Environmental sustainability calls for compliance to environmentally sustainable practices in order to showcase Malaysia as a low carbon, sustainable building and infrastructure hub. Illegal dumping of construction and demolition waste and the extensive cost of repairing damaged buildings and infrastructure from natural disasters are key issues to be tackled.
Case for Change
There are three specific issues identified to be addressed under environmental sustainability:
1. Lack of sustainability-rated construction; Buildings and infrastructure are not always resilient to natural calamities
The lack of clearly articulated, overarching policies and regulations relating to the need for sustainability ratings and assessments has led to a negative perception and ‘don’t care’ attitude with regard to environmental sustainability, as evidenced by the fact that less than two per cent of buildings and infrastructure in Malaysia are rated for environmental sustainability.
The sustainability rating tools available for buildings in the country are very limited (e.g. GBI, MyCREST) and to date Malaysia does not have a comprehensive sustainable infrastructure rating tool that is able to assess and preclude the usage of materials and practices that are incongruent to sustainability.Additionally there is no mandate that advocates the hiring of contractors that are certified in environmental management (ISO 14000) and due to this very few Malaysian companies (less than 1%) currently possess such certifications.
This lack of adoption of sustainable materials and practices has resulted in a built environment which is relatively less resilient to natural calamities, which can prove disastrous in countries such as Malaysia which are prone to heavy flooding and monsoons, whereby the costs of damage can lead into billions of ringgits.
2. High carbon emissions and energy usage of buildings
Malaysia’s CO2-equivalent emissions are comparatively high, with the ratio of GDP: CO2 among the lowest in the world. Additionally Malaysia’s growth in CO2 surpasses the growth in most emerging economies. This is due to the fact that residential and commercial buildings are among the largest consumers of energy and water as well as producers of emissions and waste. This will need to be addressed given that the relatively low market demand for sustainable building solutions in Malaysia today has resulted in a correspondingly weak ecosystem for sustainability, whereby contribution to resource efficiency from the construction industry needs to be evaluated.
3. High volume of construction and demolition waste dumping
As a significant generator of waste, with relatively low levels of recycling, the construction industry contributes significantly to the problem of rapidly depleting landfills in Malaysia, to environmental pollution and to the negative impact on living conditions of Malaysians.
The key challenges faced within the industry are the limited awareness and guidance about adopting sustainability practices, combined with the lack of regulatory and operational frameworks for responsible waste management.
The CITP aims for Malaysia’s environmentally sustainable construction industry to be developed to a point that is can eventually be rolled out as a model to the emerging world. Therefore the key outcomes for 2020 in relation to sustainability include 100% of large infrastructure and building projects to exceed sustainability requirements as well as facilitating a 4 Mt CO2 reduction per annum.
This thrust is aligned to the Sustainability Goal (strategic thrust 4) of the 11th Malaysia Plan: “Pursuing green growth for sustainability and resilience”, and overall attempts to make Malaysia’s infrastructure more resilient and sustainable while aiding environmental protection and ensuring Malaysian living standards are not compromised.
Malaysia’s sustainable infrastructure: a model for the emerging world
CITP aims for Malaysia’s environmentally sustainable construction to be a model for the emerging world, and especially ASEAN countries.
Three specific issues have been identified in the construction industry relating to environmental sustainability:
- Lack of sustainability-rated construction; buildings and infrastructure are not always resilient to natural calamities
- High carbon emissions and energy usage of buildings
- High volume of construction and demolition waste dumping
To address these challenges, the CITP puts forward five core initiatives:
Initiative E1: Drive innovation in sustainable construction
Initiative E2: Drive compliance to environmental sustainability ratings and requirements
Initiative E3: Focus on public projects to lead the charge on sustainable practices
Initiative E4: Facilitate industry adoption of sustainable practices
Initiative E5: Reduce irresponsible waste during construction