August 28, 2015

The Rise of Green Building in Malaysia

The Rise of Green Building in Malaysia

The Putrajaya International Convention Centre in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Photo Credit NTLam via Wikipedia

Sustainable development in Malaysia has been a national focal point for decades. Ever since the forward-thinking Vision 2020 was drafted by Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad in 1991, Malaysia’s governments, businesses and citizens have cherished the thought of the clean, green, fully-developed and unified nation it proposed. Through generous green business incentives, more scrupulous industrial regulations, increased environmental awareness and an economic climate favoring sustainable development, Malaysia is making real progress towards its vision. In a recent show of dedication to the goal, there has been a massive push for green building in Malaysia.

Driven by a concern for environmental degradation and national energy security, Malaysia’s green building sector is mushrooming. As air quality worsens, building emissions are being taken into account and reduced with state-of-the-art climate control systems that save energy and improve the indoor environment. As landfills spill into rivers, a focus on waste management breeds sophisticated recycling systems and encourages efficient use of eco-friendly construction materials. And as Malaysia realizes its people don’t need to live in crowded, unappealing and unsafe public spaces, building plans take harmonization with local culture and improvement of community health into account. As a result, sustainable housing, super-efficient highrise buildings, rooftop solar installations and an eye for nature’s beauty characterize many of Malaysia’s newest construction projects.

The (High)Rising Tide of Green Building

The creation of the Green Building Index (GBI) has furthered this trend considerably. Established in 2008, GBI is a national ranking system and set of guidelines for green development. Rating metrics for everything from sustainable site planning and construction to efficient operation and contribution to social welfare determine a building’s ranking. The better the score, the higher level a GBI certification is earned, and the more prestige and green tax incentives a building can take advantage of.

Shortly following GBI’s inception was a renovation of Perdana Putra, the iconic building housing the offices of Malaysia’s Prime Minister. In 2010 Perdana Putra was refurbished with efficient technology that reduced the building’s energy intensity by 38 percent, its water usage by 40 percent and its CO2 emissions by 30 percent. Setting an example for the nation, Perdana Putra achieved a Platinum GBI rating – the highest rank attainable. Coinciding with this inspiring feat was the introduction of the Green Technology Financing Scheme – a deal offering subsidies and guaranteed financing for green technology and development.

Perdana Putra by Storm Crypt @flickr

Perdana Putra by Storm Crypt @flickr

A Booming Industry

Seminars, exhibitions and conferences on green building are now being held across Malaysia so that engineers and developers can share ideas and collaborate to satisfy the resulting upshot in demand for sustainable building.

The first annual Green Buildings & Parks World 2015 was hosted in Kuala Lumpur in early August. Identifying trends, confronting issues, reviewing GBI criteria and connecting investors with new ideas for green building in Malaysia, the event was an international gathering of minds bent on sustainable development.

Coming up in September is Ecobuild Southeast Asia, reputedly the world’s leading event for sustainable design, construction, energy and the built environment. Last year’s event drew 10,000 industry professionals from every discipline surrounding green building. 300 exhibitors from 24 countries were in attendance, and countless investing relationships were formed. This year is expected to be similarly groundbreaking.

Reacting to this climate, green technology giant Panasonic will showcase some of its latest inventions in a green development-in-progress called Sanctuary Ridge Kuala Lumpur. The 38-acre low density sustainable housing development will feature three uniquely advanced technologies from Panasonic. The first is an earthquake-resistant steel-framed structure that, in testing, has stood up to 140 rounds of severe vibration (4.3 times the intensity of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995). Second is an extremely energy-efficient and well-insulated ventilation system, ensuring low-energy climate control and healthy air for breathing. And third is a type of self-cleaning exterior wall that saves on maintenance resources and actually breaks down environmental pollutants, purifying the surrounding air. Not surprisingly, the development that will feature these technologies is just one example of a trend towards sustainable housing in Malaysia.

The Obstacle to Green Building in Malaysia

Though the green building sector is looking up in Malaysia, there is the significant challenge of education and understanding to overcome before this kind of sustainable development can take root on the ground level of all construction.

Building an environmentally sound building and adhering to GBI standards is perceived as being too expensive for many developers. New technologies are costly, as are eco-friendly construction materials and the planning time and staff it takes to put up a truly green building in Malaysia. Developers stuck in the mindset of short-term gain see cheaper and faster construction as the quickest way to profit, and are reluctant – despite government incentives – to change their way of business and go the extra mile for green building.

Green building practices can reduce a building’s operating costs by as much as 9 percent, increase building value by 7.5 percent and realize a 6.6 percent increase in return on investment. With a change of mindset and a little more education about these benefits, cost savings, and the importance of green building to the country’s future, the movement could explode.

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