City&Country: Engtex building for the niche market

Engtex Group Bhd has long been known as a manufacturer of construction materials. But what many may not be aware of is that the group is also a property developer.

While Engtex Properties Sdn Bhd was officially incorporated in August 2007, says general manager Lee Geok Ai, its history stretches back to 1996 with the setting up of Tiaraview Management Sdn Bhd (Tiaraview).

Lee, together with Datuk Ng Hook, managing director of Engtex Group Bhd founded Tiaraview with another partner. Its developments include the 400-acre Taman Kota Raya township in Johor Baru.
In 2001, Lee and his partners shifted the company’s focus to the Klang Valley and broke away from township developments to concentrate on niche products.

“We found that there are limitations in township development in terms of products and designs; acceptance of change is slower. We wanted to challenge ourselves and we believe there are more opportunities and more avenues for growth in the Klang Valley, especially in the niche market,” says Lee, adding that Engtex acquired Tiaraview in 2007 in a move to diversify its business.

Its first project in the Klang Valley was Tiara Villa in Old Klang Road, with a gross development value (GDV) of RM25 million. It was also the first of the Tiara series of developments. The development comprises 28 units of high-end 3 and 3½-storey semi-detached homes and one bungalow.

Tiara Villa was soon followed by Tiara Putra (GDV RM42 million), comprising 101 units of 2 and 2½-storey terraced houses and four units of 2½-storey semi-detached houses. This was the last project under Tiaraview.

Next came Tiara Puteri (GDV RM60 million) under the Engtex banner, comprising 76 units of high-end semi-detached houses. The development has been fully sold and completion is expected by the end of the year.

Tiara Putra and Tiara Puteri are located in Bukit Rahman Putra.

Luxury amid nature
Coming up is the fourth development in the Tiara series, which Lee deems to be the most challenging and interesting — Tiara Residences, with a GDV of RM80 million.

Perched on top of a hill in Selayang at about 130m above sea level, the gated and guarded development consists of 46 leasehold 4-storey villas, covering 3.3 acres. The villas are sized between 5,068 sq ft and 5,732 sq ft and prices range from RM1.5 million to RM2.5 million.

Each unit comes with a 40ft lap pool, open leisure deck and a skylight and offers an unobstructed view of the Kuala Lumpur city skyline. The development is also environmentally friendly with its energy-saving features.

“We used tall windows and the skylight to allow more natural lighting.  Being situated on a top of a hill creates a breezy environment,  and the lap pool also helps to passively cool the house,” explains Lee.

A unique feature is a hot water system that utilises the heat generated by the air-conditioning to heat the water. Other green features include rainwater harvesting, cross ventilation for common areas and circulation space, and motion sensor light control in some common areas.

The target market is upgraders, says Lee, and those who want more space.  Tiara Residences had a special invitation only preview on Oct 15, which generated 20 confirmed bookings.

“We are pleased with the response. From the feedback, I think our product and its quality is of no question,” says Lee.

The location is a factor as well. The development is near the popular Selayang wholesale market, surrounded by amenities and has easy access to the main roads and highways.

“But the development is sealed off from the busy area, making it a quiet and tranquil neighborhood,” adds Lee.

With hillside developments under intense scrutiny in recent years, Lee assures that no cost was spared to reinforce and strengthen the site of the development.

“The reason we chose to build 4-storey villas is so we would not disturb the slope too much. The villas are designed in such a way that disturbance is kept to the bare minimum,” stresses Lee.

Engtex has spent RM10 million to strengthen the slopes and foundations. According to Lee, records have shown that there have been no incidents such as landslides or falling debris at the site for the past 20 years.

“We have actually been told that it is more risky to leave the area unattended than to develop it,” says Lee.

He acknowledges that some residents voiced their concern about the safety of the site when the project was first announced.

“We met with the residents to address their concerns and they were satisfied with our explanations and assurances. We have already obtained approvals from all the authorities and we are planning to start general clearing on Jan 1, next year,” says Lee.

The handover of Tiara Residences is scheduled for end-2012 and the development will be officially launched on Nov 13.

Moving forward
Engtex is already planning a fifth development in the Tiara series. Lee and his team are currently doing the concept design for proposed semi-detached houses in Bukit Rahman Putra.

Nearer on the horizon is Engtex’s first commercial project, the 3.6-acre Emerald Avenue. The mixed commercial development also in Selayang,  with a GDV of RM250 million ,comprises 32 units of 3 and 4-storey shoplots with a street mall, 121 units of hotel suites and 187 Soho units.

Lee hopes to duplicate the success of the Tiara series with Emerald Avenue and start a commercial series.

“But it hinges on the response and feedback for Emerald Avenue, which is scheduled to start construction in 1H 2011 and be completed within three years,” says Lee.

Currently, the property division’s contribution to the group’s revenue is not more than 10% and Lee does not expect it to grow in the short-term.

“Right now, we are taking it one project at a time. We are, however, actively sourcing for pockets of land in the Klang Valley for niche developments,” says Lee.

Lee considers sustainable design an important factor in property development and believes it will benefit both the developer and buyers.

“This is not about painting a house green ...  we have to get these green elements into the buildings and the surrounding environment,” says Lee.

Reusable energy is Lee’s top priority. “Why waste when you can recycle?” he says.
“We are constantly on the lookout to improve on ways to reduce energy and water usage. We want to create a better living environment with useful space. Together with our designer, we will have new ideas coming soon,” says Lee.

He also has plans to eventually have a Green Building Index (GBI) certified development.

GBI is a green rating tool for both residential and non-residential developments developed by the Malaysia Institute of Architects (PAM) and Association of Consulting Engineers Malaysia (ACEM).

“It is a matter of time before all developers will have moved into green development,” reasons Lee.
But that is all in the future. For now, Engtex is looking to carve a name in the property industry as a developer of high quality niche products.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 830, Nov 1-7, 2010

Looking for properties to buy or rent? With >150,000 exclusive listings, including undervalued properties, from vetted Pro Agents, you can now easily find the right property on Malaysia's leading property portal EdgeProp! You can also get free past transacted data and use our proprietary Edge Reference Price tool, to make an informed purchase.