City&Country: Promoting healthy and sustainable living

Ho Hon Sang, the newly appointed managing director of property development (Malaysia) at Sunway City Bhd (SunCity), has mixed feelings about his promotion. He was appointed to his new position on March 19 to replace Ngian Siew Siong, who is now managing director of property development (international).

“The promotion signifies that the company recognises my contributions, and there is a sense of achievement. Having said that, on the flip side of it is that there will be another set of challenges and responsibility,” says the 50-year-old.

In his four years as the former COO of the company, Ho was exposed to all aspects of the company’s business, including sales and marketing, quality control, engineering, architecture and customer service, which he says will stand him in good stead in his new position.

Qualified civil engineer
Ho joined SunCity in 1995 as an assistant general manager. A civil engineering graduate of Universiti Malaya, he began his professional career as an engineer with a consulting firm in 1984 upon graduation. It was here that he was exposed to all aspects of civil engineering, such as buildings, bridges, highways and drainage systems.

altHo then joined what was then United Engineers Group of Companies to build the North-South Expressway in the late 1980s. He quit the company in 1994, when the highway was completed, to join The Sunway Group.

“At Sunway, it was a totally different aspect of engineering … because property development is about selling and leasing real estate. That’s how I started my journey in property development,” Ho tells City & Country.

So being a civil engineer allowed him to venture into the property development business, which then led to his promotion as the managing director of a public-listed property development company.

“It doesn’t really come as a surprise. Employees of the Sunway Group are rewarded based on performance. Succession planning is also part and parcel of human capital planning and is carried out in a well-planned manner. On this note, I would like to look for positive contributions to grow this division, and add value to stakeholders,” Ho says.

Besides property launches in strategic locations in the Klang Valley to grow the business, the developer is keen on Johor to strengthen its presence in the country. It is also looking to secure new landbank in the Klang Valley and Penang.

SunCity intends to promote healthy and sustainable living at its developments through the introduction of the Lohas — Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability — philosophy in its projects.

Ho explains that Lohas will be incorporated into each development through these five pillars — health and fitness, personal development, the environment, sustainable living and social justice.

“We recognise that there is a group of people who want to improve the quality of their lives, have good health and be closer to the environment. That’s why a lot of our projects are very green, spacious and provide comfortable living. Building on the Lohas concept is something new to Malaysia, but it has been very popular in China,” he says.

“I went to China recently, and you will be surprised by the emphasis they have on landscaping. In Singapore, they have big botanic parks for tourists and people to rest … I want to stress this concept in our developments. When you go home and see all the greenery and plants, you will definitely feel very happy and pleased,” says the father of three.

An avid reader, Ho has a preference for economics, finance and landscaping. He also plays golf, for exercise as well as networking.

Business philosophy
Due to his technical background and training, Ho believes that the most powerful tool one has to accomplish anything is to go back to the basics, and that has become a part of his business philosophy.

“If you have something with a good foundation, it is very easy to build upon it. Everything will be easier once it is supported by a good foundation. Also, engineering is about turning theory into practice … we have a lot of theory, but it is not enough, and we must practise what we learn. This is also in line with Sunway Group’s tagline of ‘turning vision into reality’,” he says.

He adds that this philosophy also means being customer-driven, and that involves satisfying their needs, giving them good products and possibly exceeding their expectations. Besides having consistent quality, it is also very important to grow one’s customer base, he notes.

“We must have good, strategic intelligence to understand market trends and know that nothing is constant. If you are not up to date with market trends, you are out of the business. Of course, in business, we must also have operational efficiency.

“For stakeholders, we must have very transparent approaches to promote good governance and aspire to excellence. We try to do our very best in all our products. This is a very basic business philosophy, and with this the business will be sustainable generation after generation. This serves as a good business foundation, which I embrace,” he says.

Replenishing landbank is also one of his main tasks. Currently, the developer has 1,387 acres of undeveloped landbank in the Klang Valley, Ipoh and Penang valued at RM12.43 billion.

New launches
SunCity launched Sunway Rymba Hills, a RM270 million gated and guarded residential project in Sunway Damansara, early last month. It received encouraging response, with more than 50% of the project sold since.

The stratified project, on a 19.7-acre parcel, comprises 80 units of 3-storey villas. It is believed to be the only development in Petaling Jaya with a 6.5-acre private forest park.

In line with promoting the Lohas concept, the leasehold development will be built using green building materials. There will be four different designs, and the villas will have built-ups of 4,259 to 4,650 sq ft. Amenities include a fully equipped clubhouse with a gym, swimming pool, meditation area, jogging track and reading room.

“Sunway Rymba Hills is a stratified development, meaning the entire land belongs to the owners of these bungalows. They will maintain and handle the facilities, including the roads, drains, plants and landscaping through a management company. Our unique selling point is the forest, which is within walking distance and located at the back of some of the houses.

“We are going to incorporate the green building concept into this development. We will be aiming for the BCA’s (Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority) Green Mark and Malaysia’s GBI (Green Building Index),” Ho says.

Several green technologies will be incorporated into the development, such as photovoltaic (solar) cell technology, inverter air-conditioning systems and solar water system. Photovoltaic cell technology will be used to produce electricity to light up the clubhouse, with the extra sold to Tenaga Nasional Bhd.

The site for Rymba Hills, according to Ho, was initially approved for a development comprising 960 apartment units, which translates to 50 units per acre. The developer then changed the plan and cut the density to less than 10%, to four units per acre so as to conserve the environment and bring value to customers, especially those staying nearby.

altIn 3Q2010, SunCity plans to launch the RM200 million A’marine lakeside condominium development in Sunway South Quay in its Sunway Integrated Resort City in Selangor. The leasehold luxury condominium project will offer lakeviews for 90% of the units, while the remaining will have a view of green landscaping and the swimming pool within the project.

A 28-acre lake takes centre stage in Sunway South Quay. There is a 1.5km lakeside promenade and recreational facilities that allow residents to go walking or jogging. The two-block development offers units of 1,445 to 1,935 sq ft.

As at May 31, the project had received bookings of more than 30%.

SunCity is also looking to launch a new project in Cheras, dubbed Sunway Velocity. Located less than 4km from the Kuala Lumpur city centre, Ho believes this development — near SMK Convent Peel Road — will transform the skyline.

Sunway Velocity is a mixed development on a 22-acre freehold site, offering office suites, serviced apartments, a shopping mall and retail units. The project is expected to have a gross development value (GDV) of RM3 billion, says Ho.

“The project is designed to suit today’s modern and contemporary lifestyle where you can get everything at one destination. It is an integrated development as it is a trend for both commercial and residential properties to be available together. This will promote the lifestyle of live, work, shop and play. With diminishing development land in the Klang Valley, it is wise to have all these components on a single parcel of land,” Ho says.

He adds that a proposed new LRT line will run along Jalan Cheras and pass through the development. About two acres of the development will be allocated for a central park.

“We are creating an environment deck made up of a big open space where people can move around. Shops at the lower level will face the main road while the shops at the higher level will face the environment deck, which means the shops will have two frontages. This will make the place more vibrant,” he notes.

To be developed in four phases, the developer is looking to soft launch 112 office suites, 12 retail shops, 264 apartment units and another seven shops at the environment deck. The developer, however, has not decided on the pricing yet, as the market there is “sensitive in the sense that there is no comparable development around that area”.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 814, July 12-18, 2010

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