Fostering Sustainable Environment through Green Construction Standards

A green product is a sustainable product designed to minimize its environmental impacts during its whole life cycle and even after it is of no longer in use. Green products are usually identified by having two basic goals – reducing waste and maximizing resource efficiency. They are manufactured using toxic-free ingredients and environmentally-friendly procedures and are certified by recognized organizations such as the Green Seal in the US, Korea Eco-Products Institute, and in the case of Malaysia, one such organization is SIRIM QAS International, a subsidiary of SIRIM Berhad.

The growth and development of communities has a large impact on the natural environment. The manufacturing, design, construction and operation of the buildings are responsible for the consumption of many of the natural resources. Hence, the use of green products in the construction industry is critical to reduce the negative ecological footprint and simultaneously help create a more sustainable environment over the long haul.

In Malaysia, Jabatan Kerja Raya or JKR is the government department responsible for the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure. JKR has been promoting the use of green products in the construction of buildings and roads, in line with the government’s green policy and initiatives. The department has laid out initiatives in promoting the use of green products in the industry since the year 2000.

By encouraging the use of green products in construction, it is anticipated that the demand for such products will increase. The manufacturers may respond to the demand by improving the environmental aspects of their products. This will result in reduced environmental stress from that product category and in the long run will foster the promotion of environmental protection and the emergence of a sustainable society.

As part of its strengthening efforts in implementing the country’s green initiatives, JKR since 2017 has been collaborating with SIRIM STS, another subsidiary of SIRIM Berhad, to come up with development of green related standards.

One such initiative is the development of the JKR/SIRIM 1:2017, Manual for Green Product Scoring System (GPSS), as part of the initiatives to promote and encourage the use of green products in the construction industry and constructing more sustainable buildings. The term ‘green’ within the context of this standard refers to environmentally friendly preferable attributes of a product. Environmental labels and declarations from the manufacturers are used to indicate the product as ‘green’. These labels and declarations provide information about a green product in terms of its overall environmental character, a specific environmental aspect, or any number of aspects based on life cycle considerations and assessment.

The standard provides the assessment criteria and method to evaluate the content of environmentally friendly or green products used in the super structure of buildings and roads.

This standard was developed with the following objectives:

  1. to provide a systematic and structured assessment system for green products in building and road projects;
  2. to measure the number of green products used in building and road works;
  3. to educate and create awareness among the stakeholders on green products and services; and
  4. to encourage manufacturing industries to apply for green product certification based on the current criteria by independent certification body.

Another standard developed by JKR and SIRIM STS is JKR/SIRIM 2:2020, Penarafan Hijau (pHJKR) bagi Fasiliti Bangunan Kediaman dan Bukan Kediaman, to standardise the evaluation criteria and methods for assessing the sustainability of a building. The standard was developed with the intention of making construction industry ‘greener’ in terms of the its environmental protection, environmental performance, use of green products and environmental technologies in the building, and conservation of natural resources.

The standard emphasizes the seven key areas namely sustainable site planning and management; energy efficiency management; resource and material management; water use efficiency management; quality management of the internal environment; sustainable facility management; and innovation in design.

JKR/SIRIM 2 was developed with the following objectives in mind. First, the document will serve as a guideline for assessing the sustainable consumption and development of a building project. Second, the document will provide a comprehensive and appropriate strategy for sustainable project implementation. Third, by implementing the requirement of this standard in building project, it will provide awareness and encourage sustainable development. And finally, the document will become a guide to all parties involved in green rating of a building.

Apart from JKR/SIRIM 1 and JKR/SIRIM 2, another standard that has been developed under the collaboration is JKR/SIRIM 3: 2020, Environmental protection and enhancement works for projects. The standard was developed to provide a comprehensive guide to prepare tender documents from the planning, design and construction phases of projects in accordance with technical requirements incorporating the latest environmental protection, mitigation and enhancement measures. This standard incorporates the current technical requirements such as policies, legislation and needs of various external technical agencies that have been identified as stakeholders of construction projects in Malaysia.

All these standards are developed with the awareness that it is important to provide requirements, specifications, guidelines or features that can be used to ensure that the materials, products, processes and services supplied meet the needs and wants, as well as achieve best practices in the field of sustainable construction and development.

In the latest development, the two collaborators are currently in the process of developing JKR standards for indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) for Government Office Building which outlines the need to include common factors that affect the quality of indoor environment and IEQ such as indoor air quality, acoustic comfort, thermal comfort, visual comfort, cleaning, and safety and health.

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