By Salma Husna Zamani, Rahimi A. Rahman and Liyana Mohamed Yusof
Faculty of Civil Engineering Technology, Universiti Malaysia Pahang, Gambang 26300, Malaysia.
Overview of the Smart City Concept
Malaysia aims to transform into a Smart Nation by 2040, as outlined in the Fourth National Physical Plan (NPP4). In 2015, the United Nations unveiled the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 objectives. These goals served as a worldwide appeal to address poverty, protect the environment, and strive for universal peace and prosperity by 2030. Some SDGs can be advanced through Smart Living initiatives (depicted in Figure 1), specifically "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages" (Goal 3) and "Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable" (Goal 11). Also, in Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, sustainability involves ensuring that economic progress is harmonised with efforts to safeguard the environment and the well-being of society.
In alignment with the sustainable development goal and Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, Malaysia has developed policies and strategies for Smart Cities recognised as Malaysia Smart City Framework. In the framework, the policy and development agenda matrix and my Smart City strategies comprise 16 policies, 7 components, 36 strategies, and 112 initiatives. In addition, the principles of Smart City encompass social, economic, and environmental advantages, guiding the creation of comprehensive digitalised development strategies and policies that enhance people's quality of life. Smart City development typically relies on seven (7) essential components, recognised as foundational in any such plans. These include Smart Government, Smart Economy, Smart Environment, Smart Living, Smart Mobility, and Smart People, as depicted in Figure 2.
Within these components, Smart Living focuses on housing development to meet residents' needs and contribute to their health and well-being. Housing development through collaboration with cities worldwide is actively sought to foster safer and healthier urban environments. Our local advocacy concentrates on aiding cities in integrating health and well-being into the core of their communities. Effective Smart building policies necessitate addressing multifaceted challenges, with a central emphasis on health and well-being. The joint efforts involve educating, motivating, and guiding urban leaders are needed. Additionally, exploring novel ways to prompt cities to demonstrate leadership and confront health, safety, and fairness issues is essential. The core of local advocacy should revolve around assisting cities in seamlessly incorporating health and well-being into the very fabric of their communities.
Five cities are involved in Smart City Pilot Projects: Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bharu, Kulim, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuching. Other cities involved in Smart City Development are Putrajaya, Cyberjaya, Melaka, and Penang. Malaysia has been actively advancing the creation of Smart Cities in recent years, with Gamuda Cove emerging as a notable example. Its development is meticulously designed as an integrated and sustainable smart city, focusing on eco-friendly technology and communal living. It incorporates an array of Smart City features and technologies, such as a fibre-optic network, an intelligent traffic management system, and a centralised security system.
Overview of WELL Building Concept
The International WELL Building Institute has developed health, well-being, and productivity concepts to shape building projects that enhance human health and well-being. These concepts encompass water, air, mind, light, nourishment, thermal comfort, sound, materials, community, and movement, all depicted in Figure 3. The WELL concepts and elements are developed as WELL Building Standard as a pioneering foundation. The standard also encompasses a set of strategies that aims to advance human health through design interventions, operational protocols, and policies and foster a culture of health and well-being. It can be affirmed that both the smart city concept and the WELL concept align with the overarching sustainability movement.
Smart Cities and its impact on Health, well-being, and productivity
The evolution of Smart Cities stands out as a pivotal component of the nation's modernisation initiatives. As urban areas progressively adopt intelligent and interconnected technologies, the expansion of urban housing emerges as a significant challenge. Rapid urbanisation and population expansion will inevitably result in heightened population densities, amplified traffic congestion, and escalated pollution levels. These factors collectively adversely affect human health, well-being, and productivity.
The population of urban residents is increasing yearly, as indicated by the World Bank. 2020 saw 77.16% of the Malaysian population residing in urban regions and cities. Concurrently, global life expectancy continues to rise, setting the transition of Malaysian citizens into an ageing population by 2030. This demographic unveiled concern that the suboptimal performance of existing buildings will exacerbate the climate emergency on our planet. The impacts of urbanisation also have unveiled concerning trends within urban communities. Loneliness, dissatisfaction with social capital, diminished self-esteem, and heightened levels of depression are among the challenges.
Issues that encompass safety, traffic congestion, accessibility, adequacy, and affordability act as significant barriers to addressing activity needs. The suboptimal performance of existing residential buildings, particularly, can result in Malaysian citizens grappling with a range of mental and physical health challenges.
Tackling these intricate challenges demands a strategic and all-encompassing strategy, which involves delving into Smart Living advancements and incorporating WELL components to address these crucial aspects effectively. Smart Living constitutes an inventive residential concept inspired by the principles of Smart Cities, aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by prioritising human well-being and environmental considerations. Recognising that healthy buildings are pivotal to a thriving economy, optimising the built environment is imperative. As buildings are the predominant backdrop for approximately 90% of our daily lives, their quality must be optimised to foster well-being and achieve substantial positive health outcomes.
Integrating health, well-being, and productivity in residential building design
As the Malaysia Smart City Framework delineates policies and strategies across its seven (7) key components, it becomes imperative for Malaysia to expedite the implementation of Smart City initiatives beyond its borders. To facilitate this, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (KPKT), in conjunction with PLANMalaysia and the Department of Standards Malaysia (DSM), has formulated the MS ISO 37122: Indicators for Smart City standard. This standard serves as a set of indicators for Smart City development, offering guidance for planning and assessing the level of Smart City maturity. Eighty (80) indicators have been established to provide cities with a reference point concerning the essential elements or components required to qualify as a Smart City. In view of this, the Malaysia Smart City Framework already outlines policies and strategies for the seven (7) Smart City components. The focal point should be directed towards accelerating the extension of Smart City implementations beyond national borders.
In the context of housing development within Smart cities, it is imperative to emphasise both Smart living components, aesthetic design, and the incorporation of WELL components. The International WELL Building Institute offers the WELL Building Standard as a comprehensive guide to promoting health, well-being, and productivity in residential environments. The standard and the WELL Multifamily Residential Pilot are present criteria that form an index for assessing health, well-being, and productivity, encapsulating ten distinct concepts.
Malaysia can adopt the existing standard provided by the International WELL Building Institute and explore more elements pertaining to health, well-being, and productivity to the current standards in Malaysia in alignment with the Smart City Framework. Housing or residential buildings are not solely functional living spaces but cater to broader social needs and enhance residents' quality of life. Insufficient building quality can have detrimental effects on our health, well-being, and productivity. Despite the established methods for assessing overall housing demands, a specific assessment has not been conducted to identify instances of core housing needs within the population.
Way Forward: How future Smart Cities can achieve WELL living?
The focus on WELL housing research, policy, and development in Malaysia is currently gaining less attention. In concern to these existing issues, there are currently no policies or building guidelines pertaining to incorporating WELL elements and principles within Malaysia. Residential development in Malaysia needs a tool: WELL Residential Building Index that encompasses WELL elements and principles to support decision-making in creating WELL residential building projects and WELL living. Consequently, studies are needed to investigate the factors influencing health, well-being, and productivity within residential buildings. The outcomes stemming from future studies exploring the various WELL elements and principles will gain significant value to furnish a foundational list for the government to craft a comprehensive framework for WELL residential buildings.
The significance of the WELL Residential Building Index cannot be overstated, especially within the broader context of Smart City development. Moreover, integrating the WELL Building Index into residential developments holds the potential for substantial economic and societal benefits, ultimately elevating the quality of life for individuals and communities. Harnessing the new WELL Residential Building Index offering guidelines or benchmarks to stakeholders to enhance health, well-being, and productivity within the built environment serves as a pivotal framework in the progression of Smart City initiatives.
As such, the WELL Residential Building Index would serve multiple purposes. Primarily, it would assist building owners and practitioners by facilitating informed decisions early in the design phase of building development, optimising the incorporation of WELL elements and principles. This familiarity with WELL elements and principles enhances decision-making. It offers insights to steer decision-makers toward refining building designs and mitigating adverse impacts on health, well-being, and productivity. The tool's potential influence on improving urban spaces and individual experiences within them is undeniable.
In conclusion, solutions to solve society's problems and address existential challenges that fulfil people's needs and quality can be achieved by utilising the WELL Residential Building Index tool, which can significantly aid early decision-making. Besides, the effective execution of residential building projects will facilitate and contribute to the overall success of future Smart City development. This discussion and thought offer a preliminary review of the concept of WELL Residential Building and WELL living in the future of Smart Cities within the Malaysian context. However, a key challenge lies in the absence of WELL elements and principles, leading to a gap in practical implementation. As a result, the selection of elements and principles need to be implemented, and the development procedures for WELL Residential Building necessitate standardisation that aligns with local requirements, supplementary needs, and the desired opportunities within Malaysia. Establishing such fundamentals allows the path towards optimal WELL Living practices to be paved, ultimately fostering cohesive Smart City initiatives.