City & Country: DK Group building iconic structures

I WANTED to build iconic buildings,” Danny Koek Tiang Kung, executive chairman and group managing director of DK Group, tells City & Country in a recent interview.

As the group is a new face in the property development industry, he reveals how it journeyed from manufacturing leather seats for cars to fulfilling its dream of developing properties through subsidiary DK-MY Properties Sdn Bhd.

Koek wants to create developments that are visually different from what is on the market

DK Group was founded in 1997 and is owned principally by Koek. It is well known for its automotive leather upholstery products through its holding company DK Leather Corp Bhd.

The group distributes automotive leather upholstery throughout the world, in countries such as the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Thailand, Dubai as well as Malaysia.

What many do not know about DK Group is that it has had a property arm from the start. “We were in the property business the entire time, but only in the business of buying and selling land as well as property investment, profiting from rental income,” says Koek.

DK Leather, which was listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia in 2004, ventured into property development on a big scale after it was taken private again in 2008.

The passionate Koek was determined to create developments that were visually different from what was found on the market.

In 2008, DK-MY conceived an ambitious master plan for DK City, a three-phase development in Bandar Sunway located on prime land next to Taylor’s University, Lakeside Campus. The phases — DK Senza, D’Latour and D’Twist — have a combined gross development value (GDV) of RM3.1 billion. The entire city is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

DK-MY had acquired the 11.45-acre tract back in 2005 for about RM100 million. The first phase, DK Senza, was launched in 2011 and was built without any bank financing, as was the second phase D’Latour.

DK City
The 23-storey DK Senza, which has a GDV of RM300 million, comprises 348 residential units, 58 small offices/home offices and 54 commercial units on the ground floor.

“Everything was sold within six months of the launch and prices have appreciated 70% to 80% within two years. We had priced the units at RM450 to RM460 psf, but now they are worth about RM750 to RM800 psf in sub-sales,” says Koek, commenting on the success of the first phase.

D’Latour comprises two 23-storey towers with 332 serviced suites in one and 629 SoHo duplexes in the other. It occupies three acres and has a total built-up area of 1.7 million sq ft and a GDV of

RM800 million. Construction is expected to be completed in December 2016.

Masterplan of DK City

D’Latour’s serviced suites were offered for sale on Nov 23, a week after their soft launch. Some 50% of its serviced suites have been taken up while its SoHo duplexes, which were launched in March, are sold out. The SoHo duplexes were sold for RM780,000 to RM1.59 million while the serviced suites are going for RM653,100 to RM941,500.

To make his vision of creating iconic buildings come true, Koek engaged world-class architecture company RDA Harris Architects Sdn Bhd, which was the lead urban design consultant for the master plan of Putrajaya and which is responsible for the design of multiple award-winning developments around the world. It designed D’Latour and D’Twist.

D’Latour is far from your average box-shaped building. Featuring the design concept of vertical garden cities, it boasts abundant greenery and many water features, among others, to provide a cool environment in an urban setting.

It also features a whole array of amenities, including two levels of common facilities, rooftop gardens and a submarine-shaped infinity pool with a 50% glazed bottom and an alfresco lounge beneath it. Sky gardens were cut out on various levels of the two towers.

“The idea behind the gardens was to keep the structure cool. The building is hollowed out from the inside until the 12th floor. So we have this vertical shaft running on the inside and then we have these opening on the side; these sky gardens are there to let the air out at various levels,” says Jon Ignatowicz, managing director and partner of RDA Harris International.

“So, we are trying to get as much air movement throughout the core of the building as possible. When the temperature drops at night to about 23 to 24, this actually cools the concrete structure.”

He adds: “Concrete is actually a very effective method of transferring heat. It is 250 times more efficient than air. So the air coming out of air conditioning is 250 times less useful than if the wall were cool and you would be standing next to the wall to be cool.

“The principle is very simple actually. In the tropics, you try to cool the structure at night and during the day, the coolness of the structure radiates into the building. It’s a very simple technique for reducing energy costs.”

This “radiant cooling” technique is being maximised in the third phase of DK City and the signature theme of greenery resonates through all three phases.

This final and most comprehensive phase of DK City gets its name from its shape. Koek attributes the whopping GDV of RM2 billion to the large scale of the three-tower integrated phase, which will feature the highest residential tower in Southeast Asia.

“For this phase, we have 4.5 acres of land and a total built-up of 2.95 million sq ft as opposed to three acres and 1.7 million sq ft for D’Latour,” says Koek.

D’Twist will be made up entirely of duplexes. Tower one will consist of 300 office suites, tower two 188 residential studio suites and 122 hotel rooms and tower three 816 residential units. The three towers will be on top of four 2-storey levels of commercial space of 400,000 sq ft, which will serve as a shopping mall.

The office and residential units will be priced from RM1,200 psf and the studio suites from RM1,300 psf.

D’Twist is expected to be launched in the second half of 2014 in line with construction and is targeted for completion 36 months after that.

“We expect to sell everything within 12 months of launch. In all three towers of D’Twist, the units will be duplexes — even the hotel rooms. I think we will be the first duplex hotel in Malaysia. We are selling the office units, but keeping the mall and the hotel,” remarks Koek.

As to who will be running the hotel, he says, “We are still talking to a few four-star international hotel chains and expect to finalise it in three months.

“I think the third phase fills the gap in terms of leisure and entertainment. The first phase is more retail and residential and the second phase is quite similar to that. In the third phase, we provide a cinema, bowling centre and such, so there are activities for the people who live in DK City.

“If you want a large population to live here, you definitely want to save them the trouble of going out of the area for leisure. The third phase takes into account these needs.

“We have 400,000 sq ft of shopping area to cater for this and it will also be open to the public. We are expecting 15,000 people to live in DK City. They will need a lot of facilities, so we will cater for that.”

While the sky gardens are dispersed throughout the various floors of D’Latour, every unit in D’Twist will have its own garden in addition to common outdoor spaces, allowing the developer to command higher prices for the phase. In terms of green features, the volume is turned up significantly in D’Twist and the use of radiant cooling is maximised.

Says Ignatowicz, “The third phase is the most comprehensive and most difficult to build because it has more characteristics. As I explained before, the second phase has a hollow core in the building that goes up to the 12th floor. We’ve actually taken this a step further in the third phase. There is a larger hollow core inside the towers of D’Twist and we’ve put social facilities in there. We weren’t just looking at what the market needed in terms of amenities, but we were also trying to create a more satisfying environment.

“These hollow cores run through the centre of D’Twist. And for every 16 floors (eight duplex storeys), we put a full floor in where we have a sky garden. These are entire ecosystems, so we have four levels of ecosystems within each tower. So, there are these 50m-high atrium spaces that are open on two ends, which means the residents can enjoy more views.”

The residential tower three will feature 40 floors of 2-storey duplexes (80 conventional floors). The added podium on the roof of the building will take its height to a staggering 300m.

“This will be the tallest residential tower in Asean,” says Abdul Haris Othman, principal and chairman of RDA Harris Architects.

Koek believes the huge supply of residences on offer in the development will be taken up because there is a shortage of accommodation for students from the surrounding universities, like Taylor’s University, Monash University and Sunway University. The high rental yields in the Sunway area and the value of the products DK-MY is offering will also attract investors, he says.

“If you’re talking about investment, I think the rental yields in the area are very good. The market rate is about RM1,000 per bed. Even Taylor’s is charging this price for its hostels, which don’t have many facilities. So does Monash,” Koek points out.

“If you make your development more desirable, people will choose it. A lot of developments are coming up and buyers are getting wiser and smarter in terms of what they want to buy. We are giving them something extra,” Ignatowicz chips in.

Artist’s impressions of D’Twist (left) and D’Latour

To serve DK City’s expected 15,000 population, there is a proposal to build a link under Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong to Sunway South Quay, circumventing the Sunway toll.

“A provision has been made for the link, to the construction of which all the developers in the area will contribute. This is expected to be completed in 1.5 to 2 years. The link will ease traffic flow from the surrounding areas. So, the problem of congestion has been addressed, our consultants have submitted proposals to the authorities and measures will be taken to resolve the concern. The studies were done beyond our site, in all the surrounding areas,” says Koek.

“The road has been there for a long time; only the pre-mix needs to be put on it,” he adds. “Another enhancement is Sunway Bhd’s bus rapid transit project, which will help the surrounding areas.”

The closest BRT station will be on the other side of the LDP and will be accessible to students from Taylor’s University via a pedestrian bridge.

Koek is also proposing shuttle buses to the station from DK City.

Future plans
DK-MY plans to increase its landbank in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Penang to build more mixed-use developments. “We will invest another RM500 million in land before the end of 2014,” says Koek.

In the pipeline is a mixed-use development in Jalan Sri Hartamas called SkyVillas @ Dutamas that has a GDV of RM700 million. The three-acre development will have a total built-up area of 1.5 million sq ft and is expected to be launched in 3Q2014.

SkyVillas will feature 402 residential units, 16 levels of high-rise boutique offices and 140,000 sq ft of retail space.

“We call it SkyVillas because all its units will actually be semi-detached houses — it’s landed property in the sky,” says Koek. “Every unit will have its own garden and there will be a car lift to the top.”

The topmost level will be very exclusive, featuring only eight 2-storey super villas with their own onsite parking space that can accommodate two cars. These will be accessible via private car lifts.

“We hope to achieve a GDV of RM1 billion in two years and rental income of RM100 million in five years,” remarks Koek when asked about DK-MK’s short-term goals. For the long term, the developer aspires to become a prominent player in the region with projects spanning Peninsular Malaysia.

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on December 2, 2013.


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