A total of 35 construction developers had responded to this survey. These developers have been active in the industry between 4 and 36 years. The majority of them have been involved with more than 20 projects with project cost within the range of Ringgit Malaysia RM10 to more than RM100 millions. Their range of project profiles varied from landed property to shop, houses, and others. The progress in Malaysia is discussed under several subheadings:
a) the level of knowledge and awareness of construction developers on the concept of sustainability and sustainable construction;
b) the application of sustainable concept in past and current projects; and c) the future outlook of this application in the construction industry.
To articulate the level of knowledge among project developers with regard to sustainability concept, the respondents were asked to rate their knowledge on this subject matter and what they perceived, based on their experience, the general population of project developers' level of understanding on this subject. From Fig. 24.3, most of the respondents considered themselves to have moderate or good knowledge on sustainable concept. The mean level is 3.43 (moderate) out of 5 rating system. The respondents also perceived that overall developers' knowledge on sustainable concept was between low and moderate level (mean of 2.80). Although they believed their knowledge was above moderate, they seemed to think that overall, the knowledge was still below average.
To investigate further what the respondents understand about the concept of sustainable construction, they were asked to select issues that match their understanding about the concept of sustainable construction. Issues that are related to environmental aspect of sustainability received highest percentage: effective protection of the environment (88.6%), effective environmental planning, management and control (80%), and prudent use of natural resources (68.6%). Issues that related to social aspects of sustainability received moderate percentage: enhance the quality of life and customers' satisfaction (71.4%) and social progress which recognizes the need of everyone (42.9%). Lastly, the issues that related to the economic aspect of sustainability received lowest percentage: generating profit without compromising future needs (42.6%) and maintenance of high and stable level of economic growth (48.6%). From this result, it is deduced that the majority of the respondents understand that sustainability is about protecting the environment but many are still unaware that sustainability is also about balancing social and economical aspects of construction.
Fig. 24.3 Level of understanding on sustainability concept.
The majority of respondents rely on written materials (journals, proceedings, newspapers, web site) to improve their knowledge about sustainable construction. Other sources of knowledge are through education and higher learning; seminars and conferences; and experience with sustainable projects. In-house learning was given a relatively low percentage indicating that most of the companies do not promote this concept within their organizations and project, thus giving small window of opportunity for the employees to learn about this concept internally.
Aligned with the level of knowledge revealed by the respondents, the level of implementation is also at moderate level, as shown in Fig. 24.4. None of the respondents believed that the implementation of sustainable practices is excellent. Majority believed that the implementation is at low level, followed by moderate level.
LEVEL OF IMPLEMENTATION OF SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES
Fig. 24.4 Level of implementation of sustainability practices.
The reasons for the current level of implementation can be clustered under several headings.
1. Lack of enforcement - There are many respondents that stress the need for enforcement through law and legislation. Although there are several acts which focus on environment, such as Environmental Protection Act, due to lack of monitoring and enforcement, people just do not really care much about it.
2. Government intervention - Some of the respondents believed that the government should play a bigger role in promoting sustainable construction, through actions such as strong enforcement of legislation, devising new policy, or giving incentives to developers who want to pursue sustainability in their projects.
3. Pointing fingers - Some of the respondents believed that the role of 'promoting' and 'encouraging' sustainable practices lies on other shoulders too as well, such as designers and contractors. The respondents also highlighted that there are too many players in the construction industry and who mostly are not professionally qualified. The implementation can be improved if various construction players including engineers, architects, and QS play their role in advising the developers on the merits of pursuing sustainable practices. If the consultants can come up with a good design within the project budget that can sustain the environment and give a good business return, then the developers will be inclined to accept the proposal.
4. Urgency factor - Some of the respondents stated that people are indirectly aware of this issue. However, they do not feel the need to incorporate this issue in their projects. This issue is not in their top list. One of the respondents even stated that Malaysia has abundant of natural resources such as water, oil,
and energy. Thus, there is general lack of urgency on this issue. The respondents also felt that this issue lack's publicity which could speed up people's interest on the matter.
Education vs. experience - Many of the respondents stated that developers have poor knowledge about sustainability and sustainable construction. A decade ago, environmental issue was not pertinent and was not given a priority in education. Many developers are still trying to balance the three pillars within their means. It is hard to break from their norm in practice. The young generation, however, have been exposed to sustainable construction in their higher education level but, due to their lack of experience in the real world, they have problem disseminating their theoretical understanding of sustain-ability knowledge into practice.
Cost factor - Many respondents believed that the main factor that impedes implementation of this concept in the Malaysian construction industry is the financial constraint. A few respondents stated that sustainable construction is believed by many to be economically non-viable. Sustainable practices are believed to increase project cost because they need to have higher capital upfront. Higher cost means higher price. If they pursue sustainability in the projects, they need to know that there is a market for it because technically, the cost will be transferred to the buyers/end users.
Passive culture - There are a few respondents who believed that sustainability is an academic pursuit. It is often used in the intellectual circle but seldom known outside leading to non-practice.
PROSPECTS OF SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES IN 5 YEARS
Very poor Low Moderate Good
Fig. 24.5 Prospect of sustainable practices in 5 years.
Very poor Low Moderate Good
Fig. 24.5 Prospect of sustainable practices in 5 years.
Finally, the respondents were requested to give their opinion on the prospect of sustainable construction application in Malaysia in the next 5 years. From Fig. 24.5, it is clearly shown that 63% of the respondents believed that in 5 years, not much will change and the level is still moderate. About 17% of respondents believed that it will get better (good) and equally on the opposite site, 17% believed that it will still be low. There are a few people (3%) who think that the future of sustainable construction is very bleak.
From the comment given, these are the reasons behind the 'low' and 'moderate' opinion:
• As long as there is no by-law or new regulation by the government, the players in the industry will not care less. There is also lack of enforcement on existing legislation.
• Developers must be convinced that sustainability issues will add value to its development and the public is prepared to pay a higher entry cost to enjoy such privilege.
• Cost is still the main priority of any development. Sustainable construction increases project cost which makes this option less favorable.
• Need more construction players to get involved for improvement.
• Lack of awareness. No political will.
• Speed is the issue. Our country is moving too fast without building a strong base of culture itself. The success of a sustainable project is very dependable of the soul of the project, that is, every individual' that is involved in the project.
• Sustainable construction still lack's of understanding by industry.
These are the reasons for a brighter prospect in sustainable construction:
• The trend is going toward it and eventually, the Malaysian construction players will follow it.
• There is a gradual improvement by all parties involved in the industry about this concept. Many people are becoming aware of this new concept; even though the application is still weak, the knowledge is improving.
• Developers and local authorities are improving such sustainable construction including preparation of EIA report, slope protection, and river protection. However, such evolution does take time to improve.
• The rise of building material costs would force developers/contractors to seek more sustainable construction application.
• Various universities with various courses offer student's awareness for the above issues. New employees will bring in new attitude.
• Awareness on sustainable development at the national or global basis is increasing at an encouraging pace which is beneficial.
• The players in construction will improve their ability and know-how about the sustainable construction application from their experience.
• Awareness among citizens is increasing. Environmental-friendly concept is being planted either at education level or through media report.
The evidence of several sustainable projects being built in Malaysia from literature review shows positive signs that the concept of sustainable construction has begun to settle within the industry. However, the survey revealed that the concept of sustainability has not been widely applied in many projects. This strengthens the argument that the industry is still at its infancy in this field. The findings indicated that generally, the respondents believed the level of knowledge on sus-tainability is still below average. Perhaps, this perception is derived from the lack of implementation of this concept in the construction industry. Other developers may have good knowledge on sustainable concept, but because they did not put it in practice or incorporate it in their projects, others will tend to believe that knowledge is not apparent. Knowing but not practicing is another major problem in sustainable concept implementation. A lot more efforts are necessary to enhance the level of environmental awareness and civic consciousness among the people to build sustainably in the future. It is recommended to improve the understanding and awareness on this concept and initiate actions to enable this concept be applied efficiently in future construction projects. There are many ways do this such as educating the construction players through conferences, trainings, seminars, workshops. Since this concept is viewed as academic pursuit, perhaps, the academician should play a more active role in reaching to the construction players through collaboration and consultations works. Education should not be limited to the construction players only. As the industry's supply is closely influenced by the demand for it, the education should be expanded to the wider stakeholders, which includes the potential buyers as well. Raising buyers demand for sustainable houses, for example, will push the housing developers to improve the specification of their houses which include certain sustainable elements to attract buyers. Government has a major role to play in encouraging sustainable construction. Their support and incentives will prompt interest among construction players. It is also recommended for a full-length study on the weakness of present legislation implementation to alleviate the problem of 'lack of enforcement.'
As this subject is a new territory in Malaysia, there are many angles in which research can be extended. Knowledge on present application, weaknesses, and potentials can open avenues for further action toward performance improvement. Apart from that, producing guidelines to highlight the aspects of sustainabil-ity within construction process would be useful to enable those aspects be managed effectively and efficiently. Last but not least, the challenges to build sustainably need to be critically analyzed and surmounted. Various techniques and tools existed that in the construction industry should be utilized to enhance the appreciation on sustainability in construction processes.
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Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.