Disrupting the brick and mortar industry the green way

Adopting disruptive technologies is necessary to challenge boundaries and identify innovative methods that are environmentally safe

By FARIS YAHAYA / Pic By TMR & BERNAMA

EXPERTS are predicting that the global volume of construction output will cultivate by 85%, translating to a solid US$15.5 trillion (RM64.4 trillion) by 2030. It is no surprise that some of the fastest growing economies in South-East Asia place infrastructure development as their number one priority. Infrastructure development is essential in attracting foreign investment that further amplifies job creation and economic stability. While local construction players are not having it easy with tighter government allocations and increasingly competitive biddings, things are looking up for the building and construction (B&C) industry with the recent announcement to revive the East Coast Rail Link and Bandar Malaysia projects.

The construction of the tunnel for the ECRL project at Section 4 is underway at Bukit Bauk in Dungun

No doubt construction is a highly competitive industry, and even more so as an industry that delivers significant impact to our society, economy and environment. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of life for the communities that we serve and operate in by designing and creating buildings that are not only cost effective, but eco-friendly and sustainable. However, with the alarming environmental issues that have cropped up in the past couple of years, we must dial up our efforts in minimising the impact traditional construction practices may have on the environment.

Although we have seen increased awareness on environmental issues in the last decade — thanks to the inevitable power of social media — the B&C industry can reduce its impact to the environment through disruption. Adoption of disruptive technologies is necessary to challenge boundaries and identify innovative methods that are safer for the environment.

Addressing the Way We Disrupt the Industry
Sustainable construction requires consideration to environmental impacts that are created by the way we source our materials and the processes we use to get the job done. It means fully understanding our projects, not just regarding the bottom line and the benefit to our business, but also in terms of the impact on environment, communities and country. The construction industry has long stood accused as a key polluter to our environment. However, I firmly believe there are steps we, as key players can take to clean up our act.

Reducing carbon footprint from new buildings should also be a top priority. Adopting a “sustainability by design” approach to materials sourcing can reduce the impact of materials used in construction — for example, by using alternative recycled/secondary materials, and considering the life cycle impacts of materials from extraction to disposal. We can also look at construction techniques and materials acquisition that can reduce waste, energy and various inefficiencies at building sites. By incorporating the usage of high-quality fuels, making use of renewable alternatives where possible and ensuring correct equipment lubrication are all imperative to achieving this. But choosing the right type of equipment for your site needs is just as important to begin with.

Disrupting the Way We Build to Mitigate Impact
Minimising environmental impact across projects includes planning and constructing buildings that place heavy emphasis on the building’s longevity. Today, developers place their efforts into “green building” that focus mostly on minimising the carbon footprint of a construction project. This requires hitting the “refresh” button to build capabilities that can satisfy the most arduous and state-of-the-art green construction standards.

These days, while we constantly hear people speak of “going green”, there is an “energy performance gap” — the difference between promised energy savings in green buildings and the actual savings delivered — that deters companies from incorporating green-centric innovation and technology into their projects. For those who argue that green buildings are costly to construct, I would like to point out that the Malaysia Energy Commission saves approximately RM1 million every year from its headquarters in Putrajaya, the Diamond Building that we designed and built with sustainable technology and solutions. As the developer of the building, we are proud to have our mark on the Diamond Building that is also the first office building in Malaysia to obtain the Green Building Index platinum rating, and the first outside of Singapore to obtain the Green Mark platinum rating.

My fellow peers who dabble in green and sustainable projects can testify the effectiveness of sensor technologies and advanced analytics in developing energy-efficient buildings to lower carbon footprint outcome. As part of our commitment in meeting the standards set by UN Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG11), some of our key projects have benefited from energy-efficient innovations and technology. For example, the Diamond Building uses natural light as a source of light that further reduces electrical costs. It features energy-efficient lighting controls powered by sensor technologies, enhanced with automated blinds and Tannenbaum reflector panels that optimise daylight throughout the building, resulting in a 48% annual electrical saving.

Addressing Environmental Challenges
Some parties argue that adopting sustainable-centric technologies is unrealistic as clients are not receptive of ideas that are not scalable. I’d like to remind them that disruption does not only cover the adoption and incorporation of technologies; it also covers cultural changes and a transformation of mindsets that require the backing of all stakeholders across the value chain to fully embrace the inclusion of sustainability in their projects. We need to come together to raise awareness and educate not only the industry players, but consumers on the benefits of green technology and solutions in minimising impact to the environment.

With much of our lives being surrounded by technological advances, it has made it that much possible to enforce a more carbon-efficient growth path that helps decrease risks to endangered environments and lowers levels of environmental stress. Let’s use project planning as an example. Building Information Modelling (BIM) has long been at the cutting edge of design/build technology, so it makes perfect sense that it can play an important role in achieving the goals of sustainable construction. Ever since the industry welcomed 5-dimensional BIM to be used extensively in design and build projects, BIM has resulted in greater transparency during the design phase, greater efficiency during the design and construction phase, and greater control during the operations phase.

The current industry standard for sustainable construction is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) construction. LEED promotes a system of sustainable construction that goes beyond minimum building codes to ensure that new buildings will not only be functional today, they will also be sustainable into the future, energy efficient, and made from responsibly sourced materials. Attaining LEED certification demonstrates environmentally responsible building practices, apart from representing an ethical system for sustainability.

It is deeply encouraging to see recent reports from the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) to include an environmental sustainability rating to encourage companies to place environment as a priority when designing and building. We applaud the initiative that CIDB has put in place to ensure we are playing our respective roles in meeting the standards set by SDG11. This includes supporting initiatives under the “Environmental Sustainability” thrust by government’s Construction Industry Transformation Programme 2016-2020.

Disruption Starts From Within and Requires Collaboration
Disruption of the building and construction industry starts from within. At ORANGEBEAM Bhd, we are transforming how we deliver our tactical initiatives that include enhancing our internal business processes, re-engineering company values, reviewing and updating policy and procedures and enhancing customer-facing functions.

We are fully prepared to team up with key industry players in further emphasising education and awareness of the benefits of green technology incorporated into projects. As part of our bold journey, we have a sense of duty in promoting economic growth, social progress and environmental responsibility. We will continue to advocate the need to adopt and infuse the right level of innovation and technologies across the ecosystem to achieve the desired impact to the environment.


Datuk Faris Yahaya is the group CEO of ORANGEBEAM. The views expressed are his and do not necessarilly reflect the owners of the newspaper and editorial board.