Green the Way To Go
THE green-building trend is catching on in the Malaysian property market as developers and property buyers are showing more interest in sustainable development.
Developers are taking on the green approach more seriously these days and it is not uncommon for developers to heavily publicise their green certifications.
“Consumers are becoming more educated and people are willing to pay a premium as they intentionally look for these green homes,” said Architects 61 Sdn Bhd director Jeffrey Ling.
Formed in 1995, Architects 61 is known for designing high-end developments including Stonor Park in Kuala Lumpur and Springtide Residence in Penang.
The firm is registered with the US Green Building Council and is a member of Malaysia’s Green Building Index (GBI) as it believes green designs are the direction to pursue to achieve sustainable development.
Regulators have been trying to push green products in the market for some years following the launch of the GBI in 2009, but few, if any, potential homeowners have taken the bait.
The GBI is a green rating tool developed to suit Malaysia’s tropical climate as well as current social, infrastructure and economic development goals.
Previously, sceptics of green building often argued that it is difficult to build green without paying a big premium.
But industry players say good practices in the construction and property sectors need not cost an arm and a leg.
While the initial cost for a green building will be higher due to the quality of materials and designs required and cost of green certification, Ling points out that good practices in building green maximises the potential of the site and does not have to cost a lot of money.
In fact, he noted that the sustainability of a development can be enhanced with just the right design, which may give developers better returns.
“It takes little to be green. The margin potential in green buildings can be reflected in better branding, product and design,” Ling said.
This can be seen in Architects 61’s latest building, Wisma Shell, which sits on a 4.83acre site in Cyberjaya.
The cost of building Wisma Shell amounted to RM140mil, but the building was sold to Emkay Group for RM240mil, translating to a margin of about 70% for the green building.
Additionally, the features in a building help reduce the maintenance costs for its occupants due to the efficient use of resources.
Demand for green homes is also rising, particularly in the high-end segment. Likewise, corporations are also on the lookout for green offices to reduce their maintenance cost.
Note that some 2.8 million square metres of gross floor space in 331 buildings has been GBI-certified in the three years since the index was launched.
Notably, demand for green buildings in developed countries is growing much faster and the growth abroad will help spur the green trend in the local market. Reports estimate that the US market value of green buildings could grow 19.5% every year to hit US$173.5bil (RM537.46bil) in 2015 from US$71.1bil in 2010.
“Occupants of green buildings benefit and see the payback in the long run because they can reduce operating costs for energy consumption,” Ling said.
“But at the end of the day, we need to look at how many green features we can incorporate into our developments and at what price.
“We also need to see how ready the market is for these products. Our consumers may not be fully there yet but we can start somewhere,” Ling said.
Ling believes that building green starts at the planning stage.
Architects 61 uses computer aided design and drafting tools to preview every detail of the final design even before contractors start constructing the buildings.
Tan Choon Sang, country manager of Autodesk Asia Pte Ltd, provider of the engineering and design software used by Architects 61, said the property and construction industry is moving into using computer aided drafting to minimise waste and maximise efficiency.
“At the planning stage, a slight change anywhere is a change everywhere. The use of software such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) can help reduce human error in designing and constructing the building,” Tan said.
Being able to see every detail of the final design and make changes to it before construction starts also helps property developers reduce cost by some 5% which can be passed on to consumers.
“The market agrees that this is the way to go. Consumer priorities need to be put first,” Tan said.
Regulators talk green
Local authorities have also jumped on the bandwagon to increase more green buildings in their locality.
The GBI is recognised and supported by at least six town councils including Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) and Penang City Council (MPPP).
DBKL is reportedly planning an incentive scheme to reward developers who design and construct green and sustainable buildings that conserve energy and water, provide a healthier indoor environment, better connectivity to public transport as well as adopt recycling and green programmes.
Among the incentives are a reduction in development charges and assessment fees for developers and building owners.
“Some of the local councils are heading towards sustainable development under their area and DBKL is leading the way in this.,” Ling said.
DBKL has made it compulsory for all new developments in the city to be in compliance with GBI.
Nonetheless, Ling noted that while necessary, it is difficult to implement such policies overnight.
“It will affect a lot of developers and bottom lines. It essentially changes the property development industry,” he said.
WISMA Shell, located in Cyberjaya, is a leading example of a successful green building in Malaysia.
The building is the first in Malaysia to attain a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold designation.
Wisma Shell encompasses two office blocks with five levels of offices, three levels of naturally ventilated sub-basement parking bays and a landscaped roof garden which reduces heat gain in the building.
Architects 61 Sdn Bhd director Jeffrey Ling said about 30% of the building is covered with plants, including a centralised courtyard with a lush landscape.
The building also features under-floor air conditioning for a more efficient and effective cooling system as well as photocell sensors at the office spaces to reduce electricity consumption and optimise the use of natural light.
Ling noted that the building design has achieved a 50% reduction for its overall energy usage compared to the average energy consumption of office buildings in Malaysia.
Note that 34% of the building materials by cost used were from recycled content and 47% of the materials used were sourced locally and regionally to reduce the environmental impact from transportation.
But apart from using green materials and reducing energy consumption, Ling is proud of the way Wisma Shell was constructed.
The construction team had set up a waste-management and recycling system that segregated recyclable waste materials and managed to divert 75% of waste from ending up in landfills.
“It took more effort and maybe a little more cost for management, but it takes little to be green, Good practices helped us maximise the potential of the site and we were able to cut on wastage,” Ling said.
Additionally, Wisma Shell proved green cynics wrong by fetching an impressive margin of about 70% upon sale.
“The green concept is relatively new in Malaysia’s property market and so few products are tested. But it can command certain premium in some market segments,” Ling added.
As Tony Arnel, chairman of the World Green Building Council puts it: Green buildings do not just make sound ecological and environmental sense, they make sound economic sense too.
By The Star Online