City&Country: Eco-themed sky lounge

The lush green foliage and trees are a sight to behold, and one certainly gets a sense of being in a tropical paradise up in the air. This is most impressive as the “forest” we are in is on the 31st floor of Vogue, the third tower of Bukit Kiara Properties Sdn Bhd’s (BKP) Verve Suites development in Mont’Kiara, Kuala Lumpur.

Vogue is one of four towers within Verve Suites. With a gross development value of RM592 million, Verve Suites sits on just under six acres of land and once fully developed, will have 933 fully furnished units.

The first two towers — Viva and Vibe — have been completed and handed over, while the fourth, Vox, is currently under construction. Each tower comes with its own unique sky lounge for the residents’ use.

Vogue’s garden in the sky concept is called The Concentrico, a play on the word that describes the concentric circles found on a tree trunk.

“Every sky lounge has been a collaboration with the whole team … we had a lot of brainstorming,” says N K Tong, BKP group managing director. “After the success of and feedback from the first two sky lounges, we were looking for something really different, and this idea [of a garden in the sky] stood out.”

The sky lounge in Viva features The Vertigo concept, while the one in Vibe has The Hypercubes concept. The Vertigo has a more activity-driven feel with its sky gym and recreation areas, while The Hybercubes has an entertainment atmosphere with its private TV rooms, kitchen and dining area, making it ideal to host dinners and gatherings. The Concentrico has a more meditative and relaxed ambience as the 6,240 sq ft of space is mostly filled with plants.

“We wanted to move away from the usual facilities, do something different that is softer and green, a bit more outdoors with some covered areas to deal with the rain,” Tong says. “And to incorporate innovative things that would attract people’s attention.”

And grab attention it does. As the roof-top garden, or should we say jungle, features the three main layers of a jungle. The top layer of taller trees comprises 52 Leopard Trees, the second layer is made up of medium-height trees comprising 80 tree ferns and 45 wild water plum trees and the third has 20 species of low shrubs and ground covers, which thrive in shady conditions.

The garden uses about 485 cu m of soil, or about 75 trips for a six-ton lorry. There is also a water feature to simulate the movement and sounds of a riverbed in the jungle.

One would also notice how gentle the breeze is in the garden, considering that at 31-storeys, winds could play havoc. However, Tong reveals, the area is surrounded by a woven perforated metal screen specially designed to reduce wind speeds by 50%. This not only makes it very comfortable for residents to lounge and while away the hours, but also protects the plants from strong winds.
The trees in the garden were specially selected to not grow beyond the height of the metal screen to prevent them from being damaged. Tong explains how the trees have small leaves so that when they fall, they biodegrade and fertilise the soil, hence cutting down on fertiliser.

To help one traverse this green wonderland is a metal gangway that leads to the four main activity areas in The Concentric — the Cinema Paradiso, Hydro gym, Podium Panorama and Alfresco Dining.

Cinema Paradiso is an open-air cinema where movies can be screened under the stars. Furnished with comfortable beanbag chairs, the amphitheatre-like area can seat about 20 people.

In the Hydro gym is a heated, salt-chlorinated pool with bright yellow equipment that is normally used in physiotherapy. Tong says the Verve Suites is the first residential project in Malaysia to have such equipment.

There are four Podium Panoramas, which are small alcoves that jut out from the side of the building. These cosy nooks come with a hammock and a deck chair. The Alfresco Dining area is ideal for small gatherings. Simple kitchen appliances are even provided.

Creating this paradise has taken a great deal of persistence, says Tong. “This was the first time we had done so much earth works on such a high level,” he explains. “It’s an engineer’s worse nightmare as most of the weight is at the top. To make it a reality, we had to get all our consultants on board.”

The Concentrico cost RM2 million to create, with over RM500,000 spent on landscaping alone. Most of the plants are still maturing and should soon become an “organised” shady tropical jungle by the time Vogue is completed in early 2012.

The first three towers of Verve Suites are 100% sold, while the fourth has seen 80% sales. The 36-storey Viva, with 240 units, was completed and handed over in 2009. The built-ups of its 1-bedroom units are 633 to 672 sq ft, while those of its 2-bedroom units are 826 to 861 sq ft. The average price at its launch in 2006 was RM600 psf. The current occupancy rate is 70%, and units there have seen rental yields of 7% to 10% and capital appreciation of more then 30%.

The 27-storey Vibe has 188 units, which were completed and handed over in October 2010. Built-ups range from 633 to 861 sq ft. In 2007, the units were sold at an average price of RM700 psf. It is 50% occupied and, like Viva, has seen rental yields of 7% to 10% and capital appreciation of more than 30%.

Vogue, which is nearing completion, will offer 255 units. The developer aims to hand them over by early 2012. The 1-bedroom units have built-ups of 462 sq ft, while the 2-bedroom units have built-ups of 926 sq ft. The average price in 2008 was RM950 psf.

Vox, which will have 34 storeys housing 250 units, will offer 1, 2 and 3-bedroom units with built-ups of 462, 926 and 1,395 sq ft respectively. This tower will have a beach theme for its sky lounge called The Versilica. Selling prices start from RM580,000 for the 1-bedroom units, RM900,000 for the 2-bedroom units and RM1.8 million for the 3-bedroom units. The tower is expected to be completed by end-2013.

In addition to the sky lounges, there are also tennis, squash and badminton courts, swimming pools and another gym on the podium level, which connects all four towers. Other facilities include barbeque areas, a launderette and a wet and dry reflexology path. There will also be a 60,000 sq ft retail podium with shops to cater for the needs of the residents.

Property market
“Sales, value and occupancy rates have remained strong because we have done something different,” Tong says. “Our concept has captured the imagination of the neighbourhood and KL-ites in general. The fully furnished units, the different sky lounges — it is like you can have a holiday here without going away.”

As for the property market in general, Tong, who is the chairman of the Real Estate and Housing Developers’ Association’s (Rehda) Wilayah Persekutuan branch, believes that KL will continue to boom, looking at the government’s initiatives like the Greater KL Plan, the mass rapid transit project and the River of Life project, which he says will “redefine prime areas”.

When asked how the market will fare moving into 2012, Tong says, “I believe there will be steady growth depending on the global situation.” He explains that while the other countries in the region have seen property prices move up in the last 10 to 15 years, Malaysia has had a steadier climb. Whether it is a good or bad year for the world, Tong believes Malaysia’s property market is protected.

“The demand for property is still there,” Tong says. “All bets are off if China collapses, but if the West goes down, there is still an engine of growth here in the region. You may find that Western governments will start pumping more liquidity into the system, and half of that liquidity will flow into this region and find its way into properties.

“But I would say that I am more comfortable with the Malaysian property market than other regional markets,” he says. “One reason is the regional global flow of money, while the other is the demand for KL property that can only go up because our population is growing and the government is looking to attract investors and residents to Malaysia.”

BKP’s upcoming projects — Verve Suites KLCC and The Ambangan in Persiaran Madge, Ampang — will see construction start sometime next year. Verve Suites KLCC will forgo the usual penthouse and instead, feature a sky lounge. It will have fewer than 200 fully furnished units in one tower and sit on just under an acre of freehold land. The Ambangan, which will also sit on less than an acre of land, will have only 19 units, built-ups of which start from 3,500 sq ft.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 879, Oct 10-16, 2011

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