PETALING JAYA: An architect has urged the government to increase the amount of greenery in new property development projects, in the wake of calls from an environmental NGO for developers to strike a better balance between market demands and preserving nature.
Speaking to FMT, Alan Teh said the current green ratio requirement – which refers to the green spaces any new property development must have – is set at only 10%.
As an example, in Kuala Lumpur, Subang Jaya, Shah Alam and Klang, the respective local government authorities require all new commercial and housing development schemes to have a green ratio of 10%.
Green spaces, he explained included “softscapes” such as gardens, parks, trees and landscapes and “hardscapes” like tiles or walkways where people could jog and do taichi.
Aside from the 10% green ratio, Teh said the Green Building Index (GBI) also sets the bar for rating green buildings, though it was not compulsory for all buildings to seek GBI certification.
The GBI is Malaysia’s industry-recognised green rating tool for buildings to promote sustainability in the built environment and to raise awareness from the public with regards to environmental issues.
Teh said that green spaces were vital to any development from an environmental as well as social perspective.
“Trees like the Malayan Banyan and Golden Penda, and plants like Fiddle-leaf figs and Walking Iris aren’t just pretty.
“They’re easy to maintain and more importantly, help produce oxygen, filter air pollutants, reduce carbon dioxide, provide shade and a sanctuary for small animals and insects.”
Teh said that in today’s world, especially in urban areas, green spaces encouraged social interaction and provided a place for the building’s occupants to interact.
“The design of many high-rise buildings tend to alienate people, meaning they don’t get to interact with others as how people in villages do.”
Can we do better than 10%?
Teh said Malaysia could do better than having a 10% green ratio, especially if developers focused less on furnishings and the use of expensive materials like marble.
He said that it wouldn’t be difficult for developers to incorporate more green spaces in their development projects in Malaysia, noting that it wouldn’t be expensive or difficult as it was in countries like Japan.
“We tend to take our country’s climate for granted. We have the perfect conditions for tropical plants to grow easily and we have access to a wide variety of trees and plants suited for our weather.
“In countries like Japan, they have to cover the trees during winter to protect them from the cold, and this shows how much they value greenery.”
Teh, said that although the land was limited, especially in urban areas, developers could be creative in creating green spaces by having roof gardens and vertical green walls.
He noted, that in Singapore, all new public buildings now need to be green certified and that many buildings in that country had done this successfully, including Housing Development Board (HDB) flats, with some buildings even enjoying 100% green ratios.
Teh said that being more environmentally-friendly also included the use of “green materials” which had a lower-carbon footprint like Grasscrete, bamboo and mycelium.
Grasscrete is a material which has the grass being incorporated into concrete materials like bricks, while mycelium, which comprises the roots of fungi and mushrooms is highly durable and can withstand extreme temperatures.
Accelerating a growing trend
Teh noted that some of the bigger local developers had taken the initiative to create more green spaces in their developments than required by the authorities.
“Nowadays, the trend in buildings around the world is geared towards having more green spaces, being more environmentally-friendly and using more ‘green materials’, and this trend is bound to grow.”
This, he said meant that over time, more developers would make their buildings more environmentally-friendly and incorporate more green spaces in their developments.
“At the same time, I believe that the government should increase the green ratio for buildings and preferably benchmark our guidelines to that of other developed countries,” Teh said.
He added that this was one way to speed up the process and encourage more environmentally-friendly buildings.
Teh also proposed that the government support this effort by giving more tax incentives for green certified buildings.
Presently, the government provides incentives in the form of investment tax allowance for the use of green technology assets in areas such as transportation and buildings.
Recently, Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia (Cetdem) executive director Anthony Tan said that developers should balance the demands of consumers and the preservation of nature.
Tan said that developers should consider how to preserve the flora and fauna while developing the country.
“If they plan to build on green spaces, they should consider allocating a new green space for pre-existing animals and ensure that it is the same as the previous green space that they took,” he said.
He also suggested that the government consider redeveloping old buildings rather than targeting open spaces for development.
*Afiqah Farieza contribute to this article