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Aging beautifully

Editor’s Choice Awards: Malaysia’s Built for Sustainability 2020: PJ Trade Centre

When the building design of PJ Trade Centre (PJTC) was first presented, it raised many eyebrows, because the industrial concept was something uncommon a decade ago.

Completed in 2009, PJTC sits next to the Bukit Lanjan forest reserve, facing the bustling Damansara-Puchong Expressway (LDP) in Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

The red-brick and concrete development stands on a 5.5-acre freehold tract and has become an architectural landmark in the area.

The office development comprises four towers of 20 to 21-storey tall. The RM358 million project has a total built-up of 871,838 sq ft.

More than a decade on, the development’s unconventional design whose key feature is a serene central garden plaza has retained much of its charm.

It was therefore apt that PJ Trade Centre was named EdgeProp Malaysia Editor’s Choice Awards: Malaysia’s Built for Sustainability 2020 at EdgeProp Malaysia’s Best Managed and Sustainable Property Awards 2020.

What led the developer to create this iconic project was its belief that sustainable and industrial design will be the future trend of architecture in Malaysia.

The company’s executive chairman Ahmad Khalif Mustapha Kamal, who is also known as AK, is the son of MK Land Holdings Bhd founder Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal Abu Bakar. He teamed up with Peter Chan, a former employee of MK Land, to form Tujuan Gemilang Sdn Bhd in 2005 and PJTC was their first project.

In the email interview with AK, he tells EdgeProp.my that the company has intentionally wanted an office building that suits the local climate and context.

“The concept for PJTC is based on the Malaysian paradigm, and is less reliant on western concepts, with respect to both choice of construction materials and building design. As a result, it is better adapted to monsoon Asia.

“What PJTC is today — with the colossal concrete facade screen and undulating vegetation backdrop at Damansara Perdana on one side and a beautiful 2.5-acre central plaza with lush landscaping to greet visitors on the other side  — is something we had envisioned and is proud of,” he notes.

About 1,600 trees have been planted in PJTC — at the central plaza, the 12 sky terraces and two sky gardens within the buildings.

The buildings and offices are designed to promote green features and sustainability, hence, local materials such as exposed concrete, brickwork, vent block, glass and tiles are used, as opposed to imported materials such as aluminium cladding and marble, which have high embodied energy. 

Minimal effort required

The industrial design with sleek modernity and old world charm demonstrates a perfect play of contrasts. Most importantly, the building is designed to age naturally and beautifully, adds Emkay group asset management general manager Jailani Mohamad, who manages Menara Mustapha Kamal, one of the office blocks in PJTC. The other occupants in PJTC include multi-national companies like Bata, the Inland Revenue Board PJ branch and Gamuda Land headquarters.

The buildings’ intricate and delicate detailing such as metalwork railings and the hanging stairs in the main lobbies, required great skill and understanding to deal with the aesthetics of weathering so that the facades at PJTC can age gracefully with little maintenance.

Although not GBI-certified, the building was established to be green ten years ago and has remained so. The only difference is the grass at the park in front of the building has been replaced with pebbles that blend nicely with the industrial look of the building.

He lauds the design of the building as it requires minimal effort to maintain. All the main lobbies and lift lobbies are naturally lit and ventilated, as are all the washrooms in the offices. Besides, there is no escalator to the first floor. Instead, it is accessed through the hanging staircase in keeping with the industrial concept.

The buildings are “thin”, with a width of around 14m to 16m. This allows plenty of natural light and cross ventilation through large sliding windows while vent block screens help to minimise heat, hence reducing the usage of indoor air-conditioning.

Although there is no air-conditioning and artificial lighting installed in the common area, it does not feel hot and humid, thanks to the good ventilation that makes the building “breathe”. Even during noon times, employees and visitors can be seen hanging out at the park area for some fresh air. The savings in energy consumption has also translated to cost savings.

Jailani reveals that the rental for office spaces in Menara Mustapha Kamal ranges between RM4 and RM5 psf, inclusive of utility charges, maintenance fees and sinking fund.

There were challenges during the design and construction process, AK admits, but even so, he says, if given the opportunity to redevelop the same piece of land, he will still want to construct the same building again, but with minor adjustments to enhance the sustainability features.

“We always aim to create projects that challenge convention and push the industry forward and the PJTC project definitely illustrates this,’’ he stresses.

In countering the challenges during the construction of the project, AK credits it to the foresight from the initial planning stage. The site planning allowed the vast 871,838 sq ft of net lettable area to be broken down into four office towers. The more manageable sizes made it more economical to build.

During the oil crisis of 2008, the cost of construction materials also escalated. At the same time, there was a shortage of materials in the market, especially steel reinforcement as well as site workers.

Fortunately, the project’s main contractor was a company of strong financial standing with close links to major suppliers. They were able to overcome the supply constraints and continue the work.

This was also made possible by the project management and finance team who found the best way to move forward with careful cost control.

“I do believe that wellness and sustainability is the future for development planning. There needs to be a total change in attitude towards how we use the earth’s scarce resources in property development — we should just touch the earth lightly,” AK shares.

Get the full results of EdgeProp Malaysia’s Best Managed & Sustainable Property Awards 2020 here: https://www.edgeprop.my/awards2020

View the virtual awards ceremony here: https://buff.ly/2YFNcVg​

This story first appeared in the EdgeProp.my e-Pub on July 2, 2020. You can access back issues here.

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