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YTL does its bit to preserve environment via Bird Island

   
From left: YTL Land executive director Datuk Victor Yeoh, project advisor & master planner of Bird Island Competition Stephen Pimbley and Tan Sri Francis Yeoh at Bird Island in Sentul Park.

The Star Online, July 9, 2007

By S.C. Cheah

It is always heartening to hear of companies that care about society. It can be helping the underprivileged, ­fighting diseases or making the world a better place to live in. YTL Land & Development Bhd­ (YTL Land), a leading property developer in the country, is in the fore­front of shaping the mental and physical landscape for a greener housing industry.

It has been advocating environ­mental protection and promoting energy efficiency for over a decade, and has called its mission "seeking zero", a rallying cry for people every­where to start taking responsibility for their own lifestyle, in order to create a more sustainable society in the long term.

In this regard, it has launched another initiative called the Bird Island Green Homes Competition on July 3. Bird Island is the name of a small island in the centre of its 35-acre Sentul Park in Sentul West, Kuala Lumpur. The park itself is testimony of YTL Land's efforts to preserve as much greenery as possible while­ retaining the old Sentul name, which the name of a big tree.

(Its other initiatives include the Climate Change Week in March). YTL Land has commissioned this competition, the first green architec­tural competition of its kind in the world, where eight renowned inter­national architectural firms will compete to build six "sustainable architectural" designs that can min­imise the negative environmental impact of buildings by enhancing efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, energy, and develop­ment space.

The eight firms are Atelier 10, Grant Associates, Plasma Studio (all from Britain), GRAFT (Germany), Zoka Zola (US), lnnovarchi (Australia), KplusK Associates (Hong-Kong) and MAD (China). These firms will have until Aug 19 to submit their designs along with a proposal statement. The designs will be judged based on architectural vision, which covers innovation, new approaches to materials and sustainability, and also contempo­rary design in a sustainable commu­nity and landscape.

The designs will also be judged from an engineering aspect encompassing new ways of engaging sustainable technologies, low maintenance solutions and abil­ity to meet energy consumption targets.

Six houses (on sites from 150 to 180 sq metres) based on the six win­ning designs will be-built on Bird Island. Each team will submit two designs for a three-bedroom villa. The winners will be announced in September.

YTL Land managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, who is the chairman of the panel of eight judges, stressed that it was not YTL's inten­tion to derive monetary gain from the competition as the six eco-friendly homes would not be for sale but would hopefully pave the way for "green architecture" in Malaysia.

In fact, YTL will be spending some US$200,000 on the event, not count­ing the cost of building the houses. The participating architects are allowed to spend up to US$250,000 to build each home, which may later be rented out.

However, more importantly is the "invaluable learning opportunity" that this unique YTL Land project (brainchild of YTL Land executive director Datuk Victor Yeoh Seok Kian) presents for Malaysian architects and engineers. The competi­tion's project advisor and master planner Stephen Pimbley is a part­ner of SMC Alsop, one of Britain's renowned architectural firms.

It will showcase the best in terms of cutting edge design and compli­ance with the highest international accreditation standards for energy, efficiency and sustainability. YTL Land has made a bold gesture to contribute something to society,' unlike many corporations today which are only concerned with mak­ing profits.

In the housing industry we have seen many developers merely build and build, resulting in ill-conceived developments. The question is: "Can these designs be translated into mass housing for the average Malaysian?"

Malaysia has abundant sunshine and there have been talks over the years of using photovoltaic cells to tap solar energy to provide electrici­ty for the homes. Perhaps YTL Land's "seeking zero" initiative can be an impetus to revive interest in areas such as solar energy.

Meanwhile Francis Yeoh said after launching the competition that with the Government's recent incentives for the property market and encour­aging more foreigners to make Malaysia their second home, Malaysian developers should build "wonderful" homes for both foreign­ers and Malaysians to match global standards. .

He lamented that many develop­ers took the easy way of merely constructing buildings that might not stand the test of time. In Singapore, for instance, many condominiums were being torn down and redeveloped by top archi­tects and sold at a much higher price, "We do not want to go down the expediency way. We want to build a masterpiece that can sustain through the ages," said Yeoh, quoting legendary American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright: "All fine archi­tectural values are human values, else not valuable."

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