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Green Urbanism in Malaysian Construction Industry Research Paper


Introduction

Malaysia currently ranks among the leading states that support and encourage project initiatives related to sustainable urban development and so-called “green urbanism.” The Malaysian government promotes policies and development plans that suggest various strategies of improving green networks and increasing energy efficiency in cities (Aziz 2016).

Cyberjaya was created to be a pioneering community in green technology and is meant to serve as an example for other cities of Malaysia to adopt environmentally friendly development strategies. The city is now actively involved in the construction of green buildings, sustainable houses, and cooling systems (Jereme et al. 2015). However, despite a considerable number of green initiatives, it has only one large-scale project related to open-air recreational zones: the Cyberjaya Lake Gardens. This area covers 1.6 square kilometers and is considered to be the primary landscaped space of the city. More than 6 hectares of this territory are occupied by the lake, which attracts many tourists and locals alike (Abidin 2016).

The idea of the green city project is to shift the focus of attention away from the Garden City Concept itself and instead turn the only garden in the city into a “city-in-a-garden.” To this end, the project aims to expand the borders of the garden until it covers the whole residential area. This goal implies incorporating green technology principles during the development stage of building construction. Through this project, Cyberjaya will be integrated into the existing natural environment and become an uninterrupted open space. Furthermore, the expanded wetlands will filter water naturally, which can be a perfect cost-saving replacement for traditional filtration systems (Abidin 2016).

Thus, the aim of the research at hand is to analyze the future of the above-mentioned green project of Cyberjaya in terms of its practical implementation and its ability to achieve the desired result of a green city.

The objectives of the study include the following:

  1. To analyze existing literature concerning green township and its possible applicability to Cyberjaya;
  2. To outline the values that can be derived from the planned landscape project;
  3. To propose a specific project implementation plan;
  4. To identify associated risks;
  5. To analyze the outcomes of the project.

Literature Review: Green Township Significance and Social Impacts

Despite the fact that the idea of promoting environmentally friendly technology and enlarging green spaces in cities has gained popularity only recently, the concept of environmental sustainability and efficiency had already appeared by the 1970s. However, the forecasts of population growth were rather pessimistic: Most studies on the topic came to the conclusion that society’s striving for prosperity and technological advancement would result in both economic and environmental collapse within 50 years (Abidin 2016).

The Bruntland Report (1987) and the Rio Declaration (1982) were released to propose effective plans that would allow communities to switch from the classical models of development to more sustainable ones, making it possible for city communities to adjust to ecological deterioration, climatic changes, increasing levels of carbon dioxide, and pollution. Yet, despite the fact that these were considerable steps forward that attracted a great deal of public attention to a serious problem, the concept of green township was not developed as a separate strategy, and the related recommendations were limited to a number of unconnected steps (Hosseini & Wahid 2014).

Still, the increased attention of the community made Malaysian cities more aware of environmental problems as well as the marketing benefits of becoming more sustainable. They started to encourage environmental development in order to increase their ecological capacity, which would be beneficial not only for the community at large but also for investors and businesses as it would allow them to save money (San Onga et al. 2016).

The concept was later transformed into so-called “green development” or “green urbanism” as it implied the implementation of a set of ecological measures that would also be economically profitable: For instance, sustainability could be increased by introducing lifestyle changes such as walking or cycling instead of driving; by rejecting types of energy production that create pollution in favor of more sustainable, ecologically clean energy sources; and by promoting environmental restoration policies for areas that have been severely damaged by human activities (Hosseini & Wahid 2014).

For cities like Cyberjaya, initially planned to be an environmentally friendly community, it would mean, first and foremost, that the construction of buildings would have to be switched to a new policy: Classical models had to be replaced by environmentally friendly ones in which spatiality would be extended into green township. Such cities were built to serve as an example to others, showing how to achieve a more sustainable technological future that would not cause the destruction of the environment but would use it to gain economic advantage.

Indeed, the greatest problem indicated by researchers today is the increased urbanism across the planet, a tendency that is unlikely to change over the next decade and that will result in 60% of the global population living in cities. Given this trend, the task at hand is not to make the population go back to villages and small towns but rather to reduce the impact of climatic changes in big cities in order to make them more suitable for living (Hosseini & Wahid 2014).

Many historical references to the idea of garden cities can be encountered both in professional and fictional literature. However, never before 1898 was the concept used as a part of a real implementation plan. The concept was suggested by Sir Ebenezer Howard who incorporated a “green” element into the modern planning of cities and insisted on furthering the development of garden cities.

The environmental problems of cities had been addressed long before, and there were many different strategies developed to deal with the consequences of the Industrial Revolution. However, for the first time, it was proposed to switch from focusing on problems to instead developing sustainable cities that would result in the appearance of well-structured, self-contained communities that would become a part of green areas and host industries that would not damage the environment. Furthermore, this idea brought the issue of carbon emissions to the forefront, highlighting its economic disadvantages as well as its ruinous impact on human health, which brought even more attention to green elements (Supni et al. 2015).

Thus, the government of Malaysia has become attracted to the idea of resolving environmental challenges by implementing and promoting a comprehensive policy of green township that, in its wider interpretation, includes site-specific green concepts. For Cyberjaya, the implementation of the project was facilitated by the fact that the city was initially planned as an ecologically friendly area with a number of green buildings and facilities and a special green urban design in architecture. Yet, the city was still striving to create a so-called “green neighborhood,” a process which can be characterized as follows (Supni et al. 2015):

  • Considerably reducing their negative ecological impact;
  • Acknowledging their contributions to the larger community and global environmental crisis and acting accordingly;
  • Trying to plan all actions and policies so that they work together;
  • Switching from a linear to a circular system of environmental awareness;
  • Addressing both domestic and global problems of self-sufficiency that would include all related problems (e.g. healthy food production and distribution, power generation, a reduction in carbon dioxide levels);
  • Encouraging a healthy lifestyle for the population that would make it possible to reduce hospital admissions to a minimum;
  • Striving for the achievement of a high quality of life in all aspects of city planning and development.

Following the criteria enumerated above, Cyberjaya was to become not only a community that implements ecological policies and protects the environment but also an integrated planned habitat that is continuously involved in ecological improvement, which includes concerns over efficient resource distribution, public health promotion, safety, and the overall well-being of the population. Since the city already had a vast territory occupied by a park, the project was viewed as one that could actually be implemented in practice (San Onga et al. 2016).

Moreover, the local community was attached to this area, and most of the city population already preferred to spend free time in the Lake Gardens, which meant that expanding the garden to the whole community was sure to be supported by the majority of residents.

Yet, the idea went much further than the simple planting of more trees or the enlarging of park territory; indeed, it would involve the development of waste-free, transportation-efficient, low-carbon, sustainable practices that would be incorporated in the construction of new areas and would transform the old ones (Bohari et al. 2016). Parks would be included in the project not simply as recreational zones but as the “lungs” of the city, making it possible to reduce carbon output and achieve a higher quality of air and water—the latter of which is especially relevant to Cyberjaya and its famous lake.

Living, working, shopping, playing sports, and resting were all supposed to be combined within the new framework since green urbanism represents community cohesion and a shared commitment to green consciousness in all activities. Efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions were supposed to be multidirectional, the idea being that the quality of life, accommodation, education, and even mental health of people largely depend on their surroundings.

Well-designed and properly managed green spaces were recognized by the Malaysian government to be crucial for the development of businesses as well. That is why the majority of companies operating in the area had to switch from traditional modes of operation to sustainable ones (Supni et al. 2015).

It was decided that the whole community of Cyberjaya was to contribute to the development and incorporation of green elements into daily life: Green spaces and corridors, trees planted in the streets, roof gardens, and other innovations were made a priority among residents, who were further encouraged to propose their own initiatives on how to improve the area (Bohari et al. 2016).

The idea of green township is primarily based not on the amount of green landscape but on green performance, ranging from effective water and air management to energy-saving systems. However, the most important aspect of this concept is changing the attitude of the population and creating a unique vision that provides clear guidelines for this new way of life. A new way of life necessitates a new way of thinking and thus relies upon the commitment of all residents. It would be useless to expand the area of the Lake Gardens by planting new trees unless all the other steps enumerated above are taken.

This was the conclusion ultimately reached by the Malaysian government, which has had significant experience promoting environmental innovations in a number of its city plans since the introduction of the 8th Malaysia Plan (2001-2005). The common idea of such projects is to intensify the sustainable use of resources and to propose efficient environmental initiatives that cover the industrial, residential, and commercial sectors simultaneously.

The success of any project is usually measured by its ability to become law, making it a standard or a guideline to be implemented on a larger scale in a number of cities across the country. The government has already come up with its National Physical Plan (NPP) and National Urbanization Policy (NUP), both of which provide a national framework for achieving a totally new status by 2020. The policies can be summarized as follows (Bohari et al. 2016):

  • A transit-oriented development (TOD2) concept was proposed to increase the viability of public transportation in busy areas while developing walkway connections.
  • Solid waste disposal and pollution recovery facilities were created for urban areas to improve their current ecological state; moreover, the National Solid Waste Master Plan entails recycling, collection, and disposal.
  • Electricity generation plants were built to provide a supply of green energy to consumers as they generate energy from sun, wind, biomass, and water instead of using traditional sources that damage the environment.

All these introduced acts and launched projects demonstrate that the nation is ready to support green urbanism. This intention was reflected in Malaysia’s National Urbanization Policy, signed in 2006, which regulates the utilization of open spaces (including their use for tourism), waste management, urban growth, transport development, and renewable energy generation. For cities including Cyberjaya, this policy entails the follow strategies (Bohari et al. 2016):

  • Using land for urbanization optimally, especially concerning green areas and natural landmarks as all new buildings must be compatible with the surroundings;
  • Promoting urban regeneration and re-development programs to save costs;
  • Meeting the needs of the population in green areas that would have a minimal level of carbon emissions;
  • Creating cost-effective transportation systems that are easy to use and do not pollute the environment (including the promotion of bicycles and electric cars);
  • Building toxic waste management systems and programs including the use of biodegradable materials;
  • Developing housing that would use solar energy; and
  • Reducing noise levels.

Case Study

Value Analysis of the Landscape for Cyberjaya

As mentioned previously, the Lake Gardens play a significant role for tourism in the region as a lot of people come to see this natural landmark, bringing the city considerable economic benefit. However, it would be wrong to assume that the concept of city landscape is reduced to the appreciation of the beauty of the park. On the contrary, city landscape refers to the whole infrastructure and ecology of the city, the geological structure of the soil, its animals and vegetation, and all human activities related to the use of the land that lead to both positive and negative transformations. Generally speaking, the landscape entails both natural resources and people’s interactions with them (Teo 2014).

Thus, the role of the City-in-the-Garden project is hard to overestimate: Its implementation will lead to a substantial transformation of the city landscape, increasing the number of benefits that the Gardens currently contribute to the city. The possible future benefits include the following four major aspects (Bohari et al. 2016):

  1. Giving aesthetic pleasure through the experience of beauty: Although it is often considered a side effect by market analysts, in fact, landscape may inspire many people to launch new green projects, construct buildings, and re-organize public places. Moreover, landscape is a shared experience of the whole city population, providing conditions for people to realize their identity. Another important fact about the beauty of the landscape is that it leads to the cultural development of the city, as many artists, composers, directors, writers, poets, designers, and photographers get inspiration from their surroundings. As a result, the community development of Cyberjaya will be increased as the Gardens move beyond being a tourist attraction and acquire a new status as a vehicle of values.
  2. Preserving nature and maintaining the biological diversity of the city: The ecosystem of any highly developed city suffers from urbanization that affects the natural vegetation, flora, and fauna. Indeed, human interventions are rarely positive. In the majority of cases, the influence of rapid industrial development is ruinous to the environment. Cyberjaya is to become an exception to the rule, as the project is designed to change the nature of urbanization by promoting green industries, green construction strategies, and green jobs to conserve the biological abundance of the city.
  3. Conserving the history of the city: All monuments, landmarks, and buildings that constitute the landscape also have the purpose of preserving human history. The population of Cyberjaya will have an unprecedented impact on the development of the city, giving future generations the chance to dwell there in harmony with nature. This will also increase the environmental consciousness of the population by changing people’s attitudes not only to this particular landmark but also to the city as a whole.
  4. Providing a source of recreation and an attraction for tourists: The Lake Gardens already enjoy immense popularity among tourists as many come to the city to visit them. This popularity will only grow as the area is expanded. The public use of natural landmarks not only serves recreational purposes but also gives the city economic benefits. People expect such areas to offer all kinds of activities including walking, biking, climbing, gliding, taking photographs, organizing picnic and parties, swimming, and more. When the green area covers the whole city, the number of activities there will be practically unlimited.

Establishing Economic Value

The creation of strong economic value deserves a separate discussion. Any property development, even one related to environmental conservation, pursues the ultimate goal of making profit. The landscape project of Cyberjaya presents the selected area as an asset that promotes the distinctive character of the city and determines the direction of business and environmental activities in the future. Still, appropriate mechanisms and marketing strategies are required to establish the strong value of this property since it is not privately owned and is unlikely to attract investors at the present moment. First and foremost, it is important to emphasize the fact that landscapes provide the following services to the economy (Samarrokhi et al. 2014):

  • Attracting artistic professionals whose work increases the touristic popularity of the city;
  • Creating opportunities for physical exercise and sports, which in turn may lead some investors to build sports grounds, playgrounds, and stadiums in the Gardens to make it possible for professional sportsmen to train in the open;
  • Providing recreational opportunities to local residents, which will open a wide range of business opportunities for real estate, sales, and entertainment;
  • Acting as a carbon sink and reducing the level of other dangerous emissions, which is economically beneficial as it eliminates the need to devise more expensive ways of pollution management.

It can be logically deduced that some of the given benefits are obtained directly from the area itself, while others are indirect and do not require any financial investments to be received. Economic profits from the Lake Gardens are obtained in the following ways (Samarrokhi et al. 2014):

  1. Direct use values: Such benefits are received as a result of the use of the natural landscape by people. This category is usually subdivided into extractive and non-extractive values; the former presupposes the use of the area for timber and non-timber products, which could be obtained without having to cut trees (e.g. flowers, mushrooms, berries, fruit, roots, herbs) and later consumed or sold. The latter values are connected with recreational benefits, research projects, and educational and commercial studies that make it possible to analyze new opportunities for growth and business in the area.
  2. Indirect use values: This type refers to the environmental functions of natural resources that can be used by residents for their economic activities (such as controlling erosion and lake sedimentation). The landscape under discussion can provide Cyberjaya with a number of other services including carbon sequestration, micro-climate stabilization, and the purification of water and air.
  3. Optional values: The transformation of the city into a city-in-the-garden will create an optional value of conserving the landscape for future generations. Another optional value is maintaining the biodiversity of the area.
  4. Non-use values: All the enumerated values are derived by using the landscape in a particular way; however, there is also the value of not using it and merely knowing that it exists in the city. Even though some areas cannot bring economic profit, they can satisfy people’s needs to see natural beauty conserved. This category of values is especially applicable to the given case, as the Lake Gardens are unique as a natural landmark.

Implementation Strategy and Associated Risks

The proposed project will be implemented through the following sequence of steps:

  • Increasing the green coverage of the Lake Gardens area for it to encompass the whole city;
  • Promoting the use of renewable energy sources and waste management systems;
  • Transforming the physical infrastructure of Cyberjaya to align with green township principles;
  • Increasing population awareness;
  • Encouraging green initiatives in businesses and industry;
  • Providing educational, financial, and technical assistance as well as market benefits to those who want to invest in the area’s development;
  • Proposing new environmental standards to the government for the city’s model to be used by other regions;
  • Introducing a green code of conduct for the local population as well as tourists;
  • Developing responsible tourism in the area;
  • Encouraging engagement among young people who want to participate in the project;
  • Attracting organizations that may assist with project planning and implementation;
  • Forming committees and agencies that will be responsible for managing risk and evaluating results; and
  • Ensuring good governance of the project at the national level.

The major risks associated with the project implementation are as follows:

  • Lack of government funding;
  • Lack of funding provided by private investors and organizations;
  • Delays due to red tape as the number of stakeholders is quite large;
  • Problems arising from associated projects (e.g. green building design, air and water filtration systems, waste management);
  • Risks to tourism as the area is under development;
  • Damage to the natural habitat and biodiversity of the Gardens; and
  • Unscrupulous businesses that may do harm to the area in their pursuit of profit.

Research Method

The research method will depend on an observation of how the green city initiative is implemented. This close observation must be done in order to detect mistakes in the initial design of the strategic plan and to change the direction of the program as necessary. However, this observation must be performed on several levels for it to be effective and comprehensive:

  • Technical experts will be hired and provided with all necessary equipment and logistical support to be able to monitor the process and uncover its flaws.
  • A monitoring committee will assess the progress of the project on regular basis.
  • A research team will evaluate the correspondence of the project with the major targets, objectives, and expected outcomes of green township.
  • Representatives of various municipal agencies, political parties, and population groups will be invited to perform an independent evaluation.
  • A risk management team will address the challenges and risks related to the project and develop plans to prevent and eliminate them.

Analysis and Results

In order to make conclusions about the proposed initiative, it is necessary to analyze not only its financial and non-financial values but also its overall impact. The most important aspect of the project in Cyberjaya is its direct contribution to the development of a garden nation—an aspiration that the Malaysian government has had since the end of the 1990s. The successful experience of one city will allow other cities to adopt its policies. Thus, the project will be analyzed by the following criteria (Kasbun, The & Ong 2016):

  1. Successfully contributing to the building of the garden nation: Since the implementation of the project is connected with drastic environmental changes, it may bring about certain negative consequences as the natural balance of the area may be accidentally disturbed. However, if implemented successfully, the project will make the city an example of how to build the garden nation.
  2. Establishing a green infrastructure: It is essential that the project not be limited to mere expansion of the Lake Gardens, as its ultimate goal of changing the city infrastructure will benefit people and organizations. A close look at Cyberjaya reveals that the community is consistent with the green township vision, which means that there is a good chance for success with this initiative.
  3. Conserving and preserving natural resources: This target is both environmental and economic. Any project has to be assessed based on its ability to cut cost and create value. As shown in the value analysis of the previous section, this initiative is capable of saving resources and fostering their optimal use by local residents.
  4. Ensuring that the landscape is taken into consideration by all stakeholders: This factor is crucial for any environmental project as the initiative must be aligned with all efforts in the city. Such commitment requires a coordinated effort of the whole community and cannot be guaranteed by the implementation of a single initiative. The task of the government is to ensure that a business that violates green principles is not accepted in the region.
  5. Reviewing and improving legislation related to landscape management: This is another factor that cannot be achieved by the proposed project. Although it presupposes a change of attitude toward environmental development and active participation of businesses and citizens, it lacks legal power to be able to change laws related to the environment.
  6. Strengthening industries that can operate in the area: The project will create many opportunities for the development of recreational, entertainment, sport, research, and other facilities and foster the development of several business sectors.
  7. Fostering landscape as one of the integral parts of people’s way of life: The project is to emphasize the unique character of the tropical climate in Malaysia as well as its geological formations. Thus, all improvements to cities must be made creatively in order to ensure that no violation of the natural characteristics of the land occurs. Moreover, the country’s culture and historical significance must be preserved, no matter what alterations are made. The initiative under discussion has this potential on the local level; yet, it is difficult to state whether the experience of Cyberjaya will be adopted by other cities in the nation.
  8. Promoting the principle of “design follows function”: Although attractive design and creativity are important (especially concerning tourist attractions), the project outcome can be positive only if the new infrastructure is functional. Functionality is the key goal of the given project, and there is a risk that, if some steps are omitted, the idea will be reduced to its secondary aesthetic function.

Having analyzed the project against the selected criteria, the following conclusions can be reached:

  • The initiative is viable.
  • It makes a contribution to building the garden nation.
  • The project will not only establish but also promote green infrastructure.
  • It will allow for the preservation of natural resources.
  • It lacks legislative power.
  • There is no guarantee that it will be aligned with other business initiatives.
  • The implementation of the project will emphasize and promote the Malaysian lifestyle.
  • If some of the steps are not given proper attention, there is a risk that design will prevail over functionality.

Conclusion

The idea of the Malaysian government to create Cyberjaya as a pioneering city in green technology needs to be developed so that it may be adopted by other cities in the country. The only large-scale project connected with open-air recreational zones currently existing in the city is the Lake Gardens, the major landscaped space of Cyberjaya. Thus, the initiative of the green city project is to transform the only garden in the city into a city in the garden.

Based on a value analysis, it is possible to conclude that the initiative has strong potential to turn Cyberjaya into an uninterrupted open space, which will bring numerous economic, cultural, and aesthetic benefits. However, for this positive outcome to be achieved, it is necessary to be mindful of the risks that may undermine the success of the project and eliminate them.

Reference List

Abidin, NZ 2016, Environmental concerns in Malaysian construction industry, Penerbit USM, Gelugor.

Aziz, AA 2016, ‘Execution of contemporary Islamic architecture through design: the Cyberjaya green platinum mosque project in Malaysia’, WIT Transactions on The Built Environment, vol. 159, no. 1, pp. 11-22.

Bohari, AAM, Skitmore, M, Xia, B & Zhang, X 2016, ‘Insights into the adoption of green construction in Malaysia: the drivers and challenges’, Environment-Behaviour Proceedings Journal, vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 45-53.

Hosseini, SE & Abdul Wahid, M 2014, ‘The role of renewable and sustainable energy in the energy mix of Malaysia: a review’, International Journal of Energy Research, vol. 38, no. 14, pp. 1769-1792.

Jereme, A, Siwar, C, Begum, RA & Alam, MM 2015, ‘An assessment of waste management operation in Malaysia: case study on Kuala Langat and Sepang Innocent’, International Journal of Environment and Waste Management, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 133-144.

Kasbun, NF, Teh, BH & Ong, TS 2016, ‘Sustainability reporting and financial performance of Malaysian public listed companies’, Institutions and Economies, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 78-93.

Samarrokhi, A, Jenab, K, Arumugam, VC & Weinsier, PD 2014, ‘Analysis of the effects of operations strategies on sustainable competitive advantage in manufacturing systems’, International Journal of Industrial and Systems Engineering, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 34-49.

San Onga, T, Tehb, BH, Ngc, SH & Sohd, WN 2016, ‘Environmental management system and financial performance’, Environmental Management, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 26-52.

Supni, SA, Utaberta, N, Ismail, NA, Ariffin, NFM, Yunos, MYM & Ismail, S 2015, ‘Review on effective energy management system for urban mosques in Malaysia’, Advances in Environmental Biology, vol. 9, no. 24, pp. 11-15.

Teo, YH 2014, ‘Water services industry reforms in Malaysia’, International Journal of Water Resources Development, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 37-46.

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