How green are we in Malaysia? Why is it important to go green? Dr. Lee Ville, Group Director of New Bob Group, answers our questions.
H&D: What made you decide to venture into the real estate industry?
D: Upon completing my housemanship in Penang Hospital, I was at a crossroads of deciding what I should do next in life. At the time, I saw a great opportunity in the real estate industry and decided to venture into my family business. Moreover, I’ve also wanted a change in my career. It was the perfect timing because at that point in time, my father wanted to scale back on his workload. Hence, I gave myself a year to become accustomed to the industry before deciding if it was meant for me. Here I am, 11 years in the real estate sphere.
H&D: When and how did you realise that it is important to go green?
D: Global resources are becoming scarcer and the development industry is one of the biggest consumers of natural resources. Therefore, it is what our company can contribute in our bid to reduce that. We want to be responsible developers who strongly believe in a sustainable development to create a sustainable and green environment for the future generation. While it might seem like a good branding and selling point to develop eco-friendly houses and green homes, in actual fact most consumers are not even asking for it. Hopefully through our efforts, we are able to influence more people to head towards the same direction as we are currently.
H&D: How can the consumers benefit from green developments?
D: In the long run, consumers will come to realise the benefits of sustainable developments. They’d get a cooler and more comfortable home and at the same time, consume less resources and energy.
H&D: How green are we in Malaysia?
D: We’re not very green in Malaysia. We have only started the initiative a few years ago. I think it has to do with public awareness. It is the responsibility of green advocates to educate the importance of going green.
H&D: Why is it important for developers to go green?
D: The awareness of going green is crucial in the construction industry. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, buildings use about 40% of global energy which means approximately one third of the world’s energy takes place inside buildings. This has earned the building sector a place as the Earth’s biggest contributor of greenhouse gas emission.
H&D: What is being done to make it compulsory for developers to go green?
D: Local councils in Kuala Lumpur have recently made it mandatory to go green for developments. But it is not mandatory in general developments in Penang. Only certain state-initiative projects have taken a step forward. Should the developer be interested to take up the project from the state, they have to go green. Otherwise, developers only go green if they can save the money to do so. Thus, the current initiative is to let developers to pay old development charges, which are cheaper than new development charges. The current new development charge is RM15 per square foot. If the project is green to gold-rated, the developer is eligible to pay the old development charge of RM5 per square foot rather than the RM15 per square foot charge.
H&D: What is the most challenging project undertaken so far? Do you have projects here in KL?
D: No we do not have projects in Kuala Lumpur. The most challenging project undertaken so far is our light industrial factories, The Gates. However, I believe the upcoming project called River Tropics (the first green condo in Seberang Jaya) will be equally challenging because it’s a high-rise project. In comparing landed versus high rise developments, high rise projects are obviously more challenging. We are very much looking forward to that as it will be taking off next month.
H&D: Where does technology lead us in the property sector and how does it help us go green?
D: Technology is useful! It helps us to monitor our electricity and water usage or to lower the consumption levels. Air-conditioners and lights with sensors are great examples. Both cut off once either the desired temperature is reached or when there is no one around and switches back on when the weather is hot or when people are around. Thus far, it is a matter of monitoring how we use our electricity. With technology, we are able to identify the areas where we overuse them and monitor them accordingly.
H&D: Do you have any advice on how citizens can contribute to going green on a daily basis?
D: My advice is not to use what you don’t need. It is applicable to both electricity and water. The water fittings used in our projects prevent the habit of overusing water. Use enough to function and no waste is involved. Hence, citizens should look into ways of recycling. Start recycling by breaking up your wastages such as paper, glass, and aluminium, and have them recycled accordingly. Choose the mode of transportation carefully be it cycling to work or carpooling. Educate children about the importance of conserving the environment.
H&D: Any tips on how we can identify a good green real-estate to invest in?
D: To start off, make sure the projects are certified by reputable bodies such as GBI and GreenRE in Malaysia; BCA Greenmark for Singapore; Leads, Greenstar and more in UK. Make sure the project is rated accordingly, do not rely on the words of the developers blindly. The higher the project is rated, the better it is as a green real estate.
H&D: What are the collaborative efforts made with green architects and designers? Who have you collaborated with? What have you achieved through these collaborations?
D: We’ve collaborated with a few architects such as LLA, Eowon Design and Architect Permata.
Thus far, it’s a learning process for all the consultants because Penang is relatively new. In the beginning, when we were still raw in this area, we found a consultant from Singapore to assist us in identifying the areas we should pursue to go green. We discovered a lot of it was done through passive design. Via the collaboration, I believe the consultants, architects and designers are now able to advise their next clients effectively from what they’ve learned.
H&D: How can an interior be green and sustainable?
D: An interior can be green and sustainable through the things that we purchase. There are various recyclable materials that can be used such as low voc paint and recyclable wood for doors. I know this architect who salvaged a lot of things from his old house. Instead of letting them go to waste, he reused them. This includes the floor tiles. Things like double flooring from hotels which have been renovated can also be made into furniture.
H&D: What are your goals and have they been realised?
D: Our goal is to bring more awareness to the public about green building and the importance of going green. Have they been realised, I must say to a certain extent. I believe we have a long way to go. Every day we share with our consumers about why we have gone green is an achievement for us. We brought new awareness to the public or new consumers everyday via the effort. Therefore, there’s no end goal for us in this aspect, but to continue promoting the importance of going green.
H&D: We’ve noticed New Bob Group also offers car rental services and helps expatriates get legal residency. We’re wondering why it is important to offer such services and how does it go according to the aims and goals of New Bob Group?
D: We have always been actively involved in the hospitality line and service industry. Hence, this car rental service is an area we can offer to expatriates, and non-residing Malaysians (outstation people). As our public transport is not the best, this service is meant to fill the gap by offering tourists convenient transportation when they come to Penang. In future, our car rental service will link to our future expansion which is hospitality, service suites, and budget hotels.
H&D: What can we expect from New Bob Group in the future?
D: You can expect more hospitality services from us. We hope to expand outside of Penang, in the areas known for hospitality such as Kuala Lumpur, Johor, and Ipoh within the next few years. We would also like to explore other areas to delve in. On the other hand, we also hope to build more affordable homes with green features.