Numerous developers have embraced the sustainability agenda by integrating environmental design principles into their projects
by NURUL SUHAIDI / pic MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
GREEN buildings are designed with the environment in mind, aiming to preserve natural resources while enhancing the quality of human living.
In Malaysia, “green buildings” are primarily recognised under the Green Building Index (GBI), a comprehensive green rating tool which encapsulates guidelines for a sustainable and greener construction.
It also acts as a guide for construction actors such as developers, architects, designers and the project development team when implementing features and amenities in anticipated green projects.
The elements required in GBI include designing energy or water-saving buildings, healthier indoor environment, better connectivity to public transport, recycling practices, as well as adopting technology that reduces impact on the environment.
Aside from GBI, another relevant certification that qualifies projects as green is Green Real Estate (GreenRE), or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the US Green Building Council (USGBC) which take into account a green building’s features and green design elements, before awarding a rating score.
Over the years, numerous developers have taken pride in showcasing their commitment to the sustainability agenda by incorporating environmental design principles into their building and project developments.
Often, it is aimed to enhance residential experiences and add value to the living space with a sustainability framework.
To some extent, major developers also recognise this as part of the Key Performance Index (KPI) in their environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda while adopting greener technology solutions.
Developers of green buildings include UEM Sunrise Bhd, IOI Properties Group Bhd, Sime Darby Property Bhd, Tropicana Corp Bhd and Eco World Development Group, and more are coming to meet the increasing demands.
Currently, there are at least 389 registered GBI projects in Malaysia ranging from residentials, corporate offices, towers, retail complexes and government buildings.
While it may not be compulsory, many multinational corporations (MNCs) are voluntarily choosing to move into green buildings.
One of the primary reasons behind this trend is the potential cost savings associated with green buildings, particularly in terms of electricity.
In addition to cost savings, MNCs also recognise the positive image and reputation associated with sustainability initiatives.
Operating in green buildings also aligns with their corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals and demonstrates their commitment to environmental conservation.
Bukit Bintang City Centre
The Bukit Bintang City Centre (BBCC) is a mini township and home to the Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) 118 skyscraper, the future tallest building in Malaysia with a GBI Gold certification.
The township is developed with a series of parks, gardens and green pockets to ensure biodiversity and environmental sustainability.
Situated in the middle of Kuala Lumpur (KL), it also has an 80-storey Signature Tower which the prime offices are designated to meet green standards.
In terms of connectivity, BBCC is accessible via a transit hub that will house the existing Hang Tuah monorail and light rail transit (LRT), as well as provide linkage to the Merdeka mass rapid transit (MRT) station.
This is a joint development between three developers: The Urban Development Authority (UDA), Eco World Development Group Bhd and Employee Provident Fund Group (EPF).
Tun Razak Exchange
The Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) building is set to redefine KL city centre’s liveability and has been given platinum GBI rating.
It is being constructed using green technology that is energy efficient and environmentally friendly, including insulated glass and mechanical, electrical and plumping (MEP) systems with Star rating and 100% LED lighting.
It is set to fully open by the third quarter of 2023 (3Q23) with a list of tenants including 400 experience stores, offices, retail and entertainment, as well as luxury brands, with garden-inspired interior.
The building is nearly complete, with 99% of the construction finished, and it is now home to corporate offices.
An assistant manager who only wanted to be known as Nabila shared her observation on the adoption of a greener lifestyle in the TRX building and said there is serious effort in the development to cultivate healthier practices.
“Although it is yet to be fully completed, I can see that there is an effort in making the environment much greener and there are more plants and trees planted in the surrounding areas,” the 30-year-old told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).
TRX City Park is believed to house a unique biodiverse ecosystem of over 150,000 plants from close to 150 native species.
As for the technology, Nabila noticed a lot of automation such as the offices’ lighting system as well as the water system in the washrooms.
“In the washroom, harvested rainwater is being used.
“The building also has an electric sensory system, where the lights will automatically switch on whenever someone is in the room and off when there is no one inside,” she added.
She also praised the TRX building’s connectivity, which encourages people to take public transit by providing a suitable walkway with direct access to the MRT station.
“The building is somehow designed for people to drive less, walk more, and it is convenient for those who prefer using public transport because the parking is a bit expensive and limited,” Nabila shared.
Menara Kerja Raya
Menara Kerja Raya is the first government-owned building to be awarded the GBI Platinum final certification.
Standing at approximately 175m tall with over 53,000 sq m of floor area, this tower houses a total of 1,600 staff from the Works Ministry as well as the Public Works Department.
The building incorporates many features to reduce energy consumption, improve occupant comfort, reduce impact of material usage, as well as make use of less treated potable water.
Among the innovative sustainability features it boasts are a comfortable daylighting strategy that covers 50% of the office floor areas, an energy-efficient and optimised air-conditioning system, and a well-insulated building envelope achieved through the use of high-performance double-glazed windows and insulated spandrels.
The building also has a highly respectable Building Energy Intensity (BEI) of roughly 90 kilowatt hours per sq m (kWH/m2) a year, which is approximately 60% lower than structures designed to only meet Malaysian Standards (MS) 1525 criteria.
At current energy costs, this saves the government around RM2.5 million per year in electricity charges.
Apart from that, this tower is also one of the first buildings to incorporate a waste-water treatment system that is able to treat the greywater from washbasins, floor traps and ablution to be reused within the building for toilet flushing and landscape irrigation.
IOI City Mall at IOI Resort City
Under the non-residential building segment, the IOI City Mall at IOI Resort City has recently been awarded the GBI.
The mall installed Thermal Energy Storage system, solar photovoltaics (PV) system, water conservation and innovated the building to meet its sustainability standards and retail experience.
The Thermal Energy Storage system is a highly energy-efficient cooling system which chills water during its non-operational hours while the solar PV system contributes towards lowering energy emissions.
IOI Properties Group Bhd CEO Datuk Voon Tin Yow said the GBI certification of IOI City Mall marks an exciting milestone in the group’s sustainability journey.
“It reflects the group’s commitment to operate responsibly, minimising our impact on the environment, as we continue to enhance our value proposition while safeguarding the environment for future generations,” he said in a statement.
He added that the group will prioritise the incorporation of green building design into its future projects.
In addition, it will implement the Low Carbon Cities Framework across all of its developments.
IOI City Mall conserves water with water-saving features installed at public toilets along with the installation of water sub-metres to monitor leakages, minimising water wastage.
The mall also maintains indoor environment quality and ensures that the air-conditioning system provides fresh air, thermal comfort, as well as optimum lighting.
IOI City Mall also intends to reduce pollution and carbon footprint by providing a bus terminal within its premises to encourage the use of public transportation.
Digi Data Centre Shah Alam
As for telecommunications company (telco) providers, the first which received GBI certification was Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd’s technology operation centre (TOC) which was built to support its growing data capacity needs.
The TOC was designed using the GBI as its guiding principle and incorporates a spectrum of environment-friendly features that maximise energy and water conservation, as well as utilise materials such as eco-friendly carpets and solar reflective roof paint coating.
The centre was also constructed with a steel formwork system to reduce timber usage and features vertical landscaping.
Melawati Mall in Taman Melawati, which was opened in 2017, is GBI-certified. It incorporates sustainable features such as a rainwater harvesting system, energy-efficient lighting, air cooling systems and other environment-friendly elements.
Its design incorporates strategic vertical voids to allow natural daylight into the mall, creating a connection to the surroundings. Additionally, the mall features digital power metres and green vertical walls.
In term of the energy consumption, Melawati Mall has made a significant reduction from its base energy consumption, enhanced by the façade performing an Overall Thermal Transfer Value (OTTV) of the building as low as 32.2 watts per sq m (W/ m2) for its building envelope compared to the Malaysia minimum standard of 50W/m2.
It was jointly developed by Sime Darby Property and CapitaLand Malls Asia.
Other innovative sustainable features for the buildings are fire system water recycling during regular testing, vacuum degasser cleaning system, non-chemical water treatment system, dynamic balancing control valve system and regenerative lifts.
In addition, about 35% of the building construction materials came from recycled materials.
PJ Midtown, located in Section 13 Petaling Jaya (PJ), is a mixed development that has received the GBI Gold accreditation, indicating that it has incorporated numerous environmentally friendly elements.
Some of the features include a rooftop solar PV system, high-performance glass to prevent heat gain, high-efficiency LED lighting fixtures, a rainwater harvesting system, and its convenient proximity to public transport, facilities and community amenities.
There’s even a herb garden for residents of PJ Midtown’s personal use.
Green Mosque Cyberjaya
The Masjid Raja Haji Fisabilillah in Cyberjaya is Malaysia’s first mosque to be awarded the GBI Platinum certification with its LED lights, natural air ventilation, rooftop solar panels and rainwater harvesting system.
The RM44.3 million mosque was built by ATSA Architects Sdn Bhd on March 18, 2013, and completed on Jan 19, 2015.
It was inspired by the 51-year-old Masjid Negara in KL.
The energy generated from the mosque’s solar panels is also supplied to the national grid, contributing to the country’s renewable energy supply.
Also known as Green Mosque, it hosts a wide range of activities such as marriage ceremonies and community activities, and can cater up to 5,000 people at any one time.
Other Green Buildings
There is currently a growing number of green buildings and green development projects across the country.
The federal government has also encouraged the construction of more green buildings in the form of various policies, schemes and grants and carbon neutrality roadmap.
For instance, developers like UEM Sunrise, which has achieved Green Building certifications for four projects so far, has long recognised the need to balance contributions to the environment, society and economy, which are all crucial in preserving long-term growth.
Among UEM Sunrise’s green residential projects are Residensi Allevia Mont Kiara (GreenRE Gold); Kaia Heights Taman Equine, Seri Kembangan (GreenRE Silver); Verdi Eco-dominiums in Cyberjaya (GBI certified); and Residensi Solaris Parq (GreenRE Bronze), which all are equipped with greener landscaping and facilities.
The group also adopts a holistic approach to the sustainability agenda, as guided by the UEM Sunrise Sustainability Blueprint 1.0.
The blueprint is a guideline towards creating a low-carbon future by 2030, in line with the government’s aspiration to achieve Carbon Neutrality by 2050.
CEO Sufian Abdullah said UEM Sunrise has also reaffirmed its commitment to customers and stakeholders by prioritising liveable, affordable and sustainable products that cater to the needs of current and future generations.
“Our three-phased strategic turnaround plan, starting with Triage to be followed by Stabilise and Sustain, respectively, has been a game-changer, and we are proud to report on our strategic progress and performance in building communities of the future,” he said in a statement.
The group also took part in a workshop called “From Net-Zero to Net Positive 2060 and Key Drivers for Climate Change Related Financial Disclosures” in November 2022 to enhance sustainability understanding among the boards.
Its Board Governance and Risk Committee (BGRC) is also tasked to ensure that the sustainability plan is in line with the business strategy, especially since ESG matters have become the central focus for stakeholders.
“We have established robust processes and systems that focus on embedding sustainability initiatives and targets throughout our operations,” he added.
Among other prominent buildings are Hiap Seng Industries Sdn Bhd, The Hershey Co, Sandisk Storage (M) Sdn Bhd, Sarawak Energy Bhd, Q Sentral KL, Menara SME Bank and Gleneagles Hospital.
The retail and hotel segments include Ikano Shopping Centre Johor Baru, Setia City Mall, Menara Binjai, Somerset Hotel, The Ruma Hotel, St Regis KL, Shell Station Taman Connaught and more.
- This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition