Architectural firm makes sustainability a core part of their business

  • SMEBiz
  • Monday, 13 Jan 2020

Green building: The award-winning Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Selangor (PKNS) headquarters in Shah Alam is a low-rise six-storey building capped by an ascending roof.

YEARS before sustainability became a buzzword, Veritas Design Group made it a point to incorporate environmental elements into its business. The environment is one among five of the architecture group’s core values.

And as the rest of the business world slowly catches on to the importance of sustainability, Veritas has been ramping up its efforts even more so over the last few years.

Veritas Architects principal Zainal F Abdul Aziz says they always “strive to include this element into our projects”. From the moment a client initiates a project, the firm is already looking at ways to make it a green building.

“We have our own internal green checklist, like water management and positioning on the site. As much as possible, we also use recycled materials. Beyond that, we have a more standardised industry rating tool like the Green Building Index (GBI), which is more detailed.

“And hopefully, our clients are more willing to invest in the project. There may be higher upfront costs but there are also cost savings in the long run. We sometimes do post-occupancy assessment to track and review the performance of the building for them, ” he says.

Its efforts are in line with its ambition to be seen as a leader in sustainable design. He adds that the team is always finding ways to go beyond what they have done so far to remain at the forefront.

Veritas senior associate Azlina Ismail adds that the firm continuously supports its staff to go for GBI facilitator courses to ensure that they are able to specialise and be accredited in green.

“When we say ‘green’, it is really about making people more comfortable and reducing the maintenance cost of the building. So this comes down to the design of the building, like the sun orientation to lessen energy consumption, how do we implement fins to reduce glare and cool the building down.

“And we want to look into all this at the initial design stage, not halfway through the project. It is instilled in us that when a client approaches us for a project, we ask if it is sustainable, is it green, is it something tenable that saves the environment, ” she says.

One of its star projects is the Selangor State Development Corporate headquarters in Shah Alam. The building, completed in 2016, has the highest GBI points scored for an office building at the Design Assessment stage.

“We are not happy with just a certified building. We want the gold rank. When we get gold, we want to go platinum, and when we have platinum, we want double platinum. Now we want to go for zero-net energy buildings. Of course, there are constraints, like cost, client preference and issues. But we are trying to educate them and get them excited about sustainability, ” adds Azlina.

But Veritas’ efforts are not just focused on its clients’ projects. For sure, they have carried out a lot of initiatives internally to ensure that they are also walking the talk.

“Simple things like installing LED lights and recycling bins don’t cost a lot, but in the long run, they will be beneficial, ” says Zainal.

Veritas takes its carbon footprint rather seriously. Funds from its recycling activities are given back to the staff through various initiatives, such as rewarding those who come to work using public transport. On the flipside, those who drive to work will contribute to the fund.

“It’s a carrot and stick approach. The biggest contributor to the fund used to be our CEO until he switched to a Tesla, ” Zainal laughs.

“So it shows that he is serious about this and so is everyone in the company. We also have a charging station here.”

About two years ago, they also introduced indoor plants for the employees to take care of and weekly bulletins to inform and educate the staff on green trends around the world.

“We encourage the staff to also come up with other green ideas. It’s quite successful. We try to make it fun and lively to make it work, ” he says.

The company also works with the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to convert abandoned spaces in the city into landscaped areas or convert them into urban farms. They also open up this initiative to other organisations by working with them to beautify more areas in the city.

They regularly participate in programmes like plant-a-tree initiatives and public clean-ups.

The company makes it a point to also ensure that its positive impact is not only on the environment but also on communities.

“We collaborated with a few organisations and contributed to portable solar panels for an orang asli settlement. We were also part of the set-up team. We used natural materials and taught them how to maintain the solar panels on their own, ” Zainal shares.

Zainal notes that the company hopes to continue pushing the green envelope and that there are many more initiatives that it can adopt.

“We are not satisfied with just being good. We need to push to be great. This will also create awareness on what we do. It’s about all the small things. This is second nature for our staff. And the mindset really starts from the top, ” he says.

Azlina hopes the green culture within the company will also be adopted by its employees outside the office, creating not just a green working space but also a lifestyle.

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