Green Moves: Learning from the Danish experience

Poul E Kristensen, managing director of green building consultancy IEN Consultants Sdn Bhd, describes himself as a “Dane who has grown roots in Malaysia”. 

The 54 year-old mechanical and civil engineer set up IEN Consultants and was based in Copenhagen before moving to Kuala Lumpur in 1999 when he won a consultancy tender for the office building of the then Ministry of Energy, Communications and Multimedia (now Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water) office in Putrajaya. The ministry wanted the building to be a model for energy efficient (EE) structures.

IEN, or Independent Energy Network, Consultants was set up locally in 2006 with Malaysian partner C K Tang, although the duo have been working together since 2001. The company was also involved in developing Pusat Tenaga Malaysia’s (PTM) super GEO (green energy office) in Bangi, Selangor, and has since added projects in Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines to its portfolio.

Kristensen has been interested in EE and green buildings for the last 35 years and he often cites his home country as an example of how countries can chart their way towards sustainability. “We used to have very, very cheap energy in Denmark but after the first energy crisis in Europe, some 35 years ago [following a threefold increase in oil prices], we changed from our 90% dependence on oil from the Middle East and started to use more coal and develop our own gas and oil resources in the North Sea between Denmark and England. We are now exporting more fuel than we use.”

Sundays in Denmark are car-free days, introduced to reduce energy consumption. Most of the buildings in Denmark are EE and by 2020, all buildings there will have to rely purely on renewable energy (RE) of their own production, says Kristensen.  
Window of opportunity

Malaysia can learn from the experience of other countries and map out its own EE and RE plan.

“It is imperative that a roadmap is drawn up based on the bigger picture of energy consumption,” Kristensen tells City & Country.  “The world has to change its energy habits drastically within the next 10 years. If our CO2 [carbon dioxide] emission increases exponentially, the issue is not whether we will have enough energy but the effects on the environment. We will have to deal with a changing world. For example, sea water levels will increase and the time may come when most of Bangladesh would be submerged, even parts of Singapore as well.

“This may not happen in my lifetime or yours, but definitely in your children or grandchildren’s lifetime. There is a fear that we may not be able to make the drastic change fast enough.”

Going green is not a passing fad. It is a functional requirement for sustainability. “If we do not go in that direction, it would seem like we do not care about ourselves and our future generation,” Kristensen adds.

He says the next 10 years are a window of opportunity for Malaysia to create new business opportunities and to be the leader in Southeast Asia in green technology. “Yes, it takes initiative and investments now, but it will pay off in the future,” he stresses.

Creating EE buildings and transport would be a good start. “By making buildings and transport more EE, we would have addressed 50% of the world’s CO2 emissions because buildings contribute 30% of them and transport 20%,” he says.

PTM’s GEO was initially built to be a zero-energy office (ZEO) to demonstrate how a building does not need fossil fuels.

“We almost got there [zero energy]. GEO uses only 20% energy compared to conventional buildings. We have learnt so much from the project that if we wanted to build a ZEO building now, we can do so,” he says. PTM’s GEO was the first building to be certified under Malaysia’s Green Building Index (GBI).

IEN Consultants was also involved in the recently completed 7-storey Energy Commission’s diamond building in Putrajaya. The diamond building is a low-energy office built eight years after PTM’s GEO.

Kristensen says it is a bigger challenge to make existing buildings EE and feels it is important to have EE lighting, cooling systems and equipment such as computers.

“It may cost 5% more to build a green building but I believe it can get cheaper. Double-glazed windows, for example, used to cost double the price of a normal window back in Denmark some time ago. Then 15 years ago, it was made compulsory for all buildings to have EE double-glazed windows with good insulation. Today, double-glazed windows cost the same as normal windows in Denmark,” he explains.

Kristensen, who was one of the speakers at the World Corporate Social Responsibility/Social Responsible Investment 2010 conference held in Kuala Lumpur on May 4 to 6, says IEN Consultants has been appointed as consultants for the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport low-cost terminal (KLIA LLCT), targeted to be the greenest airport terminal in the world.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 806, May 17-23, 2010.

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