How Malaysia's commitment to net zero is shaping its real estate sector 

Hans Weemaes

Director, Sustainability, Asia

As Malaysia's construction industry continues to grow, its government must formulate a long-term plan around sustainability – one that is aligned with its ambitions around achieving net zero by 2050. Here, we assess whether the twelfth ‘Malaysia Plan’ is the key to success.

In 2022, the World Economic Forum reported that the built environment contributes to over 39 percent of the world’s annual carbon emissions. The upfront embodied carbon from raw material extraction processes to construction and installation accounts for a significant proportion of this total.​ 

With Malaysia's construction industry continues to grow, the government has announced ambitious plans to amplify sustainable development – with these falling under what is known as the twelfth Malaysia Plan (12MP). 

Under 12MP, industry stakeholders are being encouraged to leverage green building design, and to place focus on enhancing energy efficiency, resource management and resilience in the face of extreme weather conditions and natural disasters. 

We take a more in-depth look at the work the Malaysian government is doing to bring sustainable practices to the forefront of its construction industry as it strives to achieve net zero by 2050. 

Malaysia turns to innovative construction solutions with sights set on net zero​ 

The construction industry faces several challenges when it comes to achieving net zero, largely because traditional construction methods often lead to substantial material waste as resources are used inefficiently and on-site activities consume substantial amounts of energy. 

Malaysia’s construction industry is therefore looking to adopt more innovative construction methods under the 12MP to tackle these challenges head on. These include: 

Industrialised Building Systems (IBS): IBS reduces material waste and improves energy efficiency by manufacturing building components in a controlled environment – leading to a lower embodied carbon output in construction processes. 

Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC): PPVC involves constructing building modules off site before transporting them to the construction site for assembly. This reduces on-site construction times, minimises disruptions and ensures higher precision and quality control – all of which translates to energy savings and reduced emissions. 

Building Information Modelling (BIM): BIM is a digital representation of the physical and functional characteristics of a facility. It facilitates better planning, design and management of buildings, allowing for more efficient use of materials and energy. It also helps in identifying potential issues early in the design phase, reducing errors and rework, contributing to lower carbon emissions. 

Modular techniques: Modular construction involves assembling sections of a building in a factory setting before transporting them to the site for installation. This enhances efficiency and sustainability by reducing construction time, material waste and on-site energy use. Modular techniques also enable easier implementation of energy-efficient technologies and designs. 

These methods, combined with a holistic decarbonisation strategy, will help Malaysia ensure sustainability is embedded throughout the entire project life cycle and supply chain. We are, in fact, already seeing this happening in Malaysia to some degree, with both BIM and IBS adoption picking up. 

It is important to implement such strategic methods early in the design stage, though, so stakeholders have the opportunity to make any changes along the way to ensure they remain on track with their net-zero ambitions. 

It is also key to consider setting benchmarks that will feed into the broader decarbonisation strategy – one that requires a tailored assessment tool, capable of formulating a comprehensive action plan for the implementation phase. 

Malaysia urged to embrace sustainable certification and performance tools 

Elsewhere in the 12MP action plan, developers in Malaysia are being urged to embrace performance tools to ensure sustainability is embedded from the design and construction stages, right through to operations.  

The Green Building Index, for instance, evaluates buildings on their energy efficiency, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and sustainable site planning, helping reduce overall carbon emissions and resource use. 

They are also being driven towards certification, which also plays a crucial role in the drive towards net zero. Certification sets clear standards and benchmarks for sustainability, providing developers with a framework that they can follow to ensure that best practices are implemented throughout the project lifecycle. 

The roadmap to achieve net zero, however, is not a straightforward one. Companies need to navigate the intricate process of decarbonisation in a way that is both cost-effective and well-coordinated. The net-zero commitments must also be converted into actionable plans, combining commercial and carbon assurance.  

Sustainability in Malaysia embodies a pragmatic fusion of environmental stewardship and socio-economic advancement, orchestrating a balanced narrative of progress that endures for generations. 

Complex journey towards net zero equires coordinated, cost-effective actions 

We help our clients align their net zero strategy to the best delivery methods, providing a practical roadmap that can facilitate company-wide implementation at every stage of the asset life cycle – from construction, through to operations and disposal. 12MP sets the stage for this transformation, emphasising the adoption of sustainable building practices and innovative construction methods.  

A critical first step in this work is to measure and report on carbon emissions. This, combined with a holistic approach and early implementation of sustainable practices, will mean the real estate sector can significantly contribute to the nation's environmental stewardship and socio-economic advancement, paving the way for a sustainable future. 

For further information contact:

Hans Weemaes
Director, Sustainability, Asia