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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Classifying green buildings

In 2007, Ken Holdings Bhd executive director Sam Tan unveiled the company’s then-latest project Ken Bangsar, a residential development in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. He said that building would be a trendsetter but he did not say in what way.

Fast forward 2010. On April 26, Tan was among several recipients of Malaysia’s Green Building Index (GBI) award (design assessment stage).

It will have to submit an application for a second stage (completion and verification) later on. After that, there will be three-yearly audits to maintain its GBI rating.

GBI’s four rankings are based on the point system - Certified is the lowest (50 to 65 points), Silver, Gold and Platinium (> 86 points). Ken Bangsar was classified a Gold (76 to 85 points). The building also has Singapore’s Gold Mark.

There were other GBI recipients: Kajang Resources Corp Sdn Bhd (for KRC Sales Gallery, Kajang, Selangor), Bandar Utama City Corp Sdn Bhd (office block 1 First Avenue, Petaling Jaya), Central Holdings Bhd (Menara Worldwide KL) and Sunway SPK Homes Sdn Bhd (3 Harmoni residential, Kepong, Kuala Lumpur). Past president of Persatuan Arkitek Malaysia (PAM) and GBI accreditation panel member Dr Tan Loke Mun also received an award for his home.

The GBI is Malaysia’s rating tool for buildings to promote green living and working.

Green living is more than the location of your home or office. It is the type of buildings you inhabit. Essentially, green living is pretty much based on that famous quote: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Hence, a kilowatt saved is a kilowatt earned. Put another way, the cheapest – and greenest – energy is the energy you never have to use.

All the green building standards around the world have different emphasis. Singapore’s Green Mark is on energy efficiency because it has a small land mass and is dense. GBI’s emphasis for residential segement is on sustainable site planning and management because developers keep building new townships that is not supported by public transport system while the commercial segment is energy efficiency. GBI was launched in May last year, four years after Singapore’s Green Mark.

Says one of the proponents of GBI, Loke Mun: “The GBI is a sort of check-list. It is a rating tool to give developers and owners an opportunity to adhere to a set of guidelines in their design and construction that can provide energy and water savings, a healthier indoor environment, better connectivity to public transport and the adoption of recycling.

“Simply put, it is like a recipe that lists out all the ingredients needed to make a good dish,” he says.

There are six criteria:

·energy efficiency;

·indoor environment quality;

·sustainable site planning and management;

·material and resources;

·water efficiency; and


The thrust of GBI is to have buildings, designed, constructed and fitted out in such a way that will help to reduce wastage of every form.

Having our own green standard is inevitable.

Says Loke Mun: “There are simply too many leakages, be it water, energy or resources. Our salary is so small we cannot afford to lose the little we have. GBI will help us to prepare for the increase in cost when managing and operating a building.”

For a commercial building, the bulk of its operating and maintenance cost comes from energy usage, or air conditioning. Water wastage is another issue; having an abundance of rain does not mean it is all right to waste water. Ikea, the Swedish furniture brand, was among the first to have a rain harvesting system.

The professional bodies that initiated the GBI are PAM and the Association of Consulting Engineers Malaysia (ACEM), which came together in August 2008 to form a sustainability committee to undertake the task of setting up the Green Building Index Sdn Bhd. While GBI is issued by a company, Singapore’s Green Mark is issued by the government.

In Malaysia, there are currently two tools – a GBI for residential buildings and one for non-residential. While the Government does not plan to make it mandatory for new buildings to be green-compliant in order for its certificate of fitness to be issued, unlike Singapore, having a tool like GBI will encourage the more responsible developers to go for sustainability.

(In Singapore, new buildings must have the Green Mark before its certificate of fitness can be issued).

While the above two are for new buildings, there is also a need for a rating tool to rate existing buildings. Over the week, Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui unveiled a variation of the GBI, to rate existing buildings.

Tan says every year, depending on the country, new buildings are added to the stock of buildings a country has. In Malaysia, about 5% to 15% are added to its current stock. This means about 85% of the existing stock are old buildings.

Already, the more responsible developers are retro-fitting their old buildings and among the chief aims is to save energy.

By The Star (by Thean Lee Cheng)

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