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5 Points to a Big Green Picture!

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I hope you have a little moment to spare to give some thought to the five short and sharp points I would like to share with you.

The first point; I live in a condo. It is hot. I need air-conditioning but I don’t use it because I don’t want to push up my RM30 energy bill so at the moment I am sweating. I hope we can focus more on passive solutions which Malaysia needs, such as insulation, shading and glass – materials which don’t allow heat to pass through. Sometimes when you focus on GBI (Green Building Index) alone, you forget the passive solutions maybe because you are focusing on engineering and equipment only.

Point number two, carbon footprint of building materials. At the moment it is possible to get all the wonderful certificates and still have massive carbon footprints in your building envelope. If you look into the CO2 emissions of Malaysia, you can realize that this is happening. Your footprints would be massive if you use normal standard concrete. So in the first place, I suggest that we focus more on the carbon footprint materials that we are using.

Third point – what are we doing with all the buildings out there that are consuming loads of energy? It is very cheap to do that now because Malaysia has massively subsidized the price of energy. So what can we do about our existing buildings? If we were to look at buildings that go for GBI, it is only a miniscule percentage of the entire building stock. So we need to do more work to see how we can improve management maintenance and engage in proper management to reduce the environmental impact of our existing buildings.

We need to move beyond that, we need to look at the cost life-cycle of our buildings

Fourth point – “short-termism” in the market place. That is one of the major diseases that we are currently facing. Everything needs to be cheap, cheap and cheap. It often does not matter in Malaysia if the building tiles fall off the wall three years later because it is no longer the problem of the developers, who are to provide a two-year guarantee period. We need to move beyond that, we need to look at the cost life-cycle of our buildings. We need to look at how we can articulate the value of green buildings and green building materials to do it well the first time rather than paying a lot of money three years later for refurbishing swimming pools that just had the tiles fall off because people use normal cheap standard materials.

Going green has a lot of commercial value so we need to articulate and analyze better. And you developers out there – are you able to set yourself apart from the competition out there? That is a massively overlooked area in Malaysia. You see the G-Tower, they have a better, greener product to offer but where are the others following along those lines? Let’s not short cut or green wash.

I came across a Malaysian development the other day, where some accountant in the background seem to be wanting to save some pennies even though the development was communicating itself as a new green development where you can enjoy a wonderful lifestyle with your family because you won’t need air-conditioning at all. The extra pennies are actually needed to insulate the wall but unfortunately the accountant at the background didn’t want to spend. I am sure that the development’s green branding will be gone once people realize that the units they are going to live in did not have insulation that was implied in their green marketing campaign. So green washing is definitely something to be aware of.

And finally, my fifth point: how about the bigger picture such as the 10th Malaysia Plan? A lot of great plans in Malaysia are happening to promote green technology and green buildings. But if we as a country are going to lift ourselves a level higher in innovation, green technology and to experience higher job values and salaries, we need to move away from ‘I want to buy some cheap stuff from abroad and sell them here’ and move towards domestic technology innovation or acquisition of technology coming into Malaysia that can later generate more value for the money. There is a lot of trading mentality in Malaysia but very little vision to see how future technology can help the economy and subsequently make the economy even more valuable.

We don’t just need to copy Abu Dhabi’s idea of going carbon neutral. Let us go a step further and push the boundaries a bit in Malaysia. I propose to you a radical approach such as described in the article I recently wrote about Carbon Capture City. It does not have to be a big project. It could just be small with the primary focus to push the country to radically innovate new green technologies domestically so we can create an economy for our country that is also green. By generating and exporting technology to other countries, we can also demonstrate leadership of green building. By that, we are creating greater value for our economy.

Voted the Greenest Man on the Planet by 3rdwhale based in Canada, Matthias Gelber is an international environmental speaker who has given talks in 38 countries across the globe and counting. He was a keynote speaker at the Green Solutions Property Conference 2010, Malaysia’s first Carbon Neutral Conference. He walks his talk and chooses public transportation over owning his own car for the sake of the planet. Hailed from Germany, Malaysia is now home to him and has been so for the last five years.

  • Here are my ideas for a Carbon Capture City
  • Full measurement of Carbon footprint of activities, materials used and built environment in operation
  • Minimal intrusion into the natural environment
  • Use of low carbon building materials – did you know cement manufacturing is pushing more than twice the CO2 into the atmosphere than all planes together?
  • Insulation of walls, roof, foundation – let’s get rid of the heat and keep it outside
  • Shade and carbon capture through trees and plants that can be grown 20cm off the walls on grids
  • Use of new radical energy devices
  • Use of renewable energy but no oil palm on peat swamp please (but oil palm is a very productive crop if used in the right way)
  • Innovation – innovation to develop MALAYSIAN low carbon footprint solutions and some additional sinks through new technology
  • Government price for the best and most cost effective carbon capture city
  • Use climate change mitigation money to finance it and grow industries to sell the resulting technology overseas