Malaysia’s Current State of Building and Construction Industry practices towards Green Building Industry

IT’S STILL A NEW INDUSTRY

The Green Building Industry, despite taking off since 2009 with the formation of MGBC Malaysia Green Building Council. It is still a fresh idea to many in the building industry I would say. Kindly understand what I meant by “fresh” by understanding the current perceptions by developers today. Nevertheless, I would say that MGBC is highly admirable for the milestones undertaken within such short amount of time, with close to 10 GreenBuildingIndex rating tools and few updated revisions to enhance the relevance of the tools and more than 50 million square feet now GBI certified. The evidence of sustainable development in Malaysia is abundant, it is self evident in various stakeholders and level of governments. Just in a glance, KETTHA’s MyHijau Program and Low Carbon City Framework, SEDA FiT scheme, the GreenTech financing scheme under 10th Malaysia Plan, Penang & Malacca State Governments are equipping up with their own framework for their own green plans, MBPJ and DBKL making new developments to be GBI mandatory.. just to name a few. BUT, it’s still, a new industry.

GreeningMalaysia

The spark of Green Building Industry in Malaysia is indeed an example with the strong presence of government’s involvement in terms of financing and implementation, it is also bottom up approach, having PAM and ACEM collaborated together. While I do not know the details of such, I would wish to do some rantings on some of the aspects in which the building/construction industry can improve, and yes I will take the advantage of being the novice in the field to ask silly questions too.

THE CONTRACTOR SCENE

While I acknowledge that the Green Building Industry is picking up, it’s quite sad to see that the overall standards of compliance among contractors towards basic safety and health is disheartening, what more about environment? Over my exposure to the issue of Erosion Sedimentation Control, I would say that there is a serious lack of regulation enforcement on contractor in managing their surface runoff by filtering it. I think we have talked so much about quantifying a development’s carbon footprint but this is a serious concern when you have untreated surface run off into Sungai Klang! and we were talking about the River Of Life project? A good benchmark to compare with is UK’s considerate constructor scheme or Singapore’s Green and Gracious Builder Awards by BCA. While there is no significant step taken from CIDB on the aspect of environmental yet.

STOPPING THE GREEN WASHING

There are 2 kind of Green Labeling. One is in which a brand can stick on itself and claim that it’s “Green”, and another one that is accredited by a third independent party to recognize so. The latter proves to be more reliable obviously. Currently we have ST Energy Commission Star Labeling Scheme for some electrical appliances, and based on the latest info, effectively by mid of 2014, there will be a mandatory Malaysia Standards for 5 main domestic appliances namely Fridge, TV, Lights, Fans and Air Conditioner, each with their own baseline target to fulfill to continue to be on the shelves. While that is something encouraging, there is a serious need for an official, established green labeling scheme such as Singapore’s Green Label. We do have Eco SIRIM Label (SIRIM) and MyHijau (KETTHA) at the moment, but it’s just not prominent in the market yet for the public to be able to distinguish what’s truly “green”, or rather, to educate them on their carbon footprint.

FACILITIES MANAGEMENT

I am very glad with the amount of GBI registered projects sky rocketing, however, they are largely enforced by 2 push factors I would say, local authority compliance and Corporate Social Responsibility as a MNC. And no, I don’t think they are attracted by the pull factors such as tax incentives. Anyways, my concern is the performance of green buildings down the road. You see, you can easily get GBI DA Design Assessment Certification, or perhaps getting the CVA verification stage as well, but we cannot assume that green building does its job when the maintenance management is not well done. Few days ago I was asking a professor in my university and also after looking through some literature reviews, the pool of knowledge for commissioning and maintaining green building is still very poor in our country it seems, and this is a valid concern for the the much applauded green buildings we have today as we may doubt how long they really perform as what we expect them to be?

LACK OF INFORMATION AVAILABLE

If you are about to google “Green Buildings Malaysia”, you would most likely land on MGBC page, or some GBI consultancy firm web page, or some university publication.. or I am surprise that you would land back this blog again. My point is that while we do have a limited pool of individual talents pushing the boundaries for the industry to grow, there is a lack of end user friendly articles or write ups that are circulating around. While at some aspect, we do have some attachments available on the net, but these are more catered for semi professionals and not end users like those aunties, uncles and school kids at home. I mean some guides like this bottom. As silly as how simple it may sound, but we just don’t have the kit to let someone start from somewhere!

Download (PDF, 3.18MB)

THE EDUCATION PIPELINE

Another huge mind boggling fact for me to face as a fresh grad that just entered the green building industry is to realize the gap of the quality of education towards green building design and to what’s practiced actually. The disturbing fact is by revisiting my university back then and knowing from other university’s architecture program exposure towards green building is somewhat so shallow. The fact that some architecture students would know the principle of design much better than the end users thermal and visual comfort is somehow questioning the industry if they are really designing buildings for a better living of mankind or for the sake of design aesthetics. There should be a improvement to these syllabus since the trend of green building is no longer a surprising element for the students as well. Personally I have gone through this experience where I presented the GBI scoresheet , technical calculation and daylight simulation to the lecturers and I am drained away by them saying that these are only for the green building consultants to do! (during my years of architecture student). So, How do we train these future designers up with a mind that they will be facing the newly amended UBBL that incorporates MS1525. Hooray!

RULE OF THUMB NEEDED FOR ARCHITECTS

Let’s face it, Green Building Consultant is a specialist consultant and you don’t expect every development that’s aiming for green building certification to have a consultant on board. For the sake of the objective of why such industry exist, there is a need for guide for architects to refer to as rule of thumbs without much time needed to understand by technical means. Architects need to understand their building design better in terms of building performance rather than a piece of aesthetic art work. This is so Architects can defend their design better when it comes to VE Value Engineering process (process of cutting unnecessary cost). It’s very often Architects simply place external shading device purely for aesthetic rather building performance reason, and this is easily removed by the client for cost saving purpose. This is just an example out of many, you could refer more to the outline report done by BSEEP, that is followed by the responding 200 page BSEEP Building Energy Efficiency Technical Guideline for Passive Design that’s hopefully to be a good guide for Architects.

GREEN BUILDING INDUSTRY IS JUST PART OF THE TOOL FOR THE SOLUTION

One needs to know that the green building is just the very beginning of the development of sustainable development framework. Such industry would need input from various different stakeholders and industries as well, such as green technology, smart cities, low carbon transportation, materials with low LCA life cycle analysis carbon footprint, and many more. In fact it’s one tool that needs all different stakeholders to come together to a mutual understanding and practice to work this out effectively. We would need the end users being educated to understand their homes better to increase the demand for such high performance building and many more to come.

Well, seems like a rough ride ahead that needs many more individuals and groups to spearhead this. Above all was only mentioned to my personal experience, of course if any of you who are reading this who has something to add on or to correct me, feel free to leave a comment below!

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