Lifestyles in this modern era are reinventing the idea of community across the world and this includes Malaysia. The idea of a home is no longer constrained indoors and property developers have noticed this.
Highlighting this trend is DATUK SYED MOHAMED SYED IBRAHIM, PRESIDENT AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF ISKANDAR WATERFRONT HOLDINGS SDN BHD at the Marketplace Series of Forum themed “Building Cities, Enriching Communities” jointly organised by the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI) and Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship (FGBMF) on 2nd May at Mutiara Hotel Johor Bahru.
“Being a property company, we are moving beyond developing houses and buildings by being involved in the full spectrum of the property vehicle. This means creating opportunities to embark on new businesses just like Mid Valley City and KL Sentral,” he said.
OVERCOMING CHALLENGES AND IDENTIFYING KEY DRIVERS
However, there are many challenges when it comes to creating the next generation of master-planned communities. Some of them are a scarcity of land, traffic congestion, high energy consumption, high cost, diminishing value system and poor quality of life. Syed Mohamed noted that everyone faces these problems but he stressed that there are key drivers to move past all these issues, which are summarised into people, environment, technology and space.
“We must be mindful and sensitive about the people. They are an imperative factor that we cannot do without as they drive growth. Then, the current trend is all about a sustainable environment where developed countries are already working on.
“Further, we can never do without technology as we will be irrelevant without it. Being an integral part of our daily lives, our projects will not be successful and effective if we ignore the latest technology. Then, space is very critical due to the diminishing land that developers can build on resulting in a new type of city called the vertical city,” said SYED MOHAMED.
MAKING USE OF TECHNOLOGY
With these drivers identified, it will help everyone to move on to the DNA of the next generation master-planned community. SYED MOHAMED believes that such community must be experiential. When one takes technology into consideration, it should disrupt the current approach in planning and crafting a master-planned community.
“A smart city is not smart if there is no artificial intelligence (AI). It must be embraced as this technology self-regulates and continuously improve the community. Imagine all the modern sensors detecting and reacting to help the public. Such advancements lessen their burden instead of giving them more things to worry about,” said Syed Mohamed.
Another important attribute for the master-planned community is for it to be high density. Due to the scarcity of land in some places, SYED MOHAMED said that the only way for this to happen is to craft vertical cities resulting in the need for future urban structure to change.
“As for a sustainable environment, we used to call it our corporate social responsibility. Now, we need to move beyond that as everyone plays a role instead of it being a company’s mission. This enables us to be more responsible as well as it creates better ethics in how we do business,” he added.
Moreover, he said that a master-planned community must be pedestrian-friendly. There need to be dedicated pedestrian walkways and cycling tracks. He also stressed that the tracks must not follow vehicular roads as this is to make the travel distance shorter. Otherwise, residents would not walk or cycle.
“What’s more, these paths should integrate with public transportation. Yes, making public transportation better involves more cost as this is a capital investment. However, we already have a technological solution, which is making use of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Grab. It is a hybrid of what we have in the physical and virtual world. This is what we called transport mobility,” he said.
INVOLVING THE PEOPLE
Next on the list is equitable housing but SYED MOHAMED saw this as expensive because of the higher cost of living. Instead of just affordable homes, he wanted to see affordable living once people move in. He recommended companies to continue generating revenue once the building is completed instead of just handing over the keys and forget about them.
“One of the most impressive projects that I saw is called Sustainable City in Dubai. For every residential unit sold, the developer gave a part of the retail that they have not sold to residents. This means homeowners are co-owning the retail unit and income from there will offset the cost of living in the community,” he said.
Further, SYED MOHAMED detailed that the developers in Dubai allocated solar panels on the roof of each house and carpark area. This generates excess power and the developers are discussing with the law enforcement to move forward the idea to use this power to offset energy consumption.
“Such excess energy also brings forth the idea of urban farming. Going back to the project in Dubai, the extra powers generated were used to regulate the temperature in Greenhouses. This is a community project as homeowners play their parts in keeping the farm alive. When they work together, there is a sense of ownership and belonging because they look after the wellbeing of the whole community,” added SYED MOHAMED.
CULTIVATING NEW VALUES FOR DEVELOPERS AND CONSUMERS
In the end, Syed Mohamed wanted everyone to think about how each of them can engineer an innovative mindset that nurtures a new kind of culture. There is no use coming up with hardware and software when the people are not utilising the use of it.
“When all these factors are in sync, you can expect the community to be safe, healthy, socially inclusive and culturally harmonious. This will ultimately contribute to happiness,” he concluded.