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Industrialised building systems or IBS as it is commonly referred to, may be the answer to the problem of balancing quality, time and cost in the property development industry.

Although various forms of IBS have been used in the country for more than a decade, it has been mainly confined to the affordable segments of the market. Failing to take hold in the mainstream, it suffered from the misconception that it is only suitable for low-cost housing, a state of affairs that can be attributed to the lack of awareness among industry players.

"There have been repeated calls to adopt IBS as part of the construction process but the perception among industry members is that such systems are untested," said N.K. Tong, the chairman of the activities and education sub-committee of the Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association Malaysia Wilayah Persekutuan (K.L.) Branch (REHDA KL).

"Industry members are unaware that such systems can offer not only speed but also cost savings," he said during a product talk organised by REHDA KL on the IBS solutions offered by Mivan Far East Sdn Bhd (Mivan) today.

Tong who is also the group managing director of Bukit Kiara Properties Sdn Bhd explained that such systems have been tried and tested, allowing developers to build a floor in five to six days thus improving cash flow without compromising on quality.

He felt that IBS is especially relevant in the local development industry which is beset by problems such as the lack of skilled labour, volatile material prices and the increasing expectation for quality from the market.

"Under such market conditions IBS can help developers be more cost efficient provided there is sufficient scale in their projects," he added, pointing out that the majority of the upmarket condominiums in Mont'Kiara were built using the IBS solutions offered by Mivan. Mivan's IBS is an aluminium-based formwork system that can be customised to suit each development's unique design characteristics.

"It's not the shape of the design but the amount of times the formwork is used that makes it cost effective," explained the company's managing director James Laughlin.

Laughlin explained that the formwork which is made from aerospace grade aluminium can, with the necessary modifications and additions, be re-used for future projects thus making it a cost effective investment. Laughlin also dispelled the notion that such formwork is only suitable for high-rise residential properties, especially of the low cost variety.

"This is a misconception. We have clients who have even used it for double-storey terrace houses, not just here in Malaysia but also Thailand. It has also been used for hospitals as well," he added.

Mivan which is based outside Belfast in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom has been operating in Malaysia since 1991. Aside from Malaysia, its aluminium formwork system is also used in Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, Dubai and India.

Tong, together with his father Dato' Alan Tong Kok Mau had chosen the IBS path during the time when they were developing several projects in Mont'Kiara through a public listed property development company. They sold their stake in the company in 1997 and re-entered the market through their new company Bukit Kiara Properties Sdn Bhd of which Tong is now the group managing director.

Under the banner of this new outfit, Tong launched his maiden project, Aman Kiara comprising 31 units of high-end bungalows and condovillas in a gated and guarded precinct. The project is 100 per cent sold, reaping a sales revenue of RM72 million.

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