Moving Toward Sustainable Construction in Malaysia

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As a developing country, Malaysia realized that the construction industry plays a significant role in its economic growth. Over the last 20 years, the industry has been consistently contributing between 3% and 5% of the national GDP (Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), 2000). However, the industry is not without weaknesses. Challenges have been in the areas of productivity, quality, safety, technology, and unproductive practices. The government is now striving to upgrade the country, including its construction industry, by committing toward Vision 2020, which calls for a comprehensive quantum leap toward a knowledge-based society. The book 'Malaysia's Vision 2020' published in 1993 defined national ambitions and future opportunities for us and to consider long-term strategies to assist the achievement of national goals. One of the basic visions that emerged is for the country to be ecologically sustainable. This basic vision has become an impetus toward sustainability agenda in the country. The issue of sustainable development has emerged as one of the top issues in the Eight Malaysia Plan (2001-2005). According to the plan, the government gave high priority to research and development as one of their strategy for sustainable development (Eight Malaysia Plan, 2001). Section 19 of the plan was devoted to integrate environmental consideration into development planning. During that period, concerted efforts were expected to intensify in order to improve energy efficiency, forestry, waste and environmental management.

The Construction Industry Development Board Malaysia (CIBD), which is a body corporate established with the main function of developing, improving, and expanding the Malaysian construction industry, has identified the environment and other sustainability-related issues as one of the top issues of the construction industry (CIDB, 2000). CIDB calls upon the researchers and construction practitioners to reassess the process of construction to develop good construction planning and management to safeguard the environment. To initiate research in this field, they have formed many focus groups in research and development. One of the focus group focuses on environment and sustainability, which is presently involved in research in waste minimization, environmental management plan, water management, and construction hazard identification (CIDB, 2006). Other institutions in Malaysia such as INSPEN (National Institution of Valuation, Malaysia) (INSPEN, 2006) and MASTIC (Malaysian Science and Technology Information Centre) (Under Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation) (MASTIC, 2006) are among the leading institutions for research and development and they have also identified sustainability and environment as one of the areas for research. The subject of sustainability continues to be one of the important agenda of the government since it has been identified as one of the five key thrusts in the Ninth Malaysia Plan, which was unveiled on March 31, 2006 (Star Special, 2006).

Apart from these government and non-governmental organizations, the local universities such as Science University of Malaysia (USM), University Technology of Mara (UiTM), and National University of Malaysia (UKM) have also shown interest in this field by offering funding for more research. These universities have also been involved in organizing many symposiums and conferences to raise the awareness on sustainable development and to exchange knowledge in this field. Holcim Malaysia has founded a Foundation for Sustainable Construction to promote innovative approaches to sustainable construction and to recognize outstanding achievements through competition and international forum awards (Hol-cim, 2006). At present, there are several sustainable projects that are being or have been constructed in Malaysia. One of the examples is project Tanarimba at Janda Baik, Pahang. Tanarimba is a sustainable housing project that blends man-made and natural elements in an exciting concept of ecologically sensitive community development and also introduces the world to eco-tourism opportunities in Malaysian highlands. The project has been dubbed as the forefront of the ecological movement in construction (Tanarimba, 2006). Another example is the DDC Project (Demonstration and Documentation Centre for Sustainable Urban Household Energy Usage), launched in 2004 by the Centre for Environment, Technology and Development, Malaysia (CETDEM). This project pioneered the construction of urban energy saving house (CETDEM, 2006). Malaysia Energy Centre (PTM) has also embarked on energy-efficiency building by constructing a zero energy office building (ZEO) at Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor (PTM, 2006). The Planning and National Development Doctrine (DPPS), which stresses development that is balanced and sustainable from the economic, social, spiritual, and environmental aspects, served as the foundation for the planning and development of Putrajaya and Cyberjaya. A total of 32 physical planning guidelines were established by the Town and Country Planning Department (TCPD) to ensure sustainable development of areas such as coastal areas, islands, open space, housing, retention ponds, solid waste disposal areas, conservation of trees and for environmentally sensitive areas (Eight Malaysia Plan, 2001).

The initiatives by the government and others have shown positive signs as people are becoming more conscious in their responsibilities toward environment, and sustainable projects are being built in Malaysia. However, projects on sustain-ability in Malaysia are mostly at the pioneering stage, indicating that Malaysia construction industry is still at infancy when dealing with sustainability matters. With the promotion from the government and non-governmental institutions on sustainability, it is hoped that the awareness on sustainability among the construction practitioners will improved exponentially in the near future.

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