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ISSUE 173 Publisher Jules Kay Editor Duncan Forgan Deputy Editor Al Gerard de la Cruz Senior Editor Richard Allan Aquino Digital Editor Gynen Kyra Toriano Editorial Contributors Liam Aran Barnes, Bill Bredesen, Diana Hubbell, Steve Finch, George Styllis, Jonathan Evans Head of Creative Ausanee Dejtanasoontorn (Jane) Senior Graphic Designer Poramin Leelasatjarana (Min) Media Relations & Marketing Services Manager Nate Dacua Media Relations & Marketing Services Executive Piyachanok Raungpaka Marketing Relations Manager Tanattha Saengmorakot Senior Product Lifecycle & Brand Manager Marco Dulyachinda Sales Director Udomluk Suwan Regional Solutions Manager Orathai Chirapornchai Regional Manager of Awards Sponsorship Kanittha Srithongsuk Solutions Manager (Australia) Watcharaphon Chaisuk (Jeff) Solutions Manager (Cambodia) Phumet Puttasimma (Champ) Solutions Manager (Greater Niseko) Nyan Zaw Aung (Jordan) Solutions Manager (India and Sri Lanka) Monika Singh Solutions Manager (Indonesia) Wulan Putri Senior Account Manager (Indonesia) Oky Prasetya Senior Solutions Manager (Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau) Huiqing Xia (Summer) Solutions Manager (Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau) Kai Lok Assistant Manager, Awards (Malaysia and Mainland China) Samuel Poon Senior Solutions Manager (Philippines) Marylourd Pique Solutions Manager (Philippines) Maria Elena Sta. Maria Awards Manager (Singapore) Alicia Loh Solutions Manager (Thailand) Kritchaorn Rattanapan Rattanarat Srisangsuk Solutions Manager (Vietnam) Quan Nguyen (Val) Developer Solution Sales Manager (Vietnam) Dinh Van Tuan Anh (Kei) Business Development Executive, Sponsor Partnership Priyamani Srimokla (Priya) Sponsorship Sales Executive Yuwadee Phrommunee (Jane) Distribution Manager Rattanaphorn Pongprasert General Enquiries firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Enquiries email@example.com Distribution Enquiries firstname.lastname@example.org PropertyGuru Property Report is published six times a year by
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CONTENTS | Issue 173
Technology with an environmentally sound edge
Decorating and furnishing your home need not come at the cost of the planet
What were once alternatives to everyday products are now the only sustainable choices
Project Confidential: From the depths
Interview: In the green corner
Design Focus: A born natural
Mandani Bay has emerged onto the national stage from its reclaimed site on the Cebu shoreline
Ommid Saberi works to reduce the impact of buildings on climate change with a focus on developing nations
Pablo Laguarda’s inherent verve for human-centric architecture has helped his practice Laguarda.Low make a huge impression
CONTENTS | Issue 173
Neighbourhood Watch: Tanglin
Long established as one of Singapore’s most desirable enclaves, this leafy haven is a magnet for affluent homehunters
The comedown from pandemic-era stimulus measures weighs heavily on an electorate of property seekers ready for change
Non-resident Indians (NRIs) are helping to put the country’s real estate market back on track
Special Feature: Good as new
Dispatch: Calm after the storm
Dispatch: Down, but not out
Retrofitting Asia’s existing housing stock may hold the key to lower carbon emissions in the real estate industry
The ascent to power of Bongbong Marcos has coincided with a tentative recovery in the Philippines’ real estate sector
The pandemic was poison for Phnom Penh as it checked the city’s supercharged property boom. But there are signs that the market is gradually turning a corner
EDITOR’S NOTE Issue 173
Those who believed the pandemic would engender a full reset for the planet have mostly been disavowed of the notion. It was nice to believe, while sat at home devouring TV shows, that the images of pollution-free skies beamed around the world during lockdowns would be an ongoing thing. But the reality of capitalism and the imperative of perpetual growth have shaken the scales from the eyes of all but the most deluded. As we emerge, blinking, into the post-pandemic world, economic activity around Asia is ratcheting back into hyperdrive. Yet developers and other players in the real estate industry are more conscious than ever before of the need to work with — rather than against — the planet as they harness its resources for their projects. In this, our Green Issue, we look at some of the ways our industry — traditionally among the least sustainable sectors — is facing up to its environmental responsibilities by harnessing a range of solutions ranging from tech to financing, design, construction materials and energy use. Our special feature looks at the potential for retrofitting to enhance the green credentials of existing real estate stock. Other eco-focused features include a discussion with Ommid Saberi who specialised in green building certification with the International Finance Corporation. We also do a deep dive on Mandani Bay in Cebu, a project that is flying the flag for green development of mixed use in the Philippines. Enjoy!
Duncan Forgan Property Report email@example.com
Sustainable Construction for All Unearthing the realities behind the construction industry and how real estate companies can make a difference by James Eckford
The global conversation on sustainability in real estate is moving rapidly, especially in terms of the environment. Companies are under greater pressure to demonstrate how they are reducing or eliminating their carbon footprint and designing and constructing buildings in an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient way. With the built environment’s contribution to CO2 levels estimated to be up to 40% of global emissions, green buildings are now seen as an imperative to meet the Paris Agreement goals. Despite this rapid progress on environmental sustainability, social sustainability is lagging behind. Most real estate and construction companies’ social sustainability strategies focus on the impact on surrounding communities during the construction phase but rarely on the predominantly migrant workforce who actually build our homes. The Thai construction sector is primarily driven by migrant workers from Myanmar and Cambodia, who often arrive as families or as married couples who tend to have children while in Thailand. This means that tens
of thousands of children throughout Thailand live in temporary worker camps, often in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, where access to key public services is a major challenge due to a combination of lack of information, documentation, and limited ability in the Thai language. While we can see these camps from our luxury condos or see the workers stuck in traffic on the road, we rarely think about the conditions in which they and their families live. At the height of the pandemic in Bangkok during the summer of 2021, these sites came directly under the spotlight as 600 camps were forced to shut themselves off from society and prevent movement, affecting up to 80,000 workers. During this time, prolonged work stoppages and movement restrictions put families on the brink of crisis. While many companies provided food to their workforce, the children, especially young ones and newborn babies, were often overlooked. Baan Dek Foundation has been working both with these communities and construction companies for over 10
years. It has worked crucially with representatives of pioneering companies Visavapat Co. Ltd., MQDC and Syntec Construction PLC., as well as UNICEF Thailand to develop solutions and practical tools to improve these communities’ conditions and access to services. This deep experience and expertise from the ground led to the creation of the Building Social Impact (BSI) Initiative, an innovative and private sector-driven approach to create sustainable social impact in the construction and real estate sector for migrant workers and their families. At the core of the initiative is the BSI Framework for Action, a set of 12 actionable recommendations for construction companies. These recommendations, when followed, improve the living conditions in construction site camps, as well as workers and children’s access to essential public services, such as healthcare, education and social services. This Framework comes with a toolkit and training to guide companies, from operational to management level, in the process. This initiative represents tangible actions and yields tangible and measurable results, both for people and businesses. With Thai construction companies facing a labour shortage, and property developers dealing with resulting costs, the business case for improving worker welfare is clear. This need is further compounded by Thailand’s leadership in the field of business and human rights, which is already mandating publicly listed companies to disclose ESG data as well as demonstrate how they are integrating human rights due diligence in their business operations.
At a time when the sustainability landscape in Thailand is rapidly evolving, maturing, and converging with improved regulatory environments, especially in regard to business respect for human rights, it is crucial that the construction and real estate sector do not fall behind. Global Compact Network Thailand, part of a UN global initiative to leverage corporate action for the SDGs and human rights, has over 70 members yet none of them represent the construction sector. The real estate and construction sectors have the opportunity to not only catch up with this movement but take a leading role. The BSI Initiative presents a model that goes beyond traditional CSR programs, which have been excluded as evidence of social sustainability by the Thai Sustainability Investment Index. Businesses are instead expected to address social issues within their value chain. This means identifying all stakeholders who are impacted by business activities; engaging with those stakeholders; and minimising negative impacts. By joining the BSI Initiative, construction and real estate companies can get ahead of the trend and become leaders in the dynamic field of sustainability by accessing a ready-made and tailored framework which offers low-cost yet high-impact solutions for migrant workers and their families. James Eckford is the research and program quality coordinator at Baan Dek Foundation. To find out more about the Building Social Impact Initiative, please visit www.buildingsocialimpact.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
DETAILS | Gadgets
GREEN MACHINE From being a scourge of the environment, technology has become its biggest cheerleader
FEAST OF SCRAPS The Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50 lets you turn scraps, leftovers, and other biodegradable stuff into compost in a span of five to eight hours in high heat. It does this quietly without emitting foul smell, thanks to its carbon filter lid.
From USD399.95, vitamix.com
DETAILS | Gadgets
SOUND IS SHINING The House of Marley’s Redemption ANC wireless earbuds rival less eco-friendly counterparts due to their active noise cancellation technology, deep bass, and crisp, balanced sounds. Bob Marley would approve of these gadgets made of solid bamboo, natural wood fibre composite, and reclaimed or upcycled silicone scraps.
From 129.99, thehouseofmarley.com
WRITE ON Scribble on Sony’s touchscreen, glare-free Digital Paper as you would real paper, in pen or pencil style even. Then just drag and drop the documents. Available in 10- and 13-inch versions, it’s as thin as 30 sheets of paper, far lighter than a tablet.
EARTH HOUR It is time for the planet with Swatch’s Bioceramic line of watches, built out of ceramic and plastic derived from castor oil plant seeds. With a striking matte finish, Bioceramic comes in many pastel colours, as well as black and white options.
From USD599.99, sony.com
SPINNING CLASS Fresh water won’t be around for long so reuse water when you can. The Hydraloop recycles up to 95% of the water coughed up by ACs, showers, and washing machines: disinfecting them for another go-round in your appliance.
Price upon request, hydraloop.com
DETAILS | Trends
PIECE OF EART H Decorating and furnishing your home need not come at the cost of comfort or the planet
SAVE YOUR HIDE Furniture maker Gus Modern offers modular sofas and sectionals that have the look of leather but are really made from discarded apple cores and peels. The trademark, OEKOTEK-certified AppleSkin upholstery complements the seats’ synthetic down fill, made from recycled plastic water bottles.
From USD2,850, gusmodern.com
ISLAND’S FINEST The Citizenry continues to promote beautiful fairtrade furniture from around the world, and the Liang Wicker lounge chair is no different. Handcrafted by artisans in Cirebon, Indonesia, the chair is made with natural rattan woven around a durable, sculptural steel frame.
ROLL CALL Made from 53% recycled materials, Herman Miller’s Mirra 2 swivel chair has many green certifications to its name; it’s also 92% recycleable. With the option of a Butterfly or Triflex back and AireWeave 2 seat mesh, it’s very ergonomic.
USD1,345, hermanmiller.com INTO THE WOOD From the makers of the popular Avocado green mattress comes the Eco Wood Dresser. Made from 100% reclaimed solid douglas fir wood with zero-VOC sealant, it holds three roomy, easy-to-open drawers that don’t need handles and knobs.
USD2,549, avocadogreenmattress.com HAPPIER THAN EVER Co-founded by a stateside Thai student, Sabai is making waves in sustainable furnishings, particularly for The Essential Collection. The furniture line carries The Essential Ottoman, which boasts an FSC-certified wooden frame and legs and is upholstered in either 100% recycled velvet or upcycled poly.
DETAILS | Style
MOT HERING EART H In the quest for a healthy world, what were once alternatives to everyday products are now the only sustainable choices
WHAT’S UNDER DINNER The TarHong Planta dinner plate might be made from bamboo powder and cornstarch but it’s certainly not disposable. Dishwasher-safe and BPA- and phthalate-free, the dinnerware has eye-catching colours and a gorgeous matte finish that will stay with you for some time.
LOOKING BEYOND Who would think fibrous grass and pre-consumer recycled plastics convert into stylistic sunglasses? Zeal Optics would. The company’s innovative See Grass line of sunglasses are plant-based down to the glare-free, polarised lenses yet still offer heavy-duty protection from the sun.
SQUAREROOTS Do the environment good by planting with the Ecopots Square Pot, which is almost entirely made from recycled plastics. The waterproof, UV-proof planter comes in multiple colours and widths and can go as tall as 70 cm.
From EUR19.95, ecopots.eu
SIPPING PRETTY Highly portable, the Shlurple drinking straw is easy to slot in your bag on your next trip to the café. The stainless-steel straw is collapsible, neatly fitting into a companion box made from wheat composite.
UNDER WRAPS Save one more face mask from filling up the dumpsite (and seas) this pandemic by reusing United by Blue. These masks are created from deadstock fabrics, which are leftover materials from clothes and textile makers. Sales benefit the homeless as well as oceancleaning efforts.
From USD20, unitedbyblue.com
FROM THE DEPTHS Green township project Mandani Bay has transcended its standing start to emerge from reclaimed land on the Cebu shoreline onto the national stage BY AL GERARD DE LA CRUZ
THE MANDANI BAY SUITES DESIGN TEAM CONSIDERED VARIOUS PARAMETERS TO FINETUNE THE LOOK AND SIZE OF THE WINDOWS, THE ANGLE OF THE LOUVRES, AND THE BUILDING ORIENTATION ITSELF, ALLOWING OCCUPANTS TO MAXIMISE THE VISTAS
oth high-density port cities with a long colonial past, Cebu and Hong Kong have many commonalities.
So, when two of the cities’ biggest developers, Taft Properties and Hongkong Land, linked up for Mandani Bay, a PHP130billion (USD2.4 billion) township venture in the Philippines, it was almost like kismet. The first phase of the township, Mandani Bay Suites, received last year the Philippine Green Building Council’s (PHILGBC) five-star Building for Ecologically Responsive Design (BERDE) mark, the equivalent of a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The twotower project is just the opening salvo of a 21-tower, city-like development within the city of Mandaue, an industrial hub of metropolitan Cebu. Jardine Matheson, Hongkong Land’s parent company, brokered the project with Taft Properties, the real estate arm of the Gaisano retail dynasty in Cebu, as early as 2013. A joint venture, HTLand, was established the following year. 40
“When I came to the site in 2014, it was raw land with containers and trucks,” recalls HTLand project advisor Jeffrey Lun. “The question that came to my mind at that time was, ‘What did the management see that I don’t?’ Most of our projects were right in the middle of a CBD in a capital city: Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila…And we were not even in Cebu City. We were in Mandaue, in the middle of nowhere at that time. “Of course, I had to trust our management’s vision on this,” he admits. The 20-hectare disused site has since metamorphosed beyond recognition—a “world-class transformation in Cebu,” according to HTLand project director Gilbert Ang. Mandani Bay has also triggered a chain of seafront developments across Metro Cebu, including the 101-hectare reclamation project Global City of Mandaue. With only a sliver of built-up area between a strait and the island’s mountain range, Metro Cebu has been reclaiming
THE GRAND DRIVEWAY AND COVERED DROP-OFF MARK THE START OF A SELF-CONTAINED, WALKABLE COMMUNITY WITH INTERLINKED BUILDINGS AND A TUNNEL NETWORK FOR CARS, PLUS AMENITIES FOR CYCLISTS AND EV OWNERS
thousands of hectares of land since the 1960s. Plotted on Mandaue’s expansive North Reclamation Area, Mandani Bay has for its muse Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, itself the site of many reclamation works. Hongkong Land knows the challenges inherent to developing reclaimed areas worldwide. “The biggest concern of reclaimed land is always the soil condition,” says Lun. “We have to consider the design and additional costs in terms of piling work, the substructure, the drainage, and flood levels. Normally, these are not a big deal in other projects, but on reclaimed land, they become a big consideration.” HTLand assembled an intercontinental team of designers and consultants, from Australian master-planner Crone Architects to New York-based traffic manager Parsons Brinckerhoff, for the township. The structural design team, led by engineers such as Manila’s SY^2 + Associates, conducted soil investigations before foundation works commenced in late 2016. The preconstruction studies were pivotal to designing the substructure system supporting
Mandani Bay Suites, the township’s first residential enclave. “The reclaimed ground where Mandani Bay sits is structurally unstable,” notes Rhys Abon, associate and project manager at Aidea Inc., the architecture firm behind Mandani Bay Suites. “This is why the structural design team recommended using bored piles to reach the most stable soil substrate.” Ideating the subterranean structures of Mandani Bay initially proved thorny because of its unique tunnel network, which allows cars to move from basement to basement beneath the township. “The construction of the tunnels connecting the basement parking faced the same challenges as the basements themselves: a high water table and unstable soil,” says Abon. The team found a workaround by enveloping the tunnels and basements with diaphragm walls, protecting belowground structures from water and preventing them from sinking. 41
Where other township projects would sardine three towers into one hectare, Mandani Bay keeps its density low. Mandani Bay Suites is spread out on an 11,546-square-metre plot, bounded by a 400-metrelong green promenade parallel to F.E. Zuellig Avenue and a 500-metre-long boardwalk by the wharf. To maximise sightlines of the sea, towers are generously spaced from each other, every block observing at least a three-metre setback. Mandani Bay had been master-planned before the Mandaue government enacted in 2015 its green building ordinance, the first in the country to adopt the BERDE system. The Philippine Green Building Code was implemented in the same year. “As it turned out, Mandani Bay Suites’ design was already compliant with most of the requirements of the Philippine Green Building Code, and the design team only had to make adjustments on a few elements,” says Abon.
MANDANI BAY SUITES USES SUSTAINABLE WOOD PRODUCTS WHERE POSSIBLE, SUCH AS COMPOSITE DECKING FOR THE SWIMMING POOL AREAS, IN LIEU OF 100% TIMBER PRODUCTS
WHEN I CAME TO THE SITE IN 2014, IT WAS RAW LAND WITH CONTAINERS AND TRUCKS. THE QUESTION THAT CAME TO MY MIND AT THAT TIME WAS, ‘WHAT DID THE MANAGEMENT SEE THAT I DON’T?’ OF COURSE, I HAD TO TRUST THEIR VISION ON THIS
Mandani Bay Suites aced, among other BERDE metrics, the use of environmentally conservative materials. The PHP6-billion project procured paints low on volatile organic compounds (VOC) and chose engineered or recycled products like laminated wood and medium-density fibreboards (MDF) over 100% timber. The development also impressed PHILGBC with its visitor management system, waste management plan, and UV-purified indoor environment. Energyefficient LED lights in the common areas, as well as access to daylight and water efficiency, also helped the project secure good grades. The landscaping team, led by Coen Design International and SGS Designs, planted indigenous flora that thrives in the salty air and withstands strong winds. American retail planner CallisonRTKL meanwhile designed the decks of the Suites’ two-storey podium blocks as landscaped areas
interconnected by footbridges. Bicycle racks and EV parking slots encourage non-fossil-fueled transportation around the township, which lies opposite the international airport across the Mactan Channel. Vistas of the strait, as well as the sun path and prevailing winds, determined the buildings’ form and orientation. “The products are boomerang-shaped towers meant to give their residents the best possible views and streamlined to withstand strong winds coming from the sea,” explains Abon. Each of the two towers has distinctly articulated high and low wings. “This solution has effectively given each wing of the towers its character, making it seem like there are four individual towers,” says Abon. “The architects played around with the form of the buildings by just dropping a bit of the roof height from one side of the building versus the other one
SLATTED FEATURE WALLS ARE RECURRING MOTIFS THROUGHOUT THE INTERIORS, WARMED BY WOODEN ELEMENTS AND PAINTINGS BY FILIPINO ARTISTS
UPON RECEPTION, RESIDENTS ARE GREETED BY A LOBBY GLOWING WITH COVELIGHTS, ACCENT FIXTURES, AND CONTEMPORARY CHANDELIERS, AMPLIFIED BY COPPER MIRRORS AND COMPLEMENTED BY FURNITURE FROM LOCAL ARTISANS
and by also playing around with the facade design, some with more emphasis on the horizontal elements, others with more emphasis on the vertical elements,” says Lun. “It’s quite clever.” The buildings’ unique articulation made possible a wide gamut of unit types. Standard units range from studios to three-bedroom condominiums, plus penthouses and townhomes. Some types, like the loft apartments, even extend out to private gardens. “The lifestyle of locals was being considered when we designed the unit layouts—how they live, how they cook, how they keep their stuff,” recalls Lun. Construction of Mandani Bay Suites went full blast in 2017. Manila-based contractor Monocrete Construction hewed to a sustainable building system, steering clear of phenolic boards and using precast panels instead. Five million manhours later—rendered by some 1,500 workers—the 26- and 34-storey towers topped off in late 2018.
“When we saw the buildings finally come together, it was quite emotional,” says Lun. HTLand began turning over the 1,226 sold-out units last year, with locals driving an estimated 80% of the demand. Designed by Asuncion Berenguer, Inc., the interiors of Mandani Bay Suites house paintings by Cebuano artist Sio Montera and pieces by local furniture designer Murillo. Three more residential towers, Mandani Bay Quay, and an office building, One Mandani Bay, will follow the Mandani Bay Suites. They form just the second of eight phases set to complete the township over the next 10 years or so. Sustainable design is expected to remain a constant all that time. HTLand may get succeeding phases assessed for LEED as well as the Singapore Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark, predicts Lun. “When you do something that is not common, there are always questions. ‘Is it worthwhile to do?’” he says. “Our answer is always, ‘Yes, we are creating a different product.’”
EARTH, WIND, AND FIRE Like Hong Kong, Cebu is prone to lashings by typhoons. It is also given to seismic activities, the Philippines being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Last year, the Mandani Bay Suites made their stand against the destructive Typhoon Odette. The buildings only sustained superficial damages, thanks in part to their watertight substructure and climate-resilient elevation, perched a metre above the 50- and 100-year flood level. As part of a performance-based design process, HTLand, developer of Mandani Bay Suites, had commissioned a wind tunnel study to see how the structures could accommodate gale-force wind loads. “You don’t want a certain area to have very strong winds and a certain area to have stagnant air,” explains Jeffrey Lun, project advisor of HTLand. The joint venture also conducted exhaustive seismic hazard analyses, determining how parts of the edifices would react to ground movement. “The engineers put in like a hundred, 200 scenarios,” says Lun. “The earthquake may not just move sideways, up and down—it can move in any direction.”
WHEN REALISED OVER THE NEXT DECADE, THE MASTERPLAN OF MANDANI BAY WILL HAVE ROLLED OUT IN EIGHT PHASES ACROSS 21 TOWERS, TRANSFORMING THE SKYLINE OF THE CITY OF MANDAUE
Everything that Matters A Filipino developer builds a strategically located address in the Philippine capital’s EDSAMandaluyong area, providing residents with unparalleled connectivity and access to health and convenience
A robust economic rebound is expected of the Philippines as it transitions to the new normal. This was made evident by the country’s GDP growth of 8.3% in Q1 2022. However, a return to normalcy may also mean more traffic congestion on the streets of Metro Manila. Members of the workforce end up spending more time on the road and have less time to do things that they love. Making an investment in a centrally located residential property can address the inconveniences that accompany the great return to work in the Philippines. SM Development Corporation (SMDC), the largest and fastest-growing real estate developer in the country, makes it possible for more Filipinos to own such a prime address in the heart of Metro Manila. SMDC’s Light 2 Residences has been imagined as a beacon of modern urban living in the bustling EDSAMandaluyong area of the metropolis. Residents are just within walking distance of transport hubs and a vibrant selection of shopping, dining, and recreational destinations built into their immediate surrounds.
Unbeatable location SMDC’s Light 2 Residences is part of a master-planned development that boasts a direct connection to the EDSABoni MRT-3 station. It also stands close to one of the stations along the upcoming Mega Manila Subway. From the site, residents can easily gain access to Quezon City, Parañaque City, and all points in between, plus a convenient link to domestic and international airports. In short, residents need not hop in a car to get from point A to B. Retail convenience is only an elevator ride away from the residences—a shopping centre, The Light Mall, is integrated into the development. Residents can easily fit a trip to the grocery, a visit to the bank, a haircut appointment, and even a night in the cinema into their schedule. SMDC’s Light 2 Residences is an ideal address for those who work in Metro Manila’s major business centres. The development is just an MRT ride away from the Ortigas Central Business District and the Makati CBD and only a short drive from Bonifacio Global City and Rockwell Makati. Such proximity to the metropolis’ financial and
ADVERTORIAL commercial hubs translates to reduced travel time and increased savings in fuel—a welcome perk in a time of rising prices.
with regal touches of marble, reflective materials, and light wood finishes as well as bespoke lighting fixtures and furniture.
Access to a healthy lifestyle
The residential units are well appointed. Property seekers have a range of unit configurations to choose from, including studios, one-bedroom units, and two-bedroom units with balconies, as well as the option to combine units.
In a post-pandemic Philippines, homebuyers are highly likely to consider features related to health and fitness as top of their priorities. Ever responsive to the needs of Filipinos, SMDC has geared its recent developments towards addressing these new considerations. SMDC’s Light 2 Residences is one of these developments, with a remarkable curation of amenities for those who desire to be in the pink of health. These include an indoor gym and fitness studio, an outdoor gym and yoga deck, and table tennis courts. Lounge and lap pools are also available, ideal for harried residents who want to relax after a hard day’s work. The pièce de résistance is the community’s Private Urban Park. The exclusive landscaped area covers almost a hectare in size and includes lush gardens that families can enjoy, as well as jogging and running paths where residents can instantly decompress from the stress of everyday living. Life with luxury
SMDC offers affordable payment options for Light 2 Residences; prospective buyers need not break the bank to own such a coveted address. Investors are also secure in the knowledge that the property is professionally managed by Greenmist Property Management Corporation, making sure that the upkeep remains impeccable and the value of the real estate investment remains lucrative for years to come. Also, all homeowners get peace of mind with 24/7 security at the residences. Built around the idea of living a good life, such an affordable, centrally located address is a testament to SMDC’s commitment to developing homes that Filipinos deserve. For more information on SMDC’s Light 2 Residences and other SMDC properties, visit https://smdc.com
The architecture and interior design of SMDC’s Light 2 Residences exude luxury. The grand lobbies are decked
In the green corner Ommid Saberi works to reduce the impact of buildings on climate change, with a focus on developing countries BY BILL CHARLES
THROUGH HIS WORK FOR THE INTERNATIONAL FINANCE CORPORATION, OMMID SABERI HAS HELPED FACILITATE GREEN CERTIFICATION FOR BUILDINGS LIKE THIS OFFICE DEVELOPMENT IN METRO MANILA
Working on different building types across the globe in both the public and private sectors has helped me to appreciate the challenges and opportunities to reach a zero-carbon future
reen means go in his role as specialist with Finance Corporation, Bank Group.
for Ommid Saberi a senior industry the International part of the World
A trained architect with a PhD in energy efficiency in buildings, Saberi is the global technical lead for IFC’s EDGE Green Buildings Program and the global lead for IFC’s Building Resilience Index Program. He has done extensive work in the property sector, as well as with funds and commercial banks to divert investments to “climatesmart” and resilient projects. Through his work, he has been involved in affordable housing finance in Mexico, green home finance in India, green warehouses in Kenya, green data centres in Africa, and a zero-carbon airport and office buildings in Latin America. Before joining IFC, Saberi advised on sustainability strategies for development projects in the UK, Middle East and Asia, including the development of green building codes in multiple countries. He has also been a member of regional government advisory panels as an expert in low-energy designs and a technical director for energy conservation at the city level.
SABERI HELPS THE BUILDING SECTOR MITIGATE AGAINST CLIMATE HAZARDS, WHICH ARE BECOMING MORE SEVERE AND FREQUENT IN ASIA
“In my work, I have been engaged in developing building regulations as well as software applications for construction sector professionals,” Saberi says. “Working on different building types across the globe in both the public and private sectors has helped me to appreciate the challenges and opportunities to reach a zero-carbon future.” How does IFC’s work on green and resilient buildings help lift people out of extreme poverty? At IFC, we recognise the role of the private sector as a critical engine for growth in emerging markets. By encouraging this growth, IFC supports the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity in emerging markets. We do this through our investment offer, which creates new markets and mobilises other investors, and our advisory offer, which imparts our expertise. Aligned with this work, our focus on the property sector is on key industries such as tourism and retail because of their economic importance in generating revenue and creating jobs. We also focus on affordable housing, which uplifts the lives of people in developing countries. As we come in with our investment, we also ensure that capital goes into more climatesmart projects such as green and resilient buildings. From IFC’s Green Buildings report, we know that more than half of the world’s population by 2030 will be in East Asia, the Pacific and South Asia, so our work in the region for the property sector is probably the most important globally. It represents a tremendous investment opportunity—for example, around two-thirds of the investment opportunity in green buildings lies in Asia.
Why is IFC focusing on green and resilient buildings? Buildings and the construction sector are responsible for about 37% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, if we also include the embodied carbon. This means buildings are one of the key sectors in the global move toward a low-carbon economy. Meanwhile, with climate change, climate hazards are becoming more severe and frequent. As a result, buildings are damaged, if not destroyed, which accumulate as increasing economic losses. So the building sector must address both climate change mitigation and adaptation simultaneously. This is where IFC’s EDGE Green Buildings and Building Resilience Index programs come in. What is the aim of the Building Resilience Index? The Building Resilience Index aims to “lay the foundations for resilient cities, one building at a time” by providing a resilience assessment framework for the building sector. We designed the Building Resilience Index to facilitate access to locationspecific hazard information, provide resilience measures to mitigate applicable risks, and improve transparency for disclosing a building’s resilience information between sector stakeholders, leading to a diversion of financing to resilience. What has been learned so far from the Philippines pilot? We started piloting the Building Resilience Index program in the Philippines because it is a hotspot for a range of natural hazards, including floods, typhoons, landslides, tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanoes.
IN LIGHT OF THE PANDEMIC, THERE HAS BEEN EXPONENTIAL GROWTH IN DEMAND FOR GREEN BUILDINGS, NOT ONLY IN ASIA BUT ACROSS THE WORLD
Amidst its climate vulnerability, however, not a lot of people know that the Philippines is actually a low-emitting country globally. What we see is that the countries that contribute the least to climate change are the ones that are greatly impacted by it. Therefore, climate change adaptation is equally, if not more, important to climate change mitigation for the Philippines’ property sector. Working with developers, financial institutions, and the public sector, we have discovered a strong appetite for the Building Resilience Index. When we launched the Building Resilience Index, various developers pledged to use the tool on 1.8 million square metres of floor space, including both new construction and retrofit projects. A few commercial banks and city governments also expressed interest in integrating the index into their own processes and frameworks to encourage resilient building design and construction. What is the state of the EDGE Green Building certification in Asia? With the pandemic, we saw exponential growth in demand for green buildings, not only in Asia but across the world. 54
EDGE-certified space has reached over 40 million square metres in 72 countries. Asia makes up about one-third of this. What has contributed to this rapid growth are awarenessraising and advocacy. In Asia, as in the rest of the global south, the key barrier to green building adoption is the widespread notion that green is expensive, complex, and does not deliver value. Real estate players realise more and more that while there is an additional cost, it is not as high as they think, and the operational benefits far outweigh the initial capital expense, with short payback periods of just three years on average. Through the EDGE app, we also simplify the green building certification process to remove the layer of difficulty and lower the barriers to entry. Asian banks are providing green building construction finance and mortgages such as OCBC for EDGE-certified buildings. Governments perceive that, by providing fiscal or non-fiscal incentives, markets can move faster toward adopting green buildings.
IFC FACILITATES THE MAINSTREAMING OF GREEN BUILDINGS AND CONSTRUCTION IN WAYS RANGING FROM DIGITAL TOOLS TO FINANCIAL PRODUCTS TO SUPPORT THE PROCESS
Despite our success, the green building sector as a whole is still far from where it needs to be if we are to bring down emissions and limit warming to 1.5 °C. We will continue working with developers to increase their awareness of the business case for green and to provide technical assistance on the process. At the same time, we will also work closely with financial institutions to create finance products to encourage the market, and with the public sector to create an enabling regulatory environment for green buildings to flourish, thanks to our program donors such as the UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, the European Union, Australia, and Rockefeller Foundation. How is IFC pushing for greater adoption of green and resilient buildings globally?
information asymmetries that construction developers face. And they create a clear and standardised definition for green and resilience among market stakeholders. Second, we invest through financial institutions or help develop new financial products such as green bonds and green mortgages that support these building activities. Third, IFC directly invests in projects in the property sector. Lastly, we offer expertise to central or local governments on policy reforms to improve building codes and design incentives for green and resilient buildings. These four approaches generate a successful enabling environment and initiate a systemic transformation toward zero-carbon and resilient cities.
IFC facilitates the mainstreaming of green buildings and resilient buildings in four ways. First, we have the EDGE and Building Resilience Index apps, which provide sector actors publicly available tools to design, construct, retrofit and finance green and resilient buildings. They address 55
LAGUARDA.LOW ARCHITECTS STRIVES TO PRESERVE HUMAN SCALE AND CONTACT WITH THE NATURAL WORLD IN ITS PROJECTS AROUND THE WORLD
A born natural Pablo Laguarda’s inherent verve for humancentric architecture has helped his practice Laguarda.Low make a huge impression in China and around Asia BY DIANA HUBBELL
We always try to preserve the human scale and the contact with the natural world in our projects. We are doing a lot of new buildings where we introduce landscapes on the roof of the buildings
From a young age, Pablo Laguarda knew that he wanted to help create and design better, more habitable urban environments. “I have wanted to do this since I was a little kid. I used to build models and I always knew that I was going to be an architect,” he says. “It was something that I always pursued.”
In particular, he notes that many of the glitzy new developments built for prestige across Asia neglect those that should inhabit them. Glittering starchitecture may look stunning, but if its creation eliminates pedestrian walkways and street life, it may take too great a toll on the societal fabric.
Part of that drive came from his international upbringing. “I had the chance to travel when I was young,” recalls Laguarda. “My father was a diplomat, so we lived in Mexico, Israel, and the United States. At a very young age, I was able to go to Rome, Paris, and other great cities. I was always looking into urban environments.”
“A lot of the new urban design is done on a human scale to the extent that it used to be,” says Laguarda. “Spontaneous urban design done with years of experience goes away. In its place you have new skyscrapers coming up. Some of them are beautiful design statements, but they don’t do anything for the city or the urban context at the human level. They become cities where you cannot even walk from one building to the other one.”
Those formative opportunities to study architecture and the overall urban planning of great cities left a life-long impression. “Why do people like to go to Europe to visit Paris or Prague? Because there are so many good things that are an intrinsic part of those places,” says Laguarda. “A lot of that is related to the human scale—the cafes, the sidewalks, that’s what we like. That’s something that has been lost in many places, including in the United States.”
As the firm behind some of Asia’s most ambitious large-scale, mixed-use developments, Laguarda. Low Architects strives to counter these trends. “We always try to preserve the human scale and the contact with the natural world,” he says. In a practical sense, this translates to incorporating green spaces even in the heart of commercial and residential developments, in addition to creating walkable spaces for people to congregate.
After graduating with his architecture degree, Laguarda went on to become the founder and principal of Laguarda.Low Architects, a Manhattanbased firm with a truly global outlook. Since its founding in 2000, the firm has had a profound impact on some of Asia’s most culturally and financially significant metropolises.
“In our projects, whenever we have the chance, we try to be sure the project is related to nature,” Laguarda says. “We are doing a lot of new buildings where we introduce landscapes on the roof of the buildings.”
“In the last 22 years, the transformation in China has been incredible,” says Laguarda. “Particularly the urban settings. I see cities growing from pretty much nothing.” He points to Shenzhen in southeastern China, which has morphed from a relative backwater to an economic powerhouse and Hong Kong’s first point of contact with mainland China. “Shenzhen was a fishing town,” he says. “In 30 years, it’s grown to a city of 30 million. I’ve been witness to this transformation and it’s unbelievable.” Yet while all this change can be thrilling, Laguarda worries that overzealous developers are forgetting what the purpose of their spaces is in the first place. “The end product always has to be focused on people. We are the scale of everything,” Laguarda says. “When you design a project, you have to consider that a person will be living and working and entertaining there.”
Laguarda has hope that more designers will think this way in the future. Already he notes that several architects who have overseen commercial shopping centres in recent years have taken the opportunity to transform their rooftops into lush gardens. “More and more the roof is becoming a useful space for people and it offers a great possibility to utilise that for green areas,” he says. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s indicative of a greater awareness of the need for these types of spaces. Development around Asia Pacific may continue at a breakneck pace, but Laguarda.Low Architects will continue to do its part to ensure that cities are both beautiful and vibrant places to live in the future.
OCT OH Bay Master Plan, Shenzhen A decade after Laguarda.Low Architects first worked on a project for this client, they returned to the area to build out the commercial elements of the development on Shenzhen Bay. “This part opened in 2022, so this year or at the end of last year. It made us very proud to integrate so much greenery at this scale,” Laguarda says. Although the primary purpose of this new addition was retail, the city of Shenzhen insisted that it needed to contain a public park. Ever eager to incorporate additional foliage where possible, Laguarda was thrilled. “We mixed the two things to create a blend of park and retail project.”
Jining Cultural Center Comprised of four sleek office and residential towers with curved sides, this addition to the Jining Cultural Center presented a unique challenge. “There were four museums in the front which were done by other architects,” he says. Laguarda.Low Architects needed to ensure that the commercial components blended seamlessly with the rest of the masterplan, without overshadowing or diminishing the museums. To unite the disparate aspects of the design, Laguarda used extensive stretches of well-manicured landscaping. “It’s like a green carpet that links the whole project giving it a much more, cohesive feel,” Laguarda says.
Vanke Chengdu “I’m very proud of this project,” Laguarda says. This sprawling office development incorporates two levels of retail. “In this case, we tried to create a sacred garden in the center and also step down the green from the terraces,” he says. One of the challenges in making this space feel dynamic and original was the comparatively cookie-cutter office blocks next to it. To counter the “rather boring” neighbors, “we decided to create these circular forms working against each other. We wanted to create something different, so we made these two semi-circular shapes, and the garden is sunk below the street level, which adds to the experience.”
Grandberry Park, Tokyo Located at Minami-machida Station, one of the busiest transportation hubs in Tokyo, this complex mixed-use development project had a lot of moving parts. “We elevated the retail level to one level above ground and connected this with the park directly. We wanted to create a continuous experience with the park,” he says. “The idea was to create a different sequence of plazas and places for people to stay. This is more like a neighborhood, a community center. We use different materials to create a sense of variety and scale. It’s a popular project in this area of Tokyo.”
Hongshan 6979, Shenzhen “This was a very successful project,” Laguarda says. Centered around one of Shenzhen’s most important subway stations, Hongshan 6979 is both a cultural and transportation hub for the entire city. Laguarda.Low needed to find a way to integrate a series of ambitious retail elements, while maintaining a sense of serenity. To do that, the architects anchored it around a modern-day interpretation of a sacred garden. “It’s built around a central garden,” he says. This landscaped greenery is sunken below the earth, giving visitors a reprieve from the street-level bustle.
OCT Bay Master Plan, Shenzhen With this sprawling, multifaceted development, the city of Shenzhen hoped to remake the waterfront on Shenzhen Bay. “The client created this artificial lake to provide a focal point for the project,” Laguarda explains. “To complement that, we created something almost like a fishing village.” Although Shenzhen is now one of China’s biggest boomtowns, it was once a comparatively sleepy area. In envisioning this project a decade ago, Laguarda wanted to help create a space that would honour Shenzhen’s history while becoming a focal point in its future. The result is a series of lakeside restaurants, cafés and shops, all of which subtly emulate the region’s traditional architecture.
Tangling with Tanglin BY JONATHAN EVANS
Long established as one of Singapore’s most desirable enclaves, this leafy haven is a magnet for affluent home-hunters
Park Nova by Shun Tak Holdings
Juniper Hill by Allgreen Properties Limited
Major players in Hong Kong and Macau, Shun Tak recently signalled their ultraprime credentials in Singapore with the exclusive Les Maisons Nassim condo. And the nearby 54-unit, 46,000 sq ft Park Nova has already scooped many accolades. The penthouse-topped vertical garden’s biophilic design incorporates greenery-filled, butterfly-shaped balconies throughout its 21 storeys, with stellar views and numerous pools. A sky garden, gym, and sky bridge further enhance the structure. Interiors are no less swanky, with high-end European fittings and designer kitchens. PLP Architecture’s building is complemented by landscaping specialists ICN Design and interior architects Brewin Design Office. The expected date of completion is mid-2023, and freehold prices start at SGD6 million.
On elevated ground within the hyperaffluent Bukit Timah district—close to the Botanic Gardens, a slew of well-regarded schools, and country clubs—the 115unit condominium building Juniper Hill expands the portfolio of prolific developer Allgreen, whose properties are dotted around Singapore. The latest addition to its prestigious Bukit Timah Collection emphasises co-existing with nature and socialising, with pockets of living space threaded throughout the 12-floor building. A 50-metre pool, tennis court, barbecue pavilion, sky lounge, rooftop garden, spa sanctuary, and playground treehouse adorn the verdant exterior, while inside, the apartments’ wood, marble, and metallic accents are complemented by a smart living system and full concierge service.
This dark-hued den of sophistication opened in 2014 in the Regent Hotel and is inspired by New York’s Golden Age of cocktails. Manhattan’s outstanding drinks, best-in-class bar bites, and attentive hospitality have clinched awards since its inception—including two consecutive Asia’s Best Bar wins in 2017 and 2018. Key to its success is the melding of oldworld atmosphere with contemporary furnishings, realised via velvet armchairs, opulent drapery, and mahogany tables. Manhattan’s calling card is its collection of barrel-aged cocktails. Private rooms allow partygoers to celebrate in style, with help from Slovakian bar manager Rusty Cerven’s team, who serve up select items from the New York Personified menu, based on Big Apple luminaries.
Tanglin or tang leng refers to the hilly geography surrounding the area bookended by two world-renowned Singapore attractions: the Orchard Road shopping strip and gorgeous Botanic Gardens. Historically a place of low-rise villas amid pepper and nutmeg plantations patrolled by tigers, Tanglin is now a key catchment area for the city-state’s well-to-do expatriates and locals. Its allure hinges on high-end malls, antique stores, and Dempsey Hill, one-time military barracks reborn as a gastro-enclave replete with delis, galleries, and restaurants. Meanwhile Tanglin’s plethora of retail options, convenient central location, and cosmopolitan complexion—it houses numerous embassies—makes it a highly sought-after hotspot for affluent homeseeking families.
Tanglin Mall/Tudor Court Shopping Gallery
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Taking an innovative approach to the rarefied nuances of Nyonya cuisine, Candlenut’s gorgeous, light-filled Dempsey Road space has scored major success as the world’s first Michelin-starred restaurant specialising in Straits Chinese food. Named after a flowering tree whose fruit is found in Southeast Asian dishes, the venue brings idiosyncratic touches to recipes that remain niche fare – perhaps due to the cuisine’s punchy tastes and aromas. Typical mains include buah keluak XO sauce (chicken, pangium fruit, and nuts), and yong tau foo soup (tofu, shitake, spinach-like sayur manis, soybean, and ikan bilis chicken broth). Desserts are rich and include pisang agar-agar (banana custard, banana, and coconut milk).
Tanglin Road marks the unofficial start point of Orchard Road, one of Asia’s most preeminent shopping thoroughfares. It offers plenty to attract the upscale retail fiend, despite its oldest multi-store address Tanglin Shopping Centre being recently sold to developers. Tanglin Mall’s chi-chi Euro-centric fashion boutiques (Hanna Lee, Santorini, and White Ginger) and homeware stores (House of AnLi) are a magnet for expat style mavens, as well as kids who are drawn to its premium toy stores. Next door is Tudor Court, a delightful 1920s colonial heritage terrace contrasting with the neighbourhood’s shophouses and where vintage furniture retailer Antiquity Hands of the Hills rules the roost.
Tanglin’s spectacular horticultural park, unanimously endorsed by the Unesco World Heritage Committee in 2015, has attracted visitors since 1859. Now luring 4.5 million devotees annually and containing 10,000-plus species, the site was modelled on London’s Kew Gardens and uniquely posits a tropical garden within a city. Its immaculate landscaping is matched by scientific significance, earned for its early cultivation of rubber seeds (which helped British Malaya, then including Singapore, become the world’s top latex producer) and its multi-variety Orchid Garden, the largest globally. Botanic Gardens – the ultimate realisation of Lee Kuan Yew’s “Garden City” vision – remains a leading education and conservation hub, with the Learning Forest, an 18-hectare extension, completed in 2018.
REALITY BITES The comedown from pandemic-era stimulus measures in Malaysia weighs heavily on an electorate of property seekers ready for change BY AL GERARD DE LA CRUZ
he rich and rakyat alike are united by a desire to bring equilibrium to the market forces that govern the real estate sector in Malaysia. From the vulnerable B40 income group to the T20 earners, Malaysians have—over the course of a pandemic—come to understand how state intervention goes a long way toward matching property seekers with the country’s surplus of homes. Financial easing policies fuelled a burst of exuberance in the property market in 2021. The country registered 300,947 real estate transactions worth MYR144.87 billion (USD33 billion), up 21.7% in value from 2020, according to the National Property Information Centre (NAPIC). When the policies ended, prospective buyers promptly retreated into their shells. GDP was up 3.1% in 2021 after it tumbled 5.6% in 2020. Unstable incomes or sources thereof deterred property purchases, according to 47% of property seekers surveyed for a recent consumer sentiment study by PropertyGuru Malaysia. The property marketplace’s Demand Index contracted by 2.4% quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of 2022, following a 44.05% quarterly drop in Q4 2021. “Property seekers have taken a ‘wait-andsee’ approach since the pandemic as the nation continues its journey to recovery,” says Shylendra Nathan, country manager for Malaysia at PropertyGuru Group. “Affordability issues, inability to secure financing, job security, and overall economic stability are some of the external factors influencing homebuyers’ decisions. These factors, coupled with the lack of government initiatives to spur home buying, will continue to deter property seekers from making significant purchasing decisions.” Further dampening purchasing confidence, Bank Negara Malaysia has hiked the overnight policy rate from 1.75% to 2% in response to rising inflation and the swiftening depreciation of the ringgit. “With the return of demand, we expect to see a bottleneck for vital commodities such as raw materials, which may continue to 76
FINANCIAL EASING POLICIES FUELLED EXUBERANCE IN THE PROPERTY MARKET IN 2021, BUT BUYERS IN MALAYSIA HAVE SINCE RETREATED INTO THEIR SHELLS
push prices upwards,” predicts Nathan. “In addition, with Malaysia’s current large volume of unsold housing units, there may be a final opportunity to snap up properties before a possible hike in development costs.” Yet, of the 180,702 homes left unsold in Q3 2021, around 75.4% of them cost above MYR300,000, the maximum price of affordable housing in the country, according to data from Bank Negara Malaysia. Completed homes that remained unsold for more than nine months after their launch, also known as the residential overhang, rose 24.7% year-on-year in 2021 to 37,000 units worth MYR22.79 billion, an increase of 20.5% in value, NAPIC reports. High-rise properties made up most of the overhang at 20,505 units, with Selangor holding the highest overhang volume overall at 6,095 units, followed by Johor at 6,089
units. Of the 2,936 newly launched homes in Q1 2022, landed properties made up all sales—no high-rise units were sold. Semi-detached residences, multi-storey terraced homes, and superlink houses tend to perform with sales of at least 80% within a short period of launching, reports independent property advisor Prem Kumar, formerly the deputy managing director of the consultancy Jones Lang Wootton. “On paper, condos obviously indicate better financial viability, but in terms of actual sales, the landed properties are doing very well,” he says. “People are willing to pay between one to two million ringgit for good landed houses.” Developers have proactively managed their inventory levels in response. Those that do go ahead with vertical launches have consolidated their efforts behind smaller condominium
Property seekers have taken a ‘wait-and-see’ approach since the pandemic as the nation continues its journey to recovery. Affordability issues, inability to secure financing, job security, and overall economic stability are some of the external factors influencing homebuyers’ decisions
ALL IN A DAY’S WORK As the pandemic segues into the endemic phase in Malaysia, the office segment is steeling itself for a resurgence. In Q1 2022, the occupancy rate of purposebuilt offices stood at 71.2%, representing 12.93 million square metres in occupied space, according to data from the National Property Information Centre (NAPIC). “In terms of developers and owners of office buildings, nobody has actually gone bust,” says independent property advisor Prem Kumar, formerly the deputy managing director of the consultancy Jones Lang Wootton. “During the two-year period [of the pandemic], they were able to buffer some problems with regards to occupancies and rebates.” While landlords of government premises were compelled to provide rebates to tenants, their counterparts in the private sector benefited from a constancy of rental payments. “The value of the properties was not impacted in a sense that the income was still coming in from the perspective of the owners.” Like the residential segment, however, the Malaysian office sector still faces a huge oversupply of space: about 30 million square feet in the Klang Valley alone, estimates Kumar. The glut comes as 46% of Malaysians express a keenness to continue working from home, thus precluding the need for daily transportation to the office, according to PropertyGuru Malaysia’s consumer sentiment study for H1 2022.
ISMAIL SABRI YAAKOB WAS SWORN IN AS MALAYSIA’S THIRD PRIME MINISTER IN 18 MONTHS IN 2021. ANALYSTS SAY THAT INVESTORS ARE HOLDING OFF ON PLAYS UNTIL THE COUNTRY ACHIEVES MORE POLITICAL STABILITY 79
CHINESE DEMAND FOR MALAYSIAN HOMES REMAINS A SHADOW OF ITSELF FROM FIVE YEARS AGO WHEN MAINLANDERS SUPPORTED DEVELOPMENTS ACROSS THE SOUTHERN STATE OF JOHOR
units of 800 square feet to 1,000 sq. ft. in sellable space around the pricing region of MYR500,000. “Pre-pandemic, developers did not want to admit or accept the fact that we were having either an oversupply or overhang,” says Kumar. “The pandemic helped the market to come to the realisation that things must be done to absorb the oversupply. Developers became more conscientious about market fundamentals…It’s no longer like, ‘I can put anything on the market, and it will sell.’” Malaysia has addressed the overhang as far back as 2011 with initiatives like the Skim Rumah Pertamaku or My First Home scheme. But nothing has riveted the public imagination like the Home Ownership Campaign. Originally set to end in June 2020, the initiative had since been extended several times, with pandemic-weary property seekers lapping up the hefty price reductions and stamp duty exemptions on the instruments of transfer and loan agreement. Loan applications surged in November and December 2021 as buyers maximised the final two months of the campaign, Bank Negara Malaysia noted. The campaign ultimately contributed to MYR47 billion in residential sales after discounts. 80
Also well received last year was the six-month moratorium on loans, part of the MYR150-billion National People’s WellBeing and Economic Recovery Package (PEMULIH). Sellers are now left to replace the bygone stimulus measures with their own set of incentives for homebuyers, balanced with a shrewd sense of optics. “Developers don’t want to be seen bringing down prices by themselves because they don’t want to erode confidence in the market,” says Kumar. Even though pandemic relief spending widened the government’s fiscal deficit to 6.4% of the GDP in 2021, the government is not gunning for all-out austerity just yet. Budget 2022, in fact, surpasses its predecessor with an allocation of MYR332.1 billion, the largest in Malaysian history. The budget notably abolishes the 5% real property gains tax on properties being disposed in their sixth year. Next year could see the passage of the Residential Tenancy Act, offering a long-awaited legal framework protecting renters and landlords. The legislation comes at a time of marked financial insecurity for property seekers, many of whom have resorted to deferring purchases for rentals. PropertyGuru Malaysia’s rental demand index rose 93.27% year-on-year in Q1 2022, led by a 111.23% jump in high-rise rentals.
GOVERNMENT STIMULUS MEASURES HAVE BROUGHT LIFE BACK TO THE STREETS IN MALAYSIA’S CITIES, BUT THE COUNTRY’S PROPERTY MARKET REMAINS LARGELY FLAT
MAKE AND SHOP Exports of crude oil, electronics, and personal protective equipment continue to propel the manufacturing sector of Malaysia, according to Fitch Ratings. The sector also stands to benefit from the country being on board the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The agreement, which entered into force in March, sets into motion the world’s largest free trade area. The industrial segment has become one of the brightest spots in the Malaysian property sector as a result, reports Kumar. Investor demand is particularly high for midrange industrial premises in the price bracket of MYR5 million to MYR10 million. “The jewel in the market is the industrial sector,” says Kumar. “There’s huge demand for industrial properties and, coupled with the fact that developers were not just rushing into building industrial properties, the market has been very,
very solid for the last two years. It’s been proven now that industrial is perhaps the most resilient sector because it’s not really overbuilt.” Conversely, the retail segment was hard-hit as shopping centres endured prolonged closures attendant on the movement control orders (MCO). Rentals plummeted 10% to 20% especially among midrange shopping centres, taking the brunt from regional or mega-scale shopping malls which enjoyed a more established catchment of consumers. Owners of such shopping centres were forced to provide rebates to tenants that lost business, reports Kumar. “The rebates, which were given in terms of rentals, translated to some diminution in terms of the value of those properties.”
EXPORTS OF CRUDE OIL ALONG WITH ELECTRONICS AND PPE HAVE PROPELLED MALAYSIA’S MANUFACTURING SECTOR
Yet libertarian critics found one provision in the measure, requiring deposits to be parked with a government agency, to be high-handed, if not tone-deaf. In a nation still struggling with eroding public trust due to corruption scandals of recent years, the provision came across as another way for officials to meddle with laissez faire. “A free market is important at the end of the day,” admits Kumar. “But in some instances, it could be viewed as not so good because people just start building and building. It means that we end up in situations like offices being overbuilt and so much of spaces being vacant, including condominiums and apartments.” Many buyers are pausing their homeownership journey until the conclusion of the 15th Malaysian general election (GE15), reports PropertyGuru Malaysia. To investors, a leader with a clear mandate would be reassuring. “They would like to have the political legitimacy that goes along with being elected,” states William Thomas, director of The Economist Corporate Network, in a recent economic update. “The business leaders we’ve talked to in Malaysia have said, in some cases, ‘I don’t really care what the result is. I just need a result. I need some stability and that’s going to be helpful.’” 82
The majority of the electorate still view real estate as a hedge against inflation. Fifty-three percent of homeowners look to buy property in addition to one they already own over the next year, according to PropertyGuru Malaysia. Even with movement control orders being dismantled in the endemic phase of the contagion, the residential market could take an entire year to recover from the bottom of the property cycle. Cautious optimism glints ahead, however, and a peak run is not implausible in the next three to five years. “It’s a transition period as far as the residential market is concerned,” says Kumar. “It’s really a bottoming out of the market. The way I see it, most things are pointing towards gaining greater momentum moving forward.”
LANGKAWI IS ONE OF SEVERAL ATTRACTIVE INVESTMENT DESTINATIONS AROUND MALAYSIA FOR PROSPECTIVE SECOND HOME BUYERS
FOREIGNER-FRIENDLY? The Ministry of Home Affairs relaunched last year the Malaysia My Second Home Programme (MM2H), courting foreign property investment anew after a pandemic-induced hiatus. The revamped programme requires a higher amount of permanent savings of at least MYR1 million, plus a declaration of liquid assets worth MYR1.5 million. “While these changes are designed to improve the quality of applicants, they are likely to deter many foreign investors who do not meet the criteria,” says Shylendra Nathan, country manager of PropertyGuru Malaysia. “The new regulations will make it harder for investors to qualify for the programme, and they may be discouraged by the red tape involved.
Residential real estate has become a domestically driven market during the pandemic though. Homes that do target foreign buyers are typically branded, concentrated in commercial hubs with price points fetching from MYR2 million. Chinese demand for Malaysian homes remains a shadow of itself from five years ago when mainlanders supported developments across Johor state. “A lot of those units are still vacant,” says Kumar. “We haven’t seen significant interest in the last one or two years. If anything, it’s coming through the Malaysia My Second Home programme, but even that is still very much subdued now.”
“Even those who can meet the new requirements may be put off by the fact that their investments will be subject to greater scrutiny.”
THE CALL OF HOME
Non-resident Indians (NRIs) lured by the weak rupee and better offerings in the luxury residential sector are helping to put the country’s real estate market back on track BY GEORGE STYLLIS
s India contended with a devastating Delta wave last year, the outlook for its housing market looked bleak.
“Real estate has always been the preferred asset class for NRI,” says Mohit Jain, managing director of, Krisumi Corporation.
Fears of stagnating house prices were abounding as demand sank and cash stopped flowing, and many braced for a third wave of Covid-19 even worse than the second.
“The last few months have witnessed a gradual comeback of the NRI to the realty market, bolstering sales of luxury homes.”
As it happened, that onslaught failed to rival the second in intensity, and the industry is now steaming ahead, driven by the return of a long absent but crucial market for Indian residential real estate: non-resident Indians (NRI).
Indian expats account for about 6.5% of the world’s 272 million migrants, the largest of all groups, and their contribution to India’s economy is significant.
According to a report by 360 Realtors, NRI investments in Indian real estate amounted to USD13.1 billion last year and are expected to grow by 12% this year.
According to a report by the World Bank in 2020, India received more than USD83 billion in remittances.
TAXES RISE IN PAKISTAN
INDIA’S PANDEMIC STRUGGLES WERE WELL DOCUMENTED, BUT THE COUNTRY’S HOUSING MARKET IS RECOVERING WELL, PARTLY DUE TO AN INFLUX OF INVESTMENT FROM NONRESIDENT INDIANS
Pakistan’s real estate market was hit with more taxes in June as the country faced a balance of payment crisis. Among them was a 15% capital gains tax on a house where the holding period does not exceed one year, along with an increase on the capital gains tax period to six years. Previously the CGT would only apply to properties sold within four years. Announcing the proposals, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sherif said it was “inevitable to tax non-productive assets” like real estate as the government struggled to rehabilitate the economy from its predecessors. “The lands lying vacant just for speculative purposes is a disservice to this nation,” he says. Sharif, who took office in April, said he inherited a broken economy with shrinking reserves, unmanageable external debts, and huge fiscal deficit. “The country doesn’t have money for oil and gas,” he says. However, industry watchers dismissed the tax hikes as being detrimental to the industry. Muhammad Shakeel Munir, president of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says: “All these tax measures will badly affect business activities in the entire real estate sector and create more unemployment.”
Real estate has always been the preferred asset class for non-resident Indians. And we’ve witnessed a gradual comeback of the NRI to the realty market, bolstering sales of luxury homes
While NRIs began buying property in earnest in India in the mid to late 90s, demand had waned since the 2008 financial crisis. Now, however, amid a weak rupee and resurgent property market, that interest is coming back. “One report has said around 40,000 NRIs are interested in buying property in India. That doesn’t mean they are going to buy today, but they are interested in India as a place to buy their houses,” says Dr Niranjan Hiranandan, founder of Hiranandani Group, an Indian Think-Tank specialising in real estate. In June, the rupee hit a record low against the US dollar as the global price of crude oil surged, raising concerns about a sustained rise in imported inflation. The partially convertible rupee was trading at 77.79/80 per dollar after dropping to a record low of 77.81. The previous low of 77.7975 was reached on May 17. Dhimaan Shah, founder and chief operating officer of luxury holiday home developer Isprava Group, said Indians in countries that use US dollars or peg their currency to it rush to buy real estate at home, knowing they can now get more for their money.
“We are seeing a lot of traction from NRIs in the Gulf, which is traditionally a strong market for us,” says Shah. “In addition to this, we are also witnessing strong demand from Singapore and Hong Kong as well. Over 30% of our business so far this year has come from NRIs in these markets, apart from London and Malta,” he adds. Dheeraj Reddy, sales director of Pooja Crafted Homes, said one of the segments to benefit the most has been luxury. Indians living in developed countries have become used to a more comfortable and affluent lifestyle and wish for something similar in India, he says. “Due to the currency value and the appetite of the NRI buyers to invest in India, the demand for luxury properties is really increasing because they get a sense of familiarity with what they expect outside India,” says Reddy. The surging demand from NRIs is helping to drive India’s property market as it sees its fortunes reversed by the pandemic. India, which was one of the worst-hit countries by Covid-19, has achieved record sales and launch volumes in the first quarter of 2022, Knight Frank reported.
MUMBAI’S GLITZIEST ENCLAVES ARE ESPECIALLY ATTRACTIVE TO WEALTHY INVESTORS
BANGLADESH COPS UKRAINE CONFLICT COST Bangladesh’s housing market had rebounded vigorously after the pandemic. But as the war in Ukraine continues, the price of materials is dragging on the sector and stoking fears of stagflation.
Md Shahadat Hossain Dabi, chairman of Jams Development, a Bangladeshi real estate developer, says: “The rate at which the market price of housing materials has risen since the war started left us with no alternative but to raise prices.”
Around 6,000 housing projects were put on hold as construction workers returned home during Bangladesh’s pandemic lockdowns in 2020 and people fell behind on their mortgages.
Dr Zahid Hussain, a former lead economist at the World Bank, said if the price rally of construction materials continues, apartments will be costlier and homebuilders will get few buyers, which might lead to suspension of construction works.
As restrictions were later lifted the market rebounded, aided by a government scheme allowing the use of untaxed income to purchase property, land, and apartments, without the need to disclose the source of funds.
“In such a situation, there are fears that the housing sector may face stagflation,” he says.
But now the war in Ukraine threatens to undo those gains as the price of materials surge amid rising freight costs. 89
TECH-FORWARD, MODERN CITIES LIKE GURGAON, JUST OUTSIDE NEW DELHI, ARE SEEN AS INDICATORS OF THE FUTURE SHAPE OF UPSCALE URBAN LIVING IN INDIA
“The pandemic seems to have cured the residential real estate market of the inertia it was gripped with,” stated a recent report. “Low interest rates, comparatively healthy affordability levels, healthy wage growth and a waning pandemic with lower risk of further disruptions have created a favorable environment for the homebuyer who has rediscovered his need for new and better housing. “This vastly increased the perceived value of one’s home in the overall scheme of things, and along with the prevailing low interest rates, it sparked and sustained homebuyer interest in the residential market.” Dr Hiranandani believes NRIs will continue to drive this boom as the rupee remains weak. But what happens when it is no longer? Already the central bank is moving to strengthen the currency by raising interest rates and stem inflation. In April, consumer price inflation rose to an almost eightyear high of 7.8%, well above the central bank’s limit of
6%, in large part due to the war in Ukraine driving food and fuel prices. Dr Hiranandani believes, however, that the trend of recent months signifies a shift that will continue even if the rupee strengthens. Major cities have developed to offer the kind of lifestyle NRIs can get in the likes of London or Dubai. At the same time, sales are no longer driven by word-of-mouth, but by a sophisticated online presence and branding among developers and estate agents. “The future looks good in India in terms of opportunities to grow,” he says. “The Prime Minister talks about how India is looking forward to the next generation of development. So overall interest in Indian real estate is growing.”
SRI LANKA IS CURRENTLY REELING DUE TO FUEL SHORTAGES. BUT ITS ATTRACTIVE FUNDAMENTALS STILL MAKE IT A SOLID INVESTMENT PROSPECT
REFUELING NEEDED FOR SRI LANKA Sri Lanka’s real estate market could begin a slow climb back to pre-crisis levels if it gains access to fuel soon, says Ivan Robinson, head of Lanka Real Estate. He says that Sri Lanka’s real estate market has “cooled down dramatically” amid severe fuel shortages caused by dwindling foreign currency reserves. However, if the country can gain regular access to fuel, it should begin a slow process of recovery, possibly in about two months. Despite the current situation, Robinson says demand remains strong among locals and prospective foreign buyers amid the potential for bargains. “Right now, we are advising some foreign buyers to wait a short while as we are really having trouble getting fuel on a regular basis so we can’t just visit properties when we want to — it needs to be well planned especially when we need to travel across the country,” says Robinson.
“There are, however, a certain number of deals to be made buying from distressed locals who are getting into further debt or foreigners who need funds offshore,” he adds. Before Sri Lanka’s economic crisis deepened, its residential market was “operating in full throttle”, according to Knight Frank, with investors reaping the benefits of low interest rates. “The demand for residential condominiums continued to soar amidst the increased money supply and high inflation rates.” The Central Bank raised interest rates in March to stem inflation, followed by a doubling of them in April. “The rate hike will give a strong signal to investors and markets that we are coming out of this [crisis] as soon as possible,” central bank governor P Nandalal Weerasinghe says. Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Harin Fernando has offered assurances that the country will be ready to welcome visitors this winter.
GOOD AS NEW While the appetite for constructing buildings is strong, retrofitting Asia’s existing stock may hold the key to lower carbon emissions in the real estate industry BY LIAM ARAN BARNES
The built environment sector can provide powerful solutions to the climate crisis. With buildings responsible for 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions and building stock expected to double by 2050, the time to act is now
he Kleofas coal mine winding tower symbolised Katowice’s heavy industry heritage for decades. These days, the once-abandoned edifice is a testament to the Polish city’s recent transformation. Reimagined as an observation deck, the tower offers visitors sweeping vistas of the dynamic city and its surrounding nature. Katowice is now one of Europe’s most eco-friendly urban areas. More than 40% of the area is covered with forests, parks, and green pockets. It was the first city in Poland to introduce the country’s economic plan for lower emissions, considerably improving air quality and energy security. Educational events such as ‘eco-picnics’ are frequently held. And the local government recently introduced a clean urban transport program featuring 400 bicycles for public use. Many of Katowice’s public buildings were also retrofitted in 2018 to slash carbon emissions. But why do the eco-credentials of a provincial Polish city count in the grand scheme of things? This June, Katowice succeeded global metropolises, including Rio de Janeiro, Kuala Lumpur, and Abu Dhabi, in hosting the United Nations’ 11th World Urban Forum (WUF). Like other ambitious international sessions such as COP26, the biannual seminar invites hundreds of high-level policymakers to drop in, dialogue, and commit to pledges to save the planet. The grandiose topics up for discussion at the 2022 instalment
ranged from “Extraordinary Dialogue: Urban Crises and Urban Recovery” to “Resilient Economies” and “Sustainable Finance”. One term, however, was absent from the official 128page WUF program: retrofitting. Loosely defined as changing a building’s systems or structure after its initial construction and occupation to improve amenities and performance, retrofitting is currently one of the hottest topics in the battle to combat climate emissions. Some of the world’s most famous landmarks have benefitted from a process that could be poised to revolutionise the real estate sector. They include Tower Bridge, which was retrofitted with an LED lighting system that reduced the structure’s energy consumption by 40%. In recent years, other famous buildings have adopted a similarly proactive approach to reducing their carbon output. The Vatican City, the Empire State Building, and the Sydney Opera House have all employed low-energy solutions in one form or another. Simply put, rejuvenating old buildings and structures for new uses avoids the carbon emissions that would otherwise be released in the process of demolishing and rebuilding. And given the common consensus that 80% of all buildings worldwide in 2050 already exist, it is clear why improvements to existing stock are viewed with such optimism.
CORPORATE NAMES AROUND ASIA HAVE INVESTED IN RETROFITTING OFFICE BUILDINGS TO MAKE THEM MORE ENERGY-EFFICIENT
TAMPINES WILL BECOME SINGAPORE’S FIRST TOWN CENTRE TO RETROFIT A CENTRALISED COOLING SYSTEM IN A PROJECT THAT WILL SLASH THE ENVIRONMENTAL COST OF AIR-CONDITIONING
This stat might be hard to swallow in Asia, where construction sites litter the cities. But the movement is vital for addressing carbon emissions in areas especially prone to natural disasters. “In 2018 alone, almost half of the world’s 281 natural disaster events occurred in the Asia-Pacific region, including eight of the 10 deadliest with an increasing number of these events being linked to environmental degradation and climate change,” explains Victoria Burrows, director of Advancing Net Zero at the World Green Building Council (WGBC). “The built environment sector can provide powerful solutions to the climate crisis. With buildings responsible for 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions and building stock expected to double by 2050, the time to act is now.” According to a 2017 WGBC report, there are only about 500 net-zero commercial buildings and 2,000 net-zero homes around the globe — well under 1% of all buildings worldwide. The report stated that the building sector must therefore operate at “net zero carbon” by 2050 if global warming is to remain under two degrees Celsius, the limit enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement. In its long-term strategy for 2050, the European Commission also recognised the need for near-complete decarbonisation of the building sector to meet its climate goals. 96
“To achieve net-zero targets by mid-century and sustain predicted growth and urbanisation, we must decarbonise the whole lifecycle of our built assets — buildings and infrastructure,” Burrows adds. “If we act now, Asia Pacific can create economic benefits, benefit from competitive advantage, and minimise the consequences of catastrophic climate change.” Improving existing buildings offers the greatest and lowestcost potential for reducing cities’ carbon emissions. Case studies show that retrofitting projects implemented across various commercial buildings with high operational intensity — hotels, hospitals, data centres, airports, and malls — have an average return on investment period of 12 to 18 months. It varies from three to five years with low operational intensity buildings like offices and educational institutions because they tend only to operate approximately 10 to 12 hours a day for five days a week. “ROI periods also depend mainly upon prevailing energy tariffs,” explains Vinod Jethani, Asia-Pacific commercial buildings business development manager at global engineering firm Danfoss. “And as such, payback periods in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia are generally longer than those in the Philippines, Cambodia, and Singapore, where we see higher electricity tariffs.”
THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING IN NEW YORK AND SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE IN AUSTRALIA ARE AMONG THE ICONIC BUILDINGS TO BENEFIT FROM MEASURES DESIGNED TO REDUCE THEIR CARBON OUTPUT
Singapore, unsurprisingly, is spearheading city-scale retrofitting initiatives in Asia. Earlier this year, the country’s government rolled out the Green Mark Incentive Scheme for Existing Buildings 2.0. It is making SGD63 million available for building owners to reduce emissions through upgrades to older systems, expanding on the initial SGD100 million iterations introduced in 2009, and helping more than 80 buildings with retrofitting costs. The scheme is critical as Singapore works towards its 2030 target of greening 80% of buildings by gross floor area — the total currently stands at 43%. Retrofitting initiatives are proceeding around the country. Tampines will become Singapore’s first town centre to retrofit a centralised cooling system in a project that will slash the environmental cost of air-conditioning. Other existing buildings, including the 85-year-old Old Hill Street Police Station and the National Library, are retrofitting solar panels to keep utility costs down. “Singapore is a leader in sustainability, and the government’s recent incentive scheme will make projects more environmentally friendly not just for the building users but the environment in general,” says Thien Duong, managing director of Transform Architecture and chairperson of the PropertyGuru Vietnam Property Awards. “I can only hope the rest of Asia follows suit. Unfortunately, this will take time,
FROM THE GROUND UP In cities lacking government incentives, the onus is on developers and building owners to breathe new life into buildings. But the biggest challenge is often knowing where to start. One of the most feasible — and financially appealing — solutions is the installation of battery storage and renewables, which both reduce buildings’ emissions and lower utility bills. By prioritising the retrofit of existing buildings, cities can also reduce the need for new construction, avoiding emissions related to the production and transportation of new building materials. Examples include replacing cooling systems with more efficient chillers and utilising Smart Energy Systems, natural ventilation, LED lights, and solar panels.
THE OLD HILL STREET POLICE STATION IN SINGAPORE IS RETROFITTING WITH SOLAR PANELS TO KEEP UTILITY COSTS DOWN
but I’m confident that as the public becomes more exposed to sustainability and understands its importance, the public response will push governments to follow Singapore’s lead.” Duong’s firm has already worked on several small-scale retrofitting projects in Vietnam, including the transformation of a dated serviced apartments in Ho Chi Minh City into a contemporary green office building. The firm upgraded the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering systems at Saigon View and updated the building’s water fixtures to be more energy-efficient and reduce waste. Still, obstacles to making improvements include a reluctance to make financial commitments due to initial costs and slow or no returns. Another recent WGBC survey shows nearly 53% of respondents cite upfront costs as the biggest barrier to investing in emissions targets. That is despite new sustainable buildings representing a USD24.7-trillion investment opportunity in emerging markets through 2030, 98
according to the Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. Other hurdles include space constraints, needs for additional technology, and the diversion of existing services, such as electricity and plumbing, particularly in commercial buildings. For single-owner (serviced apartments) and individually owned (landed houses and condos) properties, the difficulty may lie in identifying suitable retrofits. “The economics typically favour redevelopment over retrofitting for single-owner buildings, even more so in markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong where land prices are very high,” says Kah Poh Tay, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s real estate department. “The owner would not, for example, be able to alter building orientation to tap natural cooling for better wind flow or reinstate natural biodiverse habitats.”
GREEN SHOOTS Green financing is another notable trend already taking hold in global real estate markets. The term refers to a loan or a bond marketed or drafted specifically as environmentally friendly. It either entails proceeds being used to fund green projects or the income stream being generated by green assets. In the last couple of years, central banks and governments worldwide have announced new frameworks designed to promote sustainable finance, contributing toward sustainable lending across the commercial real estate sectors. While Europe remains a leader in this space, other locations, from China to Canada, are rapidly catching up.
Individual property owners are even more limited when units are part of multi-storey developments as rules for communal living circumscribe their rights. Then there are the high upfront capital costs, and rapid technological changes can quickly make the latest eco-friendly infrastructure obsolete. “At best, they can only do interior retrofits like installing energy-efficient appliances,” Kah Poh says.
In Asia Pacific, several governments are actively fostering an ecosystem for sustainability. There are now sustainability reporting requirements in stock exchanges and green lending facilities across the region to incentivise ESG goals and investment into green technology. Singapore’s Green Plan 2030 aims to transform the country into a green finance hub for the region, while South Korea has announced a bolstering of its green finance program through several measures, including a public-private joint task force.
Small-scale retrofitting is unlikely to hit the mainstream in Asia any time soon. That is, at least, until entry-level costs decline, and the technology becomes more consistent and affordable for private homeowners. In the absence of government incentive schemes, large-scale retrofitting may also remain limited in the near term. But where Singapore leads, other countries in the region do occasionally follow. And with ever-clearer data demonstrating the financial benefits, city-wide retrofitting schemes could prove an easy win for countries’ carbon-slashing efforts.
Calm after the storm The recent Philippines election may have been divisive, but the ascent to power of Bongbong Marcos has coincided with a tentative recovery in the nation’s real estate sector By Steve Finch
hen Ferdinand Marcos fled to exile in Hawaii after 21 years of authoritarian rule, state debts in the Philippines had accrued to such a level that financial experts say accounts will not be settled until 2025. By then, Bongbong Marcos, his son, will be nearly halfway through his six-year presidential term. There are no signs thus far, thankfully, that the country is headed for similar economic
CONFIDENCE IN THE PHILIPPINES’ POST-PANDEMIC REAL ESTATE RECOVERY IS BUILDING EVEN IN THE WAKE OF A BITTERLY DIVISIVE GENERAL ELECTION
turmoil as timid yet growing confidence in the country’s post-Covid real estate recovery builds. In the two weeks leading up to polls on May 9, property platforms noted a big dropoff in leads. A strong recovery the week after the vote demonstrates that Filipinos remain confident in the political process today—despite the return to power of the Marcos family after 36 years.
POSITIVE SIGNS INCLUDE CONTINUED LANDBANKING OUTSIDE OF METRO MANILA AS DEVELOPERS LAUNCH MORE OFFICES AND RESIDENTIAL PROJECTS. THE PROPERTY MARKET IS STARTING TO RECOVER, AND THIS SHOULD KICK IN DURING THE SECOND HALF OF 2022
“Property buyers took a wait-and-see attitude to the market ahead of the elections,” says Claro Cordero, director of research and consultancy at Cushman & Wakefield Philippines.
Metro Manila. Yet an unconvincing recovery has been driven by low borrowing rates and favorable offers by many developers including unusually low downpayments of just 5% on some properties.
This has been a feature of recent elections and was not particular to this especially divisive election, he said, adding that supply-side concerns were proving a greater challenge to a full-blown real estate market rebound.
Wider economic trends also remain confused. The Philippines recorded stellar economic growth of 8.3% in the first quarter, according to central government data. But some of this was attributed to spending ahead of the election. Growth is tipped to be lower for the whole year but is still expected to reach a respectable 5.7% in 2022, according to the World Bank.
Promising signs have emerged in recent months. During Q1, the office sector saw positive market absorption for the first quarter in two years, according to Colliers. It’s a sign that companies are switching back to formal workspaces, albeit amid a further 3.1% fall in rents. Many organisations quickly shifted back to office work in Manila and elsewhere in the country after the previous administration downgraded the pandemic alert level at the start of the year, causing a run on office space. Still, new completions and enduring vacancies pushed the office vacancy rate in Manila to 15.8% in the first quarter, a new record surpassing the downturn after the global financial crisis, according to Cushman & Wakefield. The residential market has shown similar mixed signals. Many agencies have reported an uptick in leads and occupancies, particularly in sought-after locations including upmarket Makati in
Headwinds remain strong. Inflation continued to climb in May, up 5.4% compared to 4.9% the previous month, according to government data. Within ASEAN, the Philippines has fared less well than neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia, but better than Thailand and Myanmar—and far better than 1984 under Marcos Snr when annual inflation spiraled to 50%. “Rising fuel prices and inflation have been prohibitive for new builds as construction costs have increased significantly,” says Jan Custodio, senior director of research at Santos Knight Frank in Manila. There is anecdotal evidence that inflation pressures on real estate purchasing budgets for some in the country have caused property purchases to drop by
half in recent months, particularly in the residential sector, adds Custodio. “Decreased spending would cause more delays in economic recovery,” he says. Among the most optimistic signs in the market are property development in and around new major infrastructure carried over from the Duterte presidency into that of Marcos Jnr who, in turn, has promised a ‘Golden Age of Infrastructure’ echoing a term previously used by his father. Metro Manila remains the focus. A new subway remains underway in the capital, as does the new airport, a USD14-billion project built on reclaimed land in Central Luzon, expected to be operational by the end of 2024. Developers were “far more concerned” about continued government focus on infrastructure from the new administration than they were about the election result itself, says Joey Bondoc, associate director of research at Colliers Philippines. “[Further positive] signs include continued land-banking outside of Metro Manila
PRESIDENT MARCOS HAS PROMISED A ‘GOLDEN AGE OF INFRASTRUCTURE’ FOR THE PHILIPPINES, A TERM PREVIOUSLY USED BY HIS FATHER
as developers launch more offices and residential projects in anticipation of pentup demand,” says Bondoc. “The property market is starting to recover, and this should kick in during the second half of 2022.” Many of the variables impacting the Philippines’ property sector—as in many countries—remain far outside of its control, warns Cordero of Cushman & Wakefield. China’s unusually low economic growth is a restraining factor, and so too is the enduring conflict in Ukraine. He urged the new administration in Manila to provide fiscal support to help ride out these unexpected post-pandemic challenges. “Real estate recovery in the Philippines has commenced,” says Cordero. “But it is off to quite a slow start.”
Down, but not out The pandemic was poison for Phnom Penh as it checked the city’s supercharged property boom. But there are signs that the market is gradually turning a corner By Liam Aran Barnes
he impact of the global financial crisis on Phnom Penh’s then-fledgling property market loomed large over the city for years. Literally. In the heart of the Cambodian capital’s central business district, the abandoned Gold Tower 42—set to be the country’s tallest building by a margin when construction started in 2008—stands both as a reminder of the city’s ambitions and just how quickly fortunes can change. When construction eventually resumed in 2018, the skyline was almost unrecognisable
PHNOM PENH’S REAL ESTATE FRENZY WAS SLOWED DURING THE PANDEMIC, BUT THE CITY’S SKYLINE LOOKS CERTAIN TO EVOLVE FURTHER IN FUTURE
from the low-rise sprawl surrounding the 31-storey concrete husk a decade earlier. Phnom Penh had gone vertical. Fuelled by overseas investment and Cambodia’s average annual growth rate of 7.7% between 1998 and 2019 — making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world — the city is now home to roughly 40 buildings with 40 or more floors. Many of these monoliths are mixed-use projects, featuring a series of firsts for the country: luxury retail outlets, five-star hotel brands, and high-end condos.
WE WON’T BE ABLE TO FULLY ASSESS THE EFFECT OF THE PANDEMIC ON THE RETAIL SECTOR UNTIL THE END OF 2022, AND A FULL RECOVERY IS UNLIKELY UNTIL THE FIRST HALF OF NEXT YEAR
Even before the pandemic struck, there was a sense that these shiny new offerings were juxtaposed in a country where an estimated one in five lives below the poverty line. Still, Phnom Penh’s rapidly emerging middle class and its popularity amongst tourists and foreign investors have long been used to justify the construction boom. Unsurprisingly, the sector, especially the retail segment, was hit hardest when Covid-19 closed the kingdom’s borders in March 2020.
“In some cases, rent exemptions were triggered. But you must remember that it is not the only cost, and cash reserves had to be used to keep these retail businesses afloat,” he says. “Once these cash reserves were depleted, retail businesses closed. And many will never reopen.
“The lockdown and bans on public gatherings led to a drastic decrease in footfall, with retail stores experiencing significant sales losses as a result,” says Thida Ann, managing director of real estate agency PropNex Cambodia. “Although many landlords offered a short-term discount of up to 50% to retain tenants, they also reported facing serious debt problems because of failures to pay the rent.”
Positives were few and far between in the city’s other real estate sectors. Office tenants renegotiated rents, lease terms, and structures to reflect the market disruptions. Condominium buyers, meanwhile, postponed purchases, leading to a decline in transactions and prices. In 2022, only 5% of the expected supply of new condominium units was completed in the first quarter, according to The World Bank.
A recent survey by local commercial real estate firm The Mall Company estimated that the pandemic caused the volume of retail stores in central Phnom Penh to plummet by 28% between Q1 2019 and Q2 2022. Larger F&B and fashion retail groups fared slightly better and stabilised their businesses after the upheaval. Some even recorded profits in 2021 through careful cost management. According to Simon Griffiths, The Mall Company’s managing director, teams were slimmed down for greater cost efficiency, and supply change efficiencies were introduced, as well as rental discounts with landlords. But many small- and medium-sized retailers and ‘mom-and-pop stores’ did not survive.
New residential launches, meanwhile, have ebbed as the market attempts to absorb the remaining stock. The excess supply also tapered overseas investor appetite, with World Bank data reflecting a drastic decline in approved foreign direct investment financing for real estate development from USD1.78 billion in 2019 to USD142 million in 2020.
“We won’t be able to fully assess the effect of the pandemic on the retail sector until the end of 2022, and a full recovery is unlikely until the first half of next year.”
With international borders closed, developers were compelled to re-evaluate their sales and marketing strategies to meet the preferences of the local buyers, including lowering prices.
“Cambodian buyers replaced overseas investors, taking advantage of undermarket-value properties, particularly landed properties in boreys [gated communities],” says Malay Nop, Phnom Penh branch manager of agency IPS Cambodia. Indeed, it looks like the city’s markets are gradually turning a corner. Leading developers have already disclosed plans to increase prices over the next 12 months, with the economy recovering and businesses again operating full-time. In another indication that the sector is overcoming the challenges of the past two years, PropertyGuru will launch its 2022 awards calendar in Phnom Penh this August — its first physical gala event in the country since 2019. “The landed property market in Phnom Penh bounced back quickly thanks to the significant existing demand,” PropNex Cambodia’s Ann says. “The condominium prices are back to where they were before the pandemic. We’re even seeing a high volume
THE LANDED PROPERTY MARKET IN PHNOM PENH HAS BOUNCED BACK QUICKLY THANKS TO SIGNIFICANT EXISTING DEMAND
of real estate transactions again, especially in condominiums, landed property, and land investments.” Despite the price hike, Nop believes the market is still on the buyer’s side. He points out that, as with any emerging market, it is critical to invest with a reliable developer that boasts solid property management and pricing record — advice investors at Gold Tower 42 would do well to heed. In June 2019, South Korean developer Yon Woo eventually launched sales at the controversial property. As of mid-2022, the structural work and eponymous garish exterior are at least complete, if only to mask any real progress beyond the facade. But 14 years on, Gold Tower 42 remains an ill-fated symbol of the damage global crises can afflict. This time around, at least, there appear to be several silver linings surrounding Phnom Penh’s robust property market.
Tanakayu @ BSD City Tangerang, Indonesia Tanakayu at BSD City is a community of Japanese-inspired two-storey homes in BSD City, a planned township south of Jakarta. Set over an area of 13.1 hectares, Tanakayu at BSD City is strategically located three minutes from the QBIG Shopping Center and only five minutes from the toll exit. The development is also a five-minute drive from BSD City’s Theme Park. The homes at Tanakayu at BSD City are conceived in tropical modern resort style, with smart interiors that exhibit the Japanese Scandinavian or Japandi design. The units come equipped with advanced technology and superior features to support the modern lifestyle of their
residents. Intelligent features unique to the homes include smart door locks, voice commands, and smart lighting, making everyday life more convenient for occupants. The homes are also protected by CCTV, putting the safety and security of the units’ occupants first. Tanakayu is part of BSD City, one of the first urban planning schemes in Indonesia. The ambitious planned community combines housing, business and commercial uses on 6,000 hectares of land, an area half the size of Paris, with plenty of exciting future developments at hand.
BEST GREEN DEVELOPMENT (INDONESIA)
BSD City by Sinar Mas Land
Developer: Sinar Mas Land Product type: Housing Architect: Nataneka Launch date: March 2022 Completion date: June 2024 Total land area: 13.1 ha Number of units: 938 Average unit size: 86 sqm Price range: USD1.5-2.6 million Monthly maintenance fees (est.): IDR15,000 per sqm Facilities: Sports club, working pod, public WiFi, and more Contact: Tel: 021-5315 9000 Email: email@example.com Address: Marketing Office, BSD City, BSD Green Office Park, Jl. Grand Boulevard BSD City, Sampora, Kec. Cisauk, Tangerang, Banten 15345, Indonesia
Rini Homes 8 Skudai, Johor
Rini Homes 8 is a community of terraced homes in Mutiara Rini, an integrated township built on over 1,438 acres of a former oil palm estate in Johor. The community benefits from a host of facilities and public amenities that have been developed to integrate nature into modern living. Residents enjoy extensive greenery, especially the Urban Forest & Recreational Centre, a 64-acre landscaped area with fruit trees, palms and eco ponds. Opportunities for physical activity abound in 32 kilometres of bicycle and jogging tracks within the vicinity. The township also hosts an international-standard cricket pitch, Johor Cricket Academy. Rini Homes 8 is accessible to Mutiara Rini’s commercial district, bustling with shops, banks and petrol kiosks. Families can send
their children to primary and secondary schools right within Mutiara Rini such as the Thorburn Chinese Primary Schools and Tamil Primary School, apart from national schools. A mosque serves local worshipers. The community is made as safe as can be with a guardhouse and 24-hour security, as well as a police station. Rini Homes 8 is accessible to Skudai Highway and other major thouroughares. The township itself boasts a 6-kilometre frontage onto Jalan Skudai-Gelang Patah. Located just 13 kilometres northwest of Johor Bahru City Centre, Mutiara Rini has become the top choice for generations of property seekers. Rini Homes 8 is part of the more than 11,000 houses and commercial units launched in Mutiara Rini since 1996.
BEST TOWNSHIP DEVELOPMENT (MALAYSIA)
Mutiara Rini Skudai by Boustead Properties Berhad
Developer: Boustead Properties Berhad (Mutiara Rini Sdn Bhd) Product type: Two-storey terrace house Architect: Saadon Architect Launch date: October 2020 Completion date: October 2022 Total land area: 34 acres Number of units: 216 Average unit size: 2,280 sq ft Facilities: Urban Forest & Recreational Centre, commercial district, bicycle track, jogging tracks, primary and secondary schools, police station, mosque, and more Price range: MYR571,200-935,000 Contact: Tel: +607 558 6080 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Address: No. 21, Jalan Jasa 25, Mutiara Rini, 81300 Skudai, Johor Darul Takzim, Malaysia
Urban Deca Homes Banilad Mandaue City, Philippines Urban Deca Homes Banilad is the first high-rise project of 8990 Holdings Inc. in Cebu. The development comprises 3,264 condominium units, including twobedroom and three-bedroom homes, spread across three towers. The condominium development is situated in Oakridge Business Park, a hub of retail establishments, offices, event spaces, and meeting venues in the bustling Banilad area of Mandaue City, part of Metro Cebu. Strategically located along Elias V. Espina St., Urban Deca Homes Banilad is accessible to major thoroughfares such as H. Cortes and A.S. Fortuna. Public transport is easily available around the vicinity.
Urban Deca Homes Banilad is set close to shopping centres, healthcare facilities, and other landmarks in Cebu. The development is adjacent to the Pink Sisters Adoration chapel and only 1.3 kilometres from Gaisano Country Mall. It is also just 1.6 km from Vicente Gullas hospital, a tertiary-level medical facility, and 2.5 km from the University of San Carlos, one of the premier higher education institutions in Visayas.
Developer: 8990 Housing Development Corporation Product type: Condominium Architect: Scheirman Construction Consolidated Inc. Launch date: October 2022 Completion date: December 2026 Total land area: 18,880 sqm Number of units: 3,264 Average unit size: 30.6 sqm Facilities: Children’s playground, clubhouse, covered basketball court Monthly maintenance fees: PHP50 per sqm Price range: As low as PHP98,000 per sqm Contact: Tel: +63 999 8878 820 Email: email@example.com Address: 8990 Bldg., Negros St., Cebu Business Park, Cebu City
Dharma Niseko （ダーマ ニセコ） Hokkaido, Japan
The Dharma Niseko Hotel consists of eight deluxe rooms in the famed Hirafu village of Niseko. The hotel also contains a restaurant on the ground floor, part of Hirafu’s Restaurant Row, a popular street characterised by eclectic F&B options and various building styles that have arisen since the rise of domestic ski tourism and the subsequent construction boom in the 1970s. Dharma Niseko Hotel stands out as a new landmark in Hirafu with its simple, contemporary, organic architecture: essentially a platonic cube punctuated with bay windows looking out to views of Mount Yotei, the Grand Hirafu Ski fields, and Momiji Street. The building is distinguishable for its understated hotel
signage, an inviting café terrace, and modern interiors. The interior concept appears fresh with an abundance of natural materials, taking inspiration from the atmosphere and aesthetic of resort minimalism. The living, dining and main suite rooms in the hotel feature large bay window seating. The bay windows maximise daylight and frame the spectacular, ever-changing views outside as living art, giving guests a place to relax and unwind after a day of skiing, sightseeing and dining.
WINNER BEST RESORT ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN Dharma Niseko (達磨 ニセコ) by Parry (Group) Property Investment & Development Company Ltd
FACT BOX WINNER
BEST RESORT DEVELOPMENT
BEST RESORT INTERIOR DESIGN
Dharma Niseko (達磨 ニセコ) by Parry (Group) Property Investment & Development Company Ltd
Dharma Niseko (達磨 ニセコ) by Parry (Group) Property Investment & Development Company Ltd
Developer: Parry (Group) Property Investment & Development Company Ltd. Product type: Hotel Architect: Riccardo Tossani Architecture Inc. Launch date: December 2022 Total land area: 396.71 sqm Number of units: 8 Average unit size: 29.25-95.5 sqm Facilities: Roof terrace, ski room, direct access to restaurant Contact: Phone: +853 2885 5113 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Address: Rua De S. Miguel, No. 15A-15B, Edf. Chung Meng, Cave B, Macau
OPENED IN 2021, THE 450-RAI BENJAKITTI FOREST PARK EXPANDS THE EPONYMOUS GREEN LUNG OF BANGKOK TOWARDS THE FORMER GROUNDS OF A TOBACCO FACTORY AND, WITH ITS MASSIVE WATER RETENTION PONDS, BECOMES A GIANT ABSORBENT ‘SPONGE’ DURING THE RAINY SEASON. TAKE PHOTO/SHUTTERSTOCK
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