Singapore is now home to the largest wooden building in Asia.

Named after the Greek goddess of Earth, Gaia is a six-storey structure inside the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. Students and the Nanyang Business School faculty will use the 43,500m-sq-m facility.


Gaia is the eighth such project taken up by the university in its bid to instal zero-energy structures to support sustainability, according to a press release. The building has also been conferred with the Green Mark Platinum (Zero Energy), the highest award issued by Singapore's Building and Construction Authority, to recognise buildings that consume as much energy as they produce. 

The project's architect, Toyo Ito, used renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies like mass-engineered timber (MET), which is growing in popularity in Singapore. It is a state-of-the-art process involving glueing, nailing, or dowelling wooden products together in layers resulting in large structural panels. It is environmentally friendly, durable, and fire-resistant.

The green technology was first adopted for the construction of NTU’s mega sports hall, the Wave, launched in 2017, said the press release.

Building is fireproof

The building is fireproof, thanks to an extra layer of wood on the beams. The extra layer will charge and protect the wood underneath a fire. 

Singapore has 16 such certified zero energy buildings, eight of which are inside the NTU campus. Once in operation, zero-energy buildings or structures produce almost as much energy as they consume.

Some zero-energy buildings can also have more energy than they expend annually, contributing significantly less greenhouse gasses than regular buildings. Gaia produced about 2,500 fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide per year than traditional buildings.

The rooftop of the building is laden with solar panels, which churn out 516,000 kilowatt-hours of clean energy annually – enough to power the building.

Though Gaia has air conditioning, it doesn’t have a lot of fans. Sun shading fins are installed instead, and the compound has multiple open areas, air wells, and terraces for ventilation.

“The building was designed to connect humans to their natural surroundings,” said NTU president Professor Ho Teck Hua. “Students and faculty benefit from the extensive open spaces for study and collaboration. The spaces have ample natural light, creating an environment conducive to social interaction. People will experience first-hand what it means to work, learn, and socialise in a sustainable environment."