Israel) – Smart meter to track water usage and quality
Inoviea (India) – Waterless solar panels self cleaning system
Continewm (Japan) – Infrared emitting filter to reduce energy consumption of aircon units
Aeroseal (USA) – Airborne adhesive particles injected into HVAC ducts to seal leaks
In total, 10 new sustainability innovations were reaped from the CSXC – an encouraging harvest for an inaugural sustainability challenge!
One of the coaches, Mr David Lee, Principal Trainer, Luminaries Lab Pte Ltd and President, Association of Professional Trainers, Singapore (APTS) said “In coaching Joe Heng from Climatec – one of the winners, I could see that he had conscientiously implemented advice from the mentors and coach right from the first practice session. He worked on improving his explanation of this technology and incorporating his personal story to enable audience to better relate to his pitch. He was humble and willing to make uncomfortable changes along the way, resulting in a final pitch which is holistic and tight, as compared to his first trial.”
If you’re a greentech innovator and feeling major #fomo at this point, fret not! CapitaLand will be organising future editions of the CSXC to continue advocating sustainability innovation. Be sure to step forward to participate then! Stay tuned to www.capitalandsustainabilityxchallenge.com for more!
To give you a head start, Mr Lee also shared his advice for future participants. He said, “Always put yourself in the shoes of those you are speaking to. Often, presenters are too eager to share what they want to share without realising that the listeners have specific things they are looking out for. Gaps arise when the presenters fail to meet those expectations. So, paying real attention to mentors and coaches and having the humility to make changes are important.”
That’s not all, we speak with the two winners to find out more about their innovations! 👇👇👇
Interview with Climatec Corp Pte Ltd with Mr Joe Heng, Managing Director of Climatec
1) What was the inspiration for your invention?
The concept of magnetic water treatment is not new, however, based on our best knowledge this approach has been limited to domestic and household applications with varying levels of success. The majority of these legacy magnetic water treatment solutions also tend to focus solely on the prevention of new scale formation.
The QRW, aptly named Quantum Resonance Water, was designed to achieve a more holistic approach to understand the effects and benefits of firstly, micromolecular water and secondly, photon vibrational energy for applications of water across various facets. We seek to use QRW to develop the first cooling tower water treatment technology in the industry with the ability to:
Consistently and constantly apply water treatment without chemicals and without the need for power to operate.
Prevent new inorganic fouling (scaling) which is the common trait in legacy chemical free offerings, but able to prevent new organic fouling (bacterial propagation) which is a common shortcoming for legacy chemical free offerings.
Actively remove existing archaic fouling that is the root of equipment efficiency degradation. If current chemical free offerings in the market are unable to effectively work for point 2, this is a moot point for them.
2) Kindly walk us through the process - from ideation to prototype - for your invention.
The QRW is the result of over 10 years of R&D. The success of the QRW story thus far lies herein with both the technology itself as well as the dedication and focus of the Climatec team to deliver on our promise to our clients.
In a nutshell, QRW is unique – no chemical and no power needed to operate. Current market offerings (chemical based or chemical free offerings) will quaver if asked to match the QRW’s operating parameters. QRW will save significant water (60% to over 90%) from cooling tower blowdown. This water when eventually discharged can be recycled to reduce a building’s usage of water (e.g. for watering of fauna) instead of throwing to the drain – resulting in further water savings for the building. QRW can potentially reduce related chiller system energy consumption (1% to over 5% but varies with site) – a by-product benefit that cannot be ignored due to the significant reduction in carbon footprint as well as in dollars and cents for the downstream ACMV equipment.
3) Share with us any interesting anecdotes that are relevant to your design for this competition.
Simple, safe, reliable… we think this statement aptly highlights the QRW’s role in addressing the gaps of current market offerings and the conundrum users are facing. The QRW not only fills the void, it exceeds and raises the bar of cooling tower water treatment operations beyond conventional best practice.
4)How have you benefited from the CSXC mentoring and coaching process?
We learnt several new aspects on fine-tuning and packaging our solution with respect to the target audience. The marketing pitch should not be a one-size fits all, but should be bespoke to address the concerns of how the solution fits into the grand scheme of the value proposition as well as address the needs and value drivers of the end user. It has been a truly enlightening process.
Interview with INOVUES, INC with Mr Anas Al Kassas, Founder and CEO of INOVUES
1) What was the inspiration for your invention?
In 2015, I was once in a brainstorming session trying to come up with ideas that could have a big impact, and while I was staring at the windows, I thought what if there was a way to transform these windows into smart systems without having to remove or replace anything at all. So I started doing some research and that was when I learnt about the massive energy efficiency problem of older buildings (the majority of the existing building stock) and that the windows and glass facades of those buildings are a major part of the problem.
This inspired me to develop a cost-effective and non-disruptive solution that makes it feasible -- and financially attractive -- for building owners to upgrade their windows to save up to 40% on energy consumption, improve occupants’ thermal and acoustic comfort, and increase the value and sustainability of their properties. The goal is to help cities worldwide achieve their energy-efficiency and emissions-reduction targets by increasing and accelerating the rate of window upgrades.
2) Kindly walk us through the process - from ideation to prototype - for your invention. The process took about three years, starting with analytical studies supported by sketches and drawings to validate the feasibility and basic underlying principles of the technology/solution. This was followed by many design iterations of the different system components and the attachment mechanism. This phase presented a lot of challenges given that the technology was pushing the boundaries of building envelope design, engineering, and fabrication on multiple levels.
The next step was building full-scale prototypes and mock-ups and performing before-and-after tests in a range of simulated environments, including accelerated weathering, per the most relevant American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and other industry standards that are typically used to test the performance of custom window and curtain wall systems for high-rise buildings. This helped validate the different performance aspects and durability of the system by an independent third party, who had to customise the procedures of several standard tests to make them applicable to our system.
After that, several pilot projects/installations were done on actual buildings in the US in different climate zones and monitored for a year, which included periodic, on-site testing, to validate the performance of the system under a full range of temperature and weather conditions, proving that the technology is fully operational and working as intended. There were blood, sweat, and tears (literally) in almost every step of this R&D process, which took over three years and had to be done under a very tight budget given that the technology was considered very early/risky at that stage for most investors.
3) Share with us any interesting anecdotes that are relevant to your design for this competition. Since my early days in architectural school, I have been always interested in creating interactive, sustainable architecture by designing dynamic building envelope systems. One of my first serious attempts was my Bachelor's degree project in 2010, which was awarded in the International Graduate Architecture Annual Competition in 2011, where I developed a smart, double-skin facade retrofit system, inspired by the shutter mechanism in cameras. The system was capable of transforming into 108 different configurations to control/filter air, light, and heat effectively while also transforming the facades of the building that was being renovated into an interactive art display to promote its new function as a collection of interactive art galleries. The technical challenges I faced while developing that facade system made me want to learn more about the design, engineering, and fabrication of advanced building facades, and that led me to pursue a multi-disciplinary career in architecture, facade engineering and fabrication, which was later the reason I was able to develop INOVUES' technology.
4) How have you benefited from the CSXC mentoring and coaching process? The CSXC mentoring and coaching process helped us see the value proposition of our technology from a new perspective and understand the benefits that our solution would offer in different market segments in the US and internationally.