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Towards a Greener Malaysia

As a young man, Gregers Reimann would make the long journey from his home in Copenhagen to visit his parents, who were living in Malaysia at the time. Like many foreigners, Gregers found something to his liking here in Malaysia, and after participating in a bilateral educational exchange programme with Universiti Putra Malaysia in 1999, he decided to move here more permanently in 2005.

Nearly eight years on, he’s convinced he made the right choice. While on his exchange programme here in Malaysia, he chanced to meet a like-minded Dane with a twin passion for engineering and environmentalism and the pair teamed up. Today, Gregers is putting his passion to good use as the Managing Director of Bangsar-based IEN Consultants, a company that specialises in optimising buildings to be energy-efficient or “green.”

In even a short conversation with Gregers, it’s clear that this 37-year-old Dane has a real vision to match his passion for sustainable, environmentally minded building practices. “I’d like to see Malaysia become a regional leader in green building technology,” he said. IEN is already on the task, working on major projects such as KLIA2 and celebrating some of its past successes, including the stunning Diamond Building in Putrajaya; a seven-storey paragon of energy efficiency and the headquarters – fittingly enough – of the Malaysia Energy Commission. The award-winning building, the first in Malaysia to receive the top-tier Platinum rating of the country’s Green Building Index, and lauded recently as the most energy-efficient building at the ASEAN Energy Awards, boasts energy consumption that is only one-third that of a normal building of this size, resulting in not only a greener planet, but real, measurable savings, too – a staggering RM1 million per year. Gregers notes, “Such a building will cost more initially, of course. The typical green building will run about 5% higher in building costs, but will deliver a 50% savings in energy, and thus pay for its additional costs in about five years. Beyond that, the savings are just added to the company’s bottom line year after year.”

Gregers talks excitedly about Malaysia’s potential to be a real industry standard-bearer, too. Given the country’s aspirations to become fully developed by 2020, why not make environmental accountability a part of that platform, he queries. “I’d like to see Malaysia make green, or even carbon-neutral buildings mandatory by that time,” he explained. “It’s environmentally responsible, obviously, but it also makes sense financially. Every facet of a building is involved, from energy consumption, to water, to the materials used, to the quality of the air inside. It’s all interrelated. We even use in-house computer programmes to create a solar profile of a building, performing daylight simulations, and fluid dynamic simulations.”

And lest you think Gregers’ passion for environmental stewardship is confined to his job, think again. He has also pioneered a well-received recycling programme in his condo, making it easy for residents to recycle their glass, plastic, and paper products. In Bangsar, he’s well-known as “the foreigner on that bizarre bike.” If you live or work in the area of IEN’s office, you’re likely to have seen Gregers tooling along on his Yike Bike, an ingenious Kiwi-built electric bicycle that zips along at up to 23 km/hr, then folds easily and quickly to a compact 14-kg package. “It’s not only a very green technology,” Gregers explains, “but also a rather addictive one! It’s so practical. When I go for lunch with my colleagues, I will always be the first one to arrive. I just ride down to Bangsar and while they’re still circling around in traffic, searching for a parking space, I have already folded up the bike, which takes about 10-15 seconds, and found my seat.”

Gregers, every bit the energy engineer that his degree proclaims him to be, did the maths and found that charging the battery on the Yike Bike requires 0.22 kWh, or about 20 sen per day, for a round trip between home and office. To really make the green point, he found that this handy transporter, in terms of kWh per 100km travelled, uses only 2.3% of what the average passenger car uses. After having used the e-bike for a few months, Gregers has become the de facto brand ambassador for Yike Bike!

It’s a delight to talk to an expat who is not passively accepting the enjoyable lifestyle that Malaysia affords, but rather truly embracing the country as his home away from home, and is actively working to make it a better place for us all.

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This article was written by Chad Merchant for The Expat magazine.
Source: The Expat November 2012

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