KL Megastructures: KL’s progress to be a liveable city

The question is, will KL still hold its record as the 2nd-most liveable city in South-East Asia by 2035?

by FARA AISYAH / pic by AFIF ABD HALIM

A city is liveable only when we have the best of both worlds weaved together in unison. Where work and life balances. When the supply meets demand. When facilities provide comfort and convenience.

Kuala Lumpur (KL) has witnessed tremendous change over the last three decades. Much of the old have been replaced and the capital with 1.7 million occupants is slowly progressing towards being a sustainable cosmopolitan.

The Federal Territory has been ranked as South-East Asia’s second-most liveable city after Singapore, according to the latest Global Liveability Ranking released by the Economist Intelligence Unit last August.

The country’s capital is placed at No 70 in the list, ahead of Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei (100); Bangkok, Thailand (102); Manila, the Philippines (104); Jakarta, Indonesia (118); Hanoi, Vietnam (119); Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (122); and Phnom Penh, Cambodia (123).

KL’s growing attraction will see its population reaching 2.2 million by 2020.

A megacity has a total population in excess of 10 million people — which is reachable even for KL.

Academy of Science Malaysia CEO Hazami Habib told The Malaysian Reserve that she forecast KL to achieve a 10 million population by 2035 due to migration and urbanisation, as it already has an urban agglomeration of 7.25 million people as of 2017.

But the question is, will KL still hold its record as the second-most liveable city in South-East Asia by then?

“KL already has a few policies in place such as the Greater KL/Klang Valley Land Public Transport Master Plan, National Communication Policy and National Broadband Initiative, among others.

“But there are still gaps that need to be filled and issues that need urgent attention, including water, energy consumption, affordability and safety,” Hazami said.

Hazami added that the main challenge for KL to develop into a liveable city is the planning involved.

KL is being planned in silos and only for the “present time” when the city should be planned with the future in mind — the future of 10 million people, all in a 243 sq km area.

Basic Necessities

Hazami said the capital city needs to up its game in the Urban Water Management Transitions Framework.

This transitions framework presents a typology of different states that cities transition through when pursuing change towards more sustainable futures.

The first three transition states are the “Water Supply City”, “Sewered City” and “Drained City”, while the “Waterways City” and part of the “Water Cycle City” evolved from the second research phase.

The remainder of the “Water Cycle City” and “Water Sensitive City” transitions states evolve from future research.

KL is still placed between the “Sewered City” and “Drained City”, while Singapore is already moving towards the “Water Sensitive City” level.

In addition, KL does not have a good water catchment area as the city is only able to collect only around 16% to 18% of rain.

Water issue is among the basic necessities that the city needs to resolve in order to be liveable — other than energy consumption, cost-saving, and security issues.

Technology should facilitate the city and its people, reducing cost for the government, connecting the urban to rural and enhancing the quality of life.

Nevertheless, technology must also go hand-in-hand and on the same level with the city’s demographic as well as people’s mentality.

“Japan’s population is much bigger than KL, but they can manage it because of their mentality and culture.

“We cannot apply the same technology used in Japan and hoping it will work here because our mentality has not reached their level yet,” she added.

Sharing Workplaces

One of the major concerns for the increasing supply of megastructures in the city is the occupancy rate.

As technology advances and the city develops, a trend better known as “co-working spaces” rises. It is a style of work that involves a shared workplace, often an office, which is highly attractive to work-at-home professionals.

When companies do not feel the need to have a huge office — or even an office at all — the commercial office spaces in KL will be left vacant.

“Who will bear the maintenance fees for all the office buildings? It will only be a burden,” Hazami said.

At the same time, some older buildings in the city have been repurposed to ensure they stay relevant in a developed city.

Along Lorong Raja Chulan, KL, a row of century-old houses is now known as one of the “happening” dining places in the city.

The famous APW (Art Printing Works), Bangsar, has been converted from a factory into cafés and event areas for arts.

Many owners of commercial property in KL are also renting their units to property investors who are taking the chance and leasing the units on Airbnb — which is only a temporary solution.

However, the sharing economy is thankfully not the only trend taking over the city.

“Cool offices” is also an interesting trend in the current industry with many companies in Malaysia — including Fusionex and Kantar TNS Malaysia — applying the concept at their workplaces.

With beanbags, a rest room, gym and bar, these “Google-like” offices no longer feel like a workplace for them, but instead a place that they can call a second home.