The human race has been trying to save planet Earth for as long as we’ve been destroying it. Take a moment to ponder the irony, spare yourself a short laugh, then have yourself a cry before sobering up and reading on.
The real estate development industry has long been one of the chief destroyers of our environment. We’ve lost trees, cliff sides and even shorelines to expand our concrete jungles. More often than not the uncontrolled development of housing areas and high-rise residences are unnecessary as they are left as vacant eye-sores, waiting to be torn down and replaced by equal excess.
With that being the case, I suppose the question is – how do we fix it?
Sometimes, the industry decides to fix it themselves.
Dr Lee Ville was born into a family highly invested and involved in the real estate industry, so much so that even after venturing into the medical profession, he couldn’t ignore the calling back to the company that played an important role in his upbringing. The New Bob Group has a history in Penang dating back 57 years, giving it a unique perspective on the evolution of real estate on the island; a perspective not lost on Dr Lee who himself has seen over a decade of change in the industry and is looking to be a part of a new one.
“People usually talk about the importance of going green, save the world, and being environmentally friendly,” he tells me when asked if the ‘going green’ is merely a trend. “The fact is most consumers are currently not even asking for it. It doesn't make any difference to them whether it's green or not. We simply want to be a responsible developer who strongly believe in sustainable development and going green for the future generations.”
The concept behind environmentally friendly homes is multi-layered, starting from its design to its construction and its final function.
“A green home is a home designed utilizing as much renewable natural resources as possible.”
These resources include natural light from the sun and natural ventilation from the wind. When the potential of these resources are harnessed from a design standpoint and the home is constructed with suitable recyclable materials simultaneously, it reduces our reliance on artificial lighting and air conditioning.
However, nothing as simple comes without a cost: “(green homes) definitely cost more, between 5% and 15% extra.”
While the aforementioned light and wind harnessing design elements, or passive features are not costly per se, the other end of the process ie how the home functions may include some costlier active features. These could include LED lighting, motion sensors, air-conditioners with inverters and even solar paneling.
“Green homes awareness is relatively low in Malaysia. Only certain locations in our country are made mandatory to develop green homes. Therefore, green properties are currently more expensive than non-green homes. The only solution to bring down the cost of green home materials is to make it a requirement in Malaysia for all projects to be green. Higher consumption of green products will ultimately drive suppliers to bring down the cost.”
While it appears that economics may be a hurdle to more affordable green homes, Dr Lee is quick to point out that “although it is more costly than regular homes, it helps you save on electricity and water cost in the long run.”
The rules of economics would call that a large investment for a long-term gain.
It’s hard to argue against the idea that ‘green homes’ are going to be a bigger part of our near future especially when you consider we may have no future at all if all the players across the stage don’t play their part to save and conserve.
“Globally resources are becoming scarcer and the real estate development industry is one of the biggest consumers of natural resources,” Dr Lee puts it grimly. “Hopefully through our efforts, we are able to influence more people to go in the same direction as us.”
For other Malaysians doing their part for a better future, take a look at Rebekah Yeoh of Global Shapers Community KL