The Path has been Soiled


Text Lawrence Julius    Photo Lee Chin Aik

It began with just a test…

AR Von Kok Leong is a man committed to the green cause. He is an architect that’s intertwined to the concept of building green, having more than 15 years of experience in the field of property development. Today he is the President of the Malaysia Green Building Confederation (MGBC), a member of the World Green Building Council (WGBC).

His first encounter with green and sustainability issues was in 1993, when he was engaged as project architect for a housing development in Melbourne, Australia. The site he was working on was formerly a factory ground, so when the local council required them to test the soil, they were found wondering “what was there to test?” The examination uncovered hydrocarbon and other chemicals, items that can have an adverse long-term effect on human health.

“The client had to decontaminate the soil and it cost them a lot of time and money,” says Ar Von, referring to his eye-opening first brush with sustainability.

More than a decade later in 2006 and on home soil in Malaysia this time, Von was involved with the development of a 40-story building aspiring for the Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. But he believed that Malaysia needed a tool of its own, a system that specifically catered to Malaysian conditions. He went on to become one of the founding fathers who helped draft the Non-Residential New Construction (NRNC), eventually leading to the formation of Malaysia’s own Green Building Index (GBI). When asked what he thinks about Malaysia’s green future, he says, “It is promising, and we are already ahead of most countries today.”

But being green doesn’t only apply in the office, he tries to maintain a low-carbon footprint wherever he goes, and the best place to start is at home. Energy and water conservation is important to Von, and hepromotes the use of green certified appliances like air-conditioners, light bulbs and washing machines. He does his part to educate others as well. “I would explain green to family members…” While he is only one man, he tries to contribute as much as he can to the cause. Von believes simple things like taking the train and changing a leaky pipe may have a huge impact without you even noticing; it is the little things that count.

A normal guy who enjoys reading the morning paper, Von has breakfast before going to work, and comes home to his family after a long day. There is no difference between him and us, and there’s no law that dictates how green the MGBC President should be; it’s all up to the man.

Von firmly believes that MGBC will become a one-stop-centre for all green solutions, a helpdesk for all who needs green assistance. He has put a lot of effort and care into MGBC, an NGO flourishing with his leadership at the helm. It is the outlet of his passion, and his belief for a greener tomorrow.