Enough Talk, Let’s Do Something About Sustainability

Enough Talk, Let’s Do  Something About Sustainability

REENA KAUR BHATT looks at how The Malaysian Carbon Reduction and Environmental Sustainability Tool (MyCREST) can help mitigate building-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and examines what efforts are being taken to adopt sustainable practices in Malaysia. 

Many are aware of the threat of carbon emissions and GHG, however, the fight against climate change have not gained traction as most businesses’ main responsibility is towards their shareholders. Also, a spike in a degree Celcius or two is tolerable in an already warm climate – after all, we can just crank up the air conditioning further, can’t we not?

This ignorance and the single-mindedness on bottom lines will backfire sooner if not later – as reported in the British journal Nature, rampant warming could reduce average global incomes by nearly a quarter and just a 4oC jump would also batter sectors like agriculture, real estate, timber, and emerging market equities. 

The building and construction industry is a huge contributor to the rising temperature – the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) affirms that buildings are responsible for an astounding one-third of total GHG emissions, both in developed and developing countries. 

Tackling Construction’s Carbon Footprint 

The time to move forward with sustainability is now and  Dato’ Ir Ahmad ‘Asri Abdul Hamid, Chief Executive of Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) Malaysia is a keen advocate of green building practices. 

In an effort to spearhead sustainability among construction industry players and stakeholders, CIDB and the Public Works Department (PWD) introduced MyCREST in May 2016. The sustainability rating tool aims to quantify and reduce carbon emissions of buildings and serves to guide contractors and developers to design, construct and operate more sustainable and resilient buildings.

Expounding on the significance of sustainability, Dato’ Ir Ahmad quoted Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer of IKEA, who spoke at the TEDGlobal 2013, “We are building cities like never before, bringing people out of poverty like never before, and changing the climate like never before. Sustainability has gone from a nice-to-do to a must-do. It is about what we do right here, right now, and for the rest of our working lives”.

MyCREST not only outlines key requirements and recommendations to integrate low carbon and sustainable practices, but also takes into account the holistic lifecycle of the built environment. 

The introduction of MyCREST supports the Construction Industry Transformation Programme (CITP) 2016-2020, which has set a target for the construction industry to achieve an annual reduction of 4 megatonnes (MT) of CO2 emissions by 2020. 

Taking the first steps towards mainstreaming energy efficient and low-GHG emissions buildings in Malaysia, the PWD has made it compulsory for all government projects valued RM50 million and above to have a MyCREST certificate, effective this year.

Sustainability at the Forefront

The structure of the MyCREST system is based on total points accumulated and weighted listed from a set of criteria which covers the site, energy, water & material consumption and indoor environment. The total points are based on a broad and in-depth study of the weightage given to similar criteria in various international green systems in the world including LEED, CEPAS and GREENMARK. 

This comprehensive sustainability rating tool evaluates the cultural, safety and security aspects of a project on top of the environmental factors, as can be seen through the 11 stringent criteria under MyCREST as shown below:

These criteria are then implemented according to three certification phases; DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION and OPERATION & MAINTENANCE. Depending on each phase, the criteria are adjusted for different requirements and relevance. The system involves assessors from CIDB checking the project for energy efficiency and green building compliance and star ratings of up to five stars would then be conferred to the projects. 

According to Dato’ Ir Ahmad, MyCREST encourages the adoption of environmentally sustainable practices right from the design stage and enables sustainable practices from a top-down approach. This means that such practices are carried out at every stage of a building’s lifecycle. 

Promoting Better Waste Management 

One contributing factor to why construction activities have massive carbon footprints is that many industry players do not practice proper waste management and disposal – the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp) Malaysia reports that 70% of uncollected construction waste ends up dumped in private land. 

This not only causes environmental nuisances and damage but also impacts the resiliency of nearby infrastructures in the event of natural disasters and unpredictable weathers such as floods. 

Social and environmental entrepreneur, Leonard Ho is taking strides to provide construction stakeholders with a greener option in getting rid of their waste – of which a considerable amount is plastic-based, from pipes, ducts, flooring and wall coverings to tarpaulins and hardhats. 

The former conventional food packaging businessman is the founder and Managing Director of Polyseed Footprint Solutions Sdn Bhd, a manufacturer of biodegradable and environmentally friendly products using their very own oxo-degradable technology – OXIUM. 

Polyseed’s products including its Wall Cover Panel, Construction Safety Net and Soil Protection Plastic sheet provide developers and contractors with the solution to reduce their carbon footprint. Construction waste only needs to be wrapped or covered with either one product, depending on suitability. 

The OXIUM additives added to the three products enables for the plastic enables for accelerated biodegrading – the plastic waste underneath will only take 5-10 years to break down instead of almost a 1000 years! Eventually, the debris becomes a food source for microbes. 

1 The Polyseed team
2 Construction safety net
3 Soil protection plastic
4 Window Protection Film

 

Even though the technology to produce the degradable plastic costs two times more, Leonard chooses to manufacture and market them at the same price as conventional plastic – giving no excuse for stakeholders to play the ‘cost’ card. 

Leonard’s determination to create social and environmental impact stems from his desire to see a greener future for his children. “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children,” he says. 

Leonard urges construction stakeholders to become a green player by adopting green building policies and practices. He feels that all contractors should adopt the Site Waste Management Plan (SWMP) approach. The framework which has been used in Europe has proven successful in improving efficiency and profitability by promoting reuse, recycling and recovery of waste, rather than disposal. 

Most importantly, he recommends that more should be done to raise the public’s awareness of the broader issues associated with sustainability. He is also pushing for a revolution with his green plastic products – Leonard was recently invited by the WP Kuala Lumpur state government to advise approximately 400,000 retail outlets to carry Polyseed’s biodegradable products. 

 Leonard is now working with the state government to promote Polyseed’s biodegradable products to the local market.

A Collective Effort

Dato’ Ir Ahmad revealed that the greatest challenge in the adoption of sustainable practices is in winning over industry players’ acceptance and support. The perception that sustainability is expensive must be corrected – at the moment less than 2% of the buildings and infrastructure for both the residential and commercial segments in Malaysia are rated environmentally sustainable. Sustainability does require higher upfront costs, but over time, the sustainable solutions naturally result in lower lifecycle operation costs. 

CIDB Malaysia is working to garner the private sector’s support to subscribe to the MyCREST tool. Earlier this year, the organisation signed a Memorandum of Collaboration with the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association (REHDA) Malaysia. As part of the collaboration, REHDA members have pledged more than 20 development projects to be assessed with MyCREST, of which 6 have been successfully certified: 

a. SP Setia Bhd’s Corporate Headquarters

b. REHDA’s Wisma REHDA

c. Encomas Sdn Bhd’s Encomas House

d. E&O Bhd’s Straits Quay Office Suites, Block 6

e. Remajaya Sdn Bhd’s Bay 21

f. GTower Sdn Bhd’s G Tower

“We hope that more industry players in the private sector will follow these developers’ lead in incorporating green and sustainable practices – smart developers should realize that a smaller carbon footprint also translates to greater marketability and profitability,” says Dato Ir’ Ahmad. 

He also shared that the government is doing what it can to encourage businesses to join the fight against climate change. The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) and Malaysian Green Technology Corporation (GreenTech Malaysia) have recently rolled out several tax incentives to catalyse investments and the adoption of green technology in various sectors. 

The incentives aim to assist more companies to implement greener practices by generating energy from renewable energy sources, installing energy efficient equipment and decreasing their waste through various recycling initiatives. 

Ultimately, Dato’ Ir Ahmad urges consumers to play their part in encouraging developers to amplify their sustainability efforts – by voting with their wallets, i.e: by being a discerning consumer and seeking out developers with sustainable products. By doing so, sustainability can be made affordable for many people and not just a luxury for the few. Unless there is no continuous demand for green developments, the uptake of sustainability standards across the sector will remain low. 

This article was first published in the iProperty.com Malaysia September 2016 Magazine. Get your copy from selected news stands or view the magazine online for free at www.iproperty.com.my/magazine.  Better yet, order a discounted subscription by putting in your details in the form below!

 

 

 

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