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Saturday, May 23, 2009

SP Setia wins award for Johor project

Liew receiving the award from FIABCI World president Lisa Kurrass in Beijing as Malaysia's ambassador to China Datuk Syed Norulzaman looks on

PETALING JAYA: Property developer S P Setia Bhd has won the FIABCI Prix d’Excellence Award 2009 in the Best Master Plan Development category for the second time.

President and chief executive officer Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin said the international award showed that a Malaysian company was capable of meeting international standards in property development.

“The recognition by FIABCI International affirms our commitment to continuously raise the bar in terms of innovation, product, service and quality in all our projects,” he told StarBizWeek in an email reply.

S P Setia received the FIABCI Prix d’Excellence Award 2009 in the Best Master Plan Development for its eco-themed project in Johor Baru, Setia Eco Gardens, from the Paris-based International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) in Beijing on Wednesday.

In 2007, Setia Eco Park in Shah Alam won FIABCI’s Best Master Plan Development award.

The win puts Setia Eco Gardens among other global real estate gems such as the Twin Waters on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, Trump World Tower in New York, Gardenville in Singapore and Tokyo Bayfront East in Japan.

Liew said the first award to Setia Eco Park spurred the group to look at new ways of sharing the eco concept with home buyers.

“We took the best eco-inspired elements from our Setia Eco Park high-end project in the Klang Valley and adapted it to suit a mass residential township in Johor Baru,” he said.

The 948-acre freehold Setia Eco Gardens located in the heart of Iskandar Malaysia is being developed based on the premise of an environmentally-friendly township.

The project has total gross development value of RM3.5bil, comprising 6,600 residential and commercial properties.

To-date, 95% or 550 eco-homes have been sold with total value of RM140mil.

By The Star (by Racheal Kam)

'Expo city' will make Iskandar trading hub

ISKANDAR Malaysia in Johor is set to become a major trading hub in the region for manufacturers and buyers once a permanent one-stop exposition, trade and distribution centre near Pasir Gudang is completed in five to seven years.

Called the "Asia Pacific Trade and Expo City" (APTEC), it is located within the RM6.6 billion township of Lakehill Resort City, which is being developed by Malaysia Pacific Corp Bhd (MPCB).

Once completed, APTEC will have a built-up gross floor area of about 4 million sq ft, occupying a land area of 9.4ha.

MPCB president and chief executive officer Datuk Bill Ch'ng said APTEC would become a centre for manufacturers of all sizes to showcase their products to international buyers.
"Buyers will come to the hub just like in a department store. These buyers will be retailers and wholesalers.

"The hub will be the centre to supply goods for the regional market, and allow buyers from all over the world to source their products here," said Ch'ng after attending the launch of the Iskandar Malaysia Open Day in Johor yesterday.

Manufacturers who set up their base in APTEC will promote their products to buyers from Southeast Asia, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Middle East.

Ch'ng said potential manufacturers at APTEC would be selected based on the potential of their products or services.

They include manufacturers of goods such as electronics, fashion, home appliances and foodstuff.

Investors and traders will also find accommodation and recreation at the Lakehill Resort City to complement their business dealings.

Other attractions in the development include a six-star lakeside resort, factory outlet stores, a heritage and cultural village, a thematic restaurant located on top of a rock formation and other international bistros and cafes.

By Business Times (by Ahmad Fairuz Othman)

Developers act as agents of change

DEVELOPERS should act as agents of change and introduce more value-enhancing elements into their housing developments to promote higher quality neighbourhoods and environments for the people.

Through their projects, especially green field developments, developers are opening up new frontiers and bringing progress to society.

Every developer, irrespective of size, market capitalisation for listed companies, financial strength and expertise, has a role to play and contribute towards enhancing the country’s property landscape and living environment.

Although the market is still quiet with very few new project launches, the lull in the market provides developers the perfect opportunity to review their project plans and enhance them with more resident-friendly features.

Whether they are high-, medium- or low-cost projects, developers should plan with an eye for quality and go the extra mile to turn them into wholesome neighbourhoods for the residents.

Ultimately, these projects will be homes to many families and equipping them with the necessary facilities such as good landscaping, sufficient social amenities, adequate recreational areas and comfortable common facilities for social interaction, will promote more friendly neighbours and interaction among the people.

Developers are certainly one of the frontliners that have the clout to institute the necessary changes through project planning to help realise the Government’s 1Malaysia vision of greater unity and caring towards one another.

With rising concerns on safety and security issues following the growing number of crimes in the country, gated and guarded housing projects are growing in popularity and more developers are moving into such developments to meet the rising demand.

However, it must be noted that such housing projects are also not fool-proof and there have been quite a number of break-ins and security breaches in those housing estates.

Even if these projects provide a sense of security and safety for residents, the issue is whether the residents of gated and guarded projects feel safe and secure when they step out of their housing enclaves. They should if crimes in the streets are kept at bay.

The good old ways of ensuring safety through good neighbourliness, closer interaction and looking out for each other’s well-being, which have been lost somewhat in this rat-race age, have been proven to be effective and should be revived.

Even if a project is low- or low-medium cost, the lower income groups deserve to enjoy good quality housing and facilities, as well as a secure and safe environment.

Developers should not just build these units to fulfil the low-cost housing requirements set by the authorities but should add value to these affordable homes.

Reducing the density and number of units of these projects will avoid overcrowding and reduce the chances of these projects turning into urban slums like what has happened to certain affordable projects.

Proper maintenance of the facilities including lifts, playgrounds and other shared facilities will ensure the comfort of residents.

To enable developers to contribute towards sprucing up these low-cost projects with better amenities and quality homes, it would be worthwhile for the Government to consider their calls to raise the low–cost housing ceiling price to RM60,000 from RM42,000 currently.

It would also be good to look into the model adopted in Sarawak where people-friendly housing schemes are being built to promote home ownership.

By working with a panel of financial institutions to offer preferential rates for such housing schemes, buyers only have to fork out affordable monthly repayment of less than RM300 for their housing loans.

And to overcome concerns of the many unoccupied low-cost houses in various parts of the country, developers and the authorities should avoid locations that are non-prime areas or inaccessible.

Due feasibility studies should be undertaken to ensure supply matches demand.

>Deputy news editor Angie Ng sees many opportunities for developers to shine through their value-enhancing capabilities to spruce up the living environment.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

Green is the way to go for industry players

GREATER adoption and use of environment-friendly planning techniques, designs and “green” materials in property projects will go a long way towards promoting green practices in the country.

Rather than depending on legislation to make it mandatory for industry players to incorporate pro-environment design features in their projects, it will be more effective if industry players voluntarily adopt green and environment-friendly designs and concepts in their projects.


Veteran tourism operator and hotelier, Anthony Wong, who is group managing director of Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel Sdn Bhd and The Frangipani Hotels & Resorts Sdn Bhd, should know the importance of personal initiative to adopt the green way of life as he was already a “green” practitioner in 1976 at the tender age of 19.

That was when he started his eco-tourism company, Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel with a few partners from Australia and the US to arrange inbound tours for foreign groups to go on back-to-nature eco expeditions and to savour the rich flora and fauna of Malaysia’s jungles.

These trips include staying in longhouses, jungle trekking, caving expeditions to Niah and Mulu caves and other eco-nature tours in Taman Negara and Belum National Park.

Wong, who took over the company in 1980 after his partners pulled out, is still going strong with his company arranging at least 180 to 250 eco-tours for about 6,000 to 8,000 tourists a year. The company records annual revenue of between RM5mil and RM6mil.

His company also organises nature camps for business executives and students during the school holidays at its Jungle Lodge facility at 14th Mile Jalan Gombak, Kuala Lumpur. The facility is surrounded by a 100-year-old rain forest.

At his “green” hotel in Langkawi, The Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa – a four-star deluxe property with 118 villas, he says green practices including the 4 “Rs” (reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink initiatives) are adopted for proper waste management which literally “turn rubbish into gold”. Water and energy conservation are also steadfastly adhered to. The company also plants its own organic fruits, vegetables and herbal teas for its guests.

Wong says the Government should consider offering tax incentives and capital write-offs for cost incurred by industry practitioners to promote more green practices.

“Even exporters should start adopting green practices as there is talk that many European countries are looking into sanctioning exports from non-green-compliant countries as a measure to arrest environmental deterioration,” he says.

The Government’s initiative to ensure new government buildings feature energy-saving and other pro-environment measures is a good start to promote the green culture among property industry players.

Thursday’s launch of the Green Building Index (GBI), Malaysia’s very own certification scheme for sustainable buildings, is also part of the effort to green the property industry.

The GBI, developed by the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) and Association of Consulting Engineers (ACEM), will encourage developers of housing and commercial projects to adopt environment-friendly features such as energy-efficient elements, rain harvesting and conservation of original land form and vegetation.

Wong says although the cost of developing a green building may be more than that of a conventional building, “the savings in operational costs would make it cheaper in the long run.”

“If a building is constructed with the right green designs and features, it will reduce energy cost by 50%, which is a substantial saving as energy easily makes up 25% of a building’s operating cost. Together with other forms of savings, green buildings can cut operating costs by about 60%,” he adds.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

Clearwater focusing on green projects

The Clearwater Group aspires to turn its 240 acres in Seri Kembangan, Selangor, into an eco-friendly development under founding member and managing director Dian Lee Cheng Ling.

Known as Bluwater Estate, the leasehold gated and guarded development appears to be Dian’s most ambitious project to date.

Since her return from Australia where she studied communications, the eldest daughter of property developer Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew has been busy with several property projects.

Dian Lee

Clearwater Developments Sdn Bhd was set up by Dian and three partners in 2006 and their first project was serviced apartments, Clearwater Residences in Damansara Heights. Since then, she has added three brands to the group – Clearwater, Bluwater and The Heritage.

Clearly, the younger Lee would like to focus on eco-friendly projects. Yesterday, she flew off to New York’s Pratt Institute for a seven-week course on Sustainable Designs.

“It will cost quite a bit as Pratt is one of the premier design school in the United States for interior and architecture. I will also be taking my toddler son Jedi and his nanny with me,” says Lee.

She says motherhood has changed her and given her a new perspective on development.

“I’ve become more conscious of the environment we live in, the activities we can do to make this planet a better place for our future generations,” says Lee.

“I’m not the first to go on eco-friendly projects. There are other developers in town who have already done that but I would really like to go one step further.”

Lee has brought in Environmental Resources Management Ltd, a provider of environmental consulting services, to build Bluwater. She will be looking at four aspects – water, energy, landscape and waste management.

On the energy aspect, she says that at this preliminary stage, she would like all the 1,000-odd households to have solar heaters. She will also encourage the use of bicycles and buggies to go to the clubhouse instead of cars.

The properties there will be designed and built in such a way as to enable owners to collect rainwater for use. There are plans to keep the lake as clear and clean as possible for water sports.

The open-cast tin-mine lake will have lake-front bungalows. Right now, there are already two – her family’s weekend home and another which belongs to her father’s friend.

“We will spend RM2mil on trees and a lot more on landscaping to make this place as green as we can. We will also encourage better waste management, essentially the reuse, recycle and reduce concept with different bins for different types of waste. Our sewage system will not be linked to the lake.”

Lee says that after building several properties, she does not want to just build yet another project.

“I want to be passionate about it, to believe that this is the way to go.”

During a site visit, Lee says although there are some high tension cables running pass the main entrance, they do not cut across the housing estate.

The Bluwater Estate, formerly known as South Lake, used to belong to Mines Resort Bhd which was privately held by her father. She and her partners bought it at a “fair price” at a time when her father was scaling back his privately-held local property development activities.

She has also taken over a serviced apartment project fronting the lake, The Heritage, from her father.

Today, 600 of the 800 unit-project is tenanted. One of the blocks, comprising 200 units, will be sold en bloc.

“When the economy picks up, that will be sold. As it is, there is already a waiting list for those who want to rent units at The Heritage.

“With six universities and the Australian International School, which is located on Bluwater itself, we are confident there will be people who will want to invest in this area,” she says.

The studio units are already generating 8% to 10% yield for the owners (with rental of RM1,400 to RM1,500 a month), while the two- and three-room unit cost RM2,300 and RM2,500 to rent respectively, at a slightly lower yield.

The project is located across the highway from Mines Shopping Centre and fronts the lake in Bluwater Estate.

Bluwater is about 20km from the city and is served by the Besraya Highway, which is linked to several other highways.

However, The Heritage, although adjacent to Bluwater, will not be part of the gated and guarded development.

In the next couple of months, Lee aims to launch vacant bungalow land on Bluwater Estate at RM150 per sq ft.

These lots will be between 8,000 and 12,000 sq ft. Known as Bluhaven, there will be 18 lots initially.

The development will also have townhouses priced from RM850,000, semi-detached residential units and condominiums. These will be launched later.

By The Star (by Thean Lee Cheng)

Shopping in style at Kluang Mall

ESTABLISHED brands such as Sushi King, Secret Recipe and PDI are making inroads in secondary cities like Kluang in Johor.

Sushi King's outlet at Kluang Mall for one, is enjoying robust sales with long queues of people waiting to grab a seat during lunch and dinner.

In 2005, when Majupadu Development Sdn Bhd managing director Tey Ah Kau conceptualised the idea of building a lifestyle mall in Kluang that later would be the pride of the town, many were doubtful if it would work.

"After three years of research, we made a bold decision to move ahead of others here. We dared to develop something that many were pessimistic about. People wondered whether residents in Kluang would be willing to spend," Tey said.

With the guidance of retail consultant Richard Chan of RCMC Sdn Bhd, Tey decided that there was a still a need to fill an obvious gap despite existing competition.

"We take a long-term view," said Tey, who has been a property developer for the past 21 years.

Today, the RM100 million Kluang Mall with a 800,000 sq ft gross area is the largest in the town, with a primary catchment of 300,000 and a secondary catchment of 1.2 million from Batu Pahat, Muar, Pontian and Segamat.

Kluang Mall, which opened on December 24 2008, is developed and operated by Tenaga Nusantara Sdn Bhd, also owned by Tey.

Kluang Mall's tagline "Shop like a City" has worked in its favour as the mall has been performing satisfactorily since its opening. Seventy-nine per cent of its net lettable area has been filled.

Tenants, including Popular Book Store, Pacific Hypermarket, Pacific Department Store, Big Apple and Laksa Shack, drew 417,000 shoppers in February this year and 375,000 shoppers in March.

Meanwhile, Tey expects return on investment for the mall typically in seven to eight years.

Built on 2.63ha within the town centre of Kluang, the mall aims to cater to the younger Kluang generation who want finer things in life. The entire mall has WiFi connection.

By Business Times (by Vasantha Ganesan)

JLand aborts Windsor Trade stake purchase

JOHOR BARU: Johor Land Bhd (JLand) has decided to abort its plan to acquire 50.98% equity in Windsor Trade Holdings Sdn Bhd (WTHSB) for RM15mil cash.

Muhammad Ali (right) and JLand managing director Shafiqul Hafiz at the AGM

Chairman Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim said the decision was reached after considering the current global economic slowdown.

He said JLand had earlier proposed to buy the stake in WTHSB to diversify its business activities to improve its earnings base.

“However, we want to focus on our core business of property development as the segment is becoming more challenging now,’’ Ali said after the company’s AGM yesterday.

WTHSB, through its 80%-owned subsidiary Windsor Trade Sdn Bhd, has been granted a 30-year concession to operate the barter trade terminal, Sandakan Integrated Trade Exchange Terminal.

The Sabah government, through Sabah Economic Development Corp, owns the remaining 20% stake in Windsor Trade.

The development of the terminal is estimated to cost RM315mil, inclusive of land cost, pre-development cost, construction of infrastructure and buildings, and equipment.

“We have a 1,102.79ha land-bank and we are looking at RM7bil in gross development value (GDV) when the land is developed over the next 10 to 15 years,’’ Ali said.

At present, JLand is undertaking three property projects – Taman Bukit Dahlia, Bandar Tiram and Bandar Dato’ Onn.

The 168.75ha Taman Bukit Dahlia in Pasir Gudang, expected to be completed by 2010, will have 4,100 units of mixed properties.

The self-contained Bandar Tiram township on a 485.62ha site, with 12,300 units and RM2.6bil GDV, is due for completion by 2020.

JLand’s latest project, Bandar Dato’ Onn is located 12km from Johor Baru City Centre. It is sited on 612.69ha and is to be developed over the next 10 years. The project boasts 17,800 properties and a GDV of RM4bil.

Ali said the company would be launching the Bandar Dato’ Onn Regional Commercial Centre this year.

“Covering 47.75ha, the centre will provide about one million sq m of floor area, making the township the largest commercial centre in Johor Baru district,’’ Ali said.

For the year ended Dec 31, JLand recorded pre-tax profit of RM25.29mil on revenue of RM138.69mil compared with RM8.29mil and RM63.36mil respectively in 2007.

By The Star (by Zazali Musa)

Cititel eyes visitors from China, India

CITITEL Hotel Management Sdn Bhd (CHM) is looking to tap visitors from China and India for its Cititel Penang property.

Cititel Penang general manager Jeffrey Goh said the hotel is keen to attract both the leisure and business segments in the two markets.

He said it is currently working with local agents in Penang to create attractive travel packages to penetrate the Chinese and Indian markets and sell the island state as a Unesco heritage-listed destination.

"Malaysia currently serves as our main source of business, which makes up 55 per cent of our total market," he told Business Times in Penang.

"We expect to enter these new markets by the fourth quarter of the year," he added.

Apart from the domestic market, the Japanese market accounts for another 16 per cent of the hotel's business, while Thai visitors make up 8 per cent.

Cititel Penang has recently invested RM2 million to refurbish its ballroom and superior rooms.

On the influenza A (H1N1) outbreak impact, Goh said: "There has been minimal impact with total cancellation of less than five room nights in total."

By Business Times (by Marina Emmanuel)

IOI optimistic on RM1bil development project in Iskandar

Simon Heng (left) with senior manager, marketing and sales department Kelvin Tang at the Taman Kempas Utama showhouses. “We are looking at RM1bil in gross development value and the project will keep us busy for the next 10 years,’’ Heng told StarBiz.

JOHOR BARU: IOI Properties Bhd is banking on the strategic location of its newly launched Taman Kempas Utama within Iskandar Malaysia as the project’s main selling point.

Senior general manager (property division) Simon Heng said the project’s location in the Kempas-Tebrau growth corridor augur well for the company.

The Kempas-Tebrau corridor is currently the hottest spot for property development in south Johor with more than 10 ongoing projects.

Heng said the project was also easily accessible from the North-South Expressway after the Skudai toll plaza, Jalan Kempas Lama and Jalan Senai-Seelong.

“We are looking at RM1bil in gross development value and the project will keep us busy for the next 10 years,’’ he told StarBiz.

Located on 101.17ha, Taman Kempas Utama will have about 2,000 residential and commercial units, while 20.2ha has been allocated for light industrial buildings.

Heng said Tesco Stores (M) Sdn Bhd, the operator of Tesco hypermarkets in Malaysia, would also set up the township’s first standalone hypermarket on 4.04ha next year.

The project is the company’s second mixed property development project in Johor after its 2,023.42ha flagship project, IOI Bandar Putra Kulai.

Besides upgraders and existing house owners in the vicinity, the project is also aimed at Malaysian professionals working in Singapore, Singaporeans, and pensioners and expatriates based in the republic.

“Demand for high-end houses is still positive in Iskandar Malaysia despite the current economic situation as there are still buyers out there with money,’’ said Heng.

He said the commitment shown by stakeholders of Iskandar to ensure that the development of the economic growth corridor continued despite the slowdown would also benefit the property sector.

Under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), the Government has allocated RM6.83bil for infrastructure projects in Iskandar and all the projects will be completed between 2011 and 2015.

Projects approved under the 9MP include road improvement packages, drainage works, river cleaning and public housing.

These projects are in five flagship development zones in Iskandar – Johor Baru City Centre, Nusajaya, Eastern Gate Development, Western Gate Development and Senai-Kulai.

Heng said the continuous inflow of local and foreign investments and the creation of some 800,000 jobs over the next 15 years in Iskandar would boost demand for houses there.

He said the company planned to expand its IOI Mall shopping centre in Bandar Putra Kulai next year to cater for the growing number of shoppers.

The RM50mil shopping centre, spanning 55,742 sq m, opened in 2001 with 80 tenants and was the only standalone shopping centre in the Kulai-Senai area, he said.

Heng said the new wing, to be known as IOI Mall II, would be built on a 4.04ha site beside the existing shopping centre and would have 100 tenants.

By The Star (by Zazali Musa) (Posted on 22May2009)

UEM Land, BiotechCorp to develop site in Nusajaya

ATLANTA: UEM Land Bhd, the property development subsidiary of UEM Group Bhd, and Malaysian Biotechnology Corp Bhd (BiotechCorp) plan to jointly develop an estimated 80.8ha of land in Nusajaya, Johor, into a biotechnology (biotech) park.

UEM Land strategic marketing and corporate communication director Zulkifli Tahmali said the two companies are expected to sign a joint-venture agreement in the next two months.

"We have matters of land, infrastructure, facilities as well as equity to finalise before we can sign the documents," he told reporters attending the 2009 BIO International Convention here yesterday.

UEM Land is part of the Malaysian delegation participating at the Bio 2009 Atlanta, the largest global event for the biotech industry, to promote the upcoming BIO Malaysia 2009 in November and the proposed biotech park in the Iskandar Malaysia, called "Bioxcell".

UEM Land hopes to start construction on the biotech park by the end of the year.

"We will stay true to our developmental expertise and focus on the project and facilities management, while BiotechCorp will bring in the biotech expertise," Zulkifli said.

The proposed biotech park will house not only shared facilities such as offices and incubators, but also graduate facilities.

Zulkifli said about 50 per cent of the area will be allocated to contract manufacturing companies. It is expected to house 20 to 30 companies of various sizes.

"The proposed biotech park in Nusajaya will benefit from its close proximity to University Technology Malaysia, a biosciences institution as well as Singapore's advanced biotechnology industry, and pool of human capital. Bioxcell would be able play a complementary role to the research park which has positioned itself as the place for cutting edge technology," Zulkifli said.

He added that the development of a biotech park in Nusajaya will have tremendous spillover effects on the entire development of the area, contributing towards making the development a success.

Nusajaya is a 9,600ha development, which is currently home to eight signature projects.

By Business Times (by Presenna Nambiar)  (Posted on 22May2009)

Boustead REIT nets RM20m in Q1

Al-Hadharah Boustead REIT, the only Islamic plantation REIT, recorded a 17 per cent increase in its profit after tax to RM20.236 million for its first quarter ended March 31, 2009 from RM17.314 million last year.

In a statement yesterday, Boustead REIT Managers Sdn Bhd's chairman Tan Sri Lodin Wok Kamaruddin said it was mainly because of a gain of RM6.5 million on the compulsory acquisition of investment properties by the government.

He said the strong performance was achieved on the back of a revenue of RM15.810 million against last year's RM18.798 million.

Lodin added performance based profit sharing dipped slightly to RM2.5 million compared with last year's RM2.9 million.

"Though there were contraction in crude palm oil prices which affected our performance based structure, our fixed rental income for the period under review grew.

"In addition, this gain from the compulsory acquisition of the investment properties by the government went directly to our bottom line. This significant gain of RM6.5 million was a primary contributing factor in psuhing our profits up," he said.

He said the company was confident that demand for palm oil will see an upward trend due to its strong popularity although global demand for edible oils has been affected by the credit squeeze and economic crisis.

"We are optimistic that palm oil prices will continue to trade at the current steady price range for the year," he said.

By Bernama  (Posted on 22May2009)

Shaziman: Let's have more environ-friendly buildings

MALAYSIA must move towards having more "green" buildings, Works Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor says.

He plans to propose that all upcoming government buildings be "green", or environment-friendly, in their design.

"In future, I hope whenever there are new government buildings to be built, criteria like energy savings and usage of recycled water would be taken into consideration. This can bring down operations cost for the government," he told reporters at the launch of the Green Building Index (GBI) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The GBI, developed by the Malaysian Institute of Architects and the Asociation of Consulting Engineers Malaysia, is essentially a rating system that gauges how "green" a building, be it residential or non-residential, is.

"It was initiated to provide the building industry a common and verifiable mechanism to benchmark buildings within the Malaysian context," said Serena Hijjas, a GBI accreditation panel member.

For now, the GBI will assess new buildings. Later, it will develop a framework that will enable it to also assess existing buildings.

Building owners, developers and consultants can apply to have buildings assessed for a marginal fee, Serena said.

"So far, we've done pilots on 11 projects, and more are coming in, so the take-up rate has been very encouraging," said Tan Loke Mun, another accreditation panel member.

Asked if the government plans to make it mandatory for all property developers to have their projects assessed, like in Singapore, Shaziman said it was too early to say.

"It's still at an initial stage. But on the government's part, we encourage the move towards green buildings," he remarked.

In Malaysia, the GBI will rate buildings based on six key criteria, namely energy-efficiency, indoor environmen quality, sustainable site planning and management, materials and resources, water efficiency and innovation.

A building will be assessed at the design stage as well as a year after it is first occupied, and then again every three years to ensure that it is well-maintained.

A building can be assigned a Platinum, Gold, Silver or Certified rating, depending on the scores achieved.

By Business Times (by Adeline Paul Raj) (Posted on 22May2009)