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Saturday, March 20, 2010

SoHo is the way to go

Courtyard view of CENTRIO project by YTL Land & Development.

The Small Office/Home Office (SoHo) segment is slowly but surely, becoming a growing trend in the market, especially among those looking for flexibility in their daily working schedules.

The modern concept of SoHo refers to the category of business, which involves from one to 10 workers. The concept also applies to people who convert part of their home into an office.

James Wong says the SoHo concept is a growing trend with sole proprietors or small partnerships.

Association of Valuers, Property Managers, Estate Agents and Property Consultants in the Private Sector Malaysia (PEPS) president James Wong foresees a growing SoHo demand.

“High office rental costs and traffic congestion are among some of the reasons why more people are going for this (SoHo) concept,” he tells StarBizweek.

He adds that the growth in information technology (IT) today provided the flexibility to individuals from virtually anywhere.

Wong says some banks were already outsourcing their marketing teams, for instance, because such departments could function elsewhere.

“There are also backroom departments like support services, and human resources don’t need to face the public or clients everyday. Soon, it won’t be necessary to have a full-fledged office.”

Wong says the SoHo concept was a growing trend with sole proprietors or small partnerships, such as lawyers and even real estate agents.

CB Richard Ellis Malaysia Sdn Bhd managing director Allan Soo says the typical SoHo buyer are mostly independent individuals rather than professionals.

“This can be advertising agencies or those within the IT industry.”

Soo says the location of the SoHo is critical.

“It definitely makes sense to work in the city within a business environment and having your business partners nearby. If it’s going to be a hassle for your clients to come to you, than it does not make sense.”

Zerin Properties chief executive officer Previndran Singhe concurs that the location of the SoHo is very important.

“You need to be around amenities. Otherwise it’s going to be tough! But ultimately, it all depends on both the product and the location of the property.”

Wong, however, reckons that a SoHo buyer would be more comfortable working outside of the city centre.

“The whole idea of living and working in the same environment is so that you can avoid the hassle of getting stuck in traffic jams when travelling to your place of work.

“People who operate out of a SoHo would most likely prefer a quiet environment rather than to be smack in the middle of the city centre and dealing with the noise. The ideal location would be the outskirts of the city, near a park or commuter train station.”

A search on, the country’s top property portal, reveals four SoHo developments that are currently in the pipeline.

They are the Selangor State Development Corp’s (PKNS) Kasturi Idaman in Kota Damansara, HR United Group’s SB1 and Persanda 2 in Sungai Besi and Shah Alam, respectively and Ong Chong Realty Sdn Bhd’s PJ5 SoHo in Kelana Jaya.

Previndran says there is a growing market for SoHo developments and cited YTL Land & Development Bhd’s CENTRIO at Pantai Hill Park in Bukit Kerinchi, Kuala Lumpur.

According to reports, 70% of the development (at CENTRIO) have been sold. It opened for sales in 2006.

Akashdeep Singh, a 30-something freelance film editor, says working from a SoHo provided him with great flexibility.

“Some people enjoy this lifestyle – working late and sleeping overnight. It can lead to a lot of office romances,” he says, laughing.

Akashdeep, who was going to India for a month that same day, says: “And in cases of emergencies, like if you need to take a sabbatical, you can avoid the hassle of giving notice. In a normal working environment, it’s hard to do this.”

Former lawyer Melissa Ram used to work out of her home and relished the fact that she could completely avoid traffic jams.

“There’s a lot of flexibility, plus there’s no overhead cost or rentals to worry about. With the internet, you can work from virtually anywhere.”

Melissa, however, adds that there were also drawbacks when working from home.

“Sometimes when you need to meet with clients, having them over in your house isn’t appropriate and in such situations, having an office would be better. In such situations, you would have to go out of your way to meet your client rather than to have the convenience of them coming to you.”

She adds, however, that if given a choice, she would still prefer to work from home.

“While working you could still manage the house and do the cooking. Plus, you could work till midnight and not have to worry about security issues.”

By The Star (by Eugene Mahalingam)

Why developers should go green

The El Nino phenomenon has been blamed for the current dry spell that has caused dams, rivers and canals to dry up in various parts of the country.

While it is common for drier weather to occur during such time, thesoaring temperature has worsened the situation.

Many of us must be really concerned about the drastic climate change happening around us and the hot weather that we have to put up with almost on a daily basis.

It has gone to the extent that even a heavy downpour will only provide temporary relief before the sweltering heat is on us again.

The heat is evident even at night as it is nolonger as cool as before.

More people are turning on the air conditioner but this will mean higher energy consumption.

There are many factors that may have contributed to the situation and it is about time concerted efforts are expended to arrest the situation.

Instead of just blaming it on El Nino or other natural conditions, we all have to take some responsibility for this state of affair.

Just look around us and we’ll see why global warming is worsening and the carbon footprint has grown more serious this past decade or so.

Growing consumerism and high consumption for all kinds of goods and services is straining our production lines and the eco-system will be among the first to be hit.

Let’s see how in our own little way we can each take small steps and measures to save the environment from further deterioration.

From making do with less, to opting for natural lighting and ventilation in our dwellings, there are a host of things that are within our control to help alleviate the snarling hot spells.

Having a platform where the common folk and corporate institutions can come together to uphold an environment-friendly way of doing things and upholding sustainability as a core value should be a good start.

A rating system to rate businesses and corporations that do not just claim to be “green companies” but actually “walk the talk” and adopt sound green practices in their business ventures and production processes will steer companies onto the green, sustainable path.

If people pay more attention to such companies and support them, it will naturally promote more environmentally-conscious companies.

As one of the frontliners in the country’s development process, the construction and property fraternity has a huge responsibility when it comes to ensuring more care is taken to promote a more sustainable environment.

Basically, developers should push for a greater balance in their building methods and development plans.

Instead of just cutting and filling, a construction method that has resulted in many “balding” hillslopes and landslides, the better option will be more eco-friendly and sustainable construction methods that retain the natural terrains.

Wherever possible, healthy mature trees should be retained and not indiscriminately chopped down.

Looking at the few number of eco-friendly projects that truly observe holistic planning, designs and construction practices that promote greater co-existence and harmony between man and nature in the country today, there are still much that can be done by industry players.

Some are still not convinced that the sustainable way of development is a better option as there are more nitty gritty things to look into compared with conventional practices.

Although it means having to walk the extra mile and more work for them, earning the reputation as one of the few “green and caring” developers will be worth the effort.

As the green movement gains further momentum, more buyers will opt to buy property from these developers and the accolade will translate into more tangible benefits such as higher sales for the companies.

Besides the landscapings and green lungs, every project, irrespective of whether it is residential or commercial, should give equal emphasis to natural ventilation, lighting and cooling features of buildings.

This is because the working population spend close to or more than a third of their time at the workplace and it will help if they have more natural ambience and an oxygenated environment to work in.

Deputy news editor Angie Ng believes that at the end of the day, there are more to be gained by being green crusaders.

By The Star (by Angie Ng)

Sunway expects record profits for fiscal 2010

SUNWAY Holdings expects record profits in fiscal 2010 as it plans to tender for jobs worth up to RM16 billion globally, said a top executive.

The firm, ranked seventh among local builders with a market value of US$268 million, (RM884.4 million) said its construction orderbook is expected to grow by one-third to RM4 billion this year, partly boosted by the Malaysian government's roll-out of public sector contracts.

"Market conditions have improved over the last six months and we are confident of securing some projects that we have tendered locally," managing director Yau Kok Seng said in an interview yesteday.

Malaysia is planning a new low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) that will cost RM2 billion to build.
Sunway has submitted its tenders for some of the LCCT jobs and Yau expects the winning bids to be announced as soon as this month.

Other large-scale infrastructure projects that will likely be implemented this year include a RM7 billion light railway transit project near the Malaysian capital as well as a water treatment plant and water transfer projects in Pahang, said Yau.

Construction is the largest revenue earner for Sunway, accounting for over half of the total. Quarrying, building materials, property development as well as trading and manufacturing make up for the rest.

Overseas operations, which comprise mainly the construction and property development projects in China, Singapore and the Middle East, account for 80 per cent of its pre-tax profit, the company said.

In China, Sunway operates through Hong Kong incorporated Sunway Global, a four-year old partnership with global investment bank Goldman Sachs. Goldman owns a 24 per cent of Sunway Global.

Sunway shares were up 2.72 per cent at the close of the early trading session yesterday. The stock has risen 16 per cent so far this year, outpacing the construction sector index's gain of 4.6 per cent.

By Reuters