120 PERSPECTIVES ON THE PANDEMIC
TRANSFORM DRIVES VIETNAM DESIGN 82
112 CO-WORKING TAKES NEW TACK
TOKENISATION GETS OFF THE BLOCK 104
68 YANGON’S ACT OF SELF-PRESERVATION
USD10; SGD13; IDR135,000; MYR41; THB330
BTR BOOST FOR BRITAIN 133
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ISSUE 163 Publisher Jules Kay Editor Duncan Forgan Deputy Editor Al Gerard de la Cruz Senior Editor Richard Allan Aquino Digital Editor Gynen Kyra Toriano Media Relations Manager Thaddeus Siu Senior Media Relations Executive Tanattha Saengmorakot Media Relations Executive Piyachanok Raungpaka Marketing Manager Marco Dulyachinda Editorial Contributors Tricia Morente, Liam Aran Barnes, Bill Bredesen, Diana Hubbell, Steve Finch, George Styllis, Jonathan Evans Head of Creative Ausanee Dejtanasoontorn Senior Graphic Designer Poramin Leelasatjarana Sales Director Udomluk Suwan Regional Business Development Manager Kanittha Srithongsuk Corporate Partnerships Executive Chayanee Chavaratanachai (Fiona) Amonlapa Somtaveesilp (Mickey) Regional Solutions Manager Orathai Chirapornchai Business Development Manager, Corporate Sales (Singapore) Alicia Loh Solutions Manager (Thailand) Kritchaorn Rattanapan Rattanarat Srisangsuk Solutions Manager (Philippines) Marylourd Pique Maria Elena Sta. Maria Solutions Manager (Vietnam) Quan Nguyen Solutions Manager (Indonesia) Amanda Michelle Wulan Putri Solutions Manager (Cambodia) Phumet Puttasimma Solutions Executive (Malaysia) Samuel Poon Solutions Manager (Australia) Watcharaphon Chaisuk (Jeff) Solutions Manager (Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau) Huiqing Xia (Summer) Kai Lok Solutions Manager (Myanmar) Nyan Zaw Aung (Jordan) Solutions Manager (India and Sri Lanka) Monika Singh
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CONTENTS | Issue 163
Festive furnishings and accessories to enliven even the most intimate gathering
Stay warm and look sharp as temperatures ease down for winter
Spread good cheer with these tech-orientated items C
Project Confidential: Self-preservation
Interview: People person
Design focus: Agent of change
Yangon’s legendary Secretariat has been restored and reimagined as a mixed-use site
JLL’s Wilma Gerber is evangelical about the synergies between real estate and tech when the latter is applied with a human touch
Thien Duong of Transform Architects is taking a proactive and sustainable approach to redefining the design landscape in Vietnam 49
CONTENTS | Issue 163
Neighbourhood Watch: Toa Payoh
In Depth: Chip off the old block
In Depth: Wide open spaces
The venerable Singapore enclave is forging a reputation for forward-thinking design allied to world-class amenities, thanks to Bidadari, one of the country’s most anticipated developments
Tokenisation has the potential to eliminate paper trails and make real estate investment liquid, transparent and inclusive
The pandemic may have slowed the momentum of the co-working trend, but pioneers in the industry believe their models can adapt
In Depth: Region in recovery
Dispatch: Open to all-comers
Dispatch: Shelter from the storm
Southeast Asia’s nations are emerging from the pandemic with their real estate sectors showing unmistakeable signs of life
Little Laos is hoping that relaxed foreign ownership rules can inject life into its housing market, with Chinese investors a prime target
The Build to Rent (BTR) sector in the UK is a shining light that is increasingly catching the eyes of Asian investors
EDITOR’S NOTE Issue 163
The end of the year is typically a time for revelry combined with reflection on the wins and losses of the months just passed. In 2020, most of us would likely be thankful for amnesia as we fight through the wreckage of one of history’s bleaker periods.
With travel curtailed, loved ones separated and freedoms surrendered as a result due to the ongoing pandemic, the year just gone by has been anything but a classic.
Nevertheless, life goes on as it must. And, amid some signs that Southeast Asia at least is emerging from the worst of the crisis, it is to the future that we look in this, our final issue of the year. Our special features this issue dust off the crystal ball to gaze into the near and longer-term outlook for the real estate industry in the region. There’s a round-up of how different markets are bearing up as we head into 2021, a deep dive into the shape of the co-working industry, and a primer on tokenisation: a potentially revolutionary model of investment. Elsewhere, we take a spin around the world to home in on some of the people, news and projects making waves in 2020. These range from changes to foreign ownership laws in Laos to the exciting renovation of one of Myanmar’s most historically notable buildings. Enjoy and see you all in 2021.
Duncan Forgan Property Report firstname.lastname@example.org
VIEWS FROM THE TOP Take a peek at the peak of luxury on the doorstep of Singapore’s Greater Southern Waterfront
The southern coast of Singapore is due for a massive urban redevelopment. Straddling 30 kilometres of coastline that stretches from Pasir Panjang to Marina East, the Greater Southern Waterfront of Singapore will be transformed into a new gateway for commerce and an urban living hub. This 2,000-hectare expanse – roughly six times the size of Marina Bay – will be redeveloped in phases for the next five to 10 years, beginning with the 15-hectare Pasir Panjang Power District. In September 2019, a trio of leading developers, comprising UOL Group Limited (UOL), United Industrial Corporation Limited (UIC), and Kheng Leong Company, came together to launch one of the area’s most compelling projects yet – Avenue South Residence. Upon completion in 2023, this 99-year leasehold condominium development will contain some of the highest structures in Singapore. Rising as twin 56-storey towers with five conservation blocks, Avenue South Residence commands amazing, uninterrupted views of the Greater Southern Waterfront. The enormous development will offer a total of 1,074 units. The units on the higher floors, dubbed The Peak Collection, offer the best vantage points of any condominium in the vicinity. Towering above the sky court from the 36th storey upwards, the Avenue South Residence Peak Collection lets its residents take in magnificent views of sea, city and greens. Conceptualised by ADDP Architects, the Avenue South Residence Peak Collection evoke the breeziness of its 54
surrounds with a contemporary interior design palette of white, grey and taupe. The collection also features marble and timber flooring and fittings, supplied by renowned brands like Hansgrohe and Laufen. The unit’s living and dining area is decked in luxurious marble flooring. Cool to the touch, it sets the tone for a restful home. With a levelled balcony floor, these spaces instantly become larger and brighter once you slide open the doors – an ideal space to host your guests. The layout is also spacious and functional with a dry and wet kitchen, equipped with Gaggenau kitchen appliances. Set in a 246,000-square-foot site next to the city centre in District 3, the development gives property seekers utmost accessibility and a chance to live in a verdant environment. It is also seamlessly connected to the Rail Corridor; inspired by the High Line in New York, the leafy former railroute represents a direct link to the island’s heritage and provides a continuous, green cycling route stretching from Anson Road to Marina Bay. Together, the 988-unit towers comprising Avenue South Residence have broken a record as the world’s tallest buildings created with Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) technology. The twin towers come with “sky gardens”, from which residents and guests can admire unbeatable panoramas of the Greater Southern Waterfront. Avenue South Residence, set along Silat Avenue, is just near the upcoming Cantonment MRT station, giving property seekers more reasons to reside in the area. The
neighbourhood around Avenue South Residence offers popular retail options such as Tiong Bahru Plaza and VivoCity as well as diverse F&B options. Enjoy the juxtaposition of old and new at some of Singapore’s most popular hotspots – Tiong Bahru, Keong Saik Road, New Bridge Road and Duxton Hill. From undergound level all the way to the top floor, Avenue South Residence teems with facilities. The properties feature more than 80 amenities, divided into eight unique zones, including multiple water features such as exercise lap pools, kids’ pools, and infinity pools with an aqua gym.
Singapore, such as Meyer House, The Clement Canopy and Principal Garden. Offering a strategic location above Singapore’s next big economic centre, Avenue South Residence Peak Collection embodies the height of residential property development in the nation.
Opportunities for physical activity abound. Aside from a state-of-the-art gym, residents can stroll along the Eco Fitness Garden Trail, lined with workout equipment, or use climbing facilities like the Rock Wall and King Crawler. In addition, the development offers a tennis court, mini golf, function rooms, a childcare centre, playground, pavilions, pet maze, clubhouse, sun decks, alcoves, cabanas, and a spa. With its strategic location overlooking the Greater Southern Waterfront, Avenue South Peak Collection offers superior investment opportunities and great potential for capital appreciation. Tenants as well as home seekers have already been gravitating toward the properties for end use. Investors and end users are in good hands with Avenue South Residence. UOL Group Limited (UOL), United Industrial Corporation Limited (UIC), and Kheng Leong Company are responsible for other award-winning properties in 55
DETAILS | Trends
HOME FOR T HE HOLIDAYS
let’s celebrate together.
Christmas 2020 might not be as sociable as usual, but these festive furnishings and accessories will enliven even the most intimate gathering
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YOU AND YOUR KIN The Greyleigh Filkins Dining Table can easily seat six to 10 people with its two extendable butterfly leaves. The table has a trestle base and is made of pinewood with a weathered barley finish.
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DETAILS | Trends
A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT Literally feast from the wintry scenes illustrated on the 16-piece holiday edition of Gibson Gold dinnerware. The set of porcelain dinner and salad plates, bowls and mugs are dishwasher- and microwave-safe.
Welcome to a new community-focused, affordable housing development in Siem Reap!
ALL IS BRIGHT Christmas dinner hosts can’t go wrong with the Lenox Portola Flatware. Made from brilliant 18/10 stainless steel, this comprehensive, 65-piece set is a thing of beauty with flared handles that terminate with beaded channels.
Bakong Village Co., Ltd Champ
CANES AGLOW Crate and Barrel’s double old-fashioned glasses will bring out your holiday spirit — and contain your spirits just as well. The glassware features candy cane patterns handcrafted from swirled glass.
$9.95 each, crateandbarrel.com
ALL SAINTS Holiday dinners are no silent nights when guests are comfortably seated on the 18.5-inch tall Lark Manor Saint-Gratien chairs, which support up to 300 pounds and sport comely doublecross patterns. Available in five colours.
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DETAILS | Style
BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE Weather outside frightful? The Powder Keg III Jacket by Columbia makes for a heatretentive, stylish winter outfit, thanks to its Omni-Heat 3D thermal-reflective lining.
Stay warm and look sharp as temperatures ease down for winter
SAFE HANDS Hestra’s water-resistant, retro-inspired Wakayama mittens are insulated with Primaloft Gold and made from impregnated cowhide, the perfect way to keep your hands warm in the slopes, highlands, and other cold climes.
SILVER BELLS Layering up could keep you warm only so far. What you need is a heater like the bladeless ceramic Lasko, a 27-inch tall tower that can push 1,500 watts of comforting warmth around 300 square feet of chilly space.
Cover up with the Garnet Hill Plush-Loft Blanket, which sandwiches polyester fill between an elegant-looking layer of quilted sateen and a furlike underside of polyester plush. Available in five sizes, from king to throw.
AS TOAST It’s a race to keep your drink hot longer during cold weather. Win it with the Hydro Flask 22-ounce tumbler; slim, with a powder coating in various colours, it has powerful insulating properties. Its straw has a silicone mouthpiece.
From $29.95, hydroflask.com
DETAILS | Gadgets
IT’S A WRAP
NU DISCO Bang & Olufsen is restoring original, surviving copies of the iconic Beogram 4000 turntables from the 1970s and endowing them with built-in RIAA preamplifiers and other updates.
Spread good cheer this festive season with these tech-oriented items
SPOKEN WORD For its fourth generation, the Amazon Echo Dot has become a sphere, supplemented by a digital clock on its exterior and enhanced with more balanced bass and crisp vocals for music.
From $49.99, amazon.com
ON THE OUTS QUICK FIX The recently announced iPhone 12 comes in an array of colours and equipped with the A14 Bionic, the zippiest chip for smartphones. Record 4K videos through its dual cameras or just behold the sharp images on edge-to-edge OLED.
Give the cinephile in your life the Anker Nebula Capsule Smart Mini Projector. No bigger than a soda can, it can project 100 inches of high-definition video on your walls for up to four hours.
From $699, apple.com
COOL SHADES Shield those peepers from the sun while you listen to music with Bose Frames. These sunglasses conduct sound via the company’s trademark Open Ear Audio technology, which doesn’t drown out ambient noise for your safety.
From $199.95, bose.com
MOVING THE NEEDLE Partnering with the government and venerable financial institutions, Tropicana Corporation Berhad will make your home ownership aspirations come true through 10 not-to-be-missed deals The Home Ownership Campaign (HOC) was one of the most cherished programmes rolled out by the Malaysian government last year. Launched in January 2019, the campaign gave prospective home buyers a leg up the property ladder while reinvigorating sales of unsold residential units in the country. It was originally set to end in June 2019 but was extended by popular demand until December. Now it’s back. With Covid-19 undermining economies worldwide, the government felt it best to reintroduce the campaign in 2020, as part of the federal government’s Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan (PENJANA) which supports vulnerable businesses during the pandemic. As with last year, the new scheme will match up aspiring home owners with the country’s large “overhang” of highquality empty homes, which has hit more than 45,000 units according to official figures.
Property development giant Tropicana Corporation Berhad is one of several reputable developers leading the charge in implementing HOC 2020. This year, the company has launched the 10-TEN EX10SION campaign, which offers an irresistible roster of perks and savings – including 100% financing, 10% discounts, and furnishing packages – to property seekers nationwide. Here are the 10 enticing deals you shouldn’t miss under Tropicana 10-TEN EX10SION: Low booking fees Under the 10-TEN EX10SION campaign, you can take ownership of your favourite Tropicana home for a booking fee of just MYR1,000. This is truly a privilege, considering how booking fees can go as high as 5% of the purchase price in Malaysia.
ADVERTORIAL Flexi-buy You have every right to change your mind when purchasing a property. This can be a challenge to do, however, since most conventional Sales and Purchase Agreements (SPA) can penalise you with up to 10% of the purchase price if you cancel them. If you don’t want to push through with your Tropicana purchase, you don’t have to worry – just apply for the company’s free cancellation and SPA revocation within 30 days. Generous discounts Under the HOC, you can expect your dream purchase to have a minimum discount representing 10% off its price, whether it’s the approved apdl (advertising permit and developer’s license) pricing or the selling price after completion. That’s not all – the HOC will also exempt you from stamp duties on instruments of transfer and loan agreement for the purchase of residential homes. These perks apply to a wide price range of Tropicana homes, from affordable units fetching MYR300,000 to luxurious dwellings costing MYR2.5 million. Furnishing Package It is no secret that a bulk of home buyers’ expenses will go to furnishing their new addresses. In fact, spending on household goods, which mostly comprise furniture, appliances, and utensils, is expected to hit MYR55.6
billion by 2023, a study by Fitch Solutions shows. The 10-TEN EX10SION campaign was created with the knowledge that not all furnishings will be to a home buyer’s taste. With this scheme, you can curate your own set of furniture and fittings, which means more savings and less stress in the process. 100% Financing Tropicana has partnered with respected banking institution Maybank Islamic to put first- and second-time home buyers closer to their dreams of homeownership. Under Maybank’s HouzKEY Homeownership Plan, prospective home owners can obtain 100% financing and flexibility. In other words, no downpayment is required; no payments will also be collected at any point during the construction of your home. Payments are only required after you move in, and even then, the monthly payments are as low as they can be. 10:90 scheme When your dream house is still under construction, your loan for it will be handed to you in increments, each with expensive progressive interest rates. Through Tropicana’s 10:90 scheme, you are able to accumulate savings on progressive interest and put down a minimal capital outlay. You can lock in your investment with just 10% payment while the remaining 90% can be deferred until the completion of the project.
Easy payment scheme Many property seekers in Malaysia abandon their dreams of home ownership because of low margins of finance or unfavourable loan-to-value (LTV) ratios. Those who could only secure an 80% loan margin or lower, for example, may find themselves unable to settle the differential sum payment in one go. No need to fret – Tropicana can now let you settle your differential sum payments in zerointerest instalments of up to 18 months, unburdening you of worrisome financial commitments. Free MOT The memorandum of transfer (MOT) tends to surprise many homeowners upon the handover of their properties. This document, also known as the stamp duty for the transfer of ownership title, can be very pricey, with costs that add up as the purchase price of the property gets higher. Today, Tropicana is offering to give you the MOT for free, saving you the hassle and giving you big savings instead. Double referral rewards Just because you already own or live in a
Tropicana property doesn’t mean you stop enjoying perks from the company. When you refer family, friends and others to a Tropicana unit, you get additional rebates for as much as 2% off the net purchase price. The best things in life are truly shared. Moratorium The new normal is a reality that Tropicana has made considerations for in the last few months. Knowing the detrimental economic effects of the pandemic, the company will offer you a 6-month moratorium and interest waiver if you suddenly get unemployed, suffer a pay cut, or – worse – get diagnosed with Covid-19. Your physical wellbeing is of great concern to Tropicana.
township in Subang Jaya; Tropicana Gardens, a 17-acre transit-oriented integrated development; and Tropicana Heights, a 199-acre freehold masterplanned community in Kajang. Your ambitions of home ownership need not be at a standstill just because the world is. Zero hassles and 100% flexibility – this is the premise of Tropicana’s 10TEN EX10SION campaign, and it’s yours to enjoy today.
Plenty of superlatively designed residential projects await property seekers applying for the 10-TEN EX10SION campaign. Eligible properties under the campaign include those in Tropicana Aman, an 863acre, self-contained township development containing an 85-acre central park and the Tenby International School; Tropicana Metropark, the largest freehold integrated
SELF PRESERVATION 68
The scene of some of the most epochal moments in Myanmar’s history, the Secretariat in Yangon has been reimagined as a mixed-use site that combines reverence for the past with a focus on the future BY AL GERARD DE LA CRUZ
“Many people still don’t know the exact spot where the general was assassinated, but we’ve known since 2016,” he says, referring to Burmese politician Gen. Aung San, the martyred father of present State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. He was slain in 1947 along with eight others in the Secretariat in a murder orchestrated by political opponents. Now adapted for reuse as a mixed-use site, the building offers office, retail, and event and exhibition facilities in spaces that once bore witness to seminal events in Myanmar’s history. It joins The Pegu Club and The Strand Hotel among the recent spate of colonial-era buildings in Yangon that have been privatised and afforded a 21stcentury sheen. Completed in 1905, the Secretariat was the administrative seat of British Burma. In 1948, it was the place that the British handed over independence to Burma, as Myanmar was formerly known. Subsequently, it housed various government departments. The transfer of the capital from Yangon to Naypyidaw in 2005 left the Secretariat deserted and ripe for redevelopment. Anawmar Art Group stood out among 10 companies that submitted conservation proposals to the Myanmar Investment Commission in 2012. By 2015, the Group had won 50-year leasing rights to the building from the Yangon Regional Government. “There were foreign and local companies tendering for this building, but we exactly followed the conservation management plan from the regional government,” U Myo Min Win says.
s a student in the late 1980s, U Myo Min Win often wondered what lay inside the ornate Victorian and Edwardian brick buildings across the road from his campus in Yangon.
“We saw the Secretariat building every day,” he recalls. “We would try entering the compound, but the government did not allow it at the time.” Now the project director of Anawmar Art Group—the company spearheading the restoration and redevelopment of the Secretariat—U Myo Min Win is perhaps more familiar with the building than anyone. He’s as aware of its architectural glory as he is of some of the epochal moments that have peppered its history.
UNDERGOING A 50YEAR, MULTILATERAL REDEVELOPMENT EFFORT, THE SECRETARIAT HAS RETAINED ITS GRAND FEATURES SUCH AS THE CYLINDRICAL CENTRAL SPACE HOUSING THE SOUTHERN RANGE’S PRINCIPAL STAIR HALL, ILLUMINATED BY A ROOFLIGHT WHICH REPLACES A CLASSICAL DOME
With an estimated project outlay of $35m, Anawmar Art Group plans to recover its investment through a carefully curated tenant mix. Also appealing is the work done on the project by Singapore-based architecture practice, Pomeroy Studio, which has— in the words of U Myo Min Win—combined British colonial design and local culture. Sharing design duties with local architect U Tun Tun Oo—in collaboration with Studio Architetti Croce from Padova, Italy—the practice undertook a comprehensive range of services for the restoration project, including master planning, landscaping, interior design, and even branding.
SOME OF THE SECRETARIAT’S HERITAGE SPACES HAVE BEEN REINVENTED AS RETAIL SPACES. INTERIORS REINTERPRET THE PAN SAY MYO OR NOBLE MYANMAR CRAFTS, FORESHADOWING THE NATION’S ‘CREATIVE FUTURE,’ SAYS JASON POMEROY, THE PROJECT’S LEAD ARCHITECT
THE SECRETARIAT BUILDING HAS THE HIGHEST POLITICAL VALUE IN THIS COUNTRY. THE BRITISH CONTROLLED OUR WHOLE COUNTRY FROM THIS BUILDING, AND OUR LEADERS ALSO TRIED TO GET INDEPENDENCE FROM THIS BUILDING
THE SOUTH WING, THE MAIN RANGE OF THE COMPLEX, WAS ORIGINALLY CONSTRUCTED BETWEEN JANUARY 1890 AND LATE 1902. AFTER ENDURING DECADES OF DISASTER AND DECAY, THE TWO-STOREY CLASSICAL BUILDING, ALONG WITH ITS THREE-STOREY CENTRAL AND TERMINAL BLOCKS, GLOWS A VIBRANT RED ONCE AGAIN WITH EXTENSIVE REPAIRS DONE TO THE BRICKWORK AND CAST STONE AND LIME PLASTER DRESSINGS
“We wanted to celebrate, and give respect to, a structure that has a story to tell, that is, colonialism and independence,” says Jason Pomeroy, principal of Pomeroy Studio. That the Secretariat survived years of natural calamities, even wartime bombing, attests to the genius of its original architect, Henry Hoyne Fox. The structure’s longevity owes in part to the enormous timber logs used to stabilise the soil underneath the building. The complex boasts loadbearing walls, supported by a steel tie-rod system in the south wing—the first one built—and a jack arch system in the east and west wings, which followed 1903 onwards. Clever masonry aside, Myanmar’s powerful seismic activities, coupled with sunken ground conditions onsite, have dealt structural challenges to the Secretariat. A 1930 earthquake toppled many of the complex’s crowning features, notably the classical brick dome over the south wing’s central tower. Along with six domed angle turrets in the southern terminal blocks, the dome once lent the complex a visually arresting roofline. 72
Instead of attempting to recreate the dome, Pomeroy advocated a different tack: reimagining the dome as a traditional Burmese parasol. Similarly, the government’s conservation management plan— drawn up for the non-profit Yangon Heritage Trust by Edinburgh conservation practice Simpson & Brown with Kolkata-based architecture firm Alleya and Associates—recommended instating a glazed dome similar to the Reichstag in Berlin. The Secretariat roofscape, renowned for its signature tile finishing, was severely damaged by Cyclone Nargis in 2008. “When I came to the project the northern range of the project was almost going to collapse,” says U Myo Min Win. “All the roofing was gone. Almost everything was gone. Building alignment and settlement were compromised.” Roofless, derelict, and overgrown with vegetation, the standalone buildings comprising the northern range lent themselves well to façade retention, preserving their vintage exteriors and spawning hip, contemporary interiors. 73
ARCHITECTS DREW ON A VARIETY OF HISTORICAL PHOTOS, PROGRESS REPORTS, AND OTHER DOCUMENTS–SOME DISCOVERED IN THE BRITISH LIBRARY–AND CONDUCTED INTENSIVE DILAPIDATION SURVEYS TO CREATE FAITHFUL RENDERS OF THE RESTORATION
AMONG THE MOST DEFINING INTERIORS OF THE SECRETARIAT, THE GRAND STAIR HALLS IN THE THREE MAIN RANGES ARE NOTED FOR THEIR CAST IRON BALUSTRADES, IMPORTED FROM GLASGOW, AND BURMA TEAK. IMAGES BY KENNY/SHUTTERSTOCK
The conservation management plan’s guiding credo of minimum intervention resonated more with the interconnected southern, western and eastern ranges of the complex where the new Secretariat is almost faithful to the original. Even after 130 years, the intact features of the Secretariat do not scrimp on a sense of arrival. The skylit cylindrical drum of the south wing’s central tower boasts a double grand stair of cast iron and teak with handrails that feature floral motifs. The refurbished Secretariat reflects its British heritage with design flourishes that co-opt the 10 noble crafts of the Myanmar people. This blend of influences sprang, according to Pomeroy, from a desire to simultaneously honour Burma’s colonial past while maintaining a focus on a brighter future for Myanmar as an independent nation. Today, the Secretariat’s main ranges have been repurposed as cultural showrooms, exhibition 74
spaces, and art galleries. The building is also a budding shopping hub for Myanmar handicrafts, with vendors selling everything from lacquerware to jade baubles. “We have so many ethnic groups, costumes, and languages,” says U Myo Min Win. “We would like to show our culture, our traditions, our handicrafts, our traditional workshops. We want to show our unity.” Sprawling for 16 acres, the Secretariat now holds sizable meeting rooms, ballrooms, and indoor and outdoor spaces for private functions, such as the U-shaped, landscaped inner courtyard. Just north of the quadrangle is the Parliament Building, built in 1923. But it is in the west wing where the Secretariat shows its more transcendent aspects. Here, a Buddhist shrine stands in the Executive Council Room, where Gen. Aung San and his colleagues were gunned down. One can still see bullet holes in
THE HERITAGE BUILDING NOW CATERS TO PRIVATE EVENTS IN SPACES SUCH AS THE VICTORIA GRAND BALLROOM, WHICH CAN SEAT MORE THAN 300 GUESTS, AS WELL AS A 7,365-SQUARE-FOOT FUNCTION HALL
this room. Myanmar commemorates the tragedy in solemn Martyrs’ Day rites every year. “The Secretariat building has the highest political value in this country,” says U Myo Min Win. “The British controlled our whole country from this building, and our leaders also tried to get independence from this building.” The Secretariat project is far from finished. Although the current redevelopment phase will be completed in 2021, Anawmar Art Group still has half a century to rebuild and retrofit the complex. They will do so in concurrence with their next big project: a resurrection of Mandalay’s Royal Palace. “We should keep any antique building—not just British colonial buildings,” concludes U Myo Min Win. “It’s important that they are preserved for the benefit of future generations.”
People person Having helped usher JLL through digital transformation, Wilma Gerber is evangelical about the synergies between real estate and tech when the latter is applied with a human perspective BY BILL BREDESEN
JLL’s construction business—and indeed, the company more broadly—has seen first-hand the benefits of comprehensive digitisation. Having completed the transformation process from end to end, it now has access to highly reliable, up-to-the-minute data that can easily be visualised. This covers everything from sales data to procurement to health and safety information, and everything in between. “Imagine if you have all the data at your fingertips and it’s real-time and accurate. What happens then is you get really fast decision-making and it’s much more accurate,” Gerber points out. For property firms keen to take the road to virtualisation, her advice persists: “Think about it from the human perspective—in the end, it’s all about the people.” Gerber illuminates on how technology can address basic questions that managers are asking: What problems does the company want to solve? How does it want employees to work differently? And how can the business use data and technology to accomplish this? What are some of the main opportunities around digital transformation in the real estate industry?
ilma Gerber, the now four-year chief operating officer for project and development services in Asia Pacific at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), is no stranger to leading companies through digital transformation. Beyond her executive functions, Gerber, who is based in Singapore, helped usher JLL through its own widespread adoption of new digital technology. She helped lead the company’s efforts to merge all project management data, including information from some 20,000 past and current projects, onto a single global technology platform. Gerber, who originally hails from South Africa, is a relatively new arrival to the real 78
estate industry. Prior to JLL, she spent seven years with Cisco Systems in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and before that worked in mobile product development in the UK. “What happens during a digital transformation? A lot of people’s minds immediately jump to AI, machine learning, and very advanced forms of technology,” she says. “But if you’re in an industry still running on spreadsheets, you need to build a foundation first.” The construction industry, she says, offers one particularly interesting case study since it isn’t historically regarded for its swift embrace of new technology.
DIGITISATION HAS THE POTENTIAL TO STREAMLINE THE CONSTRUCTION PROCESS FROM END TO END, OFFERING ACCESS TO RELIABLE, UPTO-THE-MINUTE DATA THAT CAN EASILY BE VISUALISED
If you want a successful digital transformation, it needs to be pervasive throughout the business. Even though we’re talking about technology, the bigger issue is the psychology of change. People need to feel they are a part of it
One of the biggest opportunities is using technology to drive sustainability. Buildings consume around 40% of the world’s energy, so there’s a huge opportunity to optimise energy usage. Something like 30% of energy in buildings is wasted. There are new technologies that you can deploy in HVAC systems, for example, that allow them to run more efficiently. Another area is sensor technology, which helps both landlords and tenants better understand how spaces are used. Data from these sensors may be leveraged to design spaces in a more optimal and efficient way to increase asset utilisation. There are also a lot of opportunities in construction, which is typically lower on the digital maturity curve. The sector is still very paper-based: checking people in to construction sites, doing site inductions and health and safety compliance. Technology exists to do all that. Managing projects— everything from schedules, budgets, and so 79
on—can be done through a single platform instead of on spreadsheets or other standalone ways. You’ve talked about companies using technology to “extract more value.” What are some of the keys to this? What I mean by extracting value is return on investment. Companies spend money on technology, and the reason they do that is because they think they’re going to increase revenue or improve productivity. But sometimes that doesn’t happen to the extent they expect. The reason is often because the focus was 90% on the technology and only 10% on how to use the technology—the human aspect. I’ve seen this happen across many companies, not just in real estate. Generally, what happens is there’s a large management focus on what technology platforms to deploy, and a lot of time spent developing and rolling out this platform, and not much time spent on driving change around how everyone needs to work differently as a result of the technology. How many people in an organisation are typically involved in the process of digital transformation? If you want a successful digital transformation it needs to be pervasive throughout the business, and it absolutely needs to be leader-led.
GERBER BELIEVES THAT TECHNOLOGY CAN BE A KEY DRIVER FOR SUSTAINABLE REAL ESTATE, WITH THE OPTIMISATION OF ENERGY USAGE IN BUILDINGS AMONG THE WAYS IT CAN BE USEFULLY APPLIED
Are any of these technologies being leveraged in unique ways to mitigate the impact of Covid-19? At JLL we have spent the last few years digitising the whole landscape of our business—from our data around sales, to the way we manage governance, health and safety, procurement, even client satisfaction surveys. We can now see how our risk landscape is changing, in real time. From a single global platform, our project managers get a real-time view of where risks are being driven by Covid-19. This includes risks of delays, how many sites are closed or at risk of closure due to the virus, and other risks. That’s the power of having data that’s digitised and accurate. Prior to the pandemic, most people haven’t experienced this level of ambiguity and uncertainty. In APAC, we could see site closures in China, then in Hong Kong. It was happening at different times in different countries. If you’re in a leadership position, you’re trying to process in real time all of these changes that are happening very rapidly. How do you do that if your business is not fully digitised?
I think it’s a mistake to have one team in the company that is somehow expected to digitally transform the whole business— it needs to involve everyone. A lot of this comes down to psychology. Even though we’re talking about technology, the bigger issue is the psychology of change. People need to feel they are a part of it, that they can engage with it, and provide feedback.
Your background is broadly tech-focused. What brought you over to the real estate side of technology?
People embrace change they initiate themselves—when they feel they are actively involved in the change. But when someone forces change upon them, that’s when you see more resistance and boxticking behaviour.
The real estate industry provides a unique opportunity to make a difference, particularly around sustainability. That is my true passion. There’s huge value in how we use technology to make the world more sustainable. If you want to be in an industry where you can make an impact on the sustainability agenda, then real estate is one of the key industries to be in right now.
Companies need to enable their people to understand how the technology and data 80
benefit the business. If they see its value, then they can start having that conversation with clients. How do you get people in the company to talk about the value of the technology when they haven’t experienced it themselves?
It’s a time in the industry where technology and real estate are converging. It’s a definite moment of change, and I think the real estate industry is in need of more people with technology backgrounds.
Agent of change As the name of his practice, Transform Architects, suggests, Thien Duong is taking a proactive and sustainable approach to redefining the design landscape in Vietnam BY DIANA HUBBELL
hien Duong knew from a young age that he wanted to change the world. As a university student, he obtained degrees in environmental science and architecture through an innovative program of the University of Waterloo. While some architecture students spend their days in classrooms, Duong spent every other semester practicing his trade at architectural firms in Italy, Bermuda, Norway, and Canada. By the time he graduated, he had strong foundations in western architecture and a deep-rooted belief in the ability of sustainable design to reshape urban spaces. “I realised early on I wanted to be able to influence my environment. I was drawn to architecture because of the wide experience of what constitutes a built environment. There’s a greater contribution to society,” Duong relates. “Being a stock analyst or accountant just does not have the same effect.” After graduating, Duong moved to London, where he worked under renowned architect Michael Aukett, who was nearing retirement at the time. The opportunity to hone his craft under the tutelage of a legend gave Duong an intense appreciation for the subtler details of the profession. Yet as much as he admired the rational nature of traditional English
architecture, after obtaining his licence from the Royal Institute of British Architects, he knew his calling was elsewhere. Duong had immigrated from Vietnam to Canada as a child but has remained fascinated by his homeland. As an architecture student, he returned to Vietnam to research his thesis and saw a country on the cusp of transformation. Ho Chi Minh City was a stark contrast to the other cities in which he had worked, which were all fairly developed with little room for growth or innovation. Ho Chi Minh City had been all but ruined by the Vietnam War and the decades of economic hardship that followed. When he visited in the early 2000s, Duong saw a city with a growing economy, room to build, and a hunger for the new. “When I came to Vietnam 20 years ago, I saw the country and this need to develop and to do so in the best possible way,” Duong says. “Before the war, Ho Chi Minh City was more developed than Seoul. It was a jewel of Asia,” he relates. “I saw the opportunity and what it could be. That was the vision.” By 2005, two years after moving to Ho Chi Minh City with a British firm, Duong founded his own: Transform Architects. As the name implies, the company is committed to
I was drawn to architecture because of the wide experience of what constitutes a built environment. There’s a greater contribution to society. Being a stock analyst or accountant just does not have the same effect
THIEN DUONG IS PLAYING A LEADING ROLE IN ADVANCING THE ARCHITECTURE SCENE IN VIETNAM, PROMOTING SUSTAINABILITY AND INNOVATION AT A RANGE OF PROJECTS AROUND THE NATION
reshaping the future of the evolving country; even small designs are seen as opportunities to advocate for sustainability and innovative design. “When we tackle every project, no matter the size or budget, we aim to leave a lasting legacy, to create something iconic,” Duong says. This outlook has driven Transform Architects to become one of the leading firms in Vietnam, with their influence found everywhere from luxury resorts and highend residential developments to schools and mixed-used office blocks. Because Vietnam’s building boom is still so new compared to some of its neighbours, Transform Architects has become a veteran of the design scene in a mere 15 years. Part of Duong’s passion lies in minimising the environmental impact that inevitably accompanies rapid development. As a member of the Board of Directors on the Vietnam Green Building Council, a nonprofit organisation connected with the World Green Building Council, he has spent a better part of a decade fighting to build a more environmentally sound future for his country.
“We have support internationally, but at the same time, we’re constantly encouraging the government to push sustainability in projects. As a country, I’ve seen our canals polluted, but now the rivers are being cleaned up,” Duong says. “Obviously, all this construction creates a great deal of pollution. Vietnam has a long way to go in order to be truly sustainable, which is why we always try to push green building.” By incorporating greenery, relying on local materials as much as possible, and utilising passive design strategies that use natural shading, sunlight, and airflow to maintain a comfortable temperature in buildings with minimal use of fossil fuels, Transform Architects consistently strives to design buildings that are kinder to the planet. Each project proves to other Southeast Asian architecture firms that green buildings can be both beautiful and cost-effective. Little by little, it is a philosophy that is changing the world.
Sila Urban Living “Sila Urban Living is in the very centre of Ho Chi Minh City in District 3, which is very densely built around postwar buildings,” Duong says. “We designed the facade with aluminium panels, which we cut to show abstract patterns of palm leaves. We tried to create a resort feel in a very small space. As you enter, you have this cascade of water and this recurring motif of palm leaves evoking tropical plants.” In this case, form follows function: the decorative panels hide unsightly air-conditioning units, provide critical shade to cool the building, and act as screens for the Juliet balconies in each of the rooms.
Caye Sereno Once completed, these 18 villas on an island in Ha Long Bay will be among the most luxurious residential properties in Vietnam. “It has one of the most majestic views of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. These houses are designed to frame the views of Ha Long Bay and the limestone karsts jutting out of the water,” Duong says. Low ceilings and a minimalist, concrete skeleton provide the illusion of peering out at that jaw-dropping view through a picture frame. It’s no surprise the one completed villa is already a popular film set and wedding destination.
Mia Resort “When I came to the site, it was full of gravel because they had exploded part of the mountain and dumped all that rubble down the hillside,” Duong informs. Rather than discard the granite, Transform Architects incorporated it into the interiors of the resort, dramatically reducing building costs and the construction’s carbon footprint in the process. “Part of sustainability is not to waste fuel and energy importing materials, and utilising local materials where possible.” By planting grass on top of the rooftops, the firm created a building that integrated seamlessly into the landscape with time. “The resort has been around for almost 10 years and by this time it’s completely camouflaged. It’s not there to be flashy; it’s there to merge into the landscape we created. Plants are basically in control. You see the power of nature in the design itself.”
British International School Early Year Infants School “That building is very sustainable in terms of energy efficiency. We carefully developed a shading strategy, in order to maximise views while minimising solar heat,” Duong says of the school, the first of its kind to achieve a LOTUS rating for eco-credentials. “It has a huge courtyard in the centre of the building so the actual basements were used as a swimming pool, a canteen, and a play area. It doesn’t feel like a basement, because you have these big open steps that allow prevailing winds to brush up, so the place is naturally cool. We generally use passive design, which costs nothing. It’s all about essentially creating quality of space in the most cost-effective manner.”
Dai Phuoc Lotus Located a half-hour boat ride from downtown Ho Chi Minh City, these residential villas are emblematic of the contemporary tropical style. “The buildings were designed with Asian living in mind: there are the wet and dry kitchens, and space to dine al fresco,” Duong says. “It’s a simple villa, but integrates the external landscaping and garden with the interiors. There’s a very clear relationship between both, which encourages people to live within the garden and out. We’ve employed passive design throughout and used trees for shade where possible.”
U Silk City When Transform Architects designed this mixed-use development over a decade ago, it was among the largest projects of its kind in Hanoi, with each of the nine towers looming over the skyline at 50 storeys. “The project was meant to be a landmark development to help revitalise the area,” Duong says. “As the whole area was once known for the old silk trade, the buildings were built with aluminium cladding panels to give the illusion of shimmering silk. You can’t create a building with such a dynamic facade using a copy-pasted blueprint. This one was really a challenge and more of an artistic expression.”
MEETING POINT Nature meets city in Clavon, an elegantly landscaped, well-amenitised condominium project rising high and proud above Singapore’s beloved Clementi estate The tall blocks comprise 640 units designed in an array of one- to five-bedroom configurations. With sizes averaging at a spacious 970 sq ft, units at Clavon are destined to satisfy single professionals, young couples, and families, especially HDB upgraders. Clavon is a convergence of water, greenery, breeze and sunlight. Expertly landscaped by Ecoplan Asia Pte Ltd, Clavon maintains a resortlike aura, bolstered by gardens and pockets of green that can easily double as retreats for today’s work-from-home (WFH) employees. On ground level, residents and guests walk on a “floating” platform flanked by water and then through a series of terracing gardens, with multiple levels of verdure punctuated by cascading waterfalls. The uppermost landscape deck is the site of a coworking space, seamlessly integrated with a gym. Encased in full-length glass walls, the gym and co-working spaces look out to the greenery, further synergising the fitness enthusiasts and creatives within them. The carpark is built underground, freeing up the grounds for such landscaped wonders.
When Singaporeans think of Clementi, they think of good schools, lush parks, recreational amenities, and diverse lifestyle conveniences. They’re not wrong, but today, the beloved estate is proving to be more than those. Situated between Jurong Lake District, Singapore’s second-biggest CBD, and One-North, the research and business hub, Clementi has become a fastgrowing catchment area for PMEBs (Professionals, Managers, Executives, Businessmen). With this in mind, UOL Group Limited and its subsidiary company United Industrial Corporation Limited (UIC) tendered in July 2019 for a coveted Government Land Sales (GLS) site along Clementi Avenue 1. Clavon, the developer’s newest product, will rise on this site by 2025. The project – a pair of slim condominium towers towering 37 storeys high – is set just next to the developer’s first project in the neighbourhood, The Clement Canopy.
On one end of the upper landscape deck, a clubhouse contains a trio of function rooms for music, karaoke, and games. The resortstyle ambience continues further into the development with a 50m lap pool, lounge cabanas, an aqua gym, and kids’ pool, plus pavilions for dining, communal cooking, and socials. The landscape also offers cosy nooks and corners ideal for contemplation and even some catch-up work. Like The Clement Canopy, Clavon is being constructed through prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC) methods. Architecture firm P&T Group elevated the units above the first storey, affording even the units on the lower levels with good vistas. The towers are orientated
north-south, ensuring that units receive adequate sunlight without exposing them to the glare. This orientation also serves to provide residents with breathtaking views of Bukit Timah Hill to the north and Clementi Woods Park and West Coast Park to the south. Roof terraces atop the blocks open up to the skies and even more incredible perspectives of the site. In fact, from the higher floors of the buildings, residents can behold spectacular views of the sea.
Clavon surely represents what many home buyers are missing – a rhapsodic interplay of landscaping and architecture in a dynamic area where students, professionals, and homemakers can thrive.
Located in District 5, on the fringe of Districts 10 and 21, Clavon easily connects to the city centre via major expressways PIE and AYE. Commuting to and from Clavon is very easy – the MRT system is accessible at the nearby Clementi station. Residents never have to stray far from their workplaces. Clavon sits between two growth areas: One-North and the Jurong precinct, which comprises Jurong Lake District (JLD) and Jurong Innovation District. Clavon is also set near such areas as Science Park, National University Hospital, and Mapletree Business City. Parents will also find that Clavon is a convenient place in which to raise kids, and there are many opportunities with local, international schools and universities nearby. The development sits close to the popular Kent Ridge education belt, replete with academic institutions from primary to tertiary levels: Nan Hua Primary and Secondary School, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, NUS High School of Science and Mathematics, and UWC Southeast Asia (Dover Campus). Clavon is also near the prestigious National University of Singapore. Prominent hawker centres as well as retail options such as The Star Vista, Clementi Mall, West Coast Plaza, Jems, Westgate, and Jcube are all within Clavon residents’ reach.
Straight from the heart BY JONATHAN EVANS
Once notorious, the venerable area of Toa Payoh is forging a new reputation for forward-thinking design allied to world-class amenities and a strategic location, thanks to Bidadari — one of Singapore’s most anticipated housing estates
Right in the centre of Singapore, Toa Payoh—the country’s second-oldest satellite town, whose construction began before independence in 1964—encompasses a wide area, dense population, and colourful history. Indeed, the neighbourhood has seen some gritty incarnations as a hub for much of the country’s vice. Nowadays, a more salubrious scene prevails with one of the city-state’s most sought-after new housing estates creating huge demand. Offering 10,000 residential units, Bidadari (“fairy” in Malay)—which namechecks the Danish wife of the Sultan of Johorwho resided here in the late 1800s—has been in development since 2013, and is attracting favourable comparisons to nearby Bishan, a hotbed of forward-thinking design (including Moshe Safdie’s Sky Habitat) and high-quality amenities.
The Woodleigh Residences
Tim’s Restaurant and Café
Toa Payoh Shopping Mall
The Larder Café
Toa Payoh Town Park
Due to open in 2023, the Woodleigh integrated development’s impressive credentials have led to half its 667 units being snapped up in advance. The warmtoned condo’s U-shaped configuration wraps around a central space whose landscaping forms an attractive outlook for residents, extending as far as the inprogress green lung Bidadari Park. The angled blocks towards the front of the development are constructed to work in sympathy with local infrastructure—the busy Upper Serangoon Road—in a good example of how space is maximised in a dense urban centre like Singapore. Walls within units can be removed to create space; kitchen and bathroom units feature subtly built storage; and balconies enhance the feeling of openness in harmony with the surrounding nature. Outside, a Japanese onsen-style pool is designed to foster a sense of community among residents.
Named after the prominent Yemeni landowning family of the early 20th century, Alkaff LakeView opened in January 2020, and lies a stone’s throw from two MRT stations and Bidadari Park. Its 531 three- and fourroom lake-facing apartments link up with a supermarket, an eating house, and retail outlets, while an overhead bridge connects it to an upcoming, smaller condo, Alkaff CourtView. A true integrated development, Alkaff LakeView also comes with a childcare centre and elderly facilities, including universal wheelchair access. At its heart is a landscaped roof deck that offers amenities such as play areas, fitness stations, and shaded seating. Alkaff Lake’s focal point is a conserved rain tree on an island. In addition, four playgrounds spread over three areas have different themes: water, wetlands, mountains and clouds, all collectively giving children a sense of moving upwards together with nature.
This standout resto offers a fusion of Western and Nepalese influences which— outside Kathmandu at least—marks it as an outlier, especially for the straightlaced, mainstream-leaning Singapore heartlands. This very uniqueness, coupled with consistent quality, seems key to the longevity of this oddity, which set up shop way back in 2006. The meats are the signatures here—barbecue pork ribs, oxtail stew, rack of lamb with herb-crusted potato, braised lamb shank—but the curiosity value lies in the Nepalese fare. These are laced throughout the otherwise steak- and seafood-heavy menu, with thukpa (a Tibetan noodle soup), momo (meaty dumplings), and pakora all making an appearance.
Combining Toa Payoh Hub and Toa Payoh Mall, this sprawling retail showcase offers two distinct shopping experiences within the same overall complex—unique in onesize-fits-all Singapore. The Mall’s more traditional shophouses, which contrary to its name are set along a quaint shopping street, offer a throwback to the colonial era where ground-floor retail spaces display wares ranging from household items to eyewear, beauty salons and fashion wear. The Hub, on the other hand, holds many enclosed upper-floor stores, while the ground-floor shops connect with voiddeck shops of local HDB blocks, making it a truly local affair. These are some of the oldest estates in Singapore, whose mosaicenlivened playgrounds offer a glimpse into popular design trends of yesteryear.
This streamlined, unpretentious spot tucked down a quiet corner of Toa Payoh serves a vast range of food options, and for such an inconspicuous joint, has become one of the area’s most frequently namedropped cafés. With a focus on comfort food and French, German, Italian and other European fare, there’s also room for Japanese influences, an extensive menu of desserts, and, most surprisingly of all, a generous array of heady German and Australian beers and European wines. For fans of Instagram, the Dowager’s Fingers —crispy wontons and arugula, served with homemade honey and sesame mayonnaise dip—is a curio that is sure to garner plenty of peer approval.
This idyllic space has an impressive variety of flora and fauna, and is rich with aesthetic appeal, with harmonious architecture that includes an observation tower, a large pavilion, gazebos, and pathways along a landscaped pond. This water feature has a small waterfall and a cluster of artificial islands linked by bridges and is also known for its sizeable population of fish and tortoises. The park has had an unusual evolution: in the 1970s and 80s its halcyon aura made it a popular venue for prewedding photo shoots, while nowadays it’s more likely to be frequented by cyclists, runners, and the pioneer generation who drop by for tai chi sessions.
Redefining Resort-Style Living In an era when you have to make the most of your time at home, The Affinity at Serangoon offers luxe strata landed residences, penthouses, apartments, and other living solutions in a paradisiacal setting
One of the drawcards of the project is that it is built like a resort, with 88 recreational facilities catering to different activities. The majority of the amenities at The Affinity at Serangoon are arranged as three exclusive “islands”. Residents can “island-hop” within the complex, which boasts extensive water elements and freeform pools stretching over 90m. These include a 50m lap pool; a 67m sanctuary Pool; family pool; wading pool; and spas. The exclusive strata landed homes in the development even feature backyards set next to a tranquil pool. Also, residents can work out at a floating gym, in addition to various facilities for physical activity like an outdoor gym, jogging trail, fitness corner, reflexology path, and tennis court. At night, residents and guests can bask in the serenity of the sparkling plankton cove and firefly stream. Featuring a design by DP Architects, The Affinity at Serangoon evokes tranquility with timber accents that play up a palette of grey, natural cedar gold, and copper. One of the many highlights of the landscaping, a forest boardwalk offers residents the chance to unwind amid diverse flora and fresh air. Residents even enjoy unobstructed views of the lush landscaping as well as the surrounding low-rise estate due to the elevation of the site and strategic placement of the blocks. The Affinity at Serangoon makes space for around five commercial units, giving residents a choice of everyday conveniences. The development also neighbours classic foodie havens such as Chomp Chomp Food Centre and
Serangoon Garden Market & Food Centre, famed for their amazing variety of hawker fare. Residents can get their shopping fix at nearby retail destinations like NEX, the biggest shopping mall in the North East, as well as myVillage, with its specialty shops. The development is also close to such respected academic institutions as Rosyth School and Zhonghua Primary School. Suitable for investors and end users, especially those seeking to upgrade from their HDB properties, The Affinity at Serangoon offers units within a competitive attractive price range – from S$770,000 only. Whether you’re raising a family, starting one, seeking opportunities for capital growth, or just living your best life as a professional in Singapore, The Affinity at Serangoon has everything for you in one paradiselike sanctuary.
Serangoon continues to be one of the most coveted neighbourhoods in which to live in Singapore. Filled with shopping centres, restaurants, cafes, entertainment and leisure destinations, and many other conveniences, the estate has been a go-to destination for property seekers looking for a more laidback alternative to the city centre but with the same or higher standards of living. The neighbourhood is primed for further progress – the new Cross Island Line will soon arrive in Serangoon and further unlock values of real estate in the area. Home to the Seletar Aerospace Park, Serangoon, along with the nearby estates of Sengkang, Punggol, and Paya Lebar, is also set to bring in more industrial parks, bringing rental opportunities to prospective landlords. Just as highly anticipated is a new project that will soon rise in the area – The Affinity at Serangoon. Set along
Serangoon North Avenue 1, the project is only a fourminute walk from the future Serangoon North station along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3. The site will give rise to seven 14-storey blocks of apartments, two three-storey blocks of strata landed houses, and a two-storey block of strata landed houses. These buildings will offer a total of 1,052 residential units in a broad spectrum of configurations including one- to four-bedroom apartments, four-bedroom penthouses, and four- to five-bedroom strata landed homes. With roomy living spaces and flexible layouts, The Affinity at Serangoon is a great environment to work from home amid the restrictions of the pandemic. Moreover, with tourism at a standstill worldwide, The Affinity at Serangoon offers the rare opportunity to genuinely enjoy a holiday in your own home.
CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK Welcome to the brave new world of tokenisation where clumsy paper trails are a thing of the past and real estate investment is liquid, transparent, and, above all, inclusionary BY AL GERARD DE LA CRUZ
n the few years it has captured the public imagination, the tokenisation of securities has ushered in use cases ranging from the cerebral (movies, letting investors partake in box office earnings) to the cultured (Andy Warhol and Claude Monet paintings, split into thousands of shares worth $20 apiece), the altruistic (trees, converted into assets existing on blockchain) and the ridiculous (human beings, tokenising themselves). But real estate remains the most mercantile of them all. With a global asset value of $228tn, property remains subject to transacting in ungainly portions and thereby suited to unlocking by tokenisation. As Covid-19 lays property markets to waste worldwide, tokenisation gives real estate the lifeline it has thrown other asset classes: liquidity. In April, digital transfer agent Vertalo and security token trading platform tZERO inked a deal that would tokenise $300m in real estate, following a move by trading platform Polymath and commercial real estate marketplace Red Swan to tokenise $2.2bn in US properties.
Asian economies have become unlikely early adopters of tokenisation, publishing legal frameworks that would unleash tokenised securities, security token offerings (STO), cryptocurrencies, and the myriad offshoots of blockchain technology. “The pandemic has certainly been one of the reasons why everything’s going digital,” reflects Julian Kwan, CEO of Singaporebased digital securities firm InvestaX. “The tokenisation industry started in 2017 with really poor-quality projects. And then in 2018 through 2019, there wasn’t the kind of infrastructure needed to be able to facilitate growth in the industry. Now that it’s sorted, it’s still growing.” Tokenisation of real estate, in the simplest sense, involves getting the equity or debt share of a building—if not a fund that owns real estate—and giving it to investors as security-sensitive records, tokens, in lieu of tangible titles and other paper interests. The process births the asset’s digital twin on the blockchain: a database or long log of actions powered by distributed ledger technology (DLT) that is decentralised enough to be read and written by multiple organisations. “The whole point of tokenisation is to use a digital ledger. Paperwork is slow, cumbersome, and costs a lot of money. You need lawyers all the time. You need to store the paper. No one knows what everyone else has. Paper looks like problems on problems,” says Kwan. From an investor’s point of view, he adds, “I don’t think there are major disadvantages to tokenisation other than spending more time to understand how it works.” Comprehending tech can be a challenge to some. But then so is the process of paddling through the coterie of intermediaries that comprise traditional real estate transactions. When real estate is tokenised, it is coded into the blockchain as smart contracts, automating such steps as compliance, document verification, escrow, and trading. Blockchain bypasses a need for property managers, lawyers, banks, and other middlemen, with all their attendant fees and charges. 106
THE REIT STUFF Fractionalised property ownership is something security token offerings (STO) and tokenised securities share with real estate investment trusts (REIT), those gargantuan companies that administer and represent a large group of incomeproducing, typically institutional assets. “REITs are basically token real estate without calling them as such,” says Julian Kwan, CEO of Singapore-based digital securities firm InvestaX. “What tokenisation for the real estate world really means is saying, ‘Let’s see the appetite for tradeable, transparent shares of real estate assets on the public-listed REIT markets.’ But obviously that’s very, very restricted. There are only a few big companies that can afford to set up a REIT. They can’t, they don’t have enough real estate to do it. They can’t spend millions of dollars to set it up.” Only around 40 countries in the world have REITs. A small percentage of every country’s real estate sits in listed REITs. With tokenised real estate, in contrast, all types of real estate owners, not limited to high-net-worth individuals (HNWI), have access to property investment. Where REIT funds require costly minimum investments and high upfront and brokerage fees, investors in tokenised real estate enjoy comparatively low transaction costs and capital requirements. “Investors in tokenised real estate share in the equity upside because it is so costeffective,” says Kwan. “What tokenisation is really doing is it’s bringing elements of public-listed REITs to private real estate — tradeability, transparency, liquidity.”
Investors in tokenised real estate share in the equity upside because it is so cost-effective. What tokenisation is doing is it’s bringing elements of public-listed REITs to private real estate— tradeability, transparency, liquidity
JULIAN KWAN OF SINGAPOREBASED DIGITAL SECURITIES FIRM INVESTAX IS A STRONG PROPONENT OF TOKENISATION AND BELIEVES IT WILL HELP DEMOCRATISE THE INVESTMENT PROCESS
Not beholden to any institution, blockchain is the perfect, hack-proof antidote to opaqueness, the infallible recordkeeper. All parties to a transaction see time stamps, contractual obligations, and other details on every level of the transaction, preventing default by parties. “A scenario where you don’t have human interaction with verifying documents and other information improves efficiency in governance,” says Paul Volodarsky, senior associate for DFDL Thailand and Vietnam. “It also helps to remove potential corruption issues that may arise when dealing with asset classes like real estate.” Every year, some $1.6tn are laundered in real estate, most of which can be traced back to developing countries, according
WHEN REAL ESTATE IS TOKENISED, IT IS CODED INTO THE BLOCKCHAIN AS SMART CONTRACTS, AUTOMATING STEPS SUCH AS COMPLIANCE, DOCUMENT VERIFICATION, ESCROW AND TRADING. IT ALSO BYPASSES A NEED FOR PROPERTY MANAGERS, LAWYERS, BANKS AND OTHER MIDDLEMEN
to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. “There can be selective disclosure of certain information without disclosing other information, affording all parties involved the transparency they need while still protecting privacy of participants,” reassures Florian Spiegl, co-founder of FinFabrik, a Chinese blockchain startup.
Governments worldwide are recognising the need to store title records on blockchain’s uncompromisable ledgers. The UK’s Digital Street research project last year developed a prototype that digitally transfers a property to the Corda blockchain platform—automatically updating the UK Land Register.
By eliminating or reducing legal and brokerage fees, appraisals, inspections, and other transaction costs, tokenised property is more cost-effective than similar investment instruments like real estate investment trusts (REIT). As with REIT, tokenisation fractionalises real estate into a predestined number of shares, only that it requires lower upfront capital, reducing barriers to entry.
Tokenisation in its current form has more success, however, with STOs—securities that are native to the blockchain and do not reference ownership on paper—as well as managed real estate funds like private equity real estate. “The real value of tokenisation isn’t in putting a house on the blockchain; it’s in putting shares of real estate assets in token form that can be traded freely, and you
VIRTUAL REALITY Tokenised real estate may just be a prologue to something entirely fantastic—virtual land. The omnipotence of blockchain technology, spurred by maturing virtual and augmented reality hardware, has led to the creation of valuable acreage from virtually nothing on computers worldwide. In August, The Sandbox, the world-building and crafting game, launched an initial exchange offering, a token sale event that raised $3m in funds. An estate of LAND, a unit of real estate in The Sandbox’s community-driven metaverse, recently resold for over $2,000, up from its original price tag of $370. This comes on the heels of Estate 331, a cluster of land parcels in the lucrative Genesis Plaza neighbourhood of the Decentraland metaverse, selling for a staggering $80,000 last year. The land parcels, also known as The Secrets of Satoshi’s Tea Garden, are essentially the virtual-world equivalent of Times Square, cryptocurrency experts say. “Virtual real estate is, to me, more of a game. I certainly don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I’m not serious about it,” says Julian Kwan, CEO of InvestaX, a digital securities firm based out of Singapore. “If investors want to look at virtual real estate, they’re going to have to get their entire heads around what it is, what technology it is, how can it go wrong? Are there limitations to this and, more importantly, appetite for this?” The primary medium of exchange in virtual real estate—and an increasingly useful one in industries like art—are non‑fungible tokens (NFTs). Unlike cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, no two NFTs are alike, thanks in part to their unique metadata. With high-profile users such as Louis Vuitton, Nike, Samsung and Vodafone, NFTs will be used to purchase real-world properties in the future, according to experts. Yet virtual real estate’s Waterloo may be in its endlessness. “The point of real estate is that it’s finite. It’s harder to argue that virtual real estate is finite, even though that could be by design,” says Kwan.
SINGAPORE IS LIKELY TO BECOME AN EARLY HUB FOR TOKENISATION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA DUE TO ITS MATURE POLICIES AND TECHNOLOGICAL ECOSYSTEM FOR DIGITAL LEDGERING
don’t have to wait 10 years,” explains Kwan. “Whether the building is on or off the blockchain makes no difference.”
Developer Lead Real Estate also used blockchain to bankroll the construction of condominiums and hotels en route to what would have been the Japanese Olympics.
Such is the increasing universality of blockchain that it has called into question policymaking of the last few years. In 2019, Chinese strongman Xi Jinping highlighted the technology’s “important role”, a remarkable turnaround from the country’s ban on virtual currencies since 2017.
With blockchain-backed assets dawning on Asia comes tech-friendly regulations, led by Taiwan which released the “world’s first STO laws” in 2019.
China could have taken a cue from open-minded neighbours. In September, digital asset platform operator Fund Bloc collaborated with Woori Global Asset Management on a blockchain-based real estate fund service in South Korea.
Elevated Returns (ER)—the asset digitisation firm famous for tokenising the $18m St Regis Resort in Aspen, Colorado—is bullish on Thailand, where structures for crypto-asset taxation and a framework for businesses trafficking in blockchain technology have been enshrined into law since 2018.
In October, tokenisation specialist Securitize—backed by Sony Financial Ventures, Nomura and MUFG—teamed up with advertising firm Lifull and real estate agency Enjoyworks to launch the first STO for retail investors in Japan, starting with a tokenised retirement housing project in the town of Hayama. 110
This year, the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a licence to ER’s digital asset exchange platform, ERX—the sixth platform to get one in the kingdom. ERX aims to tokenise $1bn worth of property in Southeast Asia. In October, Thailand also issued the
world’s first government savings bond, valued at $1.6bn, on a blockchain platform developed by IBM. Most of the initial take-up in tokenised securities among ASEAN nations will likely come out of Singapore, given its mature policies and technological ecosystem for digital ledgering, experts maintain. As early as 2016, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, along with a DLT company, and a consortium of financial institutions, began a proof-of-concept project to conduct interbank payments via blockchain. Soon, the country will be tokenising its Variable Capital Company (SVCC) legislation structure, paving the way for onshore investment vehicles that could rival opaque tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
need anything new.” The possibilities at the intersection of blockchain and the built environment are as infinite as land is finite on earth. The value of real-world assets today amounts to $256tn, an illiquid planet of profitable financial instruments waiting to be tapped by DLT. In this framework, a paperless world could just be the missing link to the democratisation of real estate investment. “If you think about the capital markets, the public markets, every significant expansion of capital was from new technology,” says Kwan. “So now blockchain and tokenisation are going to dramatically change the private markets, private equity, real estate venture capital. It’s going to completely explode.”
“Countries like Singapore don’t need new laws,” says Kwan. “We’re going to maybe alter and change our laws as we move forward. But to get the industry started, we don’t 111
WIDE OPEN SPACES
The pandemic may have halted the single-origin, coffee-fuelled momentum of the co-working trend, but industry pioneers in Asia say that their models can adapt to a growing culture of flexible officing BY LIAM ARAN BARNES
WITH CITIES AROUND ASIA COMING BACK TO LIFE FOLLOWING PERIODS OF LOCKDOWN, CUSTOMERS ARE GRADUALLY RETURNING TO THE REGION’S CO-WORKING SPACES
CBRE’s Asia Pacific agile real estate lead. “Attendance has been affected as lockdowns and social distancing force members to work from home. Numerous operators have shortened operating hours or closed facilities temporarily, and growth in new memberships has been delayed as potential users suspend inspections and trim operational expenditure for immediate cost-saving.” In Asia Pacific, where rates of infection have been considerably lower, many flexible working spaces managed to at least reopen as lockdown measures loosened. Adherence to government guidelines and personal safety concerns, however, are already reshaping the physical dynamics of and asking questions about the sustainability of the business model. If six-feet-apart social distancing is required, it considerably reduces the space allocated for individuals. In practice, this means many flexible offices are recording extremely low utilisation rates and, in some cases, remain almost vacant. Operators that can accommodate such capacity reductions would also need to consider the invariably costly modifications required to minimise contact with surfaces and maintain a distance between people where possible.
inimalist interiors, millennial amenities, and open-plan layouts accented by the scent of singleorigin coffee have become a familiar scene for the legions of flexible workers who have traded the 9-to-5 office environment for co-working spaces. In little over a decade, the industry has evolved from off-the-cuff creative spaces often located in derelict buildings with nominal overheads, to a common fixture in commercial buildings, 114
condominium lobbies, and community malls in most major cities around the world. Buoyed by the startup boom, advancements in technology, and their appeal as cost-effective alternatives to traditional offices, a spectrum of agile co-working options have since taken shape, ranging from on-demand workspaces and memberships to short-term, flexible spaces. According to property consultancy JLL, the global co-working industry has grown by an average of 25% year-on-year since 2014, accounting for almost one-fifth of leasing activity in many
markets in 2019. And while the volume of co-working spaces in Asia Pacific still lags behind the US and Europe, CBRE reports that it has soared in five years from less than 10 million to 71 million square feet as of March 2020—the equivalent to 4% of total office stock in the region. Yet the outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020 hit the industry harder than most. Just as traditional corporate offices have been deserted for much of the year, so too have co-working spaces. “Flexible space has not been spared the effects of the pandemic,” says Sidharth Dhawan,
“There’s been a lot of talk about how to make spaces more appealing in the postpandemic era, but what is not discussed is how much these upgrades will add to the rental costs for operators. For older buildings and those in the Grade-B segment, the biggest issue is whether retrofitting is possible and whether it is even worth it,” says Amarit Charoenphan, co-founder of Hubba, one of Thailand’s first co-working companies. “Instead, the industry needs to confront the elephant in the room and ask ‘does coworking need to be tied to a physical space?’” Indeed, technology is already being used by several operators to create virtual coworking communities. The most successful examples often involve scheduled video calls on such platforms as Zoom, to which displaced co-working members can log in and work, socialise, or attend live webinars.
CO-WORKING WAS SEEN AS ONE OF THE REGION’S COMING TRENDS PRIOR TO THE PANDEMIC. THE SECTOR, HOWEVER, WILL HAVE TO ADAPT TO MEET SOCIAL DISTANCING REQUIREMENTS AND ALSO DEMAND FOR EVEN MORE FLEXIBLE OFFICING
ALTHOUGH THE INDUSTRY HAS BEEN IMPACTED BY THE PANDEMIC, DEMAND IS EXPECTED TO RETURN AS COMPANIES PRIORITISE EMPLOYEE PEACE OF MIND AND WORKFORCES EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY AND FLEXIBLE SPACES
But beyond aesthetic alterations, a heightened focus on hygiene measures, and adoption of tech, the greatest challenge the industry faces is reacting to the shifting user demographic and embracing new business models.
Indeed, most analysts agree that flexible space could become one of the most viable solutions for large-scale occupiers seeking to accommodate social distancing protocols in Asia Pacific’s already dense office environments, with those operators that emerge from the virus storm transitioning to a hybrid model that targets both casual and long-term tenants. This bodes well for employees in Asia Pacific, 61% of whom claimed they missed going to the office and would favour a hybrid model combining more flexible work arrangements, a recent JLL study showed.
WORK AWAY FROM WORK
This increase in workplace mobility programs is expected to create a reduction in density and necessity for traditional office space. Tenants, meanwhile, are expected to turn to flexible space to set up smaller, satellite offices that reduce commute times and dependence on public transport. Should this approach gain traction in the medium- to long-term, large occupiers could end up utilising a mixture of leased space, flexible space, and remote-working. “Co-working businesses need to adapt simply because the customers that were there pre-Covid no longer need the same type of spaces as before,” says Mario Berta, founder, and CEO of FlySpaces, a leading co-working, office, and event space platform based in Southeast Asia. “The crisis will generate a large number of new tenants that will experience flexible office space and its benefits for the first time. This could increase the likelihood those tenants will use it for their permanent office or at least include it in their permanent business continuity plans.”
At the height of Covid-19, an average of 68% of employees surveyed in the region worked from home, with Singapore leading at 81%. Of those working from home, 61% said they missed going to the office, with the number rising to 82% in India. A consistent theme emerged from those surveyed: they enjoy the freedom of working from home, but also miss the human interaction and face-to-face collaboration that working in a professional office environment provides.
Even before the outbreak, a series of well-known co-working operators were showing signs of failing to generate selfsustaining cashflow. Depending heavily on regular cash injections by venture capital funds or from initial public offerings, many relied on an investment philosophy that kept their cash burn operations going to gain market share. The highest-profile case of the flawed model is the implosion last year of WeWork. The house of cards fell for the world’s largest flexible space operator soon after it publicly filed documents for an initial public offering of shares. Investors jumped ship and the company’s proposed valuation immediately dropped by more than half before the IPO was called off entirely. As of May 2020, WeWork was worth less than 10% of its peak value of $47bn. “Before the pandemic, the co-working industry was having trouble convincing mainstream businesses to hive off their long-term office leases to them,” says Alan Cheong, executive director of research and consultancy at Savills Singapore. “The popular model, therefore, was a free sharing membership model, whereas attracting large-scale, longterm occupiers was often an afterthought. In a post-Covid world, the popularity of the two models has dramatically reversed.” 116
There’s been a lot of talk about how to make spaces more appealing in the postpandemic era. The industry needs to confront the elephant in the room and ask ‘does coworking need to be tied to a physical space?
In July 2020, leading global property consultant JLL conducted a survey of 1,500 employees from across five countries in Asia Pacific to learn more about their work-from-home experiences and subsequent sentiments during the height of the pandemic lockdowns. The key question posed was: Could it become permanent? And do employees want it to become permanent?
Arguably the most surprising result stemmed from the Millennial demographic, which is often singled out for its supposed self-focused work ethic. Sixty-six percent of millennials, more than any other age group, said they missed the office, highlighting human interactions, professional environment, and place for focused work as the key factors. 117
AMARIT CHAROENPHAN, CO-FOUNDER OF THAI CO-WORKING MARKET LEADER HUBBA, CASTS DOUBT ON THE BELIEF THAT COWORKING NEEDS TO BE TIED TO A PHYSICAL SPACE
Many businesses are also opting for flexible space over traditional offices as a way to counter recent economic scarring and reduce any future financial risks. An announcement in October revealed that Tencent, the firm behind WeChat, is planning to occupy a co-working space for its inaugural office in Singapore. The Chinese tech giant’s first physical foray into Southeast Asia will see it rent almost 200 seats at JustCo’s co-working space in OCBC Centre East at Raffles Place, amounting to 10,000 square feet for an initial one-year period. The opportunity, meanwhile, to capitalise on the loss of co-working operators has not gone unnoticed by investors and real estate developers, some of which are already repurposing vacant spaces to accommodate their in-house brands. Recent co-working brand launches by high-profile developers include Clock In by Philippines-based Ayala Land, Bridge+ by CapitaLand, and Kloud by Keppel Land. Analysts expect this trend to bring additional capacity to the market but at a much more competitive price, due to developers’ lack of lease overheads. And given the current economic uncertainty and lack of desire to commute, tenants are likely to prefer occupying co-working spaces within their residences or at least environments with controlled access. Ultimately, the pandemic has shown that the co-working spaces are not only viable but can flourish in the future, albeit with substantial tweaks to the concept—some of which were already touted before the outbreak. And although the industry has been significantly impacted in the short-term, demand is expected to soar as companies increasingly prioritise employee peace of mind and workforces embrace technology and flexible spaces. “Coworking is a way of working and space is just an office that facilitates that,” says Hubba’s Amarit. “Now that people will most likely split their time between offices, co-working spaces, and home as part of the new normal, it’s time for the industry to transform. We need to disrupt ourselves before we are the ones being disrupted again.”
WE (WON’T) WORK In one of the highest-profile and most public business collapses in recent years, the world’s largest co-working space operator WeWork’s public value plummeted from $47bn to a mere $7m almost overnight in 2019. For almost a decade, the New York-based company enjoyed a feted run in the global real estate market, with a portfolio spanning 280 locations in 32 different countries, with over 12,000 employees on its payroll. The business model was hardly unique: an office rental company that acts as a middleman between landlords and shortterm tenants. But WeWork marketed itself not just as an office landlord intermediary, but a technology company with a new way of doing things. What supposedly set WeWork apart from other co-working solutions was that it offered a complete package of services required to start and efficiently run a business, and it counted well-known startups including Reddit, Consumr, and Fitocracy amongst its clients. So what went wrong for the world’s best-known co-working startup? George Schultze, the founder of Schultze Asset Management, wrote in Forbes in October 2019 that: “[T]he real problem with WeWork is that its whole business model is flawed with excessive leverage. There’s nothing special about what they do—providing shared office space to short term tenants. “But when the economy starts to turn and new business startups decrease or fail more because of the risk of recession, that’s when a company like WeWork could be exposed and have tremendous downside risk. That’s because it has long-term fixed expenses that aren’t matched with its short-term clients who can come and go as they choose.”
REGION IN RECOVERY Like the rest of the world, Southeast Asia has had a turbulent 2020. Nevertheless, constituent nations are emerging from the pandemic with their real estate sectors showing unmistakable signs of life BY GEORGE STYLLIS
n Southeast Asia, life for the most part has returned to normal and economies are showing signs of improvement. But with still so much regional and global uncertainty, questions remain whether the region’s property markets have recovered from the worst of the crisis or whether they should brace for another bumpy year. Southeast Asia’s bleakest months followed soon after China’s, with early cases popping up in Thailand and Vietnam, sparking fears the region would be next to endure the same high rate of infections. With travel bans and lockdowns being imposed around the world, tourism and investment in the region ground to a halt and the property industry went into freefall as developers changed plans, shuttered sales offices, and postponed launches. By the end of the first quarter, Singapore’s hospitality assets practically disappeared and office investments plunged 81% from the previous quarter to S$183m ($129m), while the overall value of real estate investment tumbled 78% year-on-year to $432m, according to Real Capital Analytics. In Thailand, the condominium sector posted the lowest number of newly launched units in almost a decade, while similar grim scenarios played out in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the rest of Southeast Asia. “It felt there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel,” says Desmond Lim, head of research for Singapore and Southeast Asia at CBRE. Relief has since come in the form of government aid and policy changes.
The overall message is that the parachutes are up. There is a less negative outlook that could lead to a more positive outlook in the next six months
China’s economy grew 4.9% year-on-year in the third quarter, only a few months after the virus was first detected, cities were locked down, and factories nationwide were closed. “We started to see a pickup in activity towards the end of April, and we may have even been back to the same levels of transactions in the first-hand market as we were in the previous year,” says James Macdonald, head of Savills Research in China. “By June, we were up 10% year-on-year in terms of transaction volume.” While it may take some time before Chinese money filters back into Southeast Asia amid the obstacles to physically visiting and viewing properties, the region looks set to win back investment once travel restrictions are relaxed. Georg Chmiel, executive chairman of Juwai IQI, China’s largest online marketplace for overseas properties, asserts that predicting Chinese foreign investment at this stage is like “throwing darts in the dark,” but countries that have controlled the virus will feature high on their list.
CAMBODIA’S STRONG TIES WITH BEIJING ARE HELPING THE REAL ESTATE MARKET IN PHNOM PENH DRAW EARLY FROM THE WELL OF CHINESE INVESTMENT, WHICH IS NOW RAPIDLY REFILLING
Among the 20 countries with the highest recovery index, five are in Asia—Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam—with Thailand topping the index. “When it comes to outbound Chinese residential real estate
DOWNWARD SLOPE Myanmar’s property industry is emerging among the worst affected in Southeast Asia after the country experienced a second wave of infections in September. The industry was already badly hit by measures to control the virus in the first half of 2020. But after the country reported a huge leap in cases from 1,133 on September 4 to nearly 40,000 cases on October 21, things are expected to get worse. “With revenues declining and profitability out the door in what is now a severely wounded real estate market—reaching investor projections is unlikely,” posts local property portal Shwe Property. “To reach even 25% to 30% of last fiscal year revenue numbers would be an act of superhuman powers.” Retail and hospitality have proven to be the most vulnerable to short-term volatility. However, the second wave looks set to further damage office and residential sectors as the many expats who left the country ahead of the first wave have yet to return in meaningful numbers.
In Singapore, the government relaxed market conditions to allow developers to extend the completion time for projects, and in October extended its relief programme on mortgages and loans for individuals and small firms into next year. In Thailand, the Land and Building Tax was slashed by 90%; in Vietnam, tax, and land rental payments have been deferred, and in Indonesia, a $725m stimulus package was announced in February to provide fiscal incentives for the country’s tourism, aviation, and property industries. In Malaysia, the government launched an economic recovery plan exempting home buyers of stamp duty on loan agreements for the purchase of residential homes priced between MYR300,000 and MYR2.5m. “The overall message is that the parachutes are up. There is a less negative outlook that could lead to a more positive outlook in the next six months,” says Lim. An encouraging sign that a positive outlook may follow is China’s rapid economic recovery from the pandemic as western economies remain battered.
VIETNAM IS PROSPERING DUE TO ITS GROWING REPUTATION AS A MANUFACTURING HUB WITH TECH GIANT APPLE THE LATEST BIG FIRM TO LOCATE PRODUCT ASSEMBLY TO THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATION
THAI DEVELOPER SANSIRI HAS BEEN SUCCESSFUL IN LURING BUYERS WITH AGGRESSIVE PROMOTIONS, INCLUDING DISCOUNTS AND A WAIVER OF MORTGAGE LOAN INSTALMENTS FOR 24 MONTHS FOR UNITS AT RESIDENTIAL PROJECTS NATIONWIDE
THE STRONGEST LINK Vietnam looks set to further cash in on the disruption caused by the pandemic to global supply chains as Apple relocates production there. investment, there are two categories: buyers purchasing for their use and those purchasing solely for investment purposes,” says Chmiel.
the years. Part of Cambodia’s attraction is its solid ties to Beijing and its affordable property, which can offer investors a return of 5.5% to 6% on a quality condo in a good location, says James Hodge of CBRE.
“Cash is king for developers at this moment,” states Sansiri chief executive Apichart Chutrakul. “We need to boost sales to get as much cash as possible because cashflow is critical amid a crisis as we have chosen not to lay off staff.”
“The key factors that might change decisionmaking for Chinese buyers purchasing for their use are how well destination countries contained and recovered from the pandemic. We will probably see Asia capture some share of buyers who would otherwise have gone to Europe, the UK, or the US.”
Elsewhere in the region, developers have refocused their attention on the domestic market with discounts and clever marketing.
The amount of cash in the economy as a result of government stimulus packages and bank lending has given the industry reason to be optimistic despite disappointing market data.
For some markets, China’s recovery is already bearing fruit.
Thai developer Sansiri has been successful in luring buyers with aggressive promotions, including discounts and a waiver of mortgage loan instalments for 24 months for units at residential projects nationwide. It also claims to be designing projects that will allow for greater social distancing.
According to JLL, investment volumes in Asia Pacific declined by 32% year-on-year in the first half, with second-quarter activity down by 26% from in the first quarter. Though the sharp decline in activity in the second quarter reflects the high degree of uncertainty that remains around market recovery, says Stuart Crow, JLL’s CEO of Capital Markets Asia Pacific, “liquidity remains very high.”
In Cambodia, investors have already begun to return to Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh, where Chinese money has fuelled the condo market with astonishing speed over
In the first quarter, Sansiri recorded THB11bn in sales, up 70% from the same period last year, and the highest in the industry. The amount represented 40% of the 2020 target, aimed at THB29bn.
“We expect transaction activity is poised to rebound in the second half as economies further reopen and pricing expectations are adjusted in a certain market.”
The American company began producing millions of its AirPods wireless earphones in Vietnam earlier this year, and its iPhone assembly partner Pegatron Corp is planning to launch a $1bn factory in the north. Also, Pegatron plans to relocate its research and development centre from China to Vietnam. The move reflects Vietnam’s rise as one of the leading manufacturing hubs in the region for sophisticated electronics. “The supply chain of tomorrow no longer centres around efficiency and cost management, but rather on building a secure and resilient supply chain,” states PwC Vietnam. “Now that the country has moved from crisis response to recovery, the critical question for Vietnamese businesses is how to better prepare your supply chain for future shocks.” 125
IN SINGAPORE, THE GOVERNMENT RELAXED MARKET CONDITIONS TO ALLOW DEVELOPERS TO EXTEND THE COMPLETION TIME FOR PROJECTS
beautiful islands and tourist spots have become deserted, forcing countless numbers of hotels, restaurants, and small businesses to close. Trying to balance increased visitation with low infections has so far remained the problem for governments and scuttled attempts of tourism rebounding. The situation reflects just how volatile and vulnerable economies in Asia and the rest of the world have become, and while the region’s property markets are expected to see better days ahead, the economic uncertainty affecting the region should keep everyone equipped with a plan B.
LAY OF THE LAND Developers in the region have found a bright spot amid the gloom caused by the pandemic: landed property. In Thailand, where developers had already been moving away from the lacklustre condominium sector to target Thai buyers with landed property, the coronavirus has accelerated the trend. “The landed house developments are now active for new development,” says Knight Frank Thailand’s Risinee Sarikaputra.
Manufacturing is one industry analysts are hoping can revive regional economies. Since the China-US trade war erupted, the region has become a hub for manufacturing and logistics, with Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia among the rising stars. Indonesia’s Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto reveals the 126
government is working hard to draw companies away from China to relocate their factories in Indonesia with attractive policies that offer a competitive advantage.
those with a base in Silicon Valley, come under pressure and move their research and development departments to Singapore.”
In Singapore, the decision among major tech companies Tencent, Tik Tok, and Bytedance to launch operations there is an encouraging sign of things to come, says Lim. “Singapore being the most developed country in the region, we are seeing the benefits of the trade war. We are seeing key Chinese companies in technology, particularly
The growth in manufacturing might go some way to keeping economies afloat, but the importance of reviving tourism in the region, which has accounted for one in three new jobs over the past five years, cannot be overlooked. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, many of Asia’s
“On the side of developers, they have turned to focus on low rise residential development such as single-detached houses and townhouses instead of condominiums, a sector that has calmed down with no new launches in the high-end segments,” she says. In Indonesia, a similar trend has emerged, according to developer PT Sinarmas’s managing director Alim Gunardi. “If we take a look at the property cycle, the landed house industry is set to rebound quicker than the office and retail sectors,” he relates. Driving the segment in Indonesia are millennials, for whom landed properties tend to be more affordable. 127
EMPIRE STATE OF MIND A towering mixed-use skyscraper, filled with world-class office spaces and branded hotel rooms and serviced apartments, is bringing a piece of New York to Cambodia
ADVERTORIAL and aluminium panels) on the façade, the office floors offer spacious plate sizes, with airy floor-to-floor heights of 3.8 metres and ceiling heights of 2.8 metres. The façade pillars make possible the creation of balconettes on certain floors, giving tenants some secluded outdoor spaces that are rare even among premium-grade Phnom Penh office buildings. The interiors have a tasteful Scandinavian design, lending the office lobbies and floors a distinctive “atelier” atmosphere. The top half of FlatIron houses the Citadines Apart’Hotel, managed by The Ascott Limited, which also manages Skylar, a Meridian project which boasts the first Somerset-branded residences in Phnom Penh. Geared toward business travelers looking to take advantage of FlatIron’s proximity to the airport and local attractiosn such as the Central Market, Citadines Apart’Hotel is noted for its many green terraces, sky gardens, balconies, and other open spaces, literally elevating the landscaping to the higher storeys of the skyscraper. These are made possible by the staggered setbacks on the upper floors, which cause the hotel rooms to have shallower room depths and invite more natural light. Fitted with modern furnishings, black-and-gold lighting fixtures, and a contemporary, warm palette, the hotel rooms and serviced apartments feel like home.
corner. On the 27th floor, a restaurant opens up to more city views, creating an unforgettable dining experience. Such blend of office spaces, hotel rooms and serviced apartments make for a great investment potential and guaranteed rental returns. Investors can enjoy a guaranteed rental return of 85% for the Apart’Hotel and 95% for the grade A office spaces, with a buyback option in the 10th year by the developer. All returns are in dollar denominations, which are immune to emerging market currency fluctuations. Upon its completion in 2021, FlatIron will truly change Phnom Penh’s skyline and assert itself as a landmark, much like its namesake, for years to come.
Guests and residents have convenience on their doorstep, as Citadines Apart’Hotel offers such resplendent communal areas like an infinity lap pool with awesome panormas of the city, a gymnasium, yoga and spinning facilities, sky clubhouse, lounges, cabanas, and coffee Phnom Penh’s built environment continues to fledge. Its office stock alone is making progress in terms of quality and design as more international organisations look to establish themselves in Cambodia. While grade B offices still hold court in the Cambodian capital, upcoming supply has been forecast to include more premium office projects as more companies hope to capture a slice of its vigorous, young working class. Cambodia’s strategic location as well as the growing influence of the Belt and Road Initiative has also inspired a lot of big hospitality brands to locate in Phnom Penh – accommodating its many business travelers. “The next two years will see a massive transformation in the accommodation supply,” predicts hospitality consultancy C9 Hotelworks. Phnom Penh’s property sector is reaching for worldclass standards with the help of multi-national developer Meridian International Holding (Cambodia) Ltd. Established in 2012, Meridian announced its arrival in the Cambodian capital in a big way with such projects as Casa by Meridian as well as its manufacturing and exporting businesses that employ over 1,000 people.
Now Meridian is currently engaged with the development of FlatIron, an ambitious 41-storey building along Russian Boulevard. Named after the eponymous historic building in New York, FlatIron is slated for a mix of uses encompassing international-standard offices, retail spaces, F&B establishments, hotel rooms, and serviced apartments with unparalleled views of the city. Like the FlatIron in New York, the development is laid out like a slim triangle. However, it trades in the original’s antiquated façade of limestone and terracotta for a modern-looking curtain wall, expressed as a grid system that changes density throughout the building. It further adheres to its New York theme with office units named after famous locations such as Astoria, Chelsea and Madison. Set above one of the main arteries in the city, the offices in FlatIron are designed by architecture firm KLS Partnership (HK) Co., Ltd. to be spacious and wellilluminated. Distinguished by solid, thick pillars (stone
“The pool of Chinese investment seeking an outlet is so deep that opening just a small window for it to enter a country the size of Laos is enough to push local property development and prices higher over the long term”
first time Laos has separated ownership of buildings from the land on which they are constructed. “The holder of the purchased land-use right now has more freedom,” relates Sornpheth Douangdy, senior counsel at the Vientiane office of regional law firm VDB Loi. However, key provisions of the law remain undefined in practice, points out Sornpheth. “It is still unclear whether only foreigners who legally live, work or invest in Laos will have the right to purchase condo units, or if foreigners who live overseas also have this right.”
Open to all-comers With the pandemic wreaking havoc on its economy, little Laos is hoping that relaxed foreign ownership rules can inject life into its housing market—with Chinese investors a prime target By Steve Finch
decade ago, owning apartments in mainland Southeast Asia remained off-limits to overseas property buyers, except in Thailand and Malaysia. Then Cambodia opened up its condo market, followed by Vietnam, and, most recently in 2016, rapidly reforming Myanmar. Right smack in the centre of this dynamic region, little Laos had been left behind. Finally, at the end of August, the Laos government began enforcing revisions
THE PROPERTY MARKET IN SLEEPY VIENTIANE IS SET TO ACCELERATE WHEN FOREIGN BUYERS TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RELAXED OWNERSHIP RULES
to a new Law on Land permitting foreign ownership of condos for the first time in the socialist country. Ownership rights are effectively leasehold, up to 50 years, and then returned to the state. The newly revised legislation also opens up the legal possibility for land-use rights holders—including foreigners—to sell, lease or collateralise deeds without prior approval from the state, effectively opening up Laos to legal foreign property development. This legislation marks the
In another new addition to Laos’ property market, the government plans to launch a computerised national land ownership database, allowing users general access, for a small fee. In practice, foreign developers from China and Vietnam in particular had already begun selling condo units in Vientiane years ago by using legal structures that apply land rights in their own countries, says Casey Tolzman, an independent real estate consultant in Vientiane.
retroactively give legal rights on units already sold. Although put into effect in late August, the revised law was passed in July last year—months before Covid-19—and therefore not specifically devised by the Laos government to curb the country’s mounting economic woes. Prior to the pandemic, property oversupply in Vientiane caused by growing volumes of units coming online in the small market had coincided with the winding down of the country’s largest mine at Sepon and a steady slump in GDP growth rates, which fell to 4.8% last year. Covid-19 is aggravating the country’s pre-existing economic problems, causing already low market residential activity in Vientiane to slow further amid a net loss of foreign residents, says Tolzman.
“This law pretty much puts into words what was already happening anyway,” he says. “There is a general feeling that this is a good step, but I don’t see it changing things overnight.”
For the first time on record, GDP growth is forecasted to fall into negative territory this year amid unemployment, which climbed to 25% in May, according to the World Bank. With foreign currency reserves falling below $1bn—prompting a steeper depreciation in the local currency—Laos is also facing a possible default on its sovereign debt, according to Fitch Ratings, and reportedly turned to neighbouring China for a financial bailout.
Some apartment sales contracts on new developments in Vientiane already included clauses transferring ownership to foreign buyers once legislation came into effect, informs Tolzman, which implies the new law will in some cases
Laos appears to be relying on China for a post-pandemic economic rebound, not only from Beijing but also private Chinese investors. Freer and more explicit property rights for foreigners are expected to spur growing numbers of Chinese buyers to
Dispatch purchase property in Laos, says Georg Chmiel, executive chairman of China’s largest overseas property investment portal Juwai IQI. After climbing to nearly one million visitors last year, arrivals from China all but vanished during a lockdown of Laos in April but were expected to rebound strongly as connections to the country improve. Flights from Vientiane to Kunming and Guangzhou were among the first to resume after the Laos government all but closed off the country amid the pandemic, banning charter flights and scheduled services during the summer. A Chinese build-operate-transfer expressway was scheduled to open to Vang Vieng in December, cutting travel times to the tourist town from Vientiane Airport from four hours to just over an hour.
CHINA’S INFLUENCE ON LAOS IS STRONG, WITH A CHINESE BUILD-OPERATETRANSFER EXPRESSWAY BETWEEN VIENTIANE AND THE TOURIST TOWN OF VANG VIENG SCHEDULED TO OPEN IN DECEMBER
In late September, Chinese engineers completed drilling on the last of 75 tunnels on a new railway between Vientiane and Kunming, slated to open at the end of 2021. “The pool of Chinese investment seeking an outlet is so deep that opening just a small window for it to enter a country the size of Laos is enough to push local property development and prices higher over the long term,” says Chmiel, adding Laos’ new property law will most likely attract risk-takers from China interested in returns rather than residency. “That said, investing in Laos isn’t without risks,” warns Chmiel. “The new legal structure has yet to be fully fleshed out, and the economy has been shaken to its foundations by the fallout from the pandemic. We advise buyers to exercise caution and good sense.”
Shelter from the storm With many young professionals prioritising mobility over mortgages, the Build to Rent (BTR) sector is piercing the overall gloom of the UK real estate industry. It’s a shining light that is increasingly catching the eye of Asian investors By Liam Aran Barnes
he sight of shuttered businesses and lifeless office blocks is now a common sight along the UK’s high streets— an unsettling reminder of the damage wrought by the pandemic and the poor fist the country’s Conservative government has made of handling it. The pandemic has all but brought the country’s real estate sectors to a standstill with most analysts expecting total investment to drop 30% year-on-year. Even a fleeting post-lockdown bump in housing
THE BUILT-TORENT MARKET IN CITIES SUCH AS LONDON HAS FLOURISHED DURING A DIFFICULT TIME FOR THE UK PROPERTY INDUSTRY
transactions is being put down to pent-up demand as prices are predicted to fall 8% compared with 2019. However, decoupled from this moribund status quo has been the nascent buildto-rent (BTR) market, in which the last 12 months have proven to be the most active. Defined as residential properties owned by the developer and purpose-built for renting—with amenities like gyms and common rooms, all-inclusive bills, and
Singapore-based City Developments Limited, which acquired a £15.4m freehold site in Leeds in early 2019, plans to develop a 664-unit BTR residential project with retail space.
In London, the balance is gradually swinging from tolerating hours-long commutes to finding alternative, affordable accommodation in more central locations—and affordability is the key professional management—the BTR market has shifted from the fringes of portfolios to become one of the country’s most lucrative real estate assets.
“Homeownership has, for many, become oppressing or financially inviable. Increasingly, they are choosing mobility over mortgages.”
The subsector has not only stood firm but flourished. There are now more than 46,000 BTR properties, with a further 84,000 either under construction or with planning consent, reports property consultancy Knight Frank. In 2020, a record £4bn is slated to be invested in BTR homes nationwide.
Beyond the buoyant demographic tailwinds and urbanisation rates, developers have been incentivised in recent years by such government initiatives as the Private Rented Sector Housing Guarantee Scheme.
James Mannix, head of residential development and investment at Knight Frank, believes BTR properties sustained their popularity in 2020 due to a rise in “the importance of wellbeing, wellness, and social value for residents” during the lockdown period. “Longer-term, as tenant priorities change as a result of Covid-19, we expect the servicedriven model adopted by operators, and valued by residents, to emerge as offering clear advantages over the traditional buy-tolet sector,” says Mannix. Even before the pandemic outbreak, BTR was among the UK’s best-performing property segments. This is due in part to its appeal amongst the younger generation and growing transit workforce who are shunning the traditional lifestyle choices of previous generations. “In London, the balance is gradually swinging from tolerating hours-long commutes to finding alternative, affordable accommodation in more central locations— and affordability is the key,” explains real estate value management specialist Stephen Oehme. 134
Aimed at accelerating the growth of investment in the private rented sector by institutional investors, a governmentguaranteed bond programme will be used to finance the purchase of housing units, with a minimum project size of £10m but no maximum debt limit, after they have been built. The first breakthrough for the scheme came in 2013 when PruPRIM, the real estate investment management arm of M&G Investments, acquired a £105.4m residential portfolio owned by the Berkeley Group. The deal was partially backed by the Homes and Communities Agency—later replaced by Homes England and the Regulator of Social Housing—the non-departmental public body that funds new affordable housing in the country. Since then, domestic investors have dominated the BTR market in the UK, accounting for a significant proportion of deals completed since 2015, according to Knight Frank data. International capital, however, is gradually chipping away at that market share, as global investors continue to seek stable cash flow, while development volumes in the UK rise.
Such launches affirm the appetite from overseas institutional investors as they emerge stronger post-pandemic. With low interest rate environments across economically advanced countries such as the UK, it could be the ideal time for these investors to tap into the market. “The competition in this asset class is already significant and growing,” Oehme says. “Many local UK developers are trying to step outside their experience to deliver BTR properties. So this is a huge opportunity for Asian developers looking for longevity and continuous revenue streams.”
Investors from Asia Pacific are increasingly getting in on the action. In 2018, Invesco Real Estate ploughed £400m into the London BTR sector. The global real estate investment manager teamed up with Malaysia-listed EcoWorld International—in which Singapore developer GuocoLand holds a 27% stake—to fund the venture’s 1,000-unit BTR pipeline, representing the entire BTR component of two sites at Kew Bridge in West London and Barking Wharf in East London. Heng Leong Cheong, chief executive of EcoWorld London—the company’s UK subsidiary—explained that the mismatch between the homes Londoners need and those available, particularly homes catering to the rental demographic, largely drove the firm to enter the market. “At present, each of the leading BTR companies in London has less than 5,000 homes under management,” he says. “Our ambition is to secure a pipeline of over 10,000 homes in the next five years and be the BTR market leader.” As the BTR market expands beyond London, some of Asia’s largest developers are beginning to take advantage of fresh opportunities elsewhere in the UK.
UK PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON, LEADER OF THE RULING CONSERVATIVE PARTY, HAS THROWN HIS WEIGHT BEHIND THE BTR SECTOR, OFFERING INCENTIVES AND SUBSIDIES TO INVESTORS AND DEVELOPERS
Analysts have also criticised developers and policymakers for treating BTR as a premium product by primarily targeting wealthy millennials at the expense of providing adequate affordable housing. Indeed, 2019 research from property consultancy JLL showed that tenants, on average, pay an 11% rental premium compared with standard private rental properties. Still, both the public and private sector are pushing ahead with the message that BTR is a panacea for the UK’s residential industry. Most analysts are confident the sector will remain resilient for the foreseeable future: global investors continue to seek stable cash flow as development volumes rise in the UK, and an investment pipeline of more than £1.4bn worth of deals are currently under offer. “The capital committed in 2020 has come from both new and established market players and is testament to the investment opportunity afforded by the sector,” says Mannix. “There is no doubt that the relationship between solid sources of capital and the long-term needs of renters is symbiotic.”
CAMBODIA’S MOST ICONIC DEVELOPMENT
A winning feature of the project is the fact that 45 percent of its total area has been allocated for open spaces, giving residents a green, verdant reserve in the middle of the urban jungle. On different floors of the property, communal gardens allow residents to relax and socialise with each other.
The only project from Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, to win at the 2019 PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards Grand Final
14th PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards Grand Final – the only development from Cambodia to win at the ceremony that gathered the best of the best in Asia-Pacific. It was among many accolades it garnered from the the PropertyGuru Asia Property Awards since 2019. This year at the 5th PropertyGuru Cambodia Property Awards, Urban Village won Best Condo Development (Cambodia), Best Condo Development (Phnom Penh), and Best Co-Working Space, plus several Highly Commended citations. There is little wonder why it received this honour. By taking inspiration from traditional villages in the Khmer countryside and putting a modern twist to them, the development sharply focuses on the lifestyles of the Cambodian community. As such, Urban Village offers “luxury but affordable” homes, each unit boasting stunning interiors as well as oversized, flexible layouts that residents can easily re-organise. Designed by architecture firm Atelier Cole, Urban Village is built to international standards. The development comprises 1,458 units, and home buyers and tenants have a diverse choice of studios, one- to three-bedrooms, and duplex lofts. Urban Village combines the feel of Khmer-style villages with the modern urban lifestyle, providing an intelligently designed community for a new generation of Cambodians.
first-time home buyers and middle-class Cambodians. It has also provided great living spaces for expatriates and foreign investors looking to integrate themselves in the country.
Phnom Penh is rapidly urbanising. Inhabited by over 2 million people, the Khmer capital is predicted to host a population of 3 million by 2035. The fast-growing metropolis is also home to a young working populace, with Cambodia having the largest youth and adolescent population in Southeast Asia.
“Urban Village is more than just concrete buildings – what we are building here can’t be found anywhere else in Cambodia,” says Urban Hub founder and chairperson Ben Li in a statement.
With the continued influx of FDI into the country and a strong growth in the credit and mortgage subsectors over recent years, demand for decent, comfortable residential spaces has decidedly increased among locals. In Q3 2020, the total supply of condominiums across Phnom Penh grew by almost 4% with the completion of the Urban Village apartment complex, according to figures by CBRE. Urban Village, a project by Hong Kong developer Urban Hub (Cambodia) Co., Ltd, was built with locals in mind. Approximately 70 percent of its residents are locals, including
One of the most environmentally friendly residential developments yet in Phnom Penh, the development boasts 100% ventilation in its bathrooms and kitchens. Each unit also comes with at least one balcony while strategically placed windows ensure natural light shines brightly into your home every day. These design touches will certainly help give residents extra savings in utilities in the long run. Urban Village has an unbeatable location near the Independence Monument between Hun Sen Boulevard and National Road No. 2, an in-demand development area surrounded by schools, hospitals, and shopping malls, including the enormous Aeon 3. It also stands adjacent to another Urban Hub project: Factory Phnom Penh. The city’s only and biggest creative hub – and possibly Southeast Asia’s – Factory Phnom Penh is a gathering place for the region’s young and wise creatives. It is equipped with Cambodia’s biggest co-working space and art gallery and even hosts the country’s first trampoline park. Situated next to the artsiest institution in the city and offering an array of layouts and options for all budgets, Urban Village is genuinely the place to be for Cambodians looking for an attainable level of luxury living. Best of all, it provides fun and excitement beyond the condo life.
“We have a mission to provide a community for the second generation of young Cambodians. We are focusing on building a community that puts the interests and experiences of the residents first,” says Catherine Chan, founder and executive director of Urban Village. “We represented Cambodia to win the Best Condo Development in Asia Award for the first time in history in 2019 and this year we are proud to be nominated and represent Cambodia again for this award,” she adds. Urban Village bested many residential projects across the region for the title of Best Condo Development (Asia) at the
Ayera Residences Ayera Residences consists of double-storey terrace houses with spacious built-up sizes ranging from 1,713 sq ft to 1,970 sq ft. The development offers 577 units in freehold title, plus a choice of four layout designs.
The Malaysia-Singapore Causeway is only 20 minutes from the development, while the TUAS second link is approximately 40 minutes away. The Senai International Airport is just 35 minutes away.
The development features unique semidetached facades that blend in with the surrounding green vistas. This modern façade, which comes in dimensions of 20 ft x 70 ft and 22 ft x 70 ft, is designed to inspire harmony between residents and nature. Courtyard pocket gardens meanwhile offer a rustic sense of country-living.
The Johor Bahru city centre is just 10 minutes away from Ayera Residences. Nearby shopping hotspots include AEON Permas Jaya, Tesco Seri Alam, Mydin Mall Taman Rinting, KIP Mart Masai, Giant Hypermarket in Plentong, and Midvalley Southkey.
Ayera Residences is strategically located within the rapidly developing Iskandar Malaysia region in Johor. For easy commuting, the Pasir Gudang Highway and the EDL highway connect Ayera Residences with Bandar Baru Permas Jaya to the west and the Pasir Gudang Industrial Estate to the east. Mature townships such as Bandar Seri Alam and Taman Megah Ria also surround the development. 138
Educational institutions within a convenient distance of Ayera Residences include SMK Seri Kota Puteri, SMK Seri Kota Puteri 2, Paragon International School, R.E.A.L School, and Excelsior International School.
BEST MID END LANDED DEVELOPMENT (SOUTHERN)
BEST HOUSING ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN
BEST RETAIL DEVELOPMENT
Ayera Residences by Tropicana Danga Cove Sdn Bhd
Ayera Residences by Tropicana Danga Cove Sdn Bhd
Oasis 3 by Tropicana Danga Cove Sdn Bhd
Developer: Tropicana Danga Cove Sdn Bhd Product type: Double-storey terrace house Architect: Veritas Architects Sdn Bhd Launch date: June 2018 Completion date: May 2021 Total land area: 2,108,736 sq ft Number of units: 577 Average unit size: 1,842 sqft Facilities: Linear park, jogging trails, playground, guardhouse Price range: MYR698,000-987,160 Sales contact details: Tel: +607 382 3355 Address: Lot PTD 28845-28892, Taman Cahaya Kota Puteri, Plentong, Jalan Permas Utara, Bandar Baru Permas Jaya, 81750 Masai, Johor, Malaysia
Healthcare facilities in the area include Regency Specialist Hospital and Sultan Ismail Hospital.
Sutera Ideal Sutera Ideal consists of multi-generational, three-storey terrace homes located at the heart of the township Taman Sutera Utama in Johor. Sutera Ideal offers several unique investment propositions, ranging from stringent security measures to convenient accessibility. Set in the suburb of Skudai, which is part of the new growth corridor of southwest Johor, the development connects to major highways and mature neighbourhoods. Its enormous built-up area leads to meticulously designed, spacious rooms and warm, cozy residential spaces for large families. Residents can easily organise big parties, hosting friends and relatives in the comfort of their own homes.
In addition to size and spaciousness, convenience makes Sutera Ideal an attractive option for professionals and entrepreneurs. The development is situated only less than 2km away from educational institutions, a vibrant commercial centre, a community mall and farm, and many more. Behind every single terrace home is a garden where residents can plant their favourite vegetables, herbs and flowers. Residents can even purchase food waste composts from the community farm, also known as the Sutera Good Earth (SGE) Farm, so that they can grow healthy, pesticide-free vegetables for their loved ones. The farm is suitable for all advocates of green, sustainable environments. With these and more, Sutera Ideal is truly an ideal home to raise a family in Malaysia.
WINNER BEST HIGH END LANDED DEVELOPMENT (SOUTHERN)
Sutera Ideal by Tanah Sutera Development Sdn Bhd
Developer: Developer: Tanah Sutera Development Sdn Bhd Product type: Three-storey terrace homes Architect: DC Architect Launch date: September 2019 Estimated completion date: September 2021 Total land area: 5.5 acres Number of units: 57 Unit size: 2,948-3,204 sq ft Facilities: Outdoor park Monthly maintenance fees: MYR90 Price range: From MYR1.188m Sales contact details: Tel: 019-7719009 Email: email@example.com Address: Sutera Sales Gallery, Jalan Persisiran Sutera Danga 1, Taman Sutera Utama, 81300 Skudai, Johor
Tropicana Gardens – Edelweiss FACT BOX
Tropicana Indah, Selangor
Edelweiss is a development comprising SOFO (small office/ flexible) units and serviced residences in the fast-rising estate of Tropicana Indah in Petaling Jaya. It represents the final development phase of the masterplanned community Tropicana Gardens. Edelweiss comprises two towers. The first tower houses 397 SOFO units while the second tower houses 630 serviced apartment units. Edelweiss’ SOFO units offers property seekers the freedom to design the space according to their preferences. They come in five layouts, with built-up sizes that range from 452 sq ft to 858 sq ft. Around the serviced residences, state-of-the-art facilities have been designed to suit all types of property seekers. Residents can relax and exercise in these facilities, which include an infinity pool, gym, children’s pool, and yoga decks.
Edelweiss provides excellent connectivity to public transportation such as the MRT, with covered walkways that ensure safe, comfortable commute to and from the Surian MRT station. Meanwhile, Tropicana Gardens itself is accessible to four major highways, namely the DamansaraPuchong Expressway, Sprint Highway, New Klang Valley Expressway, and Penchala Link. Consumers from Edelweiss can shop at the nearby Tropicana Gardens Mall, offering five levels of retail spaces with a vast choice of establishments and services. Residents can also choose from a wide range of educational institutions in the vicinity, including SMK Bandar Utama, St Joseph’s Institution International School, Sri KDU International School, and SEGi University and Colleges. For healthcare needs, the Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara (THKD) is only less than 2km away from the development.
BEST MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT
Tropicana Corporation Berhad
Tropicana Gardens by Tropicana Corporation Berhad
Developer: Tropicana Indah Sdn Bhd Product type: SOFO and serviced residences Architect: GDP Architects Sdn Bhd Launch date: September 2020 Completion date: Q2 2024 Total land area: 2.35 acres Number of units: 1,027 (397 SOFO units, 630 serviced residences) Unit size: 556–1,111 sq ft (serviced apartments), 452-858 sq ft (SOFO) Facilities: Infinity pool, gym, children’s pool, yoga decks, barbecue pit Monthly maintenance fees: MYR0.38 per sq ft (indicative) Price range: From MYR651,000 (serviced apartments), from MYR503,000 (SOFO) Sales contact details: Tel: 03-7663 6600 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Address: Tropicana Property Gallery, Ground Floor, Tropicana Gardens Mall, No. 2A, Persiaran Surian, Tropicana Indah, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Khan Sen Sok, Phnom Penh
Surrounded by a plethora of lifestyle, shopping, and F&B establishments, Leedon Heights is an ideal location to lead a comfortable, convenient urban lifestyle in the Cambodian capital. Leedon Heights is set on 1.5 hectares of land minutes away from AEON Sen Sok, Australian International School, The Premier Centre Sen Sok, and many other landmarks and amenities. The New Land Ministry and Urban Planning Office is also under development just five minutes away from the project. Designed by a Singapore-based architecture firm, Leedon Heights is set to achieve the highest standards in build quality, with a stringent fire safety protocol put in place throughout the design of the project.
Convenience is a key feature of the development. The condominium grounds are host to commercial spaces and retail outlets, including a café and mini-mart, plus an integrated child-care centre. A wide array of facilities, from leisure to sports, are weaved into the development to create a fun community living space for all age groups. Leedon Heights is a community-centric development envisaged for young Cambodian professionals and families who desire an address close to their place of work and, most importantly, feels like home. The joint venture behind Leedon Heights is a multi-award-winning developer experienced in delivering high-quality residential and commercial developments. Past projects include highly acclaimed hotel and serviced apartments such as Lyve Inc Hotel (previously known as Lumiere Hotel) and Lyve Inc Serviced Apartments (previously known as Lumiere Residences).
A joint venture of Cambodian, Singaporean and Taiwanese companies has come together to launch Leedon Heights, a four-tower condominium development at Village Banala S’et in Sangkat Khmuoh, Phnom Penh.
BEST CONDO LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN
BEST CONDO DEVELOPMENT (GREATER PHNOM PENH)
Leedon Heights by The Leedonheights Condominium Co., Ltd.
Leedon Heights by The Leedonheights Condominium Co., Ltd.
Developer: The Leedonheights Condominium Co., Ltd Architect: Create Architecture Launch date: August 2020 Completion date: Q4 2024 Total land area: 1.5 ha Number of units: 1,190 Average unit size: 35-115 sqm Facilities: Swimming pool, badminton courts, jogging trail, gym, function rooms, and more Estimated monthly maintenance fees: $1.50 per sqm (net area) Price range: $87,000-300,000 Sales contact details: Tel: +855 89 667 111 Email: email@example.com Address: 11th Floor, Exchange Square Building, Room No. 1106, No.19 & 20, Street No. 106, Sangkat Voat Phnum, Khan Doun Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Flatiron by Meridian FlatIron by Meridian is a 41-storey development along Street 102 in the Phnom Penh City Centre. It is situated next to Russian Boulevard, a prime location within the vicinity of the Central Market and Aeon mall. Inspired by the FlatIron in New York, the striking structure incorporates the unique triangular shape of its namesake, with modernist design details such as a curtain wall facade. A future landmark of Phnom Penh, FlatIron by Meridian will house office spaces as well as a hotel and serviced apartments managed by Citadines, a subsidiary of Capitaland. Occupying most of the lower 28 levels of the building, the office spaces at FlatIron by Meridian come in spacious floor-to-floor heights of 3.8 metres and ceiling heights of 2.8 metres. The office spaces are designed with raised flooring, allowing for good cable and electrical 146
supply management. Top-of-the-line security touches include turnstiles and screening on the ground level, CCTV provision, and carpark access control. Occupying levels 29 to 41 of the building, the Citadines Apart’Hotel offers accommodation solutions for business travelers coming in and out of the nearby international airport as well as a wide range of apartment configurations for those staying longer in Cambodia. Boasting art deco design touches, the Apart’Hotel brims with amenities like an infinity sky pool, gym and multi-purpose space. An all-day restaurant on the 27th floor is poised to become one of Phnom Penh’s dining attractions. FlatIron by Meridian also offers at least five different F&B outlets, including street stalls on ground level.
BEST SERVICED APARTMENT ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN
BEST SERVICED APARTMENT DEVELOPMENT
BEST MIXED USE ARCHITECTURE DESIGN
MERIDIAN INTERNATIONAL HOLDING (CAMBODIA) LTD.
Flatiron by Meridian
Flatiron by Meridian
Flatiron by Meridian
BEST MIXED USE DEVELOPER
BEST MIXED USE INTERIOR DESIGN
SPECIAL RECOGNITION FOR CSR
SPECIAL RECOGNITION IN SUSTAINABLE DESIGN
MERIDIAN INTERNATIONAL HOLDING (CAMBODIA) LTD.
Flatiron by Meridian
MERIDIAN INTERNATIONAL HOLDING (CAMBODIA) LTD.
MERIDIAN INTERNATIONAL HOLDING (CAMBODIA) LTD.
Sangkat Srah Chok, Phnom Penh Developer: Meridian International Holding (Cambodia) Lt Product type: Grade A offices, retail spaces, hotel, serviced apartments Architect: KLS Partnership (HK) Co., Ltd. Launch date: January 2019 Completion date: Q2 2021 Gross floor area: 82,130 sqm Number of units: 634 Facilities: Gym, sky pool, multi-purpose room, conference & meeting rooms, F&B areas, allday restaurant with 360-degree city views Price range: From U$159,000 (office), U$99,000 (Apart’Hotel) Sales contact details: Address: Unit B04-01, Ovest Tower, No. 1, Harvard Street, Diamond Island Tonle Bassac, Chamkamorn, Phnom Penh, Cambodia Tel: +855 23 900 797 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sangkat Boeungkok, Phnom Penh TK Central is mixed-use development prominently situated along Street 289 (Samdach Penn Nouth Street) in the busy Khan Toul Kok area of Phnom Penh. It incorporates a retail podium, commercial offices, and serviced apartments. This community-centric development enhances the living experience of its occupants through a selection of modern facilities like a communal garden; fitness centre; infinity pool; and barbecue deck. TK Central features full power backup as well as complete firefighting systems designed and built according to NFPA standards. It also comes with a solar-control glazing system that includes fire-resistant cladding panels. Meanwhile, its centralised air148
conditioning system boasts powersaving technology, giving residents added savings in electricity. The project offers a safe environment with CCTV at access doors and 24/7 security, plus ample car parking. TK Central ‘s commercial spaces offer flexible configurations for leasing, in sizes ranging from 45 sqm to 1,408 sqm. Meanwhile, the serviced apartments are fully furnished so home owners can readily move in to find high-end, eco-friendly home appliances. Managed by CBRE, TK Central delivers international-standard services to its commercial occupants.
BEST MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT
TK Central by Parbury Investments Co., Ltd.
BEST MIXED USE DEVELOPER
BEST SERVICED APARTMENT ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN
Parbury Investments Co., Ltd.
TK Central by Parbury Investments Co., Ltd.
Developer: Parbury Investments Co., Ltd Product: Offices, retail podium, serviced apartmen Architect: Basic Architecture&Design Launch date: August 2018 Completion date: February 2022 Total land area: 4,272 sqm Number of units: 154 (offices), 31 (retail), 92 (serviced apartments) Average unit size: 45-1,408 sqm (office), 29-275 sqm (retail), 57.80-252.10 sqm (serviced apartments) Facilities: Communal garden, fitness centre, BBQ deck, infinity pool Monthly maintenance fees: $4-5 per sqm Sales contact details: Tel: +855  78 888 531  78 666 382 | +855  23 901 931 Email: email@example.com Address: Street 289 Phum 13 Sangkat Boeungkok 1 Khan Toul Kok Phnom Penh, Cambodia 149
Rose Apple Square Rose Apple Square is a dynamic mixeduse complex nestled along Rose Apple Road, a quiet residential street in the Svay Dangkum commune of central Siem Reap. Set within easy access to F&B options, cultural hangouts, markets, and schools, Rose Apple Square is an ideal address for professionals and families seeking a relaxed lifestyle.
community, and Commune, with its multicultural mix of residents, are located to the northeast side of the square. Forum, the upcoming policy hub and co-working space, is set to the southeast.
Designed as a vibrant community, the project contains not only well-designed homes (Rose Apple Residences) but also modern offices (Rose Apple Offices), co-working facilities (Forum), and even co-living options (Commune). The four components are housed in four mid-rise blocks centered around a green, multi-level courtyard, which serves as the lynchpin of the community. This landscaped square allows occupants in the four blocks to coexist, thrive, and collaborate seamlessly.
Rose Apple Square has almost 1,300 sqm of green public spaces that artfully conceal two floors of underground parking.
Rose Apple Offices, with its vibrant business 150
The north-south oriented Rose Apple Residences, offer 235 well-ventilated, welllit residential units with great views.
Amenities at Rose Apple Square include a gym, pool, yoga deck, dance and fitness studio, and outdoor playground. Retail and F&B spaces are available in the ground floor plaza overlooking the courtyard. Siem Reap’s famed Pub Street is a mere ten-minute walk from the development, while the international airport is only a 20-minute drive.
Svay Dangkum Commune, Siem Reap
BEST COMMERCIAL LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN
BEST RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT (SIEM REAP)
BEST MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT
Rose Apple Square by Urban Living Solutions Co., Ltd.
Rose Apple Square by Urban Living Solutions Co., Ltd.
Rose Apple Square by Urban Living Solutions Co., Ltd.
Developer: Urban Living Solutions Co., Ltd. Product type: Mixed-use Architect: Re-Edge Architecture and Design Launch date: June 2020 Completion date: December 2021 Total land area: 6,345 sqm Number of units: 235 Unit size: 32-136 sqm Facilities: Gym, pool, outdoor yoga deck, dance and fitness studio, outdoor adventure playground, secure parking, 24hour security, auditorium, multi-purpose halls, co-working space, café, courtyard Monthly maintenance fees: $1 per sqm Price range: From U$75,580 Sales contact details: Tel: +855 99 225588 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Address: 17252 Oknha Oum-Chhay St, Krong Siem Reap, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia
Trapang Ronn Village, Siem Reap
Located in the district of Prasat Bakong, Bakong Village is only 15 minutes from Angkor Wat and 10 minutes from downtown Siem Reap. Large portions of the site are allotted to greenery, encompassing 22 shared outdoor courtyards and 7km of winding walkways across shaded patches of grass and community spaces. Modern wet and dry markets are just a few minutes’ stroll from homes in Bakong Village. Housing around 60 stalls, these markets are accessible, convenient places to instantly find essentials such 152
as rice, ﬁsh, and fresh produce. They also double as laidback gathering places for neighbours. The community markets sit on the ground ﬂoor of a ﬁve-storey carpark that can accommodate 391 cars and 357 motorbikes. This centralised parking space frees up Bakong Village for more pedestrian areas in the residential zones, creating safe spaces for children to play outdoors. A school is erected onsite, providing utmost convenience for parents in the community. The school will cater to pupils from kindergarten through Grade 6. A focal point of the community is the central courtyard of the school, where football matches or picnics can easily be held during non-school hours. It is open to residents in evenings and weekends.
Bakong Village is a communityfocused, affordable shophouse and villa development in the Ampil Commune of Siem Reap. Blending aspects of a traditional Khmer village with contemporary architecture, the project offers 105 shophouses and 245 villas suitable for young couples, families, and multi-generational households.
BEST HOUSING ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN
BEST TOWNSHIP DEVELOPMENT (SIEM REAP)
BEST MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT
Bakong Village by Bakong Village Co., Ltd.
Bakong Village by Bakong Village Co., Ltd.
Bakong Village by Bakong Village Co., Ltd.
Developer: Bakong Village Co., Ltd Product type: villas, shophouses Architect: Aerne Architect & Associates Launch date: July 2019 Completion date: August 2021 Total land area: 47,000 sqm Number of units: 350 Average unit size (shophouse): 245 sqm Average unit size (villa): 84 sqm Facilities: School building, market, carpark building Price range: $60,000-280,000 Sales contact details: Tel: +855 096 8660 777 Email: email@example.com Address: Trapang Ronn Village, Ampil Commune, Prasat Bakong Distict, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia
Partnership opportunities are available for 2020 IN THIS PHOTO DATED NOVEMBER 2020, A STATUE IS SEEN ‘WEARING’ A MASK IN THE WHOLESALE DISTRICT OF WUHAN, THE CHINESE CITY WHERE THE FIRST CASES OF COVID-19 WERE DETECTED EARLY THIS YEAR. THE ENSUING PANDEMIC HAS SO FAR CLAIMED MORE THAN 1.2 MILLION LIVES WORLDWIDE. ANDREW JOSEPH BRAUN/SHUTTERSTOCK
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