Designed specifically to provide business intelligence in the real estate infrastructure, the iCities conference was held at the Intercontinental Hotel, Kuala Lumpur from 21st-22nd April 2016.
The two-day event brought together developers, government agencies, and international industry professionals to discuss the need for a strategic balance in investing for enhanced livability and sustainability in urban and township developments.
In his welcoming address, Georg Chmiel, CEO of iProperty Group said, “iProperty is delighted to support the local municipalities, developers and our customers as we work together in transforming cities to become more sustainable and smarter through conceptualized and integrated strategies on urban planning and township development,”.
The conference had a line-up of topics that showcased the best practices and case studies around the world, along with the latest trends and challenges in urban planning, and how to address them.
Some of the notable talks were:
- ‘Building a Better Tomorrow: The Idea of the Smart Eco City’ by Dato Dr Ken Yeang, MD of Ken Yeang Design International Ltd, UK
- ‘City of the Future: Reinventing the Very Idea of A City to Address Urban Sprawl, Enhance Livability and Well-being of the Inhabitants’ by Nicholas You, Director of Global Programs and Projects at the Guangzhou Institute for Urban Innovation, China, and Future Cities
- ‘Managing Growth and Exploring the Intricacies of Developing New Cities Within the Rapid Growth of Population in the Region’ by Ar. Sarly Adre Sarkum, President of the Malaysia Green Building Confederation.
The highlight of the first day was a forum discussion titled “Exploring Future Opportunities and Addressing Regional Projects”. The forum discussed the most pressing issues currently facing upcoming and existing cities and townships in Malaysia. The panelist included Matthew Gaal, Director of Development SEA, WoodsBagot, Malaysia; KK Wong, CEO of Dynasty View Sdn Bhd; Dato’ Murly Manokharan, Group CEO of Aspen Group; Lee Suet Sen, Councilor of PJ City Council and Dr Gerard Kho, Chief Marketing Officer of Medini Iskandar Malaysia (MIM).
The forum’s moderator, Sophie Kamaruddin, lead anchor and editor of Bloomberg TV, Malaysia kicked off the discussion with the question,“What does liveability and sustainability actually mean?”
Dr Gerard believes that a sustainable township would have an environment that supports population growth. For instance, in developing Iskandar Puteri, MIM not only puts the needs of its (future) residents at the forefront of all its planning activities but also offers its business investors security and supporting infrastructure.
KK Wong opined that a successful city or township development must always balance social, economic and environmental needs. Hence, the planning of residential towns must take into account not only the physical layout and architecture of housing blocks but also how schools, shops, medical facilities, parks, and offices are within easy access.
Providing his viewpoint from a local planning authority standpoint, Lee Suet Sen said that transportation and connectivity are of utmost importance in a city’s planning and development. Towns and cities must be well-served by public transportation and road networks. The biggest challenge in ensuring that a city remains sustainable and liveable moving forward is to balance development growth with the needs of its residents and the environment.
Concurring to this was Matthew Gaal who commented that creating an urban realm that brings communities together is crucial to ensure its liveability. Social sustainability should not be side-lined and urban areas must enable for strong bonds in the community and support healthy social interaction. He added that development designs and layouts must support community living and interaction as a whole.
Dato’ Murly commented that a sustainable city is one that offers a good quality of life for all. A key aspect of this is ensuring that available housing remains within reasonable prices. Recognising this importance, Aspen Group strives to integrate social responsibility with business strategies. Some of their efforts include utilizing technology (Internet of Things) to keep prices and services affordable as well as bringing in commercial activities to encourage job growth and investment opportunities.
Among the other topics discussed were ideas to improve safety, ease traffic congestion, maximize energy efficiency and reduce environmental impact as well as policies and strategies to tackle the issue of price escalation among residential properties.
Over the two days, attendants had the choice to follow their own agenda in the second half of the day as the conference provided a choice of two streams. The first one, ‘Master Planning & Design Technologies’ focused on sustainable urban planning strategies and framework for developing and upgrading urban areas. The presentation line-up included New Urbanism: Reviving our Cities Today by Norliza Hashim, Secretary General of Eastern Organisation of Planning and Human Settlement and The Pedestrian Oriented Design Revolution by Craig Czarny, Director of Urban Design, Hansen Partnership, Australia, among many.
Meanwhile, the second stream, ‘Commercialization & Development’, covered multiple financial strategies, drawing on transit-oriented developments (TODs) to enhance city liveability and boost economic growth, and successful project and risk management. Among the featured talks were Promoting Age-Friendly Build Environments by Dr Renard Siew from Sime Darby Malaysia and Identifying Effective Land and Properties Acquisition for Potential Development Opportunities by Ron Tan, Head of Real Estate Investment, Amerald Land, Singapore.
The second day of the conference also witnessed the launch of a book, Malaysian Real Estate Industry – Value Creation Strategies by Dr James Tee, Executive Director of Setia Awan Group. Tailored for property investors and property developers alike, the book provides cost management strategies, risk management techniques, the power of branding and marketing and green building trends as well as deep insights into the Malaysian real estate industry from both a macro and micro viewpoint and the industry’s outlook for the next few years.
A Meeting of Minds
iCities proved to be a highly successful event where businesses and individuals met, network and most importantly shared knowledge on transforming urban spaces into better places to live in.