Written By Yong Song Zhe
Department of Architecture, Faculty of Built Environment, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.
The construction industry accounts for 41% of Total Solid Waste in Malaysia. The high renovation rate and conventional cast in-situ construction method are expected to be the main factors that contribute to this high percentage. The IBS adoption rate in Malaysian private sector is currently low at 15% . To transform the construction methods from cast in-situ to IBS, Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) has targeted to make IBS compulsory for all private developments which cost exceeding RM50 million by 2020 . IBS brought many advantages to the environment, construction stakeholders and occupants. Thus, this study examines the adoption level of existing IBS high rises in meeting user preferences in house renovation. In order to validate the findings, a survey is distributed online to investigate the tendency & preferences of renovation by residents in Klang Valley. An assessment rubric is used to evaluate and compare the performance of selected IBS-based high-rise residential projects. The study concludes that there is a great need of a more user-friendly and customisable design within IBS implementation in residential high-rise projects to promote greater sustainability of the built environment.
The recent industrialization, which was generally called the 4th Industrial Revolution, includes digitalisation of most of the industry. Industrialisation is not a choice, but how fast could we adapt and utilise it. Most sectors have made substantial gains in their progress lines since 1910, yet the building industry remains relatively flat. Based on data analysis and interviews by Mckinsey Global Institute (2016) as shown in Figure 1 , the construction industry currently ranks among the least digitized industries. Waste generation is a global issue addressed in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations. Statistically, the construction industry accounted for about 41 percent of Malaysia’s overall solid waste generation . This is mainly caused by the non-reusable and unrecyclable characteristics of the current conventional construction method’s building components. According to a previous housing renovation study, 82% of the respondents have carried out renovation work on their houses . This high housing renovation demand is closely associated with the satisfaction level of occupants towards the design and construction quality of their homes. Housing renovation work includes alteration in size and layout of spaces, building materials and upgrades of indoor comfort, aesthetical and security aspect of the overall design . Housing design and construction stakeholders shall review the weaknesses of the existing design and construction strategies and reduce the construction waste generation to proceed towards a more sustainable built environment. IBS is a construction solution developed and implemented by Malaysian government since 1960s where the building components are manufactured in a factory, on or off-site, positioned and assembled into structures with minimal additional site work . CIDB (2010) has grouped IBS into six major classifications depending on structural aspects, namely precast concrete system, reusable formwork system, metal framing system, timber framing system, blockwork system and innovative system .
Figure 1: Digital advancement of various sectors in relation to digital assets, usage and labours. Source: The Mckinsey Global Institute (2016)
The region selected for this study is Kuala Lumpur and the central region of Selangor. Klang Valley has the highest population density in Malaysia. Up-to-date construction solution is critical in curbing the urbanization, pollution and housing issues in this region.
Figure 2: Definition of Klang Valley by parliamentary constituencies (2016 proposed boundaries)
One of the objectives of this study is to identify the customizability attributes of IBS-built residential high-rises in Klang Valley in meeting the occupant’s preferences in house renovation. The primary data of the study uses survey questionnaires distributed online to investigate the perception of residential occupants in Klang Valley. The result produced will indicate the type of renovation preferred and the reasons for their decision. The secondary data uses literature review methods on press releases, articles, construction reports, and reliable online resources to obtain information on IBS-built residential high rises that are completed by the IBS-related companies. It was also supported by interviews with three industry experts to understand the specifications of the IBS systems used. The findings from both primary and secondary data are cross-reviewed to identify and evaluate the relationship between the development of selected IBS-built residential high-rise projects in Klang Valley and the occupants’ preferences in house renovation.
The survey questionnaires were distributed to several online platforms including Facebook groups for property buyers, home design enthusiasts and university students. These platforms could reach potentially 2000 active members of different race, age groups and backgrounds. A total of 149 respondents answered the questionnaires. The survey has recorded their age range, type of accommodation, status of accommodation, occupation etc. These data are essential for me to analyse further the implication of occupants’ background in affecting their perception and preference in house renovation.
Table 1: Demographic Characteristics of Respondents
The result of the study consists of two parts, namely the house renovation survey and the review of IBS projects and its adoption of house renovation. The survey investigates the top preferences in housing renovation among respondents in Klang Valley.
1. House Renovation Preference in Space Extension/ Addition
Figure 3: House renovation preference in space extension/ addition
The three most preferred house renovations for space extension/addition in sequential order are the kitchen, the living room and the bedroom. 12.7% (19) of the respondents are satisfied with their current residential units’ provision and layout and demanded no renovation. The kitchen is the most preferred space to be renovated. Therefore, there is a need of a design strategies to re-examine and re-consider the importance and diverse cooking culture among the multi-racial communities in Malaysia.
Figure 4: Comparison of house renovation preference in space extension by percentage
Figure 4 compares the responses of 52 high rise occupants with 89 landed housing occupants. The percentage difference shows us the general similarities and two minor differences in house renovation preference in both groups of respondents. Two significant differences which differ from 5% and onwards are space extension of dining room and balcony. High rise occupants have less concern about the dining space but concern more on their balcony space than landed housing occupants as shown in the bar chart. The result is rational because the balcony plays an essential part specially to expand and/or complement the living room space. However, under Strata Management Act 2013, this type of renovation to balconies is limited in which the unit owner is not allowed to make changes to the unit’s exterior appearance or facade treatment.
2. House Renovation Preference In Upgrading of Finishes/ Fittings
Figure 5: House renovation preference in the upgrading of finishes/ fittings
The second category of house renovation requires no major hacking of building components but majorly drilling and change of finishes and fittings. The 3 most anticipated house renovations for the upgrading of finishes and fittings in sequential order are new kitchen cabinets, new built-in wardrobes, and new wall painting or finishes. 13.4% (20) of respondents expect to remain no changes on their residential units’ finishes/fittings. The types of upgrading that are less concerned are new railing of stairs, new ceiling and lightings.
Figure 6: Comparison of House Renovation Preference In Upgrading of Finishes/Fittings by Percentage
Figure 6 compares the preference between high rise occupants and landed housing occupants in the upgrading of finishes/fittings by percentage. The comparison presents a significant difference in percentage in Window/Door Metal Grill Installation. It shows that high-rise occupants have a much higher demand in window/door grill customization which relates to security concerns.
3. Documentation of The Identified Completed IBS projects
The second part of the findings identify the selected significant IBS residential projects in Klang Valley and investigate its adoption of housing renovation level based on the survey findings. Among the identified completed IBS residential high rises, Seri Mutiara Apartments in S P Setia’s award-winning Setia Alam township has been named the winner of The Edge Affordable Housing Excellence Award 2017. Other significant IBS projects constructed by Setia Precast is Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (KKM) Government Quarters building. Setia Precast Sdn Bhd received the highest-in-the-country IBS score of 93.95 in Sep 2019 for the construction of KKM Government Quarters building in Setia Federal Hill. Gamuda IBS Sdn Bhd has completed a development of Gamuda Land, Gapura Bayu Apartment at Kajang in Aug 2018. It was the first Rumah Selangorku in Malaysia fully built using digital IBS. It has became the precedence for Gamuda IBS in winning their next projects open-tendered by Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS), which is Selangorku Idaman Residensi.
Table 2: Summary of the identified completed IBS-built projects
Based on the interviews with the industry experts, Mr Ahmad Nazrol of CIDB shares that precast concrete system and reusable formwork system are two most common systems applied among Malaysian housing construction. This is due to its cost, timesaving and IBS score requirement factors. Ir. Liew Wen Tat, a senior manager of Setia Precast Sdn Bhd, shares the implementation of IBS in developments by SP Setia and other relevant developers who adopt the similar system. Ms Heather Tan Sock Lam is an IBS manager of Acotec Sdn Bhd in OSK Group, which supplies precast panels to multiple IBS projects, including Endah Puri Condominium, Ryan & Miho Residence and Shaftsbury Residence. She shares with me about the specifications and limitations of the precast wall system. The interaction with the industry players helps me understand the construction-related data of the IBS projects in these case studies.
4. IBS Projects In Meeting User Preference In House Renovation
To evaluate the selected IBS-based residential high rises in the adoption of house renovation, the study establishes three levels of house renovation criteria. These criteria are based on the top 6 most preferred types of house renovation identified in the survey at early stage of the study.
Table 3: Level of house renovation criteria based on user preference
In overall, the renovation adoption level is mainly affected by its IBS wall systems used and the structural system designed, whether it is a loadbearing wall or non-loadbearing wall system. Load bearing wall system is applied in the 3 projects studied. Loadbearing wall system requires no column, saves time on building erection and it’s more commonly used in the building typology with fix and repetitive layout, such as residential high rises and landed housing. Column & beam system, also known as non-loadbearing wall system, allows more choices of IBS wall types to be incorporated into the building. It also allows more customizability in space configuration to suit the occupants’ changing needs. However, it’s more commonly used in government projects such as offices and schools with variation of layout at different floors.
Table 4: Level of house renovation adoption of selected IBS projects (On-going)
Referring to the data tabulated in Table 4, 3 selected IBS-based residential high rises allow users to replace new wall finishes similarly to the conventional cast-in-situ construction method. Based on the industry experts, the challenges of removing the old tiling are solely based on the bonding strength of the screeds and the tile hardness. Wall drilling is allowed for all the selected IBS projects regardless of the IBS and structural system used. However, Strata Management Act 2013 only allows the unit proprietors to drill walls within the permissible limit. Cutting of precast walls are commonly achievable by hiring contractor with experience on concrete cutting. In Level 3 of renovation adoption, hacking and removal of the internal walls are possible if the walls are a non-loadbearing components. Based on the IBS wall system implemented in these residential projects, selected internal walls are designed to be non-loadbearing, and thus, allow occupants to hack or break the wall to alter the internal space. Generally, such renovation work should first obtain consent and approval from the Management Corporation of the developments and the local authority, respectively.
In conclusion, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the current IBS in Klang Valley is crucial in enhancing its implementation and competitiveness. The survey shows that respondents have a high demand for house renovation and customization. It indicates that the most preferred space for expansion of residential unit is Kitchen, Living room and Bedroom. The most preferred upgrades of fittings or finishes in sequential order is Kitchen Cabinets, Built-in Wardrobe, and Bathroom Fittings/Finishes. By deriving the respondents’ preferences into various renovation adoption levels, the studies found that the most of the IBS wall systems used in the studied residential projects are made customizable with house renovation preferences except loadbearing precast wall system which has less customizability for space size alteration than the other systems. The study recommends that architects, housing designers and developers should have a clear aim towards developing design schemes and spatial organisations that are flexible and able to match with the occupant’s needs and preferences to reduce the necessity of house renovation and construction waste generation. Therefore, design and construction stakeholders shall prioritise the implementation of IBS in more of the upcoming high-rise projects.
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Yong Song Zhe is the course director and educator at the architecture and design academy in Creato Design Studio, Kuala Lumpur since 2017. He received his B.Sc (Hon) Architecture from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR), Malaysia. He continued his Master of Architecture at Universiti Malaya, Malaysia. His research interest includes Industrialised Building System (IBS), user participation in housing design and technology integration in urban development. He received multiple national architectural design awards since 2016.
This research paper was presented at the 2021 CABE Malaysia Chapter online Conference.